Bread, Benefits, and Priorities

benefitsMy morning routine usually begins with a cup of coffee and a piece of toast with peanut butter and honey.  As I sip my coffee, I read some Scripture, check the news, and I think about my To-Do-List for the day.

I then do the necessary but mundane tasks of showering, shaving, brushing me teeth, and combing my hair—notice that I didn’t say hairs. While I was doing this yesterday, I thought of the correlation between the “daily” words of Jesus in Luke 9:23 and Matthew 6:11:

  • Luke 9:23: If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.
  • Matthew 6:11: Give us this day our daily

The thought of taking up your cross daily, might seem to be a monumental task, and it would be if it were not for God’s provision.  He promises the daily bread you need to accomplish His will for your life.

Psalm 68:19: Blessed be the Lord, Who daily loads us with benefits, The God of our salvation!

God  will never tell you to “go” without showing the way, and He will never say “come” without leading you to Him. This is the benefit of knowing Him as your Shepherd and the God of your salvation.

God will show you and lead you with with His Voice of Wisdom in Proverbs 8:32-35: Now therefore, listen to me, my children, for blessed are those who keep my ways.  Hear instruction and be wise, and do not disdain it. Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors. For whoever finds me finds life, and obtains favor from the Lord.

Discovering God’s will and finding the necessary bread to accomplish it, requires a daily trip to the food pantry: These Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures (food pantry) daily to see if these things were so. ~Acts 17:11

When you consider your  T0-Do-List for tomorrow, I suggest you start by making God a daily priority.

I will bless the Lord who has given me counsel; My heart also instructs me in the night seasons. I have set the Lord always before me; because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved. ~ Psalm 16:7-8

Facing The Sun

7036268-sunflower-field-sunsetThere are less than 3 million people who call Kansas home. If you’re among this number, you may know the sunflower was designated as the official state flower in 1903.  This long-stemmed flower with petals of golden yellow is classified as a turnsole plant, a word of French origin and one that means to “turn towards the sun.”

The sunflower, like all plants, is not self-sufficient—it depends upon the sun for essential nourishment. 

Health conscious individuals are learning what botanists have known for many years:  In proper amounts, there are some benefits associated with exposure to the sun.  There’s ample research that’s easily available, and it indicates the sun’s rays are beneficial both physically and mentally.

While the sun is important to you physically and mentally, the Son is even more vital to your needs spiritually: “The one who believes in the Son has eternal life. The one who rejects the Son will not see life, but God’s wrath remains on him (John 3:36).”

Cultivate the habit of rising in the morning, facing the Son, and following Him throughout the day.  When you practice this routine you develop a God-focused regimen of strength that recognizes that it’s, “Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit says the Lord (Zechariah 4:6).”

So, when you rise in the morning,  why not give the Son a chance to shine on you?

A Squirt-Filled Reminder

germWhen I get out of my bed of a morning, I follow the well-worn path to my coffee pot; however, there is something I do before I make my coffee. I squirt soap in my hands and wash them.

As I was repeating this routine this morning, I thought of James 4:8: “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

It’s just as important to be pure spiritually as it is to be clean physically.  This is a vital key to nurturing a relationship with God, so I’ve decided to use soap dispensers as a reminder.  Each squirt of soap will remind me to:

  • Draw closer to God
  • Cleanse my hands
  • Purify my heart
  • Focus on my relationship with God

Why not join me in this endeavor?

Come close to the one true God, and He will draw close to you. Wash your hands; you have dirtied them in sin. Cleanse your heart, because your mind is split down the middle, your love for God on one side and selfish pursuits on the other. ~The Voice

Paying and Staying Fit

Horizon_Fitness_T101-3_TreadmillAny town of any size in the USA has some type of a gym or health club for the benefit of its citizens.  Many Americans strive to develop or maintain a regimen that leads to and promotes good health.

According to information from Yahoo:

  • 58 million Americans have a gym membership, but 67% of them never use their memberships.
  • Health clubs have annual revenues of about $21.8 billion.
  • The average cost per person for a membership is $58.
  • 5% of gym-goers use a personal trainers at an average price per session of $65.
  • Americans spend around $30 billion a year on athletic apparel.

While we should try to stay reasonably fit, we should place at least equal or more emphasis on praying to stay fit.  How would your life be different if you started a match program?

  • For every minute you spend trying to stay physically fit, you will match it with a minute of spiritual exercise (praying, reading your Bible, or speaking to someone about Jesus).
  • For every penny you spend paying to stay physically fit, you will give an equal amount to the Lord.

When you consider eternity, which one is of the greater benefit to you?  Is it paying to stay fit or praying to stay fit?

The Pepsodent Tingle

Claude Hopkins is a name that was unfamiliar to me, until I read a little bit about the evolution of toothpaste.  Hopkins was a marketing professional and a friend of his contacted him about a new product called Pepsodent.

Hopkins had two rules that he closely followed when developing an advertising campaign:

  • First, find a simple and obvious cue.
  • Second, clearly define the rewards.

The rules paid off:  Three weeks after the Pepsodent campaign started, the demand for the toothpaste soared. In fact, the company received so many orders they ran out of toothpaste.

A closer look at Hopkins’ rules reveals the following:

  • He identified a cue which was the feeling of a film over the teeth.
  • He called attention to a routine (brushing your teeth with toothpaste).
  • He marketed the reward which was the feeling of a clean mouth.

The makers of toothpaste cleverly add an ingredient that leaves a tingling feeling in the mouth. Even though this ingredient doesn’t actually help to clean the teeth, people identify cleanliness with the tingle.   The end result is, people crave the tingling.

The story of Pepsodent is a lesson on habit control.  To stop unwanted behavior, a person needs to be familiar with the rules of Hopkins:

  • Cue
  • Routine
  • Reward

In The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg, outlines this sequence:  The cue is the trigger that sets the sequence in motion…. The routine is the behavior itself, which can be positive (like a daily running habit) or harmful (like gambling away the family savings). And the third part is the reward — the goal of the behavioral loop, which your brain’s pleasure centers gauge to determine if a sequence of behavior, is worth repeating and storing in a lockbox of habit….

The first thing to do when trying to break a habit is to identify the cue.  Generally speaking, CUES are categorized as:  [1] Time of day [2] A certain place [3] A specific emotion [4] A certain person or group of people [5] A ritual that is already in place

To see this illustrated in the life of an individual, at least 4 of these 5 CUES, were present in the incident that involved David with Bathsheba.  Can you identify them?

If we find that we are craving a tingle, we may need to ask:  What CUES are present  in my life that are contributing to unhealthy habits?

Zoned Out

As I was driving to Haysville on Tuesday to conduct a funeral, I drove past an AutoZone parts store.  As I read the sign, I thought:  AutoZone . . . that’s how I navigate my life.

If we would stop and think about our daily schedule, we could see many moments when we have been on autopilot.  Think with me for a moment about your daily routine.

  • When you get dressed, do you always insert the same leg first?
  • What about your shoes?  Do you always put a shoe on a certain foot first?
  • What other routines do you perform each day with little or no thought?

I’m afraid this can also be true of a person’s spiritual routine.  We get into an AutoZone where we do what we do out of habit instead of devotion.

It may be time to take your life off of autopilot and be more intentional for a day or two.  Instead of just doing whatever you do, pause and look for God along the way.  Solomon said it this way:  Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own.  Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; He’s the one who will keep you on track  (Proverbs 3MSG).

I know that much of what a person does is because he is either right hand or left hand dominated.  It is an issue of coordination.  With this in mind, let me challenge you to be intentional by changing things up a little.  When you drink your coffee, pour the pot and drink from the cup using a different hand; and, when you do it, read the verse above.

Let me issue a warning:  This can be dangerous to your health.  I know from experience!  I ride about 6 miles on my exercise bike every morning.  The first time I tried to lift my coffee cup to my mouth with my left hand while I was pedaling, I almost crashed and burned.

Changing your routine may feel a little awkward at first, but I think it is beneficial.  When a person dispenses a ritual, his senses are keenley aware of the change.    By doing something different and trying something new there is a potential overlap into the spiritual realm of your life that allows you to see the presence of God in a fresh way.

I’ll wrap it up today with the words of David:  The LORD makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the LORD upholds him with his hand (Psalm 37:23-24 NIV).

Chump or Champ

He stands 6′-11″, weighs 211 pounds and wears number 7, but Billy Cundiff’s luck ran out on Sunday.  During the season he scored 84 points and was accurate 76% of the time, but his missed field goal attempt led, in part, to the Raven’s loss.

Even though Cundiff is the 4th best kicker in the NFL, he will be remembered more for the kick he missed than for the 28 he made.  Like an elephant, Cundiff will never forget, and this will weigh on him just as heavily.

Fans were outraged because Cundiff missed the kick.  At the time, few people were aware of a scorekeeper’s mishap that altered his preparation.

Cundiff, like most kickers has a well-ordered sideline sequence that prepares him for his on-field performance.  He  uses the down and distance information on the scoreboard to walk him through his routine.  On Sunday, Cundiff worked through his first-down prep and checked the scoreboard.  Then he went through his second down prep and looked at the scoreboard.

Suddenly there was confusion on the sidelines.   Coaches were shouting “field goal,” but Cundiff still thought it was 3rd down.  The scorekeeper had failed to advance the scoreboard stats,  and it indicated 3rd down when it was 4th down.  Cundiff was forced to break his routine, rush on the field, and he missed the uprights.

Cundiff illlustrates the need for a healthy routine and what happens when we break it.  A mentor of mine, Raymond Barber, told me that, You don’t lose your religion in a blowout.  You lose it in a small leak.

Small changes go unnoticed until the cumulative effect is felt.  A person can benefit from a disciplined life or suffer the consequences of neglect.

A disciplined routine prepared Samuel Grady for the 1984 Olympics where he won a gold medal in track and field.  Grady has said, All through my professional and amateur career, I worked a little harder and trained a little extra.  I was the first one at practice and the last to leave. 

Let me share a definition of discipline:  Doing the things that need to be done even when you don’t feel like doing them.  Whenever you’re doing the things that need to get done, keep the words of  Solomon in mind, Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might (Eccl. 9:10).

I hope this thought keeps you thinking.