Words of a Particular Kind

154451011How long would it take you to make a summary statement of your life?  How many words do you think it would take?

Robert Frost said he could sum up everything he had learned about life in three words: “It goes on.”  There’s a lot of truth to what Frost said, but it’s also true that what you say can determine how far you go in life and how your life “goes on.”

Mother Teresa was more concerned with the nature of your words than she was with the number of them: “Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.”  David, like Mother Teresa, was well aware of the power of the spoken word, and he prayed: “May my words and my thoughts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my sheltering rock and my redeemer (Psalm 19:14).”

When I think about David’s prayer, I’m left with a couple of questions:

  • Are my words and thoughts acceptable to God?
  • If not, what can I do to make them more acceptable?

Joshua gave the answer to these questions, when he said: “This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success (Joshua 1:8).”

When you think about your words and thoughts, I encourage you to contrast them to the principles of God’s Word in general, and these words of Paul in Particular: “Don’t let even one rotten word seep out of your mouths. Instead, offer only fresh words that build others up when they need it most. That way your good words will communicate grace to those who hear them (Ephesians 4:29 ~The Voice).”

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

Making Sense of the Nonsense

Grief and anxiety can be so powerful that you can melt in the heat of their presence like a dip of ice cream on a 110-degree day.   When the trials and tragedies of life assault you, God can seem so distant that his voice is inaudible and His care and compassion inconspicuous.

When you feel like you’ve been bullied by misfortune or beaten down by fickle friends, you can be blinded by a pervasive sense of loneliness and a warped perspective on life.  This was the case with Asaph when he wrote Psalm 73:

My feet almost slipped; my feet almost slid out from under me. For I envied those who are proud, as I observed the prosperity of the wicked. For they suffer no pain. . . They mock and say evil things; they proudly threaten violence. They speak as if they rule in heaven, and lay claim to the earth.

Whenever you find that you are walking down a path of misery, you need to re-calibrate your compass.  Instead of focusing primarily on your internals, you need to take an eternal perspective on life.  This is how Asaph began to reorient his direction in life:

When I tried to make sense of all this nonsense, it was troubling to me. When I finally looked beyond myself, and I quit beating myself down. I looked up to God and I entered His temple, and then I understood the destiny of the wicked (my paraphrase of Psalm 73:16-17).

In times like these, God may seem to hide, but He is still present to present you with what you need.  “Sometimes God gives us a gentle push of courage; sometimes He mercifully numbs us so we don’t experience the full intensity of our pain; at other times He carries us when we cannot take another step on own (Bruce Carroll, Sometimes Miracles Hide).”

One of the more comforting sections of Scripture that may help when you are feeling the pain of lingering bruises is Psalm 121:

I look up at the vast size of the mountains—from where will my help come in times of trouble? The Eternal Creator of heaven and earth and these mountains will send the help I need. He holds you firmly in place; He will not let you fall. He who keeps you will never take His eyes off you and never drift off to sleep. What a relief! The One who watches over Israel never leaves for rest or sleep. The Eternal keeps you safe, so close to Him that His shadow is a cooling shade to you. Neither bright light of sun nor dim light of moon will harm you. The Eternal will keep you safe from all of life’s evils, from your first breath to the last breath you breathe, from this day and forever. ~The Voice

Do You Have A Second To Spare?

Honeybee_landing_on_milkthistle02On a recent trip to the lake, I saw the good, the bad, and the ugly. I’ll give them to you in reverse order: The ugly was the trash that someone had thrown into the lake; the bad was the wasp that kept buzzing my head; and, the good was the honey bee who was pollinating flowers and gathering nectar

My Great-Aunt Fern was a beekeeper, and it is from her that I acquired my love for honey.  Whenever I’d visit Fern, I usually left with more than just a jug of honey; I would also leave with some new fact about her precious bees.

I remember Fern telling me: “A bee flaps its wings about 230 times a second while it hovers over a flower.”

When I saw bees hovering over flowers yesterday, I thought of Aunt Fern and the significance of one second: One second of life passes into history in the time it takes you to say: “One thousand one.”

Take another second or two to read these one second statistics.  Every second:

  • 8,613 tweets are posted on Twitter
  • 1,771 photos are uploaded to Instagram
  • 1,669 “phone” calls are made on Skype
  • 46,610 searches are made on Google
  • 96,225 videos are watched on YouTube
  • 2,372,740 emails are sent

One second is a brief period of time; yet it’s a moment of eternal significance:

  • Psalm 144:4: “Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow.”
  • Psalm 90:10: “The days of our lives are seventy years; and, if by reason of strength they are eighty years; yet, their boast is only labor and sorrow.”

Perhaps it’s time to take a second to do a firsthand review of your life, and compare your perspective to Paul’s:

[For my determined purpose is] that I may know Him [that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly], and that I may in that same way come to know the power outflowing from His resurrection [which it exerts over believers], and that I may so share His sufferings as to be continually transformed [in spirit into His likeness even] to His death, [in the hope] ~Philippians 3:10 ~Amplified Version

A Godly Celebration

god-is-goodYou’ve heard it before: “If it sounds too good to be true, then it’s too good to be true.” When you read Zephaniah 3:17, you may think that it sounds too good to be true:

The Lord your God is with you. He is a warrior who saves you. He happily rejoices over you; renews you with his love; and, He celebrates over you with shouts of joy.

Before you pass judgment on the veracity of this verse, you may want to consider it from the perspective and testimony of some people from the pages of history:

  • Think about Daniel. He was thrown into a den of lions which was the sentence of death; however, God intervened; the lions were afflicted with a serious case of lockjaw; and, Daniel was saved.
  • What about David? This runt of the litter was fiercely courageous, and God used him as a warrior to slay Goliath.
  • Lazarus heard the shout of God, and he experienced a celebration and the joyful power of the resurrection.

Still think it sounds too good to be true?  Then you might want to read Psalm 121, the Pilgrim’s Psalm, from The Message:

I look up to the mountains; does my strength come from mountains? No, my strength comes from God, who made heaven, and earth, and mountains. He won’t let you stumble; your Guardian God won’t fall asleep. Not on your life! Israel’s Guardian will never doze or sleep. God’s your Guardian, right at your side to protect you—Shielding you from sunstroke, and sheltering you from moonstroke. God guards you from every evil, he guards your very life. He guards you when you leave and when you return, he guards you now, he guards you always.

Believe it! God is with you, and He wants to happily rejoice over you.

Eudemonics: You Da’ Man!

You_Da_Man_Recordable_Greeting_Card_By_Urban_Chakkar_729834You da’ man!  You’ve probably heard this exclamation after someone has done something great or unusual. The only reason I even mention You da man, is to help you with the pronunciation of Eudemonic (yoo-di-mon-ik).

A lot of what I do focuses on the end results of Eudemonics which is behavior that produces happiness and a sense of well-being.  This type of happiness is not associated with the circumstances of the world, but it has more to do with the concept of joy and your relationship with the Lord.

With this in mind, it’s easy to identify a few of the Eudemonic Principles in the Bible.  There is the:

  • Joy of Knowing God:  But let all those rejoice who put their trust in You; Let them ever shout for joy, because You defend them; Let those also who love Your name Be joyful in You (Psalm 5:11)
  • Joy of Forgiveness:  Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered (Psalm 32:1)
  • Joy of Mercy: Praise the Lord! Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever (Psalm 106:1)
  • Joy of Restoration:  Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me by Your generous Spirit (Psalm 51:12)

I encourage you to give some thought to your relationship with God, and to take the time to mediate on the joy-filled message of Psalm 62:

Make a joyful shout to God, all the earth!  Sing out the honor of His name; Make His praise glorious. Say to God, “How awesome are Your works! Through the greatness of Your power Your enemies shall submit themselves to You.  All the earth shall worship You and sing praises to You; They shall sing praises to Your name.”

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe in Him so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. ~Romans 15:13

A Special Day Everyday

BirthdayplateWhen I was a kid, Mom made birthdays special by allowing her children to pick the menu for supper.  A few days in advance, she would ask: “What do you want me to cook for your birthday?”

I knew if I asked for Mom’s special chocolate cake, I would receive it for dessert. Asking with the hope of receiving is part of life’s journey, and it’s one of  the themes of the Bible:

  • Just ask and it will be given to you; seek after it and you will find. Continue to knock and the door will be opened for you (Matthew 7:7)
  • If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you (John 15:7).
  • If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him (James 1:5).
  • Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know (Jeremiah 33:3).

A wonderful promise found in Psalm 55:16 encourages you to call out to God: As for me, I will call upon God, and the Lord shall save me. This verse is evidence of God’s desire to have a relationship with you.  When you call to Him:

  • You can enjoy the blessings of an abundant life (John 10:10).
  • God will help you face your fear and give you the strength you need for your journey (2 Timothy 1:7).
  • You can be assured that God will be a place of refuge for you (Psalm 46:1).

Why limit yourself to just one special day out of the year, when everyday can be a special day with God?

Describing the Indescribable

indescribable_title_widescreen_16X9Thomas à Kempis was a member of a Dutch Augustinian monastery that was associated with a group known as The Brethren of the Common Life. His main task was to focus on the spiritual life of the novices. To accomplish this, he wrote four booklets between the years of 1420 and 1427.  Of the four, The Imitation of Christ has been translated into over 50 languages.

Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, was so fond of this book that he read a chapter a day from it. These sentiments were echoed by John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist church, who said it was the best summary of the Christian life he had ever read.

The theme of Kempis’ work can be summarized in this quote: “We must imitate Christ’s life and his ways if we are to be truly enlightened and set free from the darkness of our own hearts. Let it be the most characteristic important thing we do.

Kempis once described God as being “unflappable, unfluffable, indecipherable, and indescribable.”  Wise as he was, Kempis’ description of God was no match for the one given by David in Psalm 62: God is our rock, salvation, defense, expectation, glory, and He is the rock of our strength and our refuge.

I encourage you take a few moments to read and then meditate on the words of this wonderful Psalm:

My soul, wait silently for God alone, for my expectation is from Him. He only is my rock and my salvation; He is my defense; I shall not be moved. 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. ~Psalm 62

Feeling Overwhelmed and Under-Qualified?

o-NEGATIVE-PEOPLE-facebookThis has been a tough week.  It hasn’t been so bad for me personally, but life had gotten out of hand for a handful of people. It seemed that their “can do” couldn’t “do,” and their “will to do” simply wasn’t “willing to do.”

Each of them had faced a daunting circumstance that had rained on their parade.  Because of this, they were drained physically, a wreck emotionally, and they were anemic spiritually.

When life gets you down and you’re ready to throw in towel, don’t quit.  Try to reframe your circumstances and get a fresh perspective:

  • Tap into your pool of resources. Call a friend, a family member, or your pastor, and share your heart with them.
  • Grab your Bible and read the Psalms. Learn from David and the many trials he faced.
  • Take control of your thoughts. Don’t let the Grinch of negativity determine your course in life. Since you can’t think two thoughts at the same time, replace the negative with a positive.

Before you quit, remember you’re more than adequate in Jesus Christ:

  • Embrace the “CAN DO” promise of Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
  • Remember THE Author has AUTHORIZED you, QUALIFIED you, and He is ALWAYS with you. Jesus said: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.  Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age (Matthew 28:18-20).”
  • Grasp the fact that you have the POWER to PERFORM: Jesus said: You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me (Acts 1:8).”

Before you quit, remember that the CHOOSER has CHOSEN you: You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit ~John 15:16