Refocus

blueeyerefocus-e1402765750552One of the great men of the Bible was David, and he reigned as King for over thirty years. His path to the throne wasn’t an easy journey, and his years as a monarch were often times of great difficulty.

One of the more trying moments of his life is recorded in 1 Samuel 30:6: David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and his daughters.  But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God.

Even though David was greatly distressed, he didn’t allow the trial, the heartache, and the grief to define the rest of his life.  Instead, David strengthened himself in the Lord.

David refocused his emotions, turned his thoughts towards God, and remembered: My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth (Psalm 121).

It’s also likely, that David rehearsed the many times that God had intervened in his life:

  • God once delivered him from a lion and a bear
  • God gave him a victory when he faced Goliath in battle and beat him
  • When jealous Saul tried to kill him, God always provided safety.

Today may be one of those days that you’re feeling distressed.  Whatever your Goliath may be, God can bring your giant to his knees.  Find strength in knowing that what God did for David, He can also do for you.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. ~Philippians 4:13

Hand in Hand

handsThe trials and heartaches of life can leave you weary of life and tearful; and, wary of people and fearful.  When God seems far away, remember you’re in His hand and you can handle “all things” through His strength.

When life gets tough, these 4 truths may help:

  • When you spend more time in prayer, you have less time to worry.
  • When it seems like you are in over your head, remember God is in it with you.
  • When life seems too hard, remember that nothing is too difficult for God.
  • When you’re convinced you’re lost, you’re ready to be found.
  • When you think you’re unlikeable, God thinks you are loveable.

When I was a small boy, there were times I found comfort when my parents held my hand.  When my mother grew old and unsteady, there were time we walked arm in arm so she could lean on me.  What my parents did for me, and what I did for Mom, God will do for all of His children: For I, the Lord your God, will hold your right hand, saying to you, ‘Fear not, I will help you.  ~Isaiah 41:13

Leaders: Some Rise and Some Fall

 

thumbs upIf you take a causal walk down the self-help aisle of most book stores, you find shelves stocked full of books on leadership.  A common principle in many of these books is the need to study the lives of leaders.

To accomplish this, you can thumb through the pages of the Bible where you will discover a long list of leaders.  Some them are polished and practical; others are hopeless and hapless; but, the stories are fair a fair and balanced account that opens the door that reveals the skeletons in their closets.

Two of the better-known leaders are Saul and David.  Saul, the first king of Israel, could whip most anyone, but his ego got the best of him.  Samuel, the priest, issued a stern rebuke and no-holds-barred reprimand to King Saul: Now thy kingdom shall not continue: the Lord hath sought him a man after his own heart, and the Lord hath commanded him to be captain over his people, because thou hast not kept that which the Lord commanded thee (I Samuel 13:14).

The man after God’s own heart was David, and he knew the key of his strength would be a dependence on God.  David said: You are my rock and my fortress; Therefore, for Your name’s sake, lead me and guide me (Psalm 31:3).

Like David, we can and should, look to God for strength and guidance:

  • Psalm 5:8: Lead me, O Lord, in Your righteousness because of my enemies; make Your way straight before my face.
  • Psalm 25:5: Lead me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation; on You I wait all the day.
  • Psalm 23:2-3: He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.
  • Psalm 143:10: Teach me to do Your will, For You are my God; Your Spirit is good. Lead me in the land of uprightness.

When you begin to trust in the goodness of God, you hear the rhythm and cadence of His voice and begin to walk in step with Him—He leads; you follow.

Solomon said, Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Are you a King Saul who continually tried to prop himself up with his own wisdom; or, are you a David who found a life of blessings by trusting God and letting Him direct his paths?

Who has your ear? Whose voice are you hearing?  Which path in life are you walking? Are you following God’s lead?

Life: Its Measure and Message

Life, what is it?  In one form or another, most people have asked this question at some measure-subpagetime in their life.  It’s one of the many themes of Psalms, Proverbs, and the book of James.

  • James asked: For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. ~James 4:14
  • A similar question is asked in Psalm 8:4: What is man that You are mindful of him, And the son of man that You visit him?
  • David inquired about the measure of his days or the length of life in Psalm 39:

“O Lord,  make me know my end  and what is the  measure of my days;  let me know how fleeting I am! Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing before you. Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath!

While we might be concerned about the measure of life, we should also be concerned about the message of our lives. Solomon addressed the message of within the context of character and its influence. In Proverbs, he calls attention to the person who is:

  • Ungodly man who digs up evil ~16:27
  • Perverse man sows strife ~Proverbs 16:28
  • Violent man entices his neighbor, and leads him in a way that is not good ~Proverbs 16:29
  • Proud: Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him ~Proverbs 26:12
  • Righteous man who may fall seven times And rise again, But the wicked shall fall by calamity. ~Proverbs 24:16
  • A prudent man foresees evil and hides himself, But the simple pass on and are punished ~Proverbs 22:3
  • Undisciplined: Do you see a man hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him ~ Proverbs 29:20
  • Unjust man who is an abomination to the righteous ~ Proverbs 29:27

I encourage you take some time to reflect on the measure and message of your life, and remember that it can be:

  • Brief in comparison to eternity: Man is like a breath; His days are like a passing shadow (Psalm 144:4)
  • Full of opportunity to make a difference in the life of another: Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for God is pleased with such sacrifices (Hebrews 13:16).

As in water the face is reflected as a face, so a person’s heart reflects the person.         ~Proverbs 27:19

Waiting Like Leo

swamp-rat-16Leo was as regular as clockwork.  A few minutes before 3 PM, he would walk into my office, and say:  It’s time to get a cup, are you ready?

While I enjoyed the break and our afternoon conversations, the ride to the coffee shop was a hang-0n-for-your-life experience.  This kind, jovial, old gent evidently had nitro in his DNA because the second the traffic light turned green he morphed into a mixture of three of the all time NHRA greats: Matt Hagan, Don Prudhomme, and Big Daddy Don Gartlis.

Quicker than you could say Folgers, Leo honked his horn, smoked his tires, floor-boarded the gas pedal and raced to the coffee shop—Leo was a better fumer and fretter than he was a patient waiter.

To be truthful, if you’re anything like me, both of us are too much like Leo. We hate to wait at red lights, in lines, or for the 30 seconds it takes for a microwave to do its magic—we’re better at getting up and going than we are at sitting and waiting.

Whatever you do, please don’t put me on hold—elevator music isn’t relaxing; it’s a fight song.

A.W. Tozer (1918-1963) lamented this spirit of busyness because it has diminished our ability to be still and know the Lord.  Tozer said: We are victims of the philosophy of activism tragically misunderstood, and he defined it as an urgent life of getting and spending, going and returning, organizing and promoting, buying and selling, working and playing. Tozer continued: If we are not making plans or working to carry out plans already made we feel that we are failures, that we are sterile, unfruitful eunuchs, parasites on the body of society.

In these stress-filled times, we need to ease up on the throttle and learn to wait on the Lord. David said that he waited patiently for the Lord; and He inclined to me, and heard my cry (Psalm 40:1).

When we wait, with an expectant hope, in God’s providential care, we find that God will:

  • Offer guidance: Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long (Psalm 25:5)
  • Provide deliverance: We wait for the Lord; he is our deliverer and shield. (Psalms 33:20).
  • Answer prayer: Listen to what I say, Lord! Carefully consider my complaint! Pay attention to my cry for help, my king and my God, for I am praying to you! Lord, in the morning you will hear me; in the morning I will present my case to you and then wait expectantly for an answer (Psalms 5:1-3).
  • Give strength: Those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint (Isaiah 40:31).

John Ortberg has commented on the importance of waiting.  Biblically, waiting is not just something we have to do until we get what we want. Waiting is part of the process of becoming what God wants us to be.

Lord, we wait for you; your name and remembrance are the desire of our soul. ~Isaiah 26:8

Liar, Liar, Pants On Fire!

imageWhen you were a kid your integrity may have been assaulted with a blazing childhood rant: Liar, Liar, Pants On Fire!

Lying, however, isn’t in the repertoire of God—He’s the epitome of truthfulness and faithfulness:  God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent (Numbers 23:19).

The Psalms are replete with verses that testify of the faithfulness of God:

  • 15:4: He makes firm commitments and does not renege on his promise.
  • 18:30: The Lord’s promise is reliable; he is a shield to all who take shelter in him.
  • 25:30: The Lord always proves faithful and reliable to those who follow the demands of his covenant.
  • 100:5: For the Lord is good. His loyal love endures, and he is faithful through all generations.

God’s faithfulness is more than just the subject of polite conversation, it’s a concept that sustains us in those where-the-rubber-meets-the-road moments of life:

  • The grief-stricken need to know they can trust God when he says: “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning (Psalm 30:5).”
  • To the lonely and downcast, God promises that, “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).”
  • The weak are energized by the potential of Philippians 4:13: “I can do all thing through Christ who strengthens me.”
  • The overwhelmed often find comfort in the opening words of Psalm 23: “The Lord is my shepherd . . .”

God is not wishy-washy, He’s reliable and His, “word is firmly fixed in the heavens, and His faithfulness endures to all generations (Psalm 119:89-90).”

Regardless of your circumstances in life, remember this: “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness (Lamentations 3:22-23).”

The Treasure in Measure

25_powerlockI’m certain that I’ve seen and spoken the word “measure” thousands of times in my life, and I’ve read Romans 12:3 many hundreds of times.  When I read it again a moment ago I noticed something different. I saw the three words found in measureme-a-sure.

 For by the grace given to me, I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he should think. Instead, think sensibly, as God has distributed a measure of faith to each one. ~Romans 12:3

While me-a-sure has nothing to do with the meaning of measure or the theological significance of Romans 12:3, me-a-sure motivated me to think of the things that I can be sure of knowing, like:

  • Eternal Life: These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God (I John 5:13).
  • The Truth: You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free (John 8:32).
  • The Good Shepherd: I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own (John 10:14).
  • The Hope: I pray that the perception of your mind may be enlightened so you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the glorious riches of His inheritance among the saints (Ephesians 1:18).
  • The Love of Jesus: You may know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:19).

In the third chapter of Philippians, Paul said there was one thing he was sure of, and it was the need to forget the things that were behind him and to focus on the “prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (3:14).”

How does your relationship with God measure-up?  How have you been reassured in times of trials and heartache?  How has your confidence in God been strengthened?  I’d like to know, so share a comment or two with me.

Ferhoodlums On The Loose

Truth-or-Lies_thumbThere’s a difference between blending for clarity and mixing things up for the purpose of confusion.  Ferhoodlum is a case in point.  Although you won’t find this word in the dictionary, you can find the two words I have blended to create it:

  • Ferhoodle: To confuse, tangle, or perplex
  • Hoodlum: a thug associated with crime or theft

A ferhoodlum is a person who engages in the premeditated confusion of the facts.  If you’ve watched any of the political debates, you’ve heard the voices of ferhoodlums.  Were these slips of the tongue, honest mistakes, or the crass acts of ferhoodlums?

  • Clinton exaggerated the facts when she claimed Bernie Sanders had benefitted directly from donations from Wall Street.
  • Trump exaggerated the unemployment statistics.
  • Cruz distorted Rubio’s position on immigration.
  • Clinton made misleading statements when discussing Sanders health care plan.

Ferhoodlums are not a phenomenon of 2016, they’ve been misrepresenting the truth for ages, including the New Testament era.  Paul warned the Ephesians of their deceitful tactics: Don’t be “tossed back and forth [like ships on a stormy sea] and carried about by every wind of [shifting] doctrine, by the cunning and trickery of [unscrupulous] men, by the deceitful scheming of people ready to do anything [for personal profit].  But speaking the truth in love [in all things—both our speech and our lives expressing His truth], let us grow up in all things into Him [following His example] who is the Head—Christ (Ephesians 4:14-15 Amplified Bible).”

Unwilling to compromise the integrity of the Gospel, Paul was determined to speak the truth: “Since we are joined together in this ministry as a result of the mercy shown to all of us by God, we do not become discouraged.  Instead, we have renounced all the things that hide in shame; we refuse to live deceptively or use trickery; we do not pollute God’s Word with any other agenda. Instead, we aim to tell the truth plainly, appealing to the conscience of every person under God’s watchful eye (2 Corinthians 4:1-2).”

Proverbs 12 is a clear contrast between those who speak the truth and those who lie: “Whoever speaks the truth declares what is right, but a false witness, deceit. There is one who speaks rashly, like a piercing sword; but the tongue of the wise brings healing. Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue, only a moment. Deceit is in the hearts of those who plot evil, but those who promote peace have joy (17-20).”

Ferhoodlums should give some careful consideration to Psalm 15: “Lord, who can dwell in Your tent? Who can live on Your holy mountain? The one who lives honestly, practices righteousness, and acknowledges the truth in his heart—who does not slander with his tongue, who does not harm his friend or discredit his neighbor, but honors those who fear the Lord, and one who keeps his word whatever the cost.”

Finding Truth in 50 Words

Man opens a box and squints

In Colossians 3:11, Paul used just 6 words to convey a massive amount of truth:  “Christ is all and in all.” When I read this succinct statement about the indescribable Christ, I remembered a brief description of the Bible.

The Bible in 50 Words,  uses statements consisting of 2 words to describe the 66 books of the Bible:

      God made
Adam bit
Noah arked
Abraham split
Jacob fooled
Joseph ruled
Bush talked
Moses balked
Pharaoh plagued
People walked
Sea divided
Tablets guided
Promise landed
Saul freaked
David peeked
Prophets warned
Jesus born
God walked
Love talked
Anger crucified
Hope died
Love rose
Spirit flamed
Word spread
God remained

Along this same theme of profound brevity, I suggest there is one verse in the New Testament that summarizes the life of Christ better than any other:

 

Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh,vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.  ~I Timothy 3:16

I will close with this question:  What are the 50 words that define you?

Full of Grace and Truth

grace-and-truthThe message of the New Testament is to speak the truth in love, and not to use it to beat someone into submission.  When John wrote about Jesus, he described the Lord as being full of grace and truth.  Think about that for a moment and reflect on the manner of ministry embraced by Jesus.  What did Jesus do when He met the town prostitute at the city well?  Did he berate her with a long lengthy sermon?  No, He lovingly shared the truth with her and poured out His grace upon her.

What was the result of His one and one encounter with this sinful woman and the Savior of the World?  She drank from the cup of salvation and shared the water of life with those she knew, and revival broke out in her village.

Throughout the pages of John’s Gospel we see this same pattern repeated time and again.  The faces are different, the names are not the same, but the manner of ministry was always full of grace and truth.

When Paul wrote to the believers at Galatia, he said: If a person gets trapped by wrongdoing, those of you who are spiritual should help that person turn away from doing wrong. Do it in a gentle way. At the same time watch yourself so that you also are not tempted (Galatians 6).

What has always intrigued me about the verse above, is the phrase, those of you who are spiritual.  If we fail to embrace this manner of ministry, are we failing in our spiritual life?

There have been several times in my life that people have told me that I am full of things that I’d rather not discuss.  My hope is that when people observe my manner of ministry they see it as full and grace and truth.