Strength for Today

bicepI started today as I do most days–with a cup of coffee and the Psalms.  As I was reading Psalms 31, I stopped to consider the 24th verse: Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart, all you who hope in the Lord.
When you step outside of the safety of your house to face the world today, do so with the confidence that God’s:
  • Strength will build you up
  • Love will fill you up
  • Arms will lift you.
Keep this thought with you today, and you’ll begin to know the power of God’s promise to Paul:  My grace is sufficient.
The God of old is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms. He drives out the enemy before you and commands, “Destroy!”
Deuteronomy 33:27

Stop and Refocus

refocusIf you started today worrying about what might go wrong, I encourage you to stop and refocus your mind on these five words:.

Slow: Take a deep breath and slow down. When you walk in step with God, you will learn that His love is not measured by a teaspoon—it’s measured by the bucket loads.

Time: Take a minute or two to consider God’s goodness.

  • Psalm 34:8: Taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!

Oppose: Don’t yield to catastrophic thoughts that are characterized by words like must, never, and always. These three words are usually false. Discipline your mind so you think about the hope and joy you can have in Jesus.

  • Romans 15:13: May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Promise: Claim the promises the are rightly yours. You are not some pauper, you are a child of the King.

  • The key that gives you access to God is not your strength—it’s God’s grace.

I’ll close with some words that can open the door of your mind to some life-changing  thoughts:

Deuteronomy 31:6:   Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.

Getting a Grip on Worry

gripIf you could look inside your head, would you find the thought center of your mind dotted with the warts of worry and the ulcers of anxiety? If so, you might find some comfort in the potent promise of Isaiah 26:3: You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.

Here’s the simple truth of this verse: If your mind is not staying on God, it’s straying from Him, and it’s easily disoriented by the worries of life.  Undisciplined thoughts leave room for unfounded arguments that foster fear; however, Christ-centered thinking augments your faith and smothers the fires of anxiety.

Billy Graham has said, Historians will probably call our era “the age of anxiety.” Anxiety is the natural result when our hopes are centered in anything short of God and His will for us.

Worry and anxiety are expressions of fear and both can be attributed to a sense of lacking or loneliness. The next time your mind begins to agonize over thoughts like these, mobilize by taking these steps:

  • Focus on God: I sought the Lord, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears. ~Psalm 34:4
  • Claim the promise of God’s presence: Be strong and brave! Don’t be afraid and don’t panic, for I, the Lord your God, am with you in all you do. ~Joshua 1:9
  • Believe God loves you: The Lord your God is in your midst, the Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness; He will quiet you with His love; and, He will rejoice over you with singing. ~Zephaniah 3:17
  • Get a grip on life: For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.” ~Isaiah 41:13

As you begin this week, it might help to remember that God is holding your right hand, so you don’t have to worry about holding the wrong one.

Jesus said:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

~John 14:27

 

 

Ten Lessons from a Good Man

lpTwo days ago, I said good-bye to Larry Patton.  He has been a great friend, and one who has served by my side at First Christian Church for the past 30 years.  Larry wore a smile on his face; had a song in his heart; and, he was an asset to my ministry.

As a tribute to him, I want to share the comments I made at his funeral.  Here are Ten Lessons from the Life of Larry:

  1. Life is a song, so sing it (Psalm 100).
  2. Pursue Harmony (Romans 12:17-18).
  3. Live life in the Key of C—Be compassionate (Romans 12:10).
  4. Short men walk tall when they reach out to help people (Romans 12:15).
  5. When you show-up, show-off your faith (James 2:18).
  6. New commands should become old habits (John 13:34-35).
  7. If you’re going to be a bear, be a burden-bearer (Galatians 6:1-2).
  8. The best way to stay in-tune is to make the most of opportunity (Galatians 6:10).
  9. When you have to speak, say it with love (Ephesians 4:15).
  10. When life turns sour, stay sweet (Romans 8:18).

When I think of Larry, I think of Psalm 37:23: The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and He delights in his way.

I thank God for the way you shared your wit, wisdom, and gifts for God’s glory.  May your influence live long in the life of your family and in the life of FCC.

Dumb Kid or Racist

IMG_0009I was just a dumb kid from Kansas when I enlisted in the Air Force in 1971. Like all new recruits, I was sent to Lackland Air Force base in San Antonio for boot camp.  This was the camp where all new recruits learned the Air Force way of doing things.

One of the requirements of boot camp was to have a spit polish on your boots that would reflect the ugly mug of the drill sergeant. During the first inspection my boots didn’t pass muster, and I suffered the consequences; I decided I had to do something before the next inspection.

Since the recruit next to me had polished his shoes to a high sheen and the drill sergeant had praised him, I offered to pay him if he would polish my boots. This dumb kid, a white boy from Kansas, never thought his request would be considered racist. I simply wanted to benefit from the skill of the person next to me, and I didn’t see him as a black man—just another guy trying to get through boot camp; but, he thought I was looking for a “boy” to shine the Master’s shoes.

Our difference in perspective, due to history, and culture, led to a flash of anger that had its roots in the riots of the late 60’s. The events of this past week rekindled the memory of that experience from 1971.

Was I a dumb kid from Kansas or a racist?  I can undoubtedly confirm that I was dumb, but just as certainly I can say there was no racism in my request.

It would be naive to think that racism did not exist then or that it does not exist today. Sadly, the hideous face of racism has been present since the early days of man’s history.

Paul spoke of the ethnic and racial divide between Jews and others when he wrote to the church at Ephesus.  He said Jesus “brought an end to the commandments and demands found in Moses’ Teachings so that he could take Jewish and non-Jewish people and create one new humanity in himself. So he made peace.  He also brought them back to God in one body by his cross, on which he killed the hostility.  He came with the Good News of peace for you who were far away and for those who were near.  So Jewish and non-Jewish people can go to the Father in one Spirit.~Ephesians 2:15-18 GW

After the multiple tragedies of last week, I think most of us are looking for healing.  If you only look to the past and the many failures of social engineering, you might through your hands up in despair.

The answer is not more government, it’s more God and the hope of becoming one in Jesus Christ.  We need to “Try to live peacefully with everyone, and try to live holy lives, because if you don’t, you will not see the Lord.  Make sure that everyone has kindness from God so that bitterness doesn’t take root and grow up to cause trouble that corrupts many of you.”  ~Hebrews 12:14-15 GW

As Reinhold Niebuhr said in The Irony of American History:

Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore, we must be saved by hope. Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore, we must be saved by faith. Nothing we do, however virtuous, could be accomplished alone; therefore, we must be saved by love. No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or foe as it is from our own standpoint; therefore, we must be saved by the final form of love, which is forgiveness.

A Peak Behind The Clouds

double-rainbowTuesday morning, I was driving west towards Wichita and I was blessed with the beauty of a double rainbow. As the dazzling colors shone brightly against the distant backdrop of dark and menacing clouds, I was reminded that life is much like that storm.

Throughout a person’s life, he will experience the highs and lows; the sunny days and the threatening storms; and times of crippling sorrow as well as abundant joy.  Through all of these moments, there is always a rainbow: the promise of God’s presence and providence.

It was the promise of God’s presence and the hope of His providence that sustained the Apostle Paul in the many heartaches and trials that he endured:

I am at peace and even take pleasure in any weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and afflictions for the sake of the Anointed because when I am at my weakest, He makes me strong. ~2 Corinthians 12:10 The Voice

When the tough times come, and they will, remember to peak behind the clouds—God has a rainbow-full of promises just for you.

. . . when I form a cloud over the Earth and the rainbow appears in the cloud, I’ll remember my covenant between me and you . . .

Genesis 9:16 The Message

Happiness: A Key or a Principle

keyHe’s no locksmith, but Michael Porter thinks he has discovered an important key—the key to happiness. Porter, a Harvard economist, has been researching social process and how to measure it.

Through his research, Porter has found the key to a person’s happiness is the opportunity to change and better one’s life:  Porter’s research suggests this “is a crucial but elusive ingredient to a smoothly functioning society—or what, at the individual level, one might call happiness (Quartz).”

Another researcher, Dr. Stephen Post, has studied the different components of happiness for several years.  He believes the key to genuine happiness is found in living the Golden Rule.

When you do unto others as you would have them do unto you, there’s a good chance that you’re a person who volunteers to help those in need. The willingness to help others can enhance your sense of well-being.

A study found that 41% of people who volunteer an average of 100 hours a year report a greater sense of well-being, saying that volunteering

  • 68%: “has made me feel physically healthier
  • 92%: “enriches my sense of purpose in life
  • 73%: “lowers my stress levels,”
  • 96%: “makes people happier,”
  • 77%: “improves emotional health,”
  • 78% also reported that volunteering helps with recovery “from loss and disappointment”

Typically, people who give of themselves to others have less trouble sleeping,  and they experience less anxiety, less helplessness & hopelessness.  They also report better friendships and social networks, and sense of control over chronic conditions than people who are more self-centered.

In his, It’s Good To Be Good, research, Post says:  ….as one achieves a certain shift from selfishness to concern for others, benefits accrue.   His research suggests that a person may feel good when he gives a financial gift to an individual or a cause; however, the benefits of helping others are most pronounced in direct person-to-person “hands on” activities.

The key research by Porter and Post simply validates the principle posited by Jesus over a thousand years ago:  Treat others the same way you want them to treat, and you both will be blessed.

When we embrace the words of Jesus and begin to live the Golden Rule, a satisfying life is within our reach.  According to Post, one way to elevate happiness is to reach out in helping behaviors and contribute to the lives of others. That happiness in turn elevates giving, which in turn elevates happiness. The two fuel each other in a circular fashion – a classic feedback loop.

The words of Dr. Albert Schweitzer leave us with a thought worth thinking: The only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve

Death:  The Common Denominator

your-destination_0In 2005, Stanford University asked Steve Jobs to give the commencement address. During his speech, he made an interesting comment about death:

No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it.

I find it interesting that Jobs, the founder of Apple, made a comment about death which is an apple-associated event.  To be fair, no one knows what Adam and Eve actually ate, but people generally think of the apple when they think of the Garden’s forbidden fruit.

Steve Jobs was right; death is the destination we all share.  Like it or not, death is the train that carries it passengers to destination death.

When Paul discussed death, dying, and the resurrection, *he said we all die due to Adam’s disobedience and sin in the Garden, but through Jesus all of us can live again.

While Adam’s way is the Path of Death, the way of life is the Am-Track Way or the Am-Way of Jesus: I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

When you get on board with Jesus, you experience the wonder of salvation, and its benefits:

  • You are justified by faith.
  • You have peace with God.
  • You have access to God.
  • You have a relationship based on the grace of God.
  • You can rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

When you consider your final destination, you should also, “Consider the kind of extravagant love the Father has lavished on us—He calls us children of God! It’s true; we are His beloved children. And in the same way the world didn’t recognize Him, the world does not recognize us either. My loved ones, we have been adopted into God’s family; and we are officially His children now. The full picture of our destiny is not yet clear, but we know this much: when Jesus appears, we will be like Him because we will see Him just as He is. All those who focus their hopes on Him and His coming seek to purify themselves just as He is pure (I John 1:1-3 ~The Voice).”

Death may be the common denominator, but Jesus is the uncommon Mediator, and He is the only way you should travel to your final destination.

*Read The Message for an interesting rendition of this passage of Scripture.

 

Character, Faces and Names

namesDuring a recent conversation, I was asked if I knew a certain person; I replied, “I know the name, but I can’t put a face with it.”  Names are used to identify, organization, warn, encourage, and to express hope.

The name and character of God was the focus of a Psalm that David wrote after the Ark had been recovered and returned to the Holy of Holies:

Oh, give thanks to the Lord! Call upon His name; Make known His deeds among the peoples! Sing to Him, sing psalms to Him; Talk of all His wondrous works! Glory in His holy name; Let the hearts of those rejoice who seek the Lord! Seek the Lord and His strength; Seek His face evermore!  Remember His marvelous works which He has done…  ~I Chronicles 16:8-12

When a child calls out Mom or Dad, he is expressing trust and hope in the power and resources of his parents.  The same is true when God’s children “Call upon His name.”

Notice how the name of God is associated with His character:

  • Those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you—Psalm 9:10
  • The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower—Psalm 18:2
  • The LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust—Psalm 91:2
  • The LORD is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and he knows them that trust in him—Nahum 1:7

Whenever I discuss the name of God, I remember the words of Paul in Philippians 2:9-11:

God has highly exalted Jesus and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

I want to encourage you to follow the advice of an old gospel hymn, Take The Name of Jesus With You:

Take the name of Jesus with you,

Child of sorrow and of woe.

It will joy and comfort give you,

Take it then wherever you go.

Precious name, O how sweet!

Hope of earth and joy of Heaven.

Precious name, O how sweet!

Hope of earth and joy of Heaven.