The Opposites

Conventional thinking tells us that if we:

  • work harder, we’ll go farther;
  • study more, we’ll be smarter;
  • promote ourselves, we’ll gain notoriety;
  • exercise & eat right, we’ll feel better.

To a degree, these are all true. But the ultimate fulfillment to going father, being smarter (more wise), visibility & feel good about ourselves isn’t sustained in conventional nor fleshly thinking.
Jesus tells us that the way to being fulfilled is through being committed to kingdom opposites:

  • The last will be first;
  • the way ahead is through humility & service;
  • exercise & discipline are corollaries to soul health;
  • seeking God’s kingdom first sets everything in proper alignment to live a of fulfillment & reward!

Futile Pursuits

“You must not turn aside for then you would go after futile things which cannot profit or deliver because they are futile.” 1 Samuel 12:21

Samuel spoke these words to the Israelites after Saul was confirmed as their first king & I can’t help but think that these words apply to my life. Do I pursue futile things? I want to answer, “no”, but if I’m truthful, I pursue futile things. For example, when I’m painfully honest, I pursue popularity & applause from people, getting frustrated when I don’t get enough. I pursue an adrenaline rush when I consider adding kite boarding to my hobby list. I pursue futile things when I get sidetracked with making image more important than genuine love. I pursue futile things when I let my intellectual appetites undermine my spiritual development. These dont have to be exclusive, but I know myself well enough to know that my intellect can lead me on endless rabbit trails away from walking with the Holy Spirit.
What might be some futile things in your life that would distract you from growing in your walk with Jesus?

A Little More

Traveling around the world, I get to see lots of distinct preferences. For example, in Bangladesh they tend to enjoy spicy food & sometimes it’s REALLY spicy! In Brazil, they prefer community over individuality & the German language prefers precision over approximation.
But there’s one universal constant: everyone craves genuine love & I suspect this is by Divine design.
So if the universal constant throughout humanity is the desire for genuine love, it begs the question about how we can express genuine love.
When I think about expressing genuine love, I almost immediately feel inadequate & incapable. But if I think about expressing genuine love just a little more, then I’m not as discouraged. Here are some possibilities for consideration:

  • Affirmation & encouragement: recognize & vocalize something good to total strangers with sincerity
  • Gratitude: expressing thank you is a polite essential for genuine love
  • I see you: not the exterior trappings of wealth, success, begging, poverty, dirt or broken
  • Listen: hearing someone, being interested & asking questions is a way to be present & express concern, attention & genuine love
  • Borrow love: there are always people who we find challenging to love. So think in terms of borrowing love from someone you know & letting that shape your mindset for the tricky people.
  • Ask for more love – let’s never believe that we have enough genuine love.  We exist, in part, for God to love not only us but also through us!

Overprotective

Is it possible to be overprotective? Of course. But let’s think of this in broader terms than just raising children, border & immigrant concerns, your reputation, financial investments, etc.
Heres a really important place to think about being overprotective: your heart.
This is what happens to all of us, we get hurt, disappointed, discouraged or disillusioned so we decide to avoid that pain & shield / protect our hearts. In some ways this strategy is functional, but there’s a downside. When we shield / protect our hearts, we begin to compromise our ability to have close relationships & the worst place we can do this is with Jesus.
We must believe with unwavering confidence that Jesus loves us, has a good future for us & is both wise & strong enough to bail us out of any & all misfortunes.
Let’s never protect our hearts from an increasingly intimate relationship with Jesus 🙂

Watch OUT!!!!!

Don’t text & drive. Why? When our attention is divided, the quality of our focus decreases & our ability to engage declines. Simple translation: you’ll get in a wreck 🙂
I would suggest that the same principle applies to spiritual values as well. Because we live in a tangible & natural world, it’s easy to get our focus / attention on natural & flesh stuff. But if we become entirely absorbed with natural stuff, we’ll have a spiritual wreck. To be sure, we need to have balance with our focus & attention. Let’s be sure to give our attention to spiritual growth & not only natural urgencies & inclinations.

Are We Spirit Led

Last week, I jumped out of my car & ran up to a guy on the street & gave him a Bible verse. He didn’t speak English, so it was a little rough going. But the reason I did this was because the Holy Spirit led me in my morning prayer time to give this specific Bible verse to someone who was wearing a very distinct color of green. When I was driving down the street, I saw this guy wearing that specific color of green, so that’s why I stopped & did what could seem a little bit unusual 🙂
This question hit me between the eyes in my prayer time this morning because of what Paul says in Romans 8:14 – those who are led by the Spirit are the children of God. This verse says that if I’m God’s child, then I’m led by the Spirit. Of course I want this to be accurate & true, but when I think about being led by the Holy Spirit in my daily living, it’s not always true.
For example, there are certainly times when I put my schedule & convenience at a higher priority than following the Holy Spirit. I must also admit that there are plenty of times when I’m scared, or I feel intimidated or it feels uncomfortable to follow the Holy Spirit. I would suspect that you might also have some similar thoughts & feelings.
Let’s be careful that we make it a priority to be led by the Holy Spirit regardless of how we feel or what seems to be convenient!

Be sure to pick up & read

Heavenly Help 

to help you be led by the Holy Spirit!

Stay Informed

We live in a world that is inundated with information. It’s super easy to find out all kinds of information, so sometimes we can drown in such an abundance. But there’s some information that needs to stay in our thoughts everyday! These things include:

  • You are loved by God, deeply & wholly
  • You can’t increase nor decrease God’s love for you
  • The more you love sincerely, the more fully love can be experienced.
  • Genuine love & fear are incompatible

Genuine Jesus!

I’ve been watching a trend across our nation pertaining to churches & marketing. There’s no shortage of articles or content being generated about the decline in church attendance across the generations as well as a significant concern related to the seeming increase of moral depravity. Consequently, we have loads of marketing strategies to reach a younger demographic, become more appealing in our doctrine with more trendy & hip music, along with clothing adjustments & scheduling conveniences. I think all of these things are great, with one MAJOR interjection (or interruption):

JESUS

In my brief years on this planet, I’ve come to see that genuine Jesus is nothing but altogether irresistible, full stop. Indeed, the original marketing plan that God has laid out for us is in John 12:32, where Jesus says, “If I be lifted up, I’ll will draw all men unto Me.”
In our efforts to attract people to Jesus, let’s never make it ever about anything more than genuine Jesus!

Watch & Pray

I appreciate watches that work & these do not. Using an unreliable watch is kind of like driving on a tire that needs air – pretty soon, stuff gets messed up! Schedules go awry, anxiety increases, appointments get missed & people get frustrated, not just a little. But all of these challenges can be avoided with a functional watch.
This goes to my point with prayer. Keeping our prayer life in tune, steady & practiced is essential for our internal stability. When my prayer life goes awry, it’s only a matter of time until life hits the fan.
Who’s up to watch & pray with me?

Truth Or Love??

Maybe I’m the only person to struggle with his, but I find it challenging to be truthful & sincerely loving at the same time. For me, this is a tricky balance because I find it easier to be loving & less truthful or more truthful but less loving.
In Proverbs 3:3, it says that we should keep both love & truth around our neck & written on the tablets of our heart. In this verse, we don’t get to pick one over the other, love over truth or truth over love. Instead, we are to blend them together as they connect our head to our body (as a necklace) & permanently inscribed on our hearts to inform our core values & define our actions, conversations & outlook.
With the Holy Spirit helping us, let’s blend love & truth throughout our daily living!

When I’m Overwhelmed

Sometimes I feel overwhelmed, stretched too thin & as Bilbo said, “Too much bread & not enough butter.” Its true that I often do this to myself, attempting to squeeze in too much, yet again. But there are also times when I’m running to catch up to the busy lives of three teenagers & a thoroughly magnificent husband, to say nothing of my own workload. Today is one of those days. From the time I woke up, it’s like I can’t keep up with everything I need to do.

Do you ever feel this way? So what to do?
Here’s some real time lessons:

  • Do what’s immediately in front of you
  • Keep a running list of stuff you need to do – this can help you to stop worrying about something falling through the cracks
  • Solicit help – I just asked someone to give me grace on a deadline & they graciously agreed
  • Be careful with your attitude – when we’re in hyper busy mode it’s easy to get snappy & curt, only making everything worse
  • Pray – nothing is more helpful than requesting divine input & intervention

Changing Plans

I changed my plans for today at the last minute. I was going to go snowboarding, but decided that there are more pressing needs at home than my snowboarding interests.
In 1Samuel 13, Saul changed his plans as well. He & Samuel made a plan to make a sacrifice together but he got scared & offered the sacrifice without Samuel. This was a major downfall for Saul & Samuel explained shortly after Saul’s fearful decision, that God had sought out a different leader for Israel, a man after His heart (1San 13:14).
Saul changed the plan he had made with Samuel because he was afraid of his enemy, the Philistines, & saw the Israelite’ support of his leadership rapidly eroding.
While I’m a massive advocate of flexible planning, I’m growing to appreciate the importance of keeping God’s goals as unchanging piers to anchor my soul, regardless of my environs, feelings or selfish preferences.
God’s goals always related to genuine love & connecting humanity to God’s heart in deep intimacy. Let’s be sure that we keep God’s plans more central to our choices rather than our selfish interests, including my snowboarding plans 🙂

Right Side Up

Looking at this picture, you would likely tell me to fix it & turn it around since it looks like Jesus is upside down. However, sometimes I think the Holy Spirit wants to turn us up on end so we be right side up, based on the Holy Spirit’s perspective. Some areas where we might need some adjusting could include:

  • Money: getting is never as blessed as giving
  • Time: sometimes I need to remember that prayer can be the key for productive rather than staying busy
  • Mercy: being judgmental appealing to our flesh, mercy wins with Jesus!
  • Leadership: serving is the model Jesus gave us if we’re going to be the Jesus-kind of leader

Topsy-Turvy my friends 🙂

What Seduces You?

Nothing.

That’s a stupid question.
But actually, it’s a very important question because what seduces us can give us insight into weak spots & things that can possibly cause us to go off the rails.
For me, I’m a bit of an odd duck. What seduces me isn’t chocolate, wealth, image, clothes, etc. I’m more enamored with intellectual stuff, March Madness & the NCAA college basketball tournament, along with adventure & exhilaration.
Let’s be sure that we keep the stuff that interests us in proper alignment to our love for Jesus. If I let my interests in college basketball, intellectual pursuits or thrill seeking get more intense than my passion & love for Jesus, then I’ve become a victim to idolatry.
We don’t intentionally set out to be idolaters but that’s the problem with seduction. It’s subtle & creeps up on you often before you recognize it.
This is one of the reasons I so deeply love the Holy Spirit who keeps me away from deception & distortion while staying passionately in love with Jesus! Let’s pay attention to the things that seduce us!

The Voice

There’s a popular tv show out called “The Voice”. The general idea is related to finding vocally talented peeps & putting them on tv to compete for the top prize. There are loads of phenomenal individuals who have amazing voices, but there’s only one Voice that needs our steady attention & the is the voice of our Good Shepherd, from John 10.

When we think about all the voices in our lives (appetites, worries, relationships, things we need to do, etc), we can get overwhelmed with this barrage of input. But alas, there is one Voice who is worthy of our consistent attention. There is one Voice who invites us to experience genuine Love. There is one Voice who leads us along paths of peace & divine productivity & that is the Voice of our Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ.
Let’s be sure that the volume is appropriately adjusted for the various voices in our lives so that Jesus’ Voice gets our best attention & obedience!

What’s Important???

Tonight is the final game of the World Series – the annual culmination of the baseball season in the US. The Cleveland Indians & the Chicago Cubs haven’t competed in the World Series for more than 60 years each & the series has been a nail biter to be sure! If you can’t tell, I’m UBER excited about this game tonight, but alas I won’t be watching the majority of it because we have church tonight & I’m scheduled to preach.
I’m not writing this to get your sympathy but rather to talk about what’s important. If the truth is known, I’m a really big sports person & I love watching almost every sport. But in the grand scheme of important priorities, sports don’t really carry eternal significance. For that matter, I seriously wonder if many of the things that we stress over, goals that we work towards & stuff that we spend time on, I wonder if many of these things really have any bearing on eternity.
Let’s be careful that the things we deem as important & worthy of our attention / energy are really the important things with lasting impact!

Both Feet!

This morning, I read a verse that hit me between the eyes – 2Kings 17:41, “So while these nations feared the Lord, they also served their idols; . . .” This verse really spoke to me about my passion to follow Jesus. 
I think that we generally have respect for God, but all too often we serve idols. No one sets out, usually, to be an idolator but there are lots of subtle idols that can allure our attention. Greed seems to be the most obvious idol & it has certainly a firm foothold in our culture & values! Another subtle idol is image & vanity. Of course sports & fitness can be an distraction from serving Jesus & so can consumption & food. Comfort & convenience have also become significant values that often sway our priorities. 

Let’s be sure that we respect & serve God with both feet!

Keep It Simple

Our world can get complicated super fast – technically continues to evolve at warp speed, our schedules get increasingly dense & we are encouraged to be strategic in our thinking & planning. These things aren’t bad but they can add layers of complexity to our daily living. So for me, it’s a breath of fresh air to stop the proverbial roller coaster & refocus on my essential priorities. 
It helps to take a deep breath, close one’s eyes, sit in the car for a few minutes & be still. Our brains can of course make this challenging but let’s keep our essentials as the bull’s eye for our living:

  • Love God
  • Love people
  • Love ourselves 

Lessons in Resting

Springtime always seems to ramp up the activity level.  There’s fresh air outside that’s not too cold, the trees bloom with fragrant life, the hibernation of winter dissipates and of course there are all of the activities that go with school, Easter, graduations, weddings, showers, etc.

More often than not, Springtime wears me out with the hustle and bustle of demanding activities.  So this Sping, I’m endeavoring to strike a better balance, integrating some rest into the mix.  Here are some ideas that might help you with finding rest in a busy Spring:

  • be careful not to fall in the “value in achievement” trap – you’re valuable because God loves you, full stop
  • consider Spring cleaning your calendar / schedule and not just your house
  • be sure the way you use your time accurately reflects your priorities
  • don’t ditch church 🙂

Of course I’m always keen to recommend reading a good book as a form of relaxing & a great book to read in preparation for Pentecost in a few weeks is Heavenly Help

I Yelled

One of my offspring, who will remain nameless, became distracted during their kitchen cleaning chores & flooded the kitchen sink, floor & down into our basement. I yelled & I’m still in the unhappy camper zone – it will take me some time to come off the ceiling & not be snarky (nicknames like Noah, Ahab from Moby Dick & swimming snipes are fully flourishing in my brain). 
All of this started when someone didn’t pay attention to an important responsibility. And this is a problem any one of us can experience. I don’t even want to think about how many times I’ve had to compensate or fix something that’s been messed up for the simple reason that I was distracted. 

Let’s keep our focus on the important stuff: do justice, love kindness & walk humbly with God, Micah 6:8 🙂