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Archive for February, 2011

Rough Times

February 28th, 2011

“He was afraid, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me.’” Matthew 14:30 NKJV

“When life is not working out as it should, reach out for help that helps.”

My thoughts today are about “rough times.”

Everything is well; life is good, and then your situation becomes anything but assuring. Life can go from exhilarating to exhausting in a quick turn of events. As you projected the good times would last forever, you might now project your fear to mean this turn of events will be your end. You can feel like adversity will write the end of your story.

There will be frightening moments in life – situations that turn badly, much differently than you foresaw. Everything will not always happen the way you hoped it would. Life is not determined by what you experience, but it is shaped by your responses in such moments.

Simon Peter, along with Jesus’ disciples, was in a boat in a violent storm at sea when Jesus appeared, walking on the water. They could not believe their eyes. They seemed more anxious than comforted by His arrival on the water. Nothing about this fit their understanding or experience of the sea. Read Matthew 14:22-33 NKJV. At Jesus’ invitation, Peter got out of the boat, and beyond belief, found himself doing the incomprehensible. “Peter . . walked on water to go to Jesus.” He was walking on water! Can you imagine the exhilaration he felt at that moment?

Wouldn’t it be exciting if the story ended there? It rarely does. “But when he saw the wind was boisterous, he was afraid.” Suddenly, his exhilaration turned to personal terror. People can’t walk on water, his logic reasoned. And his courage evaporated. He was definitely “out of his element.” Life will take you places unfamiliar and uncertain. Life has a way of distracting you from unchanging reality; you can easily lose sight of the one constant about everyday life.

Everything changes but this; God who was with you when all was well is still there when your world feels like it is falling apart. What you do then determines how your story will turn out. “And beginning to sink Peter cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’” Thankfully, God is there when you cry out for Him; actually, He was there all the time.

You can’t save yourself in such times. You can’t break those tenacious habits on your own. You can’t straighten out your life when you’ve messed it up. You can’t fix relationships that are broken. You can’t save your marriage when it’s breaking, or your business when it’s failing, or your life when it’s not working. Only one thing works; admit you’re sinking, no excuses, no explanations. Reach out for help that helps. A lot of people will try to help; God can and will.

“Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him . . and when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.” Notice the phrase, “when THEY got in the boat, the wind ceased.” Not only does God not leave you in the waves, He will not leave you in the storm, and He continues with you in your journey! In the waves or in the boat, both are safe with Jesus. “He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we may boldly say, ‘The Lord is my helper so I will not be afraid . .’” Hebrews 13:5-6 NKJV. God knows how to calm the storm as well as save you from it; God can bring you safely where you need to be.

My prayer for you today is that you see God working in the rough times and be unafraid.

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Walking on Water

February 25th, 2011

“He walked on the water . . to Jesus.” Matthew 14:29 NKJV

“You are capable of doing more than you think.”

My thoughts today are about “walking on water.”

I am convinced that any person is capable of doing more than they first assume, but most are just afraid to press past their perceived limits. You are capable of doing more than you think; you can’t and won’t know what that might be until you stretch yourself past your previous experiences. Yes, there is a risk of failing; there always is. But failing to try seems worse to me than trying and failing. Never failing just means you never tried anything different than before.

Consider the idea of walking on water. Now you know rationally that water is not substantial or stable enough to bear your weight under normal circumstances. But is there ever an exception? The Bible describes one such occasion when Simon Peter was invited by Jesus to walk on water, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water. So, Jesus said, ‘Come,’ . . Peter walked on the water . . to Jesus.” Read Matthew 14:22-33 NKJV. No one was more amazed than Peter when he did, at least till his fears overcame him!

Others in the boat accepted the well known fact that they could not walk on water, and stayed safely on board. Peter made a brave choice; as impossible as that practice was known to be, if Jesus told him to do it why not give it a try. Now I would suggest that you not try this at home, but there are times when life requires that you do something others won’t and that may well involve something you have not done before.

Aren’t there things that seem just as unlikely, even apparently impossible, to you as that must have seemed to Peter and the other disciples. They knew all the reasons they couldn’t; Peter chose to see if he could. You may think you know your limits and you are just being realistic about that, but there will be some moment or situation when you are faced with a similar choice – to accept life as it has been for you, or to “get out of the boat.” The boat is your safe place to be, but that is not where life is lived. Life is unpredictable, always challenging, at times frightening.

What situation in your life today is keeping you safely in the boat while you need to see God at work in your life? You don’t know what amazing things God wants to do in your life if you would just dare to “walk on water to Jesus.” You may think that you can’t reach your goals, or achieve your dreams, or do what God placed in your heart, but you can – that you can’t forgive what was done to you, but you can – that you can’t ever love again, but you will – that you can’t do what’s being asked of you, but you can.

Some things are only impossible because you believe they are. When Jesus is involved, you can walk on water even when you and others didn’t think you could. “Everything is possible for him who believes . . With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.” Mark 9:23/10:27 NIV. To get where Jesus invites you to come, sometimes you have to try what you thought you couldn’t do. Just make sure the direction you are going will take you closer to Jesus!

My prayer for you today is that you will not be afraid to go where God calls you to be.

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The Power of Friendship

February 24th, 2011

“Two can accomplish more.” Ecclesiastes 4:9 TLB

“Life is better when it can be shared.”

My thoughts today are about “the power of friendship.”

A friend is a special and precious thing. Life is better when it can be shared. Your problems and struggles are halved, and your joys and successes are doubled. Everyone wants to have a friend, but first you need to be one. Be the kind of friend that you would want someone to be for you.

The better way to satisfaction is by serving the needs of another, rather than looking for someone most likely to meet your needs. It is not that I am so noble as to be selfless. I am smart enough to have observed that the best way for good things to come to me is when I send good things a friend’s way. The right friends come from your being the right kind.

I have found these three things to be true about the principle of sowing and reaping: you will reap what you sow; you will reap more than you sow; you need to sow what you expect to reap. I simply believe the truth that if you sow what you want, you will receive what you need. Unlike the limitations in the physical realm, you may not always reap your harvest in the same field where you sowed, but in the realm of the Spirit, God will provide a harvest of what you sowed.

Do you remember the wonderful, Bible story of Joseph? After the history of his own shattered dreams turning into nightmares, he could have never wanted to hear or think of dreams ever again. I love the heart of Joseph as expressed toward two friends who were disturbed by dreams they had experienced. Joseph simply said, “Tell me your dreams.” Genesis 40:8.

The right friends could be God’s way to take you where He wants you to go. Joseph could have politely refused to become involved so as not to relive his own pain again, even for friends. Or he could have spilled out every negative thing that his dreams seemed to have cost him, and advised them to forget their dreams as quickly as they could. But no, he was willing to be a friend to them and help as he could. “A man who has friends must show himself friendly.” Proverbs 18:24 NKJV. Joseph could not have known that God would use his kindness to those friends as the path of finally realizing his own dreams of long before.

The right friends can be God’s tools to make you better. The dearest of my friends told me that years ago I said to him, “Thank you for not letting me be who I would have been without you.” I don’t recall saying that, but I hope that I did because I know I have felt that way about his friendship as well as others. I am witness to the truth, “A man sharpens the countenance of his friend.” Proverbs 27:17. So much of whatever good I have become is the product of God’s grace to me through the friendships with which I have been blessed.      

My prayer for you today is that friends tell you the truth you need to hear.

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The Second Mile

February 23rd, 2011

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

“Serve . . with gladness.” Psalm 100:2 NKJV

“When you serve grudgingly and unhappily, every task is harder.”

My thoughts today are about “the second mile.”

Have you ever watched a person doing a chore that all too clearly they did not want to do? Have you ever done that? I guess we all have at some point. Frequently, you will be expected or required to do something because you have to, not because you want to. That’s the way life works. It is best to remember that the attitude with which serve is as important as what you do. When you serve grudgingly and unhappily, every task is harder. The work might still get done, but never as well and never with reward.

Jesus confronted the attitude that chooses only to do what it wants, when it wants. His cure for such an attitude is “going the second mile.” You know what that means; going the second mile describes a person’s willingness to do more than the minimum required. Going the first mile is merely doing what you must; going the second mile is choosing to do what you can and should. You won’t do that unless you can do so gladly. Do only the minimum and you will never be happy with what you did. If you are going to serve anyway, why not find a way to have a good time doing it?

In the political culture of Palestine under military occupation, a Roman soldier could require any Hebrew male to carry his gear for a mile. That person was legally required to do so. They did not have to like it, but they did have to do it. Jesus elevated a person’s response well past grudging compliance to the level of joyful service. Jesus taught, “If you are slapped on the right cheek, turn the other too. If you are ordered to court and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat too. If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles.” Matthew 5:39-41 NLT. By gladly doing more than anyone could make you do, you discover the real freedom and joy of serving.

The Psalmist wrote, “Serve the Lord with gladness.” Psalm 100:4 NKJV. I have to stop and check my heart and recognize that I endeavor to serve the Lord, but do I always do it gladly? Are there not times that I serve Him because I should, but without the joy of doing so? I don’t want that to be the case, but I imagine that at times it has been.

May I suggest an even more practical application for today’s verse, and let it read this way: “Serve . . with gladness.” Whose name would you need to insert there – my spouse, my family, my friends, my employer, the stranger, the less fortunate, or the difficult to please? For if you do not serve others gladly, can you be said to truly be serving the Lord with gladness? Paul addressed the inseparability of serving both God and others. “Work hard and cheerfully ay whatever you do, as though you are working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and the Master you are serving is Christ.” Colossians 3:23-24 NLT.

My prayer for you today is that you will always find heart for going the second mile.

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No Better Time

February 22nd, 2011

“This is the day the Lord has made.” Psalm 118:24 NKJV

“There is no better time than now to do what you should and what you can.”

My thoughts today are about “no better time.”

Life works best with a sense of balance. Some recent allergies briefly affected my inner ear. A few mornings ago, I stood up and suddenly everything seemed to be spinning. I took a step forward only to feel the sensation of being strongly pulled to one side, stumbling against a wall. I had momentarily lost my sense of balance. It was puzzling and temporarily worrisome. That little escapade made me newly value my body’s inner balance that I had taken for granted.

So much of life is about balance. You will always be balancing today and tomorrow. Today needs attention; tomorrow needs forethought. A person is shortsighted to be so focused on the moment that they face the future unaware and unprepared. But it is also unwise to be so preoccupied with plans and schedules for tomorrow that you miss much of what’s going on around you now.

Life needs balance; balance requires perspective. It is important to set goals and make plans, but be careful not to keep your happiness waiting upon reaching your goals. With those, your life has priorities and direction. Keeping plans and progress in balance helps you stay focused on what needs to be done today in order to succeed tomorrow. Don’t neglect today; don’t forget tomorrow.

My wife, Gayle, and I travel differently. She loves the experience of travel; I just want to “get there.” She brings a book to read and relax in the airport. I look at my watch to see how long before the plane leaves. Enjoy the journey, not just the destination; you’ll be a lot happier, and less stressed. I have realized that for too long I was usually working toward something future – when I had more time, when the kids were older, when we had saved enough money, when I wasn’t so busy, etc. I lived too many years by deferral. Don’t make the mistake I did.

You can defer a lot of living by not recognizing today as a gift from God. The Bible says, “This is the day that the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be glad in it!” Psalm 118:24 NKJV. The day is the Lord’s gift; rejoicing is your choice. So much depends on what you choose to do with the few, brief moments in which you currently live. It’s not that complicated. Yesterday is done and gone, out of your power to redo or undo. Tomorrow remains well beyond your reach, waiting just off stage for its cue. You can’t save today or store it; you use today well or lose its possibilities and opportunities altogether.

There is no better time than now to do what you can and what you should. And the one thing for which there is no better time is for settling the matter of your spiritual life and eternal well being. Jesus told of a very successful man whose plans for the future ignored his moment of salvation and lost his soul forever. See Luke 12:16-21 NKJV. Felix, the Roman Governor, dismissed Paul’s witness of faith saying, “When I have a more convenient time I will call for you.” Acts 24:25 NKJV. To those who would procrastinate their single most important decision, the Bible says, “Now is the accepted time; today is the day of salvation.” 2 Corinthians 6:2 NKJV.

My prayer for you today is that you value the days and moments God gives you.

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