Duty Done: Hitchin’ A Ride Home

army-deployment-plane-military_82981_990x742The picture to the left was taken about a year ago today.  When it was snapped, member’s of the Army’s Fourth Stryker Brigade Combat Team had hitched a ride on a C-17 transport, and they were returning home after a nine month tour of duty in Afghanistan.

While you are enjoying the blessings of freedom, remember the members of the USA who stand in harms way to sacrifice and serve.

Give thanks!

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.

~ 2 Timothy 4:7-8

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 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.”

A Better Way

images (3)I recently made the comment that, “Sometimes we sacrifice the best because we are content with just the good.”  I think it was Saint Jerome who said:  “Good, better, best. Never let it rest. ‘Til your good is better and your better is best.”

If my memory serves me well, it was Ernest Hemingway who said: “There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.”

The business of being better is discussed in several places in the Wisdom Books of the Bible.  My Top 10 list of verses follows below:

  1. Psalm 37:16: A little that a righteous man has is better than the riches of many wicked.
  2. Psalm 118:8: It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man.
  3. Proverbs 15:16: Better is a little with the fear of the Lord, than great treasure with trouble.
  4. Proverbs 15:17: Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a fatted calf with hatred.
  5. Proverbs 16:8: Better is a little with righteousness, than vast revenues without justice.
  6. Proverbs 16:16: How much better to get wisdom than gold! And to get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver.
  7. Proverbs 16:19: Better to be of a humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud.
  8. Proverbs 16:32: He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.
  9. Proverbs 17:1: Better is a dry morsel with quietness, than a house full of feasting with strife.
  10. Proverbs 19:1: Better is the poor who walks in his integrity than one who is perverse in his lips, and is a fool.

I hope these verses serve as a motivator to get you started in the pursuit of betterness.  Once you get started, you can develop the habits that will keep you going.

A Refresher Course

Refresher-Course1For the most part, I love the spring season of the year.  I did say, “for the most part.”  When it comes to the “part” that requires me to trim the 100 foot of hedges, I rethink my love affection for spring. There are some days that I work all day in the yard, and I am bone-tired by the time I finish.

When I read 2 Corinthians 7, I get the idea that Paul was bone-tired physically as well as spiritually: “In fact, when we came into Macedonia, we had no rest. Instead, we were troubled in every way: conflicts on the outside, fears inside.”

The remedy for Paul’s affliction was encouragement:

But God, who comforts the humble, comforted us by the arrival of Titus, and not only by his arrival, but also by the comfort he received from you. He told us about your deep longing, your sorrow, and your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced even more . . . In addition to our comfort, we rejoiced even more over the joy Titus had, because his spirit was refreshed by all of you (2 Corinthians 7:6,7,13).

Paul said that both he and Titus were encouraged and refreshed by their interaction with other believers.  Does your presence encourage or discourage other people?  Solomon said:

  • A twinkle in the eye delights the heart. Good news refreshes the body (Proverbs 15:30).
  • Whoever refreshes others will be refreshed (Proverbs 11:25).

This could be one of the blessings of the golden Rule:  “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  When you refresh and encourage others, it refreshes and encourages you.

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).”

Friday: A Day of Signifiance

6187141-crown-of-thorns-hung-around-the-easter-crossIf you could travel back in time to history’s most important Friday and relive that day in 33 AD, what would you hear as you walked the streets of Jerusalem? The city had swelled in size because it was Passover, but the conversation was not the annual rites at the Temple.  No, that significant sacrifice was overshadowed by the crucifixion of Jesus.   As people contemplated the events, they exclaimed:  Finished!  Epic life ended!  Last chapter of a miraculous life has closed with a tragedy!

The Messiah you have been following has been nothing more than a grandiose dreamer with Messianic aspirations, and your dream has ended in a nightmare.  In stunned silence and in a state of shock, you wonder:  What now?  How could all of this happen?  How could so many people have believed a lie?

A cloud of despair hangs heavily on your doubting heart as you try to make sense of the disaster that has disrupted your life.  Friday has been an arduous day, but at least there has been a lot of activity.  When you woke up Saturday morning, you hoped that yesterday was just a bad dream; however, when you looked into the sunken eyes of your fellow disciples, reality buckles your knees:  Your Hope has been crucified; Jesus is dead; and, Saturday drags on and seems like it’ll never end.

From that Friday of 33 AD, to the Friday of today, there is a perceptional gap that is every bit as deep as it is wide in years.  All the disciples of 33 AD had was a form of spiritual PTSD and the stench of death, but you have the benefit of history.

You know the story doesn’t end with that dramatic death on the cross. You know there is an encore to what the disciples thought was the final Act, and it was announced to those few devoted women who went to the tomb:  He is not here; He has risen!

The fact of the resurrection turned men of cowardly hearts into courageous soldiers of the cross, and in a few short years the infant church shook Rome.  This is the mobilizing power of the resurrection and the proof of what can happen when a group of people are infused with hope . . . people just like you.

I encourage you to share the hope and live the message as you celebrate the resurrection of Jesus this Sunday.