Life Perspective: diy or CWS?

focus-37863944If you’re as big a fan of the game of baseball as I am, you probably think of the College World Series when you see the letters CWS.  Even Google associates CWS with the College World Series.  When I typed CWS into the search box, College World Series of Omaha appeared in the second spot.

Sorry baseball fans, but this morning CWS has a focus on Christ Who Strengthens.  CWS can be a comforting thought in a diy (Do It Yourself) world.

When I typed diy projects into Google, the search engine gave me 42,500,000 results.  The list included home decorating, cake decorating, decorating Easter eggs, recipes for cheesecake, and instructions for cheesy projects.

My problem with a diy project is that sometimes it looks like I did it—some guys have a PhD in hammerology, but I’m just a hack.

Some people are so self-sufficient, they try to approach their spiritual life with a diy mentality, and they look like:

  • Adam and Eve thought they were smarter than God.
  • Samson was blinded by his strength.
  • Peter was tripped by pride.
  • David’s morals were sucked down the drain of a bathtub.

Each of these men faltered and failed because their focus had become more diy and less CWS.  This principle is found in both Philippians 4:13 and Isaiah 40:29:

  • I can do all things through Christ Who Strengthens me—Phil. 4:13
  • He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength—Is. 40:29

Are you managing your life with a diy mindset or with a CWS perspective?

The Fruit of the Faithful

lipsIf you’ve ever seen me in the fruit section of the grocery store, you may have noticed that I’m picky when I’m picking my apples.  I’m not a grab-and-go any-apple-will-do kind of guy.  I’m selective; I want an apple that’s red, colorful, tasty, and juicy.

While the fruit section is known by its apples, Jesus said we are known by the fruit we bear.

In Hebrews 13:15 the writer said you should, “continually offer up to God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of our lips that confess His name.”  This is possible when you realize that God has “put a new song in your mouth, a song of praise to your God (Psalm 40:3).”

What does the fruit of your lips say about you?  Is your disposition sweet or sour? What about that song in your mouth?  Is it a harmony of blessings and compliments or complaints that are sharp and edgy?

After a series of skirmishes and near fatal incidences, David reflected on the presence of God during these difficult times, and he, “spoke to the Lord the words of this song, on the day when the Lord had delivered him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul. And he said:

The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer;

The God of my strength, in whom I will trust;

My shield and the horn of my salvation,

My stronghold and my refuge;

My Savior, You save me from violence.

I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised;

So shall I be saved from my enemies.

David was on the Most Wanted Listed, and his enemies hated him.  Even when he was encircled by those who hated him the most, he knew the presence of God was his refuge. In this refuge, he would never be a fugitive from His grace.

God’s presence is an asylum for the assaulted, a retreat for the weary, and a sanctuary of mercy for the masses.

Celebrating the goodness of God when everything is going right is easy, but David knew that God was still present even in the darkest hours of his life.  It was after one of these dark moments and deadly battles that God placed a song in his heart, and David said:  I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised.

When was the last time you paused to give thanks to God and to sing to Him because He is worthy to be praised?  Giving thanks and praise, is the means through which you draw closer to God and increase your joy.

Fillings or Feelings

Dental_Cleaning_325wGenerally speaking, people have very little trouble distinguishing between fillings and feelings.  I know of one particular incident, however, when the two were confused.  My youngest brother was listening to a discussion on how a person’s feelings had been hurt.  Eager to participate, he gave a big smile and said:  “I have feelings too, see,” and then he pointed to the fillings in his mouth.

The gnawing truth is that both fillings and feelings are directly connected to something that is missing.  In the case of fillings, part of a tooth is missing, so a dentist fills the tooth.  Feelings, on the other hand, can be more of a challenge.  The emptiness related to them are emotional in nature.

A person may feel empty because of grief, a self-esteem issue, or disappointment. The solution involves more than just an injection and the mixing of a composite resin to fill a tooth.  The need is a relationship and not more resin:

  • If your feelings have drained you and you’re running on fumes, it might give you some consolation to think of God as “the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles ( 2 Corinthians 1:3-4).”
  • If you’re struggling with a major decision, James 1:5 can be reassuring: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, . . . and it will be given to him.”
  • If you’re worn out, you can find the strength you need because “the Lord will give strength to His people (Ps. 29:11).”
  • If your life seems dry and barren, a relationship with Jesus may be what you need: “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).
  • If you have a gnawing hunger that you can’t seem to satisfy, you may be eating the wrong bread. Jesus said:  “I am the Bread of Life. The person who aligns with me hungers no more and thirsts no more (John 6).”

You may have gone through life as the kid nobody wanted on their team; as the person who could never make it to the first chair in the school band; the singer who was always off key; or, the wilted flower on a piece of outdated wallpaper.  If so, I’ve have some good news for you.  Jesus said: “The Father gives me the people who are mine. Every one of them will come to me, and I will always accept them (John 6:37).”  There are no exceptions: Jesus loves you, accepts you, and He always will.

The Misery Index

close up of a heart shape with bandage on white background

Whether you call them “parting comments” or “footnotes,” Paul makes some interesting statements as he concludes his letter to the Thessalonians.  The first of these statements is, “Be at peace among yourselves (5:13).”  Paul is urging the members of this church to be at peace with fellow members of the church.

If you’re not at peace with yourself, it’s difficult to be at peace with another person; and if you’re not at peace with God, it is difficult to be at peace with yourself.

Paul also urges these people to “rejoice always (5:16).”   Joyfulness is an important component of life, and Paul linked it with love, peace, longsuffering, and kindness when he spoke of the fruit of the Spirit.

The greater your inner joy, the more likely you are to love people, to be kind, and to be longsuffering—Even Nehemiah knew that “the joy of the Lord is your strength (8:10).”

The third statement that Paul makes emphasizes the importance of prayer:  “Pray without ceasing (5:17).”  Obviously you can’t pray continually, but you can go through the day in an attitude of prayer.  There can be miniscule moments of time when you praise God or give Him thanks for a blessing.  There will be times when you find yourself thinking of some person or a specific need, and you can offer a voiceless prayer that only God hears.

There’s another item that Paul urges these people to do:  “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (5:18).”  To understand this verse, you need to comprehend the difference between “in all” and “for all.”  Paul didn’t say that you’re to give thanks for “all things,” but “in all things.

When you give thanks “in all things,” you’re embracing the hope you have in Jesus Christ; and, your focus is not so much on the here and now of your pain, but on the there and then of future blessings.

The path of trials and tragedies was a route that Paul often traveled. If you’re following in his footsteps, you might find some comfort in his practical theology for life:

Thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, that he is our Father and the source of all mercy and comfort. For he gives us comfort in our trials so that we in turn may be able to give the same sort of strong sympathy to others in theirs. Indeed, experience shows that the more we share Christ’s suffering the more we are able to give of his encouragement. This means that if we experience trouble we can pass on to you comfort and spiritual help; for if we ourselves have been comforted we know how to encourage you to endure patiently the same sort of troubles that we have ourselves endured. We are quite confident that if you have to suffer troubles as we have done, then, like us, you will find the comfort and encouragement of God.  ~2 Corinthians 1:3-5

Aye-Sight: Seeing Eye to Eye with God

healthy-eyesight-tipsI think you’ll agree that the health of your eyes and good eyesight is of critical importance: Good vision helps you in every aspect of your life.

The same is true when you consider your spiritual life.  Good eyesight is an essential to spiritual health, and poor eyesight can be devastating.  In Psalm 119, there’s a verse that focuses on the object of your vision:

Psalm 119:36-38

Turn my head and my heart to Your decrees

and not to sinful gain.

Keep my eyes from gazing upon worthless things,

and give me true life according to Your plans.

Verify Your word to Your servant,

which will lead me to worship You.

Instead of wasting your time on the worthless, invest it in the precious.  Take a look at these “eyesight” verses:

  • Psalm 19:8: The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.
  • Psalm 26:3: For Your lovingkindness is before my eyes, And I have walked in Your truth.
  • Psalm 33:18: Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him, and on those who hope in His mercy.
  • Psalm 34:15: The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their cry.

I’ll close with Psalm 119:18, and I encourage you to make it your prayer for today: Open my eyes, that I may see wondrous things from Your law.

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 Mind Full of Memories

2012-02-26-sandhillsOn Thursday night of this past week, I received a phone call about 10:30.  It was a call from my cousin:  “Hey Stan, I wanted you to know that Mom just died.”

I didn’t sleep much that night.  I kept thinking about my Aunt Ila.  I reminisced about my childhood days at Sallyards, and the Seymour gatherings at that white house bordered by railroad tracks on the South and surrounded by the captivating beauty of the Flint Hills.

My memories were of a time when both Ila and I were much younger.  As I thought of her, I remembered the sound of her joyful laugh, the infectious smile that lined her face, and the sparkle in her eyes.  Most of all, I remembered her kind gentle spirit and the warmth of her ever-present love.

As I thought about her love, I remembered the words of the Apostle Paul:

For I am persuaded that not even death or life, angels or rulers, things present or things to come, hostile powers, height or depth, or any other created thing will have the power to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord! 

~Romans 8:38-39

I hope this verse convinces you, as it does me, that not even the princes of darkness can separate us from the love of God.

When you are stirred up and trampled down by the tragedy of death and the miles of trials you’ve walked in your life, why not take a peek at things from God’s perspective? God has a hold on you and He isn’t going to let you go.

Jesus said:   My sheep hear My voice, I know them, and they follow Me.  I give them eternal life, and they will never perish—ever! No one will snatch them out of My hand.  My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all. No one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.

Are you “persuaded” by the words of Paul and convinced that there is no power on earth or below or heaven above that can separate you from the love of God?

I think Aunt Ila was convinced of this truth.  I think she could say:  “We have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and the one who remains in love remains in God, and God remains in him (I John 4:16).”

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Whenever I look North of Highway 54 and my eyes see an empty and vacant pasture that used to be Sallyards, my mind is still full of memories.

One that remains and will always be cherished is the memory of Aunt Ila’s love.

Vertigo

Hey boys and girls, who can leap tall buildings in a single bound; is stronger than a locomotive; and, is faster than a speeding bullet?  That’s right, it’s Superman.

When I was just a kid, I watched superman every time I got a chance.  I think some of the opening words are still appropriate for today:  faster than a speeding bullet.  There are times that life seems to speed by at a dizzying rate of speed.  This fast-paced living can blur our perspective on life and leave us with mental and spiritual vertigo.

Spiritual vertigo can afflict all of us.  It even diminished the wisdom of Solomon for a part of his life.  Solomon began his reign as a man focused on the principles of God, but he digressed into a Hedonistic lifestyle that eventually morphed into fatalism (Eccl. 3:18-21).

The wise old king had failed to follow his own advice.  In Proverbs 3 he advises his readers to not lean on their own understanding, but to acknowledge God and to embrace His principles.

Solomon had become so dizzy with the world’s delights, his only focus was the horizontal dimension of life.  He had forgotten that his real joy and satisfaction had come from his vertical relationship with God.

Here is a thought to keep you thinking.  If you realize your life is just a merry-go-round existence, it’s time to slow things down and get your feet back on the solid rock of Jesus Christ.