Archive for July, 2010

If only . .

July 30th, 2010

“Shamgar . . struck down six hundred Philistines with an ox goad.” Judges 3:31 NIV

“A key to doing all you can do is the willingness to use all you have.”

My thoughts today consider, “if only.”

It is easy to imagine all the wonderful things you could do, “if only . . !” If only what? If only you had more opportunities? More help? More money? More education? More skills? More advantages? Smaller challenges? Less difficulty? The list is endless, excuses continuous, and successes unaccomplished. A key to doing all you can do is the willingness to use all you have. What you don’t have can’t help you.

The Bible occasionally spotlights a person that rises out of obscurity to achieve something others did not dare to try. Have you ever heard of Shamgar? His name appears only twice in the Bible, and very little is known about him, except his name, his origin, and the very difficult national and personal times in which he lived. See Judges 5:6-8. Danger and desperation made daily life difficult. Israel’s men were disarmed and defenseless. Because of his fearless exploits, his fame was included in people’s songs and oral history years later.

What did he do? Well, first consider what he did not do. He did not dismiss the possibility of courage against unimaginable odds by calculating, “If only . .” and then doing nothing at all. Here’s what Shamgar did, single-handedly, “Shamgar . . struck down six hundred Philistines with an ox goad. He too saved Israel.” Judges 3:31 NIV. One man, unarmed, against six hundred Philistine warriors! He used what he had – an ox goad, a wooden stick tipped with bronze that a farmer used to prod his work animals. A common farm utensil, not much at all, except in the hands of a determined and courageous farmer, resulting in a rousing victory that stirred the heart of a nation against its enemy.

An unusual story? Yes, but not an uncommon one in the Bible, and in everyday life. It sounds familiar to me – like Moses and a shepherd’s staff, or Gideon and his trumpet, or Samson and a jawbone, or David and a slingshot, or a boy with a small lunch of bread and fish. God’s story is about using ordinary people in extraordinary ways when they are willing to use what they have for God’s purposes and glory.

You may not have what you want; you may not have everything you need; you may not have what others have; you do have something that God can use. “God has given each of us the ability to do certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to . .” Romans 12:6-8 NLT. Remember, the key to doing all you can do is using all that you have.

The saddest thing at the close of a day, or a year, or a lifetime, is when regrets are voiced in the words, “If only . . “

My prayer for you today is to see the ordinary as a means for extraordinary achievement.

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Feeling Overwhelmed

July 29th, 2010

“Give your burdens to the Lord.” Psalm 55:22 NLT

“Schedules, more than circumstances, are often at the root of feeling overwhelmed.”

My thoughts today are about “feeling overwhelmed.”

It seems increasingly common to feel overwhelmed. Knowing you are not alone in this may not be an especially consoling thought. Maybe it’s the accelerating pace of life, like the momentum of a snowball gathering speed downhill. Or maybe it’s the hurry and worry of deadlines for things that must get done, and the desperation of needs that must be met. Whatever the origin, feeling overwhelmed happens more than any of us would want, creating stress, anxiety, and poorer health. You can do all you can to avoid it; you can complain about it; you can crumble beneath its weight, or you will have to learn how to deal with it. What is a person to do?

You might momentarily feel better because of the sympathy and support of a friend; it’s good to have a friend who understands and walks alongside you. Also, Godly counsel can help you to maintain perspective and remind you of God’s promises and power, but there are times when turning to God in trust is the only thing that can help.

David knew what it was to feel overwhelmed – the distrust of those he trusted, the betrayal of a son, the encircling enemies, the weight of the crown, and the shame of his guilt – who wouldn’t feel overwhelmed? I’ll tell you what he did not do; he did not give up, nor run and hide. He turned his whole heart to his God! “I will cry to You (Lord) for help, for my heart is overwhelmed. Lead me to the towering rock of safety, for You are my safe refuge, a fortress where my enemies cannot reach me. Let me live forever in Your sanctuary, safe beneath the shelter of Your wings.” Psalm 61:2 NLT.

When you are overwhelmed: take time! Schedules, more than circumstances, are frequently at the root of your feeling overwhelmed. Remove the hurry and you reduce the worry. Now here’s how you use that time. Take time to rest (time that you think you cannot afford to spare, you actually cannot afford to not set aside). Take time to share honestly with a Godly friend for counsel and prayer.

Take time to pray, inviting God’s help and direction. Don’t assume; ask! Praying makes a difference in you before it makes a difference in your situation. Take time to wait quietly before God. “I am content and at peace, as a child lies quietly in its mother’s arms, so my heart is quiet within me.” Psalm 131:2 TEV. Quiet your heart in God’s presence. Take time to listen. What’s the use of talking to God about the things you are feeling, if you fail to listen until you hear what God is saying?

Here’s God’s best advice: “Give your burdens to the Lord, and He will take care of you. He will not permit the Godly to slip and fall.” Psalm 55:22 NLT. Feeling overwhelmed can sometimes signal that you have allowed stuff to push God to the fringes of your everyday life. See 2 Corinthians 1:3-11 NLT.

My prayer for you today is that you keep God at the center of your heart and mind.

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Simple Obedience

July 28th, 2010

“If you just listen and don’t obey . .” James 1:23 NLT

To obey is to do fully and promptly what you know clearly to do!

My thoughts today are that “simple obedience.”

Have you ever noticed that when a child does not promptly obey, a parent will usually ask, “Did you hear me?” In the Greek language, the language in which most of the New Testament was written, the word obedience comes from the root word, “to hear.” Life is this simple; hearing presumes obedience.

It is a mistake to assume that a person will do better if they know more. So we give them more information, and wonder why they do not do better. More information is not what a wrongdoer needs. I have observed that the real problem is this: people are naturally inclined to do too little of what they know, rather than their knowing too little of what to do. Jesus gives people greater truth, not more information, and adds inspiration to that – the desire and power to do what you know to do. “It is God that works in you both to will and to do His good pleasure.” Philippians 2:13.

I was just a teen when my spiritual life was permanently changed at a youth service by a testimony from the newly saved mother of one of my friends. Whatever else she said, God spoke quietly but powerfully into my heart and life when she challenged us with a probing question Jesus asked, “Why do you call me Lord, Lord, and do not do the things that I say?” Luke 6:46 NIV. Read Matthew 7:24-27. If Jesus is your Lord, your obedience is not optional.

Jesus told a story of a father who asked each of his two sons to work in his vineyard. The first son said that he would not work, but later decided that he would do as his father asked. The other said that he would work in the vineyard, but ultimately did not. He knew what his father wanted, and simply chose not to bother. Jesus asked his listeners, “Which son did the will of the father?” Matthew 21:28-31 NIV.

The correct answer is, neither. They both had sufficient information of their father’s need and intent, but neither of them had sufficient interest to do what they knew. You are never commended for eventually doing what you knew to do much earlier. Procrastinated obedience is actually just temporary disobedience. To obey is to do fully and promptly what you know clearly to do! See James 5:1 NLT.

James, the brother of Jesus, compares God’s Word and will to a mirror that reveals a true and accurate reflection of yourself that inspires you to live according to the knowledge you have. But James warns against turning away and ignoring what you know. That describes a person who “listens but does not obey . . one who looks intently at the (Word of God) and abides in it . . that man will be blessed in all he does.” James 1:23/25.  If you will take care of the “doing, “ God will be faithful with His “blessing.”

My prayer for you today is that you know the will of God for your life, and do it!

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Be Wary, Be Wise

July 27th, 2010

“We are not unaware of (Satan’s) schemes.” 2 Corinthians 2:11 NKJV

“There is a place in your heart that God alone can fill.”

My thoughts today are about “be wary; be wise.”

Whether in life or business, it is always best to have some understanding about the person with whom you do business. That is definitely true in the realm of your spiritual life. The enemy of your soul, and enemy of everything that is good, is neither naïve or harmless. Jesus described him like this, “The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy . . Be alert; your enemy, the devil, prowls around . . looking for someone to devour.” John 10:10 NIV/1 Peter 5:8 NIV. Make no mistake; he is no friend.

Your spiritual enemy has the character of a thief and liar. You cannot believe anything he says or promises, and nothing you value is safe from his destructive intent – your good name and reputation, your hopes and happiness, or your dreams and future. His method is, and always has been, to look for easy prey. His unrelenting objective is to kill and destroy. And he succeeds when he lulls you into carelessness. Your best defense is: be wary; be wise!

You were born with a place in your heart that God alone can fill. Nothing, and no one, can fill that. Some people try anything and everything – every unconstrained appetite, thrill-seeking amusement, irrational relationships, and personal achievements – but usually are left emptier and lonelier than when they began. That’s really sad, isn’t it?

Jesus met a woman like that; she came thirsty to draw water from a familiar well. Jesus told her “the water that I give is living water . . people soon become thirsty again after drinking this water. But the water I give them takes away thirst altogether . . becomes a perpetual spring within them, giving them eternal life.” John 4:5-15 NLT. Her search was over; her deepest longing was satisfied. What Jesus promises you is found nowhere else, ever.

Look at the lives of Joseph and David. Both faced similar temptations. Who would know? One was in a foreign country far from home; the other was a King none dare challenge or correct. Joseph reacted to Potiphar’s wife in a vastly different way than David responded to Bathsheba, Uriah’s wife. David looked and kept looking until there was no turning back; the results were disastrous. Joseph turned and ran away quickly; he saved himself. I love the question Joseph asked, “How could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” Genesis 39:9 NIV. That’s a very good question when you or a friend are about to compromise your faith and convictions.

The Bible’s advice is still the best advice today. “If sinners entice you, turn your back on them . . don’t go along with them. Stay far away from their paths.” Proverbs 1:10/15 NLT. Realize there are chances you should not take, habits you cannot afford, compromises you dare not make, places you should not be, and friends whose influence is not to your good. Be wary; be wise!

My prayer for you today is that you live right before God, and stay far from wrong.

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July 26th, 2010

“Remove the obstacles out of the way.” Isaiah 57:14 NIV

“Fighting against God is not a battle you can win.”

My thoughts today are about “obstacles.”

Ever feel like someone or something is in your way? You know you could do so well, if only there was nothing hindering your progress. Occasionally there is a person who stands between you and where you need to go, limiting what you need to do – or at least you think that is the case at the time. You can blame them; you can resent them; you can try to remove them, but that will seldom work for you. people can “get in your way” and not even mean to do so.

It is even possible that God might “get in your way” in some instance. If and when that happens you can be sure that it is His love, preventing you from continuing on a path that would be not be for your best, harmful even ruinous. Ever try to fight against God? How is that working for you? That happened to Saul of Tarsus, until there was a showdown on the road to Damascus. Read Acts 9:1-20. Saul found out that he was in God’s way. His intention was to destroy this new and growing group of Christ’s followers. He meant well; he meant to preserve the Jewish faith in which he had been so excellently schooled. But he was wrong, sincere but very wrong. See Philippians 3:1-11 NLT.

God loves you too much to allow you to prosper on a path you should not pursue. He will try at every turn to persuade you to turn around and turn to Him, not away from Him. “There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death . . what you think is the right road may lead to death.” Proverbs 14:12 NLT/16:25 TEV. God may use people and/or circumstances to make you reconsider your course. The Bible gives wise advice in such moments, “if this plan or this work is of men, it will come to nothing. But if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it, lest you even find be found to fight against God.” Acts 5:38-39 NKJV. Fighting against God is not a battle you can win; ask Jacob. Genesis 32:24-31 NIV.

However, let me suggest where you more likely may find most of the obstacles that make your progress more difficult – look in the mirror. Many times, the obstructions you must confront are wrong attitudes that you indulged along the way, maybe without recognizing them as such.

Negativity turns you in a wrong direction. “A pessimist looks at every opportunity and sees a problem; an optimist looks at any problem and sees an opportunity.” (President Harry Truman). Look around; people do not follow negative people; it’s clear they’re going nowhere.

Over-sensitivity leaves you beside the road alone. It is deadly to relationships to think that everything is about you. It’s not! Don’t be so thin skinned. Others are too busy to be always worrying about you.

Pride results in God’s opposition. “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” 1 Peter 5:5-6 NIV/Proverbs 16:18 NIV. You want God on your side, helping you not opposing you. Can you see any habit or attitude that prevents you from being your best, and doing what you need to do? Deal with it quickly and honestly; you can turn any stumbling block into a stepping stone, if you will.

My prayer for you today is that you let nothing stand in the way of being your best.

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