The Beauty of Spring

bartram_trail_pic1My two favorite seasons of the year are Spring and Fall.  In the cycle of life, I think these are the two most refreshing seasons of the year.

Even though Spring doesn’t official begin until March 20th, God blessed us with Spring-like weather this past weekend.  As I was enjoying the day, I thought about the many blessings that God gives His children, and two words from John 3:16 came to mind:  He gave.

As I was tilling the soil in my garden, I thought about several things God has given:

  • He has given the warmth of the sunshine.
  • He infused flowers with their delicate fragrance.
  • He designed your taste buds, so they would be tickled by the flavor of food.
  • He engineered your eyes so they can see the beautiful landscapes of His magnificent creation.
  • He gave you ears, so you can hear the three greatest word that have ever been spoken:  I love you.

The I love you verse of the Bible is John 3:16, and when you read it you discover the greatest gift that God has given: “He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him might have eternal life.”

Take a moment sometime today to give yourself a gift.  The next breath you take, make it a deep one, and then pause to thank God for the beauty and fragrance of life. Then take about 4 more minutes, and listen to this brief and beautiful song.

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.”

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.

The Sinister and the Saint

eyeI’m not sure if I should label it progression or regression, but I have gone from wearing no glasses, to bi-focals, and for several years now I have moved into the tri-focal stage.

Each step in this vision process involved a trip to the eye doctor and a prescription for new glasses.  The last time I got a new prescription for eyeglasses, I noticed the abbreviations OS and OD. The OS is for the left eye, and it is a Latin abbreviation that means “oculus sinister.”   The right eye is OD and is the Latin “oculus dextrus.”

The fact that I have a sinister left eye, made me curious, and I looked at the etymology of oculus sinister and dextrus:

  • The Latin meaning of sinister speaks of that which is “contrary, false; unfavorable; to the left.”
  • Dextrus has the meaning of being “right or ready.”

In these two words, we see the struggle that each of us face.  It is the conflict between evil and good or flesh and spirit.  In Romans 8:5, Paul said:  “For those who live according to the flesh have their outlook shaped by the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit have their outlook shaped by the things of the Spirit.”

Since your “outlook” is determined by the flesh or the spirit, you may want to take an “in-look” at what the Bible says about desire:

  • James 1:14-15: Everyone is tempted by his own desires as they lure him away and trap him.  Then desire becomes pregnant and gives birth to sin. When sin grows up, it gives birth to death.
  • Proverbs 27:20: Hell and Destruction are never full; so the eyes of man are never satisfied.
  • 2 Peter 2:14: Having eyes full of adultery and that cannot cease from sin, they entice unstable souls. They have a heart trained in covetous practices.

Which one of your eyes guides you?  Do you see the world through the sinister side or the saintly side?   I encourage you to take a look at your life, and consider using the words of Psalm 119:36-38 as your prayer for today:

“Turn my heart toward Your Law, so I will not earn money in a wrong way.  Turn my eyes away from things that have no worth, and give me new life because of Your ways.  Keep Your promise to Your servant, the promise You made to those who fear and worship You.”

Always and Without Ceasing

il_570xN.719399076_tdneEven though he was in prison, Paul was not imprisoned by his circumstances.  In Philippians 4:4, he said:   Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!

As I thought of the remarkable attitude of this wonderful servant of God, I thought of several places in the Psalms where you are encouraged to rejoice:

  • In Psalm 9:14 the writer said that salvation is a reason to rejoice:  I will rejoice in Your salvation.
  • Mercy is the subject of rejoicing in Psalm 31:7: I will be glad and rejoice in Your mercy.
  • The faithfulness of God is another reason to rejoice. Psalm 33:21: For our heart shall rejoice in Him, because we have trusted in His holy name.
  • The writer of Psalm 119:14 said the promises of God’s
  • Word were a source of joy to him: I have rejoiced in the way of Your testimonies, as much as in all riches.

As Paul closes his first letter to the Thessalonians, he instructs them to “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing,  in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

To embrace the will of God for your life, I encourage you to consider how Paul made a connection between rejoicing and giving thanks.  He did it in the verse above as well as Romans 12:12: “…rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer…

How can “rejoicing always” can make a difference in how you you pray and how you give thanks?

Celebrating God’s Goodness

people-celebrating-1202x500When David wrote Psalm 62, he was in a desperate situation.  Men, who were full of evil, were scheming against  David, and even threatening to kill him.

David did what he usually did when he found himself in dire straits, he looked to God for help. Psalm 62:7-8, gives you a glimpse into the mind of this troubled king, and reveals his concept of God:

In God is my salvation and my glory;

The rock of my strength,

And my refuge, is in God.

Trust in Him at all times, you people;

Pour out your heart before Him;

God is a refuge for us.

Notice the first word in each of the last three lines:

  • Trust: You are to trust God in the good times as well as the bad.
  • Pour: Instead of trying to fight your battles by yourself, confide in God and pour your heart out to Him in prayer.
  • God: To really comprehend this verse, you need to make four sentences out of it, and contemplate each one of them:
    1. God (Creator of Heaven and Earth)
    2. God is (Not was; He is a present tense God)
    3. God is a refuge (Fortress and place of safety)
    4. God is a refuge for us. The Creator of all is always present as a fortress to meet your personal needs)

Celebrate the goodness of God today and praise Him because He is your salvation and your glory; the rock of your strength, and He is your refuge.

A Walk On The Water

images (3)There’s a passage of Scripture in the book of Isaiah that speaks about God’s wonderful love, care, and protection of His people.  In Isaiah 43:1-3, it says:

“Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you. I’ve called your name. You’re mine. When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you. When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down. When you’re between a rock and a hard place, it won’t be a dead end—because I am God, your personal God, the Holy of Israel, your Savior.”

When I read this Scripture from Isaiah, a couple of thoughts came to my mind, and I want to share them with you:

  • You can have confidence in God, this is why he said: “Don’t be afraid.”
  • You can have a relationship with God because He has redeemed you; He knows your name; and, He claims you as His own.
  • When times are tough, and you feel like you’re in over your head, remember that Jesus knows something about water.  He walked on top of it, so He can certainly walk you through it.
  • When you encounter the raging rivers of life, Jesus can see around the bend. He will chart the best course, and He still knows where the still waters are (Psalm 23:2).  “You

To claim this verse as your own, speak it to yourself:  “You are my personal God.  I know you have redeemed me and know my name. I know you claim me as your own, and I give thanks to you for You are the Holy One and my Savior.”

A Normal Failure

images (2)Success and failure are the topics of many discussions.  In the Proverbs, Solomon draws a contrast between the “God-loyal people” and the “wicked” and how they manage the difficult times they face:

“Don’t interfere with good people’s lives; don’t try to get the best of them. No matter how many times you trip them up, God-loyal people don’t stay down long; Soon they’re up on their feet, while the wicked end up flat on their faces.” ~Proverbs 24:15-16

When a person is successful, he hears the cheers of the crowd; however, when he fails, the whispers of the same people are heard as an agonizing shout.  Failure is, however, a normal part of a person’s life.

With this in mind, let me share my Top Ten Failure Quotes:

  • Failure is not falling down: It is staying down.
  • “Failure isn’t fatal, but failure to change might be” – John Wooden
  • “Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end. Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.” – Denis Waitley
  • “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” – Thomas A. Edison
  • “Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” – Winston Churchill
  • “It’s not how far you fall, but how high you bounce that counts.” – Zig Ziglar
  • “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” – Michael Jordan
  • Try again. Fail again. Fail better. ~Samuel Beckett
  • Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat. ~F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • The men who try to do something and fail are infinitely better than those who try to do nothing and succeed. ~Lloyd Jones

When I think of a God-loyal person, I think of Tim Tebow.  This young man had a stellar career as a college quarteback.  When his professional career came to an abrupt halt, some peole labeled him as a failure.

Tebow stayed in shape, continued to work hard, and he signed a contract with the Eagles this week.  He is anything but a failure, and he is a living example of Solomon’s words: “God-loyal people don’t stay down long; Soon they’re up on their feet . . . “

Follow the Leader

Follow_the_Leader_Photo1When I woke up this morning I was thinking of the word “follow” and the several times Jesus spoke this word.  I did a quick scan of the four Gospels, and I found a couple of interesting concepts.

In Mathew 4:19-20, Jesus said:  “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men, and they immediately left their nets and followed Him.”

  • Principle: If you do not follow Jesus you will be snared by the net of the world.
  • Principle: Fishing for fish is good, but fishing for men is better.

In John 8:12, Jesus said: “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”

  • Principle: If you don’t walk with Jesus in the light, you will stumble without Him in the dark.
  • Principle: Jesus does not HAVE the light of the world, He IS the Light of the world.

In John 10:27, Jesus said: “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.”

  • Principle: Obedient sheep hear His voice and make the choice to follow Him.
  • Principle: When you deny and won’t comply, you are easy prey for the wolf.

Here’s the simple truth:  You can follow or be hollow.  When you are hollow, you will search for fullness, satisfaction, contentment, and love in all the wrong places.  When you follow Jesus you can be fully holy.

The wisdom of Solomon is a fitting conclusion:  “The way of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord, But He loves him who follows righteousness (Proverbs 15:9).”

TV Time

o-CHILDREN-TELEVISION-facebookAs I was watching the nightly news, I became curious about TV statistics.  Based on research by statistics brain, I found that:

  • 99% of households in the USA possess at least one television.
  • The average child will spend 1,480 minutes a week watching television.
  • By the time a child is 18, he/she will have seen 150,000 violent acts and viewed 16,000 thirty second commercials.

With these statistics in mind, answer the following questions:

  • Who or what is having the greatest influence in the life of your child or grandchild?
  • If 1,480 minutes are being spent in front of the TV, how much time is being spent reading the Bible, praying, or engaging people in a positive way?

There are two warnings from Paul that are worthy of mention:

  • He said you should not be like a child who is “tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every false wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming (Ephesians 4:14).”
  • Make sure that “no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ (Colossians 2:8-9).”

The 1,480 minutes of TV wouldn’t be so bad if it was healthy and wholesome; however, I think much of it is detrimental to a person’s well-being.

 

Look at the language Paul used. How much of the 1,480 minutes is captivativing philosophy that can be describe as the “trickery of men, craftiness, deceitful scheming?”