Are You Bushed?

Sleep-DeprivedBecause I don’t like the government tinkering with my sleep pattern, I’m not a fan of Daylight Savings Time. I’m hoping the government will eventually learn that you can play with a clock, but you can’t turn back time.

It takes some people months to adjust to the change, and they stumble around like a zombie, saying: “I’m bushed.”

Whether it’s an interruption in your sleep or some other issue, there are times when most of us have felt like we’re weary, worn-out, and at the end of our rope.  If this sounds like you, you may need to get Am-bushed.

To understand my terminology, think with me about the plight of the Hebrew people during the Old Testament days of the Pharaoh. The Jewish people were in bondage and in need of help, so they cried out to God in prayer. The answer to their prayers came in the form of a desert-dwelling, leather-skinned, sheep-herding, soon to be deliverer by the name of Moses.

At this point in his life, Moses was disillusioned. He wasn’t living the life to which God had called him, and he was running on empty as he yearned for that elusive something that would change his life.

Then it happened, and it was anything but ordinary.  Moses saw a burning bush, heard a voice, and turned aside to wipe the sand out of his eyes.  Was he seeing a mirage or was he dizzy due to the searing heat of the desert?

It was no mirage–it was majesty.  The burning bush was a bush that didn’t burn; it was ablaze; but it wasn’t consumed.

It was a spectacular sight to Moses, and he was stunned when he heard the voice of God emanating from the bush: I’ve seen the affliction of my people. I have heard their prayers. I know their sorrows. I’m going to deliver them.

Even more shocking to Moses was the news that he was to be the deliverer.  In need of confirmation, Moses asked, “Who shall I say sent me?” God replied, “I AM THAT I AM.”

Moses’ life changed on that day when he was Am-Bushed. He had felt as though he lacked eloquence, but God assured him that he was a diamond in the rough.  He had felt empty, so God filled him. His life had been meaningless, so God gave him purpose.

The life of Moses is an epic account of how God uses the ordinary to accomplish the extraordinary. It’s the narrative of what God can do through you.

Strength, Confidence, and Courage

Courageous-posterAfter the death of Moses, Joshua took the leadership reins of the Israelites and guided them along the path to the Promised Land.  In one of his first speeches, he admonished them, saying: “Only be strong and very courageous to ensure that you obey all the instructions that my servant Moses gave you—turn neither to the right nor to the left from it—so that you may succeed wherever you go (Joshua 1:7).”

Joshua’s call to courage reminds me of the words of Alfred North Whitehead: True courage is not the brutal force of vulgar heroes, but the firm resolve of virtue and reason.

Some people act courageously because they assess a situation and move forward with confidence in their abilities.  There are others who are just as confident, but for a different reason; their available resources give them a sense of boldness.

David is a good example of both forms of courage.  In Psalm 27, he said: “The Lord is my light and my salvation. Who is there to fear? The Lord is my life’s fortress. Who is there to be afraid of? Evildoers closed in on me to tear me to pieces. My opponents and enemies stumbled and fell. Even though an army sets up camp against me, my heart will not be afraid. Even though a war breaks out against me, I will still have confidence in the Lord.

Courage, as David used it in this Psalm, is resource-based. He speaks of his trust in the presence and power of God.

Earlier in his life, David displayed courage that was focused more on his own ability.  This was the  skill he used to kill the wild animals as attacked his sheep.

There may be times when you doubt your ability, but you should never doubt God’s availability.  Just as God was present to walk David through the trials of life, He is present for you as well:

  • God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble—Psalm 46:1
  • God is the shield of Your salvation, and His right hand will support you—Psalm 18:35
  • God will deliver you because He delights in you—Psalm 18:19
  • The Lord is near the brokenhearted, and He saves those crushed in spirit—Psalm 34:18

While there’s not a single one of us who can look to the future and know for certain what challenges await us, each of us can be confident in knowing that God is waiting to guide us.

Solomon believed this, and he wisely said: “The heart of man devises his way, but the LORD directs his steps . . . He that follows after righteousness and mercy shall find life, righteousness, and honor.”

Never Never Land or The Land of Never

never-never-landWhere are you living?  I don’t mean the place where you park your car or the address that your GPS takes you to when you touch the HOME button.  Where do you live in your thoughts, fantasies, worries and wants? Is it Never Never Land or the Land of Never?

Thanks to Peter Pan, most people have some knowledge of the fictional place called Never Never Land. It’s that place that’s fixed within the framework of your imagination where everything is so wonderfully pleasant and perfect that is far beyond the scope of reality.

The Land of Never is also an imaginary place, but it’s one of a harsher existence.  The boundaries of the Land of Never are marked by signs that reflect a contempt for self, others, and the truth:

  • Sign #1: I will never be loved or respected.
  • Sign #2: I will never get a job.
  • Sign #3: I will never be able to go home again.
  • Sign #4: God will never forgive me.
  • Sign #5: My life will never get better.

If you believe the lies of the Land of Never, you will be chained to your past and you’ll never live in the present.  Words like “never” and “always” are usually void of the truth, and they’re lies that limit you.

The only “never” that really matters is found in Deuteronomy 31:6: “Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will never leave you nor forsake you.”

If you’re living in the Land of Never, isn’t it time to pack your bag, move out, and start abiding in Christ? Jesus said, “If you continue (abide) in My word, you really are My disciples.  You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free (John 8:31-32).”

As you begin the move, I encourage you to focus on a promise found in the Psalms:

The Lord also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. And those who know Your name will put their trust in You; for You, Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You.

Psalm 9:9-10

Pressing On

Pressing-OnLeeAdianez Rodriguez is a 12-year-old girl from New York, and her actions in a recent race are the epitome of “pressing on and going the extra mile.”  LeeAdianez was registered for a 5K race, but ended up running a half marathon.  About halfway through the course, she realized she was running with the wrong group. Instead of quitting, she decided to run the 10 extra miles and finish the race.

When I read this story, I wondered why this was the first time LeeAdianez had competed at this level:

  • Had her parents denied her permission?
  • Was it because her coach told her she was unprepared?
  • Did she doubt her ability?

A person can limit himself by doubting his ability and sometimes we limit God because of a lack of faith.  A little mind-shift in your cognitive approach to life is a step in the right direction, and it will help if you will:

 Recognize that doubting is normal:

  • There were times in the life of Abraham when this man of incredible faith doubted.  In each of these instances, he was focused more on his personal strength and ability than he was on the powerful promises of God.
  • When in doubt, zoom out.  Make God your point of focus:  “Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble in dread before them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not fail you or abandon you (Deuteronomy 31:6).”

Recognize the value of good friends and good principles:

  • Instead of doubting your faith, try doubting your doubts.
  • Assess your recent resources for news and information. Have you surrounded yourself with doubters and skeptics or people of faith?  “In the same way that iron sharpens iron, a person sharpens the character of his friend (Proverbs 27:17).”
  • Are you propping yourself up with false reasoning or trusting God?  “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil ( Proverbs 3:5-7).”

Recognize that absolute certainty is an unreasonable expectation:

  • You will never have full and complete knowledge about everything. The quest to know more is the fuel that energizes honest research.
  • Just because you cannot know everything there is to know about God, doesn’t mean that you should limit yourself in seeking to know more about Him.

Recognize that not understanding is different than not believing.

  • While you may limit yourself because you don’t believe in your potential, don’t limit God by trying to constrain Him with a finite mind of rigid boundaries.
  • When the Israelites left Egypt, they thought the trip to the Promised Land was going to be an easy sprint; but, their doubt turned it into a 40 year marathon.

Doubt is to perseverance what krypton is to Superman.  Like LeeAdianez Rodriguez, you can press on when you recognize the correct message and listen to right voice—the voice of faith.

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The Ups and Downs of Life

rcWhen I was a freshman in college, one instructor required his students to memorize a motto of his.  I did, and I have never forgotten it:  It’s not what I can remember, but what I can never forget that constitutes knowledge; therefore, drill, drill, drill, and review, review, review.

Over the years I have been able to memorize many Bible verses, because I drilled and reviewed them until they were tucked away in my mind.  One of these is Philippians 4:13: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

When I meditate on a particular verse of Scripture, I focus on the individual words within the verse so I can understand the specific meaning of each one of them.  The word “through” caught my attention this morning, so I reflected on some verses that use this word:

  • God led Moses and the Israelites through the Red Sea on dry ground (Exodus 14:22).
  • The Israelites were led through the wilderness (Deuteronomy 29:5).
  • In Psalm 23, the Good Shepherd leads His flock through the valley of the shadow of death.

There are times when life seems like a roller coaster and you are tormented by a series of bone rattling, and hope shaking ups and downs.  These are the times that you need to kick the “I can’t” thoughts in the seat of the pants, and focus on the “I can” of Philippians 4:13.

 

The you should review its truth and drill its meaning:

  • Through Christ, I find the strength to face the obstacles of life.
  • Through Christ, God lavishes me with his strength to overcome (Ephesians 1:7-8).
  • Through Christ, you are blessed with God’s unwavering love and mercy (Psalm 103).

When you live your life through the strength of Christ, you will be thoroughly blessed:

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;

    and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;

when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,

    and the flame shall not consume you.  ~Isaiah 43:2

Opera Not Opra

opdivaWhen you think of going to the Opera, you may think of classical music and orchestras.  In Norway, people think a bit differently.  To them and a growing number of the computer literate, the meaning of Opera has changed.

Opera is a sweet technological melody that flows from a company that’s based in Norway.  This pioneering developer has introduced a new version of its desktop computer browser that incorporates an enticing feature.

The software engineers at Opera have written their code, so it automatically blocks annoying spam and unwanted advertisements. This allows the web pages to load faster, and it creates a web environment that has increased privacy and security.

The need to turn down unwanted noise and unhealthy distractions is nothing new; and, the root of the problem may be your innate nature that can be as curious as it nosy.  As someone one once warned: Curiosity killed the cat.

A frantic, unfocused, and undisciplined life will eventually lead to a life that is physically fatigued and spiritually exhausted.  This is one reason Moses prescribed a practical solution to the curious needs of the Hebrews:

And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.  You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. ~Deuteronomy 6

The purpose of frontlets is to prevent a horse from getting spooked or Blinkers.french.6-23-13.BL_distracted and to keep it focused on the road ahead.  Moses said God’s Word will do the same for you.  Godly principles act as Opera’s ad blocker: They filter out the unwanted and unnecessary noise of the world, and they create an environment that is in harmony with His will.  

 

 

The Solid Rock

Rock-Climbing-ChecklistChristians can be perceived as being an odd bunch of people.  This might be due in part to the language of the New Testament; Jesus encouraged His followers to be light, fruit-bearing, and wise and serpents and harmless as doves.  He also reminded them that they were to be in the world, but not of the world.

Do you try to blend in with the rest of the world, or do you stand up and stand out for Jesus?

Some people struggle with a delinquent desire to fit in with the rest of the world, and they adopt questionable maxims at the risk of divorcing themselves from the message of the Master. At the heart of His message is the need to build your life on the right foundation.

The Christian faith is rupicolous in nature, and Jesus is the Rock or foundation on which you are to build your life.   When you live in His presence and among His principles, you’ll enjoy His blessings.  The words of Moses confirm this:

Listen, O heavens, and I will speak; hear, O earth, the words of my mouth. My teaching will drop like the rain, my sayings will drip like the dew, as rain drops upon the grass, and showers upon new growth. For I will proclaim the name of the Lord; you must acknowledge the greatness of our God. As for the Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are just. He is a reliable God who is never unjust, he is fair and upright.  Deuteronomy 32:1-4

What are the core principles that guide your life?  Do they provide a solid foundation or are they little more than sinking sand?  Do they leave you choking in the dust of the world or do they fill your lungs with the pristine mountain air of faith?

From McGuffey to Scalia

gettyimages-72815109_wide-17ba1bcd0f4b1bf198c998306097f36a161abf37-s900-c85Justice Scalia died Saturday, and he will be mourned by many. I had a great appreciation for the judge, and the manner in which he interpreted the Constitution.

Tony Perkins paid tribute to Justice Scalia when he said Scalia “believed the Constitution had an objective meaning that could be understood and applied, and that as a nation we need to abide by it carefully for the sake of liberty, order, and justice.”

Scalia was consistent in his argument that the United States is fundamentally religious at its core, and he recognized the relationship between the Ten Commandments and our legal system: “The principle of laws being ordained by God is the foundation of the laws of this state and the foundation of our legal system.”

While the opinions of Justice Scalia seemed dated to some, they were timely statements that harmonized with some of our historic figures:

  • President James Madison:  We have staked the whole future of our new nation, not upon the power of government; far from it. We have staked the future of all our political constitutions upon the capacity of each of ourselves to govern ourselves according to the moral principles of the Ten Commandments of God.
  • Patrick Henry: It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded not by religionists but by Christians, not on religions but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
  • John Jay, the first Supreme Court Justice: Providence has given to our people the choice of their rulers, and it is the duty, as well as the privilege and interest of our Christian nation to select and prefer Christians for their rulers.
  • John Adams: The Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount contain my religion.

There was a point in our Nation’s history when it was influenced by William Holmes McGuffey, and his McGuffey’s Reader that was first published in 1836. The foreword of McGuffey’s Reader contained these comments by the author:

The Ten Commandments and the teachings of Jesus are not only basic but plenary. The Christian religion is the religion of our country. From it are derived our prevalent notions of the character of God, the great moral governor of the universe. On its doctrines are founded the peculiarities of our free institutions.

In lesson 37 of McGuffey’s First Reader the author said:

At the close of the day, before you go to sleep, you should not fail to pray to God to keep you from sin and from harm . . . You should ask him for life, and health, and strength, and you should pray to him to keep your feet from the ways of sin and shame. You should thank him for all his good gifts; and learn while young, to put your trust in him; and the kind care of God will be with you, both in your youth and in your old age.

Sadly, McGuffey’s reader lost a little of its Christian emphasis each time it was revised.  The same is happening with the interpretation of the Constitution, the revisionists keep watering it down—much to the dismay of purists like Scalia.

I’ll close with the words of the Great Lawgiver who influenced both McGuffey and Scalia:

The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.  You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.  You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.  ~Moses in Deuteronomy 6:4-6

Counting Down The Days

count-downMany people, and especially the kids, are counting down the days to Christmas and know that it is just a couple of weeks away.  A much smaller number of people are eagerly counting the days to another event that will happen eight weeks after Christmas.

In about 72 days, the umps will shout “Play Ball,” and baseball’s Spring Training will begin.  Each of these talented players caught the eye of a scout because he was an All Star during his high school or college years. When he steps across the white chalk line to play America’s Game, he joins the best of the best and the cream of the crop on a finely manicured field of dreams.

Aren’t you thankful that God didn’t scout you and make you prove your worth before He chose you?  He selected you just like He did the Hebrews:

“It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations.” ~Deuteronomy 7:7-9

Even though there’s nothing special about you, Moses says that God has chosen you and made you the special object of His love. If the two verses above were a book, the four chapter titles would be:

  • The Lord Loves You
  • God Keeps His promises
  • You Can Be Redeemed From Whatever Enslaves You
  • God Is Faithful and His Love Is Steadfast

He doesn’t love you because you are good, smart, pretty, wise or because you have great faith. God loves you because He is love; and, “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins (I John 4:10).”

 

That’s No Lie


Promises_of_God_BannerAfter hearing the latest political sound bite without a bit truth, I was reminded that the Apostle John said, “We must show love through actions that are sincere, not through empty words.”  Promises and sincerity go hand in hand, and a promise is only as good as the object in which it is placed.

The object of my faith and hope is God, and His promises are more than egg shells and jell-o—they’re rock solid.  Moses said, “God is not like people. He tells no lies. He is not like humans. He doesn’t change his mind. When he says something, he does it. When he makes a promise, he keeps it (Number 23:19).”

You can trust the promises of God for several reasons:

  • You can trust the truthfulness of His Word: “God means what he says. What he says goes. His powerful Word is sharp as a surgeon’s scalpel, cutting through everything, whether doubt or defense, laying us open to listen and obey. Nothing and no one is impervious to God’s Word. We can’t get away from it—no matter what (The Message, Hebrews 4:12-13).”
  • You can trust His faithfulness knowing that, “ Like a shepherd, he will care for his flock, gathering the lambs in his arms, hugging them as he carries them, leading the nursing ewes to good pasture (The Message, 40:11).”
  • You can trust Him because He loves you: “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 (I John 3:1).”

To keep a promise, a person must have the strength and resources to fulfill the commitment.  There are several places in the Bible where God is referred to as the “Almighty God.”  He is no puny 90 pound weakling, but the Almighty God and the Great I Am. Psalm 91 confirms this: “He that dwells in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.”

I’ll close with these words from D.L. Moody: “God never made a promise that was too good to be true.