Drama du Jour

Monday, November 14, 2011

Are you caught up in the drama of social news stories? Kim Kardashian -will she or won’t she return the ring to husband of 72 days? Will Dr. Murray serve the full sentence for Michael Jackson’s death? Lindsay Lohan - will that drama ever end? Did young Justin Beiber really father that woman’s baby? Will these stories continue to add new chapters that will play out in the national spotlight?

Are you living in your own day to day drama? Are you dealing with a family member’s drama? Are you dealing with a friend’s drama? Do you have to face the drama of the day from a drama queen in your world?
When we are so caught up in the drama of the day - day after day, we can miss out on the life God intends for us to live.
Days are gifts. How do you value your days? Do you number your days?

Teach us to number our days,that we may gain a heart of wisdom. [Psalms 90:12, NIV]

The phrase "number our days" expresses the idea putting things in order or prioritizing our time because the end of one's life is fast approaching. Moses wanted us to remember that our remaining number of days grows smaller each day.

After being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, Steve Jobs realized the value of numbering his days. He noted in his 2005 Stanford Commencement Address, “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.” When we are consumed with any unnecessary drama, we are wasting our days.

In her book Same Life, New Story, Jan Silvious encourages us to delete the drama of the day. She says, “Drama is one of the biggest time-robbers in life.” When we deal with the drama of bad relationships, we have unnecessary and unhealthy clutter in our lives. Granted, there are unfortunate circumstances in the lives of our friends and loved ones and we want to lend our support. But when we spend our days caught up in someone else’s constant crises, bad choices, and unhealthy experiences, we become depleted of our energy and joy. When dealing with high drama, Jan advises us to use a coping strategy called pressing the Delete button. Pressing the Delete button is practicing the spiritual discipline found in 1 Peter 5:7 – “casting your care upon Him for He cares for you.” “Casting” means “to hurl.” When you hurl something, you usually do not intend to get it back. Just as when you press Delete, it rarely is with the intention of seeing it again.

Let’s pray for wisdom to know how to cope with the very real heartbreaking situations that we face or our loved one’s face. Let’s also pray for wisdom to know how to delete the unnecessary drama that interrupts our days.

The Apostle Paul advises to number our days -

"Look carefully then how you walk! Live purposefully and worthily and accurately, not as the unwise and witless, but as wise (sensible, intelligent people), making the very most of the time [buying up each opportunity], because the days are evil. Therefore do not be vague and thoughtless and foolish, but understanding and firmly grasping what the will of the Lord is." (Ephesians 5:15-17, Amplified)


Sunday, October 30, 2011

There’s a cartoon that shows a woman telling her husband, “Your trouble is that you’re living in the past.” He responds, “At least it’s cheap!” Are you living in the past? Are you holding on to something that you need to let go?

What do people have a hard time letting go of?
· Relationships
· Friend or loved one who’s passed away
· Old ways of viewing people
· Labeling, categorizing people
· Children
· Viewing self as parent of a child instead of an adult
· Old ways of viewing self
· Hurts
· Guilt
· Sin
· Bad memories

There is a saying: “Let Go, Let God.” Letting go is a surrender of the things that have a tight grip on us. We need to surrender the past to God.

Too many of us are trying to keep a tight grip on things that are out of our control. This is like trying to grip the water flowing in a stream. Reach your hand into the water and try to grab the water. What happens? The water goes out of your hand. Relax and cup your hands. The water flows into your palms. By relaxing, opening, and trusting, we can hold onto more of what is precious to us. By letting go, we actually allow more of the water to come to us. The same is true in life. When we loosen our own control and open our hands and hearts to God, we’ll receive his precious flow.

I surrender all!

Short Stories

Monday, October 17, 2011

Think of your life as a story – one you have been writing since birth. Some of us have filled more pages than others. Some are good – some are not. There may be blank pages – those periods when we just can’t remember our story! Is there space for a new story? Are you tired of the same old story covering all your pages? Do you want to write a new story? Is there a desire to have new adventures?

God is present and involved in every page of our story. He wants us to let him guide the writing of our story.

For many years I taught high school students the elements of short stories. See if you can identify these elements in your own story. Is God leading the story line?
The setting describes the “where” and “when” of the story. How often has your setting changed in your life story?
The characters are the people in the story. Stories are filled with heroes and villains. Looking back over your story, what roles have heroes and villains played in your life?
Every story is made up of a sequence of events. The way these events appear in a story is called the plot. The plot lines for most of us are filled with highs and lows. Our back stories are the circumstances of your life up to this day. Has your back-story affected your thinking about today? Have you asked God to move within the plot of our story?
Each interesting story has the element of conflict, or problem faced by a character. The conflict is the most important part of a story. Sometimes characters face internal conflict and sometimes they face external conflict caused by other people or events. Can you identify the conflicts in your story? Have you allowed God to be in the middles of these messes?
Another part of the plot is climax. This is the part of the story when the conflict of the plot is resolved. It’s often the most exciting part of the story. The hero saves the princess; someone finds a buried treasure, or the dragon is slayed. The climax is the mountain peak. It’s sometimes called the turning point of the story when the plot changes for better or worse for the hero. Have the conflicts in your story reached a climax? Have you reached a turning point? Have the turning points drawn you closer to Christ or moved you further away?
The resolution is the end of the story. It occurs at the end of the story when you find out what happens to the characters after the conflict is resolved. What is the resolution to your story? Where are you in your story? Is the resolution going to be the one God would desire?

Today you are writing a page in your story. We want to learn ways to deal with our plot lines, the sequence of events, the characters, the back stories, and the conflicts. We’re learning to deal with the turning points and looking to find God’s resolution in all of our story lines.

Teach me your way, O LORD, and I will walk in your truth. Psalm 86:11

Promises, Promises

Monday, October 3, 2011

The lyrics to Burt Bacharach’s Promises, Promises from his Broadway musical of the same name reveal some truths about making promises.

Oh, promises, their kind of promises can just destroy a life
Oh, promises, those kind of promises take all the joy from life
Oh, promises, promises, my kind of promises
Can lead to joy and hope and love

Often promises people make us are broken and can “take all the joy from life.” It’s common to hear of broken promises in marriages, in politics, in the workplace and in friendships. We all search for the promises that will give us “joy and hope and love.” Let’s assume that the word “my” in the third line refers to Christ. It is truly his promises that lead to “joy and hope and love.” His are the promises we can “stand” on as the old hymn says.

I’m standing on the promises of God.
Standing on the promises that cannot fail,
When the howling storms of doubt and fear assail,
By the living Word of God I shall prevail,
Standing on the promises of God.

Standing, standing,
Standing on the promises of God my Savior;
Standing, standing.
I’m standing on the promises of God.

But what does it mean to “stand” on God’s promise? It means to live - to act, to speak, and to think - based on God’s promises. Let’s ponder these five promises this week.
1. He promises never to leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).
2. He promises to instruct us and teach us in the way that we should go (Psalm 32:8).
3. He promises that he has plans to prosper us and not to harm us but to give us hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11).
4. We have a promise that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).
5. If we confess our sins to him, he promises that he will be faithful and just and will forgive us (I John 1:9).

Is there anything in your life that needs to “stand” on God’s promises? Promises, Promises, God’s promises lead to “joy and hope and love.”

The Other Side

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Last weekend I was blessed to attend author Jennifer Rothschild’s Fresh Grounded Faith Conference with 70 women from our church. Jennifer used Mark 4:35-41 as her focal text. In this passage Jesus gets in the boat with his disciples at the Sea of Galilee and tells them, “Let us go over to the other side.”

As she shared the account of Jesus calming the waters during the storm, I recalled my visit to the Sea of Galilee. The beautiful blue water lies against the green background of the mountains. From any point along the rocky shoreline, I could see across the sea to other shores. Surprisingly, the sea is only eight miles wide at its widest point, and only twelve miles long from north to south. I visualized Jesus and his disciples crossing that sea to new adventures on new shores.

In crossing to the other side, the disciples were moving into a new territory and facing a new era of Jesus’ ministry. Jesus asked them to leave the crowd behind and trust him in their journey.

Jennifer reminded us that there are times when we need to cross over to the other side – the other side of our issues and barriers. We are to leave the crowd behind, those who try to prevent us from moving away from our issues. Is there a Bonnie Bitter, Connie Control, Freida Fearful, Suzy Shallow, or Vicky Victim that is holding you back from becoming all that God wants you to be? Let’s learn to leave their negative influence behind and move forward.

We do not go on this journey alone. Just as Jesus travelled with the disciples, he will be with us. They were all in the boat together. Who do you want to be in your boat with you? Who are the trusted followers of Jesus that you want to go alongside you to encourage you?

It’s worthy to note that even though Jesus invited the disciples on this journey, it wasn’t a storm-free trip. Just because we follow Christ doesn’t mean we won’t face the trials of life. But Jesus will be in the storm with us. His hope is the anchor that sustains us.

Let’s go with him to the other side and see what great adventures await.

35 On that day, when evening came, He *said to them, “Let us go over to the other side.” 36 Leaving the crowd, they *took Him along with them in the boat, just as He was; and other boats were with Him. 37 And there *arose a fierce gale of wind, and the waves were breaking over the boat so much that the boat was already filling up. 38 Jesus Himself was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they *woke Him and *said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” 39 And He got up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Hush, be still.” And the wind died down and]it became perfectly calm. 40 And He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” 41 They became very much afraid and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?” Mark 4:35-41

Proactive Happiness

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Author Tommy Newberry describes joy as “proactive happiness.” When we’re proactive about anything we become intentional, so we could say that joy is an intentional response. The act of being joyful is a learned behavior. It is actually a display of faith because we called to be joyful in all circumstances even when we’re uncertain of the outcome.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds. James 1:2 (NIV)

When we look at our circumstances through the eyes of faith, we see what can be if we would allow God to work in the situation. Newberry encourages us to act with joy right now – to choose joy in our circumstances. Newberry poses the question: “How would I act if I were bubbling with joy?”

Last week I gave my mom one of our “Think on These Things” bracelets. She readily embraced the concept. It had been a very challenging month as my parents had to leave their home while repairs were being made from tornado damage. We moved them back home last weekend. As anyone who has moved knows, moving is one of the great stressors of life! As Mom and I headed back to their home, I was dreading the ordeal. But Mom, demonstrating the 4:8 Principle, began to cheerily proclaim, “Oh, isn’t it wonderful to be going home! Oh, I’m so looking forward to digging in those boxes. I can’t wait to begin cleaning up the mess. What a wonderful opportunity awaits us!” Now much of the monologue was filled with exaggeration, but we used the opportunity to laugh about the upcoming situation instead of grumble about it. It set a joyful tone for the busy afternoon. Her positive and humorous attitude encouraged me
She acted as if she were bubbling with joy!

We think in primarily two ways: reactive and proactive. We can constantly play defense with our thoughts by reacting negatively to our circumstances. Or we can play offense and be intentional with our thoughts. These are proactive thoughts. Becoming aware of the triggers for our negative thinking is the first step. Next we can be prepared to starve negative thoughts and replace them with something positive and productive. Remember: we can only do away with a negative thought by replacing it with a positive one.

We want to become proactive so that when we face potentially negative situations, we will intentionally guide our thoughts toward the positive. These steps will move us toward our goal of a joy-filled life.

Think on These Things Bracelet

Thursday, June 23, 2011

I have a favorite pair of pants with the manufacturer’s logo sewn into the leg in the shape of a sticker. Every time I wear the pants, someone tells me my sticker is showing and tries to pull it off. Each time I explain that the sticker is really the logo of the pants and then I mention the brand. It’s a great marketing strategy! Along the same lines, have you ever forgotten to clip the tag from your clothes and displayed to the world the price of your new garment? I know I have! Displaying the price tag of clothing can be embarrassing, but not nearly as embarrassing as displaying an ugly attitude. Ugly thoughts lead to an ugly attitude.

Our thoughts either move us toward our God-given potential or away from it. In either case you can rest assured your thoughts are showing. Our thoughts lead to emotions, physical feelings, and physical actions. What we think will eventually show up! If our thoughts eventually show up in our words and actions, then the first step toward changing our circumstances is to change our thoughts. If ugly thoughts show up as ugly actions, it makes sense that joy-filled thoughts will show up as a joy-filled life.

How then can we turn our thoughts toward God? Right thinking is a choice. We have control over our thoughts. It usually take 21 days to switch a bad habit. This week I’m providing you a strategy to get rid of your negative thinking in 21 days!
Think on These Things Bracelet

The Think on These Things bracelet is a tool that
...monitors how often you think negatively
...helps you track your progress toward becoming negative free.

Use the Philippians 4:8 thinking model to help you think positively and live a joy-filled life.

Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Philippians 4:8 (NLT)

Simply put the bracelet on either wrist and every time you think a negative thought, switch the bracelet to the other wrist. The goal is to go 21 consecutive days without negativity or switching the bracelet.

When the bad thought enters your mind, replace it by following these steps.
1. Rename it – Tell yourself this thought is a negative, bad, ungodly, unkind, etc. thought
2. Re-frame it – Focus on a positive or distracting thought
3. Redirect your actions to something uplifting, fun, or engaging.

Contact me at education@christplace.org, and I’ll be happy to send you a bracelet and instruction card.

Your thoughts are showing! Do you need to switch them? Switch your thoughts not your bracelet!

EQ vs IQ

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Neuroscientists now believe that every thought sends electrical and chemical signals throughout your brain, ultimately affecting each cell in your body. Consider then the effects of the thoughts that travel through your mind. The average person thinks approximately 50,000 thoughts per day. But according to some research, as many as 98 percent of them are exactly the same as the thoughts we had the day before. Even more significant, 80 percent of our thoughts are negative. What kind of signals does that negativity send through your body?

Just a little bit of change in our thinking patterns will go a long way.
To illustrate…

Hold up your thumb and forefinger about 2-1/2 inches apart. It takes Olympian runners just 1/100th of a second to run that distance in the 100-meter race. That brief distance and brief time is the difference between winning and losing. In the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games, the gold medal was won by an American female runner who crossed the finish line only 2-1/2 inches in front of her closest opponent.

Research says that a positive attitude is the little bit of difference that makes all the difference in both personal and professional success. In fact, research shows that a good positive attitude is more important than any other element when it comes to ensuring success. EQ (Emotional Quotient) trumps IQ (Intelligence Quotient) when it comes to success.

Most of us put our thought process on cruise control. We react to every situation we face based on our past experiences or our knowledge. Very few people are intentional with their thoughts. For example, most people automatically associate moving to a new community or starting a new job with events that will be stressful. We become anxious about the change and sometimes people become sick or anxious just thinking about the prospects of a move. However, we can begin to take our minds off of “cruise control,” and become intentional about our thinking.

Recently I watched a video featuring Christian inspirational writer and speaker Graham Cooke. He shares the power of controlling our thoughts in this six-minute video clip.

Think about changing your thinking! A little bit will go a long way!

“Your eye is a lamp that provides light for your body. When your eye is good, your whole body is filled with light." Matthew 6:22

Let your thoughts provide the light for your whole being!


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

I’m in the middle of building a new home and love the process. I’m working hard to stay in the budget and fortunately my builder includes a high quality of materials as his standard. Even so, with every decision there is an opportunity for an upgrade. I’ve resisted those options so that I can stay in the budget.

The good news for us is that Christ constantly wants to give us upgrades! I recently watched a video of Christian author and speaker Graham Cooke on the theme The Art of Thinking Brilliantly. He posed the question, “What if every situation had an upgrade to it?” Let’s think about that possibility. God wants to use all of our circumstances to advance us. When we are living in Christ, every issue we face is in Christ. Every conflict, every concern, every problem comes to the Jesus in us. He wants to take our circumstances and work them for good. He wants us to experience his abundant blessings even through our conflicts. How do we get from the burden to the blessing? The way we start our situation determines how we end it, so we want to connect to Jesus at the beginning of the issue. For each issue, let’s ask God, “What outcome have you assigned to me in this situation?” Then we should give him complete control of our attitudes, thoughts, words, and actions.

Our challenge is to find the connecting point to Jesus within every situation. In the beginning of our messes, not in the middle, our task is to find Christ. Often we engage in the circumstance instead of engaging in Christ. What if we go to Christ first? How might the outcome of our circumstances change? We’re bound to get upgrades! Upgrades in peace, upgrades in joy, upgrades in blessings!

Upgrades are like having a first class ticket but travelling coach. We don’t always take advantage of our upgrades. Let’s learn to become intrigued and joyful in every situation as we realize God is going to advance us!

Upgrade please!

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. James 1:2-5

Capture or Kill?

Monday, May 9, 2011

One week after the raid on the compound of terrorist and master-mind of the 9/11 attacks, Osama Bin Laden, some are questioning whether he should have been killed or captured. I’ve read with special interest these debates in light of the Bible study I taught this week about another terrorist.

The account of Sisera appears in Judges 4 when Deborah was a judge of Israel. Deborah was a prophetess and judge who ruled during the reign of Jabin, king of Canaan. Jabin had ruled Canaan for twenty years and made life miserable for the Israelites. Sisera was the commander of his army that claimed 900 iron chariots and thousands of trained soldiers. The Israelites called out to God for help from their oppression. The Lord spoke to Deborah and commanded her to gather troops and promised that He would defeat the evil commander, Sisera. The prophecy states, “The LORD’s victory over Sisera will be at the hands of a woman”

Deborah’s brave army, led by Barak, assembled at Mount Tabor and faced Sisera with his terrifying force of soldiers and iron chariots. Imagine the deadly force that would be against Deborah’s rag-tag band of soldiers. Deborah roused the troops with her call for victory and declaration that God was marching ahead of them.

Sisera’s forces were pushed back, troops were slaughtered, and the Israelites were victorious. Their faith in their God was strengthened.

In fear for his life, Sisera fled from the battlefield towards the encampment of Jael the Kenite woman. When Sisera arrived at the encampment in the last stages of exhaustion and terror, Jael saw him and called him to her tent. Jael covered him with a rug suggesting that Sisera was afraid and wanted to hide. She gave him goat’s milk and Sisera fell asleep exhausted from battle and running.

Then occurred one of the most graphically described murders in the Hebrew Scriptures:

21 Jael quietly crept up to him with a hammer and tent peg in her hand. Then she drove the tent peg through his temple and into the ground, and so he died. 22 When Barak came looking for Sisera, Jael went out to meet him. She said, “Come, and I will show you the man you are looking for.” So he followed her into the tent and found Sisera lying there dead, with the tent peg through his temple. Judges 4:21-22

Clearly the prophecy was fulfilled. God heard the cries of the Israelites. He ended twenty years of oppression that had been led by Sisera’s army, and the commander fell at the hands of a woman.

This intriguing story raises many questions.
Is Jael seen as a cold-blooded murderer or heroine?
Should Jael have captured or killed Sisera?
What connections do you see between Sisera and Usama Bin Laden?

Perhaps the Psalmist sums it up best –
Let the evil of the wicked come to an end, but establish the righteous. The One who examines the thoughts and emotions is a righteous God. Psalm 7:9 (Holman Christian Standard Bible)

Rooted in the Storm

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Amid the stories of heartache from the tremendous storms that plagued the southeast last week, I’ve also heard many stories of near misses and miracles. Drew McCallie, our new assistant youth director, shared a tornado miracle with the congregation this morning. In his words…

“Last night, my family while celebrating a good job interview for my sister, a panicked a determined voice bellowed from my mother’s voice: "GO"

My sister, father, mother, a dog, cat, and I scurried into the centralized bathtub in the house. In seconds, the feeling of being near a God-sized vacuum cleaner consumed us. Through the sounds of roaring winds, weeping, and cries out to our Lord Jesus, the storm passed with only a small 8x8 square hole torn out of the roof above our heads. When we opened the door however, the roof had been completely lifted off of the house and slammed 20' away from the house. To our amazement, the sky was now the roof over our heads and a great sense of uncertainty but most of all thankfulness to God flowed through us all.

We all survived a lethal dose of wind, but the house and some of our vehicles are demolished or in need of repair. This message is perhaps more thanksgiving and praise to God than anything. I ask for your prayers over my family as we go through the process of resolving this situation.”

God’s hand of protection was on Drew’s family. Drew’s testimony was one of thanksgiving for God’s providential hand.

Many have shared stories of “near misses.” Houses left unscathed where the storm wreaked havoc all around the property. People able to dash into safe quarters when the storm was seconds away. I too experienced one of those “near misses.” Twenty minutes after I left for work on Wednesday morning, a large tree fell on the spot where my car was parked. That tree caused quite a bit of damage to my parents’ home but, praise God, no one was hurt. The trees lost in our yard had 8 – 15 fee-wide root systems that were totally uprooted and caused havoc on the homes and property nearby. Compared to the tragedies all around, my family is fortunate only to deal with a damaged home and the continued loss of power four days later. Others, like Drew’s family are dealing with a loss of all their worldly goods. Still others have lost loved ones or have personal injuries.

No matter what loss we’ve experienced, we’re all still faced with the same question. In times of storms, where are you rooted? Worldly roots, like those on the old, old oak trees, can be uprooted from their source. When we’re deeply rooted in our faith, we have a root system that will never be displaced.

As Paul told the church at Colosse, we are to let our “roots go down into him.” When we follow him and build our lives on him, our faith will grow. Like Drew, we will overflow with thankfulness even in our darkest times.

6 And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. 7 Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness. Colossians 2: 6-7

Thank you, God, for a hand of protection. Even in the darkest storms, you are in control.


Sunday, April 24, 2011

When is the last time you had a good cry? Has anyone ever found you in a puccled of tears and asked, “Why are you crying?”Yesterday my son asked me to watch a few minutes of the animated movie Up. Coaxing me, he said, “Mom, it’s the best movie ever. If you watch ten minutes, you’ll be hooked.” Ten minutes later I had dissolved into tears. The opening segment shows a couple who fall in love, marry, and begin to plan their future. As time goes by, dream after dream is shattered. Their hopes for a future with a family and travel never materialize. I was hooked but sobbing. Why were their dreams shattered? They had lived with such hope! The rest of the movie is devoted to the efforts of 78-year-old Carl Fredricksen to fulfill his lifelong dream to see the wilds of South America. By tying thousands of balloons to his home, Carl’s dreams begin to look UP!

This week I’m reminded of the tears that Mary Magdalene shed at the tomb of Jesus. It was early in the morning when Mary Magdalene discovered that Jesus’ body was missing from the tomb. She stood outside crying “because they have taken away my Lord, and I don’t know where they have put him.”

When Mary glanced over her shoulder, she saw someone standing behind her. It was Jesus. “Why are you crying?” he asked her.

Jesus offered her hope as he encouraged her to spread the news of the resurrection. What a morning of emotions as her sorrow turned to joy when Jesus appeared to her and called her by name.

Jesus wants to comfort us when we feel as if all hope is lost. When we are burdened and filled with tears, Jesus is just over our shoulder too offering the same hope that he offered Mary Magdalene. Jesus has a tender voice of comfort in our sorrow. He whispers our name and calls,

“I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.” John 14:18

Let’s find peace in that promise during this Easter season. Let’s look UP for our hope!


Monday, April 18, 2011

Have you ever been the target of someone’s snide or insensitive remarks? There’s a lot of talk these days about children bullying each other, but adults are often guilty of taunting talk too. Because she was barren beloved Hannah was the recipient of cruel comments. I Samuel records the story of Elkanah and his two wives: Hannah and Peninnah. Although this was not God’ original intention for marriage, many Old Testament leaders had more than one life. Polygamy existed to produce more children to help in the family work and to assure a continuation of the lineage. The practice often caused serious family problems as we see in this story of Elkanah’s wives. The scripture tells us, “Peninnah had some children, but Hannah did not.” A childless woman in Hannah’s day was considered a failure, and barrenness was cause for humiliation and embarrassment. Year after year Peninnah taunted Hannah because of her barrenness. During time of feasting Penninnah scoffed and laughed at Hannah so much that she couldn’t eat. Penninah’s words must have pierced Hannah’s heart and eroded her self-confidence. How do you react to the criticism of others? We have a choice about how we respond to others. We can choose to be offended or not to be offended by the spiteful words of others. The words to the nursery rhyme, “Sticks and stone may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” are a lie. Words can hurt us, but we decide whether or not they will define us. We can choose to be offended by someone else’s venom or we can choose to allow God to be our defender. God, my strength, I am looking to you, because God is my defender. Psalm 59:9 In a desperate plea to God Hannah went to the Tabernacle and cried out in anguish. She poured out her soul to him in a heartfelt prayer. After giving her request to God and after receiving the blessing of the high priest, Hannah was filled with faith and returned home with joy and thanksgiving. And then she did what most of us have a hard time doing. She left her pain with God. Whatever trial we face, we can follow Hannah’s example and … 1. Pray fervently – She poured out her heart to God. Her prayer was heartfelt. Colossians 4:2a - Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart.

2. Pray persistently – She continued devotedly in prayer.

3. Pray faithfully – She believed that God would answer her prayer. 1

John 5:14-15 And we are confident that he hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases him. And since we know he hears us when we make our requests, we also know that he will give us what we ask for. Let’s pray fervently, persistently, and faithfully and choose to let God be our defender.

Treasure Pouch

Monday, April 11, 2011

My granddaughter Stella was born prematurely and stayed in the NICU for a few days. The wonderful nurses there taught my son and daughter-in-law the importance of swaddling. Little ones are wrapped and tucked tightly in lightweight cotton baby blankets to keep their bodies warm. Bundling keeps babies protected and helps them to sleep well. Josh and Meredith liken the process to making a burrito where the flour tortilla is wrapped around the good stuff. The wrapping on the outside protects the inside! Our little bundle of blessing looks snug and secure warmly nestled in her swaddling blankets.

We all have a need to be bound securely. When we face the trials of daily living, it’s good to know that God wants to wrap us securely in his arms. In I Samuel 25 we see that David is reminded his life was safely bound in God’s hands. When David and Abigail encounter one another, David is on the run from King Saul who believes the young man is a threat to his throne. David becomes an outlaw, camping out with his men in the wilderness. David requests food from Abigail’s wealthy but foolish husband Nabal. When the selfish Nabal rejects the request, David quickly orders his men to “gird on their swords.” Abigail is forced into action. She gathers supplies and sends them to David and his men and then sets out to talk with David. With diplomacy and grace, Abigail assures David that he has God’s favor and is “bound securely in the bundle of the living by the Lord your God.” The New Living Translation says that David’s life was secure in God’s “treasure pouch.” Abigail’s message was a reminder that God will protect us when we have trouble protecting ourselves. Her calm approach helped David realize that vengeance is God’s and the Lord would deal with his enemies.

When we deal with slings and arrows of unkind people ... When we face uncertainty in our relationships ... When we’re tempted to lash out with anger ... When we struggle with temptation ... When we go through economic hardships ... When we suffer with health issues ... ...it’s important to remember that we too are “bound securely in the bundle of living.” We lie in the center of God’s “treasure pouch.” No force on earth can break through the protection of the arms of God. Nothing can separate us from the love of God. Just as Stella is securely bundled in her swaddling blanket, we too are securely bundled in God’s love.

Treasure your “treasure pouch!”

29 “Even when you are chased by those who seek to kill you, your life is safe in the care of the LORD your God, secure in his treasure pouch! But the lives of your enemies will disappear like stones shot from a sling! I Samuel 25:29

What's Your Name?

Monday, April 4, 2011

Our Sunday School lesson and sermon today were titled ’What’s Your Name?” The question was taken from the account in Genesis when God asked this question to Jacob. By replying that his name was “Jacob,” which means “deceiver,” the patriarch acknowledged to God that he had lived a deceitful life. He had cheated his brother and tricked his father. This moment of self-honesty was a turning point for Jacob and God renamed him “Israel,” one who lives according to God’s purposes. After the re-birth he experienced when he turned to God, Israel lived with a new humility and courage.

This topic of naming and re-birth are so relevant to me this week. As many of you know, my son and daughter-in-law were expecting a baby girl May 15. Well, our little bundle of bliss arrived six weeks early. Stella Grace made her appearance Friday, April Fool’s Day (she already has a sense of humor!) at 10:38 p.m. Praise God, she’s healthy, weighs 5 pounds 2 ounces, and is 18 inches long. Mother and baby are doing fine, and Dad has been a rock for us all.

In the Old Testament, names were indicators of behavior. David means beloved; Isaac means he laughs; Jezebel means not exalted; Peter means rock. Imagine my delight when I learned my first grandchild would be named Stella, Latin for STAR. Hear me shout it, “STAR!” Of course, she’ll be my shining star, but will she shine where it’s important – for God? Fortunately, her middle name is Grace, meaning favor and blessing. From the day I learned that Josh and Meredith were expecting a baby, my daily prayer has been for God to grant favor and blessing to this precious child. I began this prayer long before I knew her name. Funny how God goes before us to guide our thoughts and prayers!

Favor and blessing have already been granted our little star. On Wednesday night, when Meredith went into premature labor, men and women from far and near began praying for a healthy delivery. So when the pediatrician said he was surprised that Stella was doing so well, I just grinned. He didn’t know what I knew. God had granted favor and blessing on little Stella, and the power of prayer explains the unexplainable. As for her future, I pray that God will hold Stella Grace in the palm of his hands as her devoted parents “train her in the ways that she should go so that when she is old, she will not depart from it.”

Are names a self-fulfilling prophecy today as they were of old? I pray so!

Stella Grace, a star by the Grace of God.

Daunting Task

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Have you ever been overwhelmed by a daunting task that you were facing? I have. The past couple of weeks have been a whirlwind of action, decision, and indecision as I accepted an offer on the sale of my house. After trying to sell the house for nearly two years, I have discovered that decisions about my future come down to just a few short days. I’ve lost my “balance” during this time as my routine has been turned upside down but soon I’ll regain my equilibrium and I will return to normalcy. There are also times in our spiritual journey when we become overwhelmed by a daunting task God asks us to face. Sometimes we lose our sense of balance and our world gets turned upside down when God calls us into action. I heard two friends this week describe the feelings of fear, inadequacy, and doubt that plagued them as they faced a challenge God was calling them to enter. When they both relinquished control to God, he gave them a sense of peace and fulfillment. Nehemiah serves as a living testimony of what God can do when ordinary people are called to face a daunting task. We can learn three P’s that will help us move from daunting to daring. Nehemiah spent much time in prayer, fasting, and mourning when he was faced with a challenge in his country. “When I heard this, I sat down and wept. In fact, for days I mourned, fasted, and prayed to the God of heaven. 5 Then I said, “O LORD, God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps his covenant of unfailing love with those who love him and obey his commands, listen to my prayer!” Nehemiah 1:4-6 He was terrified to approach King Artaxerxes to ask for permission to go to Jerusalem to rebuild the city walls. When he petitioned the king, Nehemiah had prepared beforehand all the details to help him accomplish the task. The king asked Nehemiah how long the task would take and when he would return, then gave Nehemiah permission to go. So Nehemiah, out of love for God and His people willingly left the comfortable court life behind and as the new governor headed with a select few toward his troubled land 1,000 miles away. More than two months later he arrived at the devastation that was once Jerusalem and assumed duties as its governor. After prayer and preparation, Nehemiah took positive action. Did Nehemiah experience imbalance? Yes, he must have felt some sense of disequilibrium when he was contemplating going to the King and then when he moved to a faraway place. How did he cope or regain his equilibrium? Through prayer and diligent preparation Nehemiah forward in positive action. What can we learn from Nehemiah about keeping our balance and facing daunting tasks? Pray about our circumstances. Pray about our schedules. Prepare – Learn about our challenges and determine our options Positive Action - Act – do something. Move forward in confidence. When we face a daunting task, let’s pray the prayer of Nehemiah, prepare ourselves through study, and then move forward.

How Deep Is Your Love?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

"How Deep Is Your Love" is a song recorded by the Bee Gees in 1977. It was ultimately used as part of the soundtrack to the film Saturday Night Fever. The chorus to the pop song actually expresses a question we might ask of God when we’re in our “deepest darkest hour” – How deep is your love?

In Psalm 42 the psalmist must have felt the despair of a dark hour when he called on God. He was in the middle of great affliction. He was downcast, his bones were suffering, and his tears were his food. Yet his soul, even in its sorrow, yearned for God. In the depth of his anguish, he called out for the depths of God’s love.

Deep calls to deep at the sound of Your waterfalls;
All Your breakers and Your waves have rolled over me.
Psalm 42:7

The Psalmist could see the waters plunging down Mt. Hermon. He could feel the breaks of the waves roll over him. That is where he felt the presence and power of God. He realized that God’s mighty power was stronger than his pain. The Psalmist concluded by reminding himself to put his hope in God and to praise him as Savior.

When we’re in sorrow we too can call on God. Our deep pain needs the deep love of Jesus. “Deep calls to deep.” I have been burdened this week about the suffering of families in our area who are enduring unspeakable pain from the tragic loss of a teenager. I ache for friends with children who are hospitalized with major illnesses. My heart goes out the thousands of Japanese who’ve experienced the tragedy of the tsunami. Some of you may be dealing with your own heartbreak. When we think we’ve lost hope and are in our darkest hour, let’s remember that God’s love is very deep. The old hymn says it well…

O the deep, deep love of Jesus, vast, unmeasured, boundless, free!
Rolling as a mighty ocean in its fullness over me!
Underneath me, all around me, is the current of Thy love
Leading onward, leading homeward to Thy glorious rest above!

Where Are You?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The traditional purpose of Lent is to prepare ourselves for the commemoration of Holy Week. During the forty days between Ash Wednesday and Easter believers spend time reflecting on their lives in order to draw closer to God. Reflection entails that we ask ourselves questions about our relationship with Christ. In his book Questions God Asks Us, author Trevor Hudson marked a turning point in his faith journey when he realized the Bible is filled with questions God asks us. A look at the first question God asked will guide our reflection during Lent.

When Adam and Eve were in the garden, they broke the first rule God gave them. They ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. In their shame, they sewed fig leaves together to hide their nakedness and then they hid. “But the Lord God called to them, ‘Where are you?’”

What does this question tell us about God? God pursues us. God was in pursuit of Adam and Eve, but it was their choice to come to him. He asks us the same question, “Where are you?” He beckons us to come to him. I recall many times I went in pursuit of my young children, calling out, “Where are you?” I wanted to find them. I wanted them to call out, “Here I am!” or “I’m coming to you!” God wants the same from us.

God pursues us and desires for us to unite with him. The prophet Isaiah tells us that he waits for us to come to him. When we wait on him, we will be blessed. He will respond to our cries and he will lead us and teach us the way to go. Isaiah reminds us that when we are in tune with God, our eyes and ears will be opened to his leading. We will hear that still small voice saying, “This is the way you should go.” This voice is the prompting of the Spirit.

So the LORD must wait for you to come to him
so he can show you his love and compassion.
For the LORD is a faithful God.
Blessed are those who wait for his help.

Right behind you a voice will say,
“This is the way you should go,”
whether to the right or to the left.
Isaiah 40: 18-21

During Lent let’s answer God’s call to us, “Here I am, Lord. Show me the way to go.”

Stay Off the High Wire

Monday, March 7, 2011

Picture yourself 66 feet above the ground on a platform and thousands of faces watch and wait for you to perform. Now imagine taking a step, with only a 1/2-inch metal wire between you and the ground. This is the world of high wire.

Circus high wire acts have a long history. In first century China the art of "rope dancing" was performed over knives. In the 1850s, Jean Francois Gravelet received world acclaim for cooking and eating an omelette on a neatly set table all on a high wire stretched over Niagara Falls.

The high-wire artist often carries a balancing pole that may be as long as 39 feet and weigh up to 31 pounds. This pole, usually drooping rather than rigid, helps balance the tightrope walker by lowering the center of gravity. The balancing pole helps the performer control the body’s “rotational inertia,” or resistance to a change in motion. Because their performances involve great risk, acrobats train for years and use a safety wire when executing a dangerous trick. A high-wire performance requires practice, concentration, and balance.

It’s really best to avoid the risk and stay off the high-wire if one doesn’t have the expertise to walk it safely. The same is true in our daily life. It’s best to avoid foolish risks in our personal lives. Whether we’re referring to risks in financial situations or relationships, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

What are the high-wires you are walking? Are you walking a tight rope in family relationships? Are you on the high wire in your career? Are you fighting a “change in motion?”

What are the risks you’re facing? Do they involve moral, ethical, or spiritual choices? Have worldly enticements caused you to lose your focus?

Sometimes our relationship with Christ is at risk because of poor choices or neglect. Are you walking a tightrope in your relationship with Christ?

The acrobat uses a mechanical called a pole to help him maintain balance. As Christians, we also have mechanicals to help us keep our spiritual walk in balance. Our mechanicals are found in the power of the Holy Spirit, prayer, Scripture, worship, and faith-filled friends to keep us motion. Fortunately, when we slip off our spiritual high-wire, we fall right into the hands of God. Let’s use our mechanicals to walk into the arms of Christ.

The eternal God is thy Refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms. Deuteronomy 33:37

Count It All Joy

Monday, February 28, 2011

We don’t have to look far to see people who are struggling in their personal lives. In recent days I’ve learned of the death of a nineteen-year-old girl who died from a virus that overtook her body in a matter of days. I read with heartache about two teenagers who died in a car accident near my house. My dear friend Susan is dealing with constant headaches and a burning sensation all over her body. Another friend has been diagnosed with cancer that has attacked multiple organs. It seems my prayer list is filled with people who are suffering. When I look over this list, I begin to put my own struggles in perspective.

I realize that life in this world is filled with pain and suffering. The Early Christians dealt with pain too. In fact, they lived in constant fear of persecution for their beliefs. James, the brother of Jesus, wrote to the persecuted Christians about their pain and suffering. He reminded those faithful followers that it is through “pain and trouble” in life that we have an opportunity to grow our faith. He calls on us to count it joy when we go through trials.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, when trouble comes your way consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. James 1:2-4

Let’s apply these four P principles to our own pain and trouble.

1. Positive outlook
First, James says to spend our time considering our joy. It’s hard to imagine being joyful during hard times but perhaps James is urging us to have a positive outlook. Can we live in God’s positivity during hard times? Can we realize that God is in control and that gives us reason to be positive?

2. Perseverance
Then he says to endure or persevere through the hard times because that’s how we grow in our faith. Perseverance teaches us to be patient and steadfast.

3. Perceive
Next he tells us to think about what we can learn or perceive from our troubles. We learn to think and speak and act differently when we allow God to help us grow through our challenges.

4. Perfection
Finally, he says we will be complete and mature in our faith when we persevere with joy. He uses the word perfect to imply that when our endurance is fully developed we will have perfect faith in Christ.

Now let’s apply these P principles to James 1:2-4.

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for a positive outlook. For you know that when your faith is tested, your perseverance has a chance to perceive things better. So let it grow, for when your perseverance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. James 1:2-4
What can you find joy in today?

Island of Stability

Monday, February 21, 2011

American writer and futurist AlvinToffler offers a perspective on the rapid escalation that humans have experienced, with his concept of “eight-hundred lifetimes.” In the introduction to his book Future Shock, written in 1970, Toffler writes that he coined the term future shock “to describe the shattering stress and disorientation that we induce in individuals by subjecting them to too much change in too short a time. In order to create a human timeline, he divided the past 50,000 years into lifetimes of about 62 years each making about 800 lifetimes. Toffler observes the first 650 lifetimes were spent living in caves. Writing has only been available in the past 70 lifetimes, and the wide-scale use of printing has only been a part of the last 6 lifetimes. We have only been able to accurately measure time for the last four, and the electric motor has only been in existence for 2 lifetimes.

The overwhelming majority of material goods and technological advances that shape our daily lives have only been in existence during the last lifetime. We are experiencing an exponential curve caused by the compounding effects of “advancements.”

Toffler asserts that rapid change results in an inescapable level of physiological stress. He says that in order to cope with the effects of escalation that surrounds us we must create our own “islands of stability” that offer feelings of security. The islands will serve as our safe harbors and anchors for the inevitable storms of life.

Who are the people who serve as your safe harbors? Is there someone who anchors you when you go through unchartered or rough waters?
Are you the “island of stability” for someone? Has God called you to be the strong and steady hand to a loved one who is overwhelmed by changes?
No matter how grounded we are in our faith, we all need an “island of stability.”
As Christians, we have a safe harbor like no other. We have the steady, guiding hand of our Savior. We serve an unchangeable God. He is the ultimate “island of stability.”

“I, the Lord, do not change” (Malachi 3:6).
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).
“God is not a man. He doesn’t change His mind”
(1 Samuel 15:29).

Let this be our prayer:
Dear God, I realize there are many things in my life that are beyond my control. I sometimes have trouble adapting to the rapid escalation in the world at large and in my world. I need your security in my life, Jesus. I want you to be my “island of stability.” I want to start focusing on the things that will never change. Thank you that you will never stop loving me. Thank you for your unchanging word. Thank you for making me for a purpose. I want to get to know you better and your plan for my life. I ask you to be very real in my life. Live in me and walk beside me through the victories and the valleys of life. Amen


Sunday, February 13, 2011

When writing on paper it’s important to leave blank space around the edges so the reader can focus easier on the words. This space is called margin. In printing jargon paper margin corresponds to the physical limits of the sheet. People are supposed to have margins too. In his book Margin Dr. Swenson states, “Margin is the space between our load and our limits.” It is what we hold in reserve for unanticipated situations. It’s the gap between rest and exhaustion. It’s the opposite of overload, and it’s hard to tell when we pass from margin to overload. Unfortunately, we don’t have a gauge, like a thermometer, to measure our margin level. Wouldn’t it be great to have a light indicator like the one on our dashboard that lights up and reads, “100% Full” or “Working at Capacity?”

Airplanes have a load capacity. When the load is greater than the power, it is overloaded and in danger of crashing. We have power that is made of our energy, skills, strength, faith, finances, and social supports. Our load includes our work, problems, obligations, debt, deadlines, commitments, and conflicts. When our load outweighs our power, we are headed for burnout and are living a marginless life.

Author and nationally recognized career coach, Marty Nemko, says, “The most successful people give 90%?” He says they are “in the moment, tackle their projects slowly but steadily, and don’t waste time worrying about what’s ahead. He says they have learned to store up emotional reserves so that they can develop relationship and enjoy work.

Isn’t it interesting that the leftover percentage of 90% is 10% - a tithe! Tithing our money, time, and talents to God would be a good step toward finding margin in our lives. We just have to determine what our priorities are.

When Jesus went to the home of Martha and Mary, he spoke about priorities.

38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
Luke 10:38-42 (NIV)

Martha needed margin. She was consumed with many things, so she was overloaded and living beyond her capacity. Let’s know our capacity, identify our priorities, and learn to live in our margin.

Star in the Middle

Monday, February 7, 2011

In his book In Search of Balance Dr. Richard Swenson draws a comparison between balancing our priorities and the balance of the solar system. The planets in our solar system revolve around the sun. These bodies can travel in different directions and at different speeds, but their movement is always in relation to the sun. The orbiting bodies in a planetary system are never the center of gravity. That distinction belongs to the star in the middle, and in our solar system the sun is the star in the middle. Since the sun makes up 99.86% of the total mass in our solar system, earth circles a powerful center.

In our personal lives our priorities lie at the center of our existence and our lives orbit around them. What is the star in the middle of our personal solar system? Do we have a center that serves as a steady anchor during the storms of life? Is our center strong enough to help us stand against the waves that rush in upon us? Or do our values change with the shifting winds of the culture? Is the SON our star in the middle? Do we let him guide our priorities? Are our priorities chosen wisely and are God-centered? Priorities that are focused on God will provide a stable orbit for our lives.

The Sun is the richest source of electromagnetic energy in the solar system. Let’s make THE SON our source of power in our own personal solar system.

46 “So why do you keep calling me ‘Lord, Lord!’ when you don’t do what I say? 47 I will show you what it’s like when someone comes to me, listens to my teaching, and then follows it. 48 It is like a person building a house who digs deep and lays the foundation on solid rock. When the floodwaters rise and break against that house, it stands firm because it is well built. 49 But anyone who hears and doesn’t obey is like a person who builds a house without a foundation. When the floods sweep down against that house, it will collapse into a heap of ruins.” Luke 6:46-49 (NLT)

Follow Through

Sunday, January 30, 2011

When is the last time you heard or saw something that was really incredible? When is the last time you had a “jaw dropping” experience? Last week my jaw dropped when I saw the video of an accident that could have gone terribly wrong. During a performance by the acrobatic team Verve Sol Patrol at the Phoenix Suns game, team member Nick Corrales made the ultimate slam dunk. Not only did the basketball go through the hoop, but Nick accidentally did also. You have to see it to believe it! Click on the arrow in the video link above.

Nick’s training as a gymnast helped get him through the mishap and as a result, he was not seriously injured. He didn’t plan to go through the hoop, but he was in motion and moving at such speed that he allowed his body to follow his head. He credits his agility and quick thinking for his daring shimmy. He didn’t fight the direction of his motion. He didn’t change his trajectory. He threw himself in all the way. He stayed the course, and he came out the other side unscathed.
This illustration gives new meaning to “follow through,” doesn’t it!

What would have happened to Nick if he had fought the direction of his motion? What if he had changed his trajectory? What if he didn’t follow through? Would he have been injured? Would the next team member have collided into him? Nick’s follow through may have prevented injury.

How is your follow through? Have you ever started down a course in your life in full motion only to get sidetracked? Have you ever veered off the path of your life or changed your trajectory?

Christ calls us to keep our eyes fixed on him. He wants to be the focus of our trajectory. He wants us to stay on his path. We know that Christ wants us to follow him, but how is our follow through? The Psalmist advises us to be steadfast as we follow God.

Let your eyes look straight ahead;
fix your gaze directly before you.
Give careful thought to the[a] paths for your feet
and be steadfast in all your ways.
Do not turn to the right or the left;
keep your foot from evil.
Psalm 4:25-27 (NIV)

When we truly follow him, we’ll have good follow through!

Change with Benefits

Monday, January 24, 2011

Having served as a Change Coach for five years, I learned a great deal about the process of change. For many people, change is associated with loss. In order to bring about effective change, the coach must show the benefits of change.

Have you ever considered the change that many of the early Christians must have experienced? Many of them had been Jews, and Jesus introduced a change in nearly every aspect of their lives – their worship, their laws, their relationships, their daily living.

The Jews knew a distant, unspeakable God. Jesus introduced a personal God.
Jews referred to God asYahweh, yet they didn’t even speak his name. Jesus called him Abba, Father. Jews followed very strict worship instructions:
Bring only a spotless lamb to the tabernacle.
Do not touch the Ark.
Do not look at it or you will die.
Always let smoke cover the ark.
Never enter the Most Holy Place.
Only the High Priest could enter the Most Holy Place once a year. He would fasten a rope around his ankle with a bell on it. If he died, someone could drag him out. Jesus introduced a personal form of worship. He introduced an approachable God.

How do you think the Jews adjusted to the changes that Jesus brought? How do think their balance was affected?

The Jews followed the laws of the Ten Commandments and tenets of the Mosaic laws. They cited the wisdom of the rabbis who had gone before them. When Jesus, who had never attended a rabbinical seminary, came on the scene, he challenged the authority of the rabbis. He didn’t dwell on the hundreds of commandments found in the Jewish law. Instead, he offered simple principles for living. We read in scripture Jesus said, “You’ve heard it said…, but I say to you…”

Matthew 5:43-44
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,

Matthew 22:37-40
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

New followers of Jesus had to make many adjustments to the progress that Jesus brought. They established new priorities and as a result, many of them were imprisoned or stoned.

Those early Christians were what we call innovators or early adopters. How grateful we are for those men and women who embraced the change that Jesus offered! They took a risk. They trusted in Jesus and just think about the benefits of that change!

What can we learn about adjusting to change by studying the lives of these early Christians? When we fully give our lives to Christ, we too experience change. Are you willing to experience the change that Jesus brings? It comes with great benefits!

Feast of Blessings

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

I have hosted Christmas Dinner for my family for the last twenty-five years. It’s been a wonderful tradition that I love. I enjoy decorating the tables, coordinating the menu with the family, and creating a festive atmosphere. I get a kick out of creating games and word puzzles for us to experience during and after the meal.

This year was different. Our city experienced a beautiful white Christmas! Because I live in a hilly and curvy part of the city, driving was hazardous. We decided it would be safer for our family to have dinner at my parents’ home instead of mine. My mother and I scrambled to get everything ready and were able to pull off a lovely meal.

When I was able to return home, I saw my beautifully decorated tables ready to receive the family. Food was in the pantry or the refrigerator ready to be consumed. I experienced a melancholy moment. My disappointment can’t compare to the disappointment our Heavenly Father must feel when we don’t show up for the banquet he has spread for us. Jesus offers us a feast of blessings. He wants us to dine at his table and enjoy all the blessings he has in store for us. How many times do we just not show up at his table? Do we miss out on his blessings because we don’t make it to the banquet? Or do we not feast in his kingdom because there are barriers between us and God? Is a past hurt, an unforgiving spirit, a judgmental attitude, or sinful pride keeping you from feasting at his table?

“Blessed is the one who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.” Luke 14:15.

Let us enjoy all the blessings he has for us by “coming before his presence.”

Wheel of Life

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Wheel of Life gives you a vivid representation of the way your life is currently, compared to the way you'd ideally like it to be. It is called the "wheel of life" because each area of your life is mapped in a circle, like the spoke of a wheel. The Wheel of Life helps you consider each area of your life in turn and assess what's off balance. Each "spoke" is important because it represents one of the core aspects of every human being: mind, body, and spirit. When we find balance in all areas of life, then we can truly experience the peace of God.

Now may the peace of God make you holy in every way, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again. I Thessalonians 5:23

View and print the Wheel of Life by clicking on the following link:

Do the following exercise to determine how balanced your life is. Find a starting place and ask yourself these questions.
How satisfied am I in this area of my life?
Are my activities in this area fulfilling?
Rank the aspect on a scale between 1 and 10.
"1" means you are not at all satisfied or fulfilled in this aspect.
"10" means you are satisfied or fulfilled in this aspect.
Place a dot on the line corresponding to each aspect. "1" is at the center of the circle. "10" is on the outer fringe of the circle.

Follow the same procedure for each "spoke." When you have marked each "spoke," draw a circle by connecting each dot.

How does your wheel look? Is it a balanced wheel? If your wheel were on a bike, how would it ride? Would it be wobbly or smooth?

The goal is to bring all the areas to about the same level, so it is in balance.

Which "spoke" needs some attention to reduce wobbling?

There are a lot of considerations when we start to balance our lives.

  • figure out what is NOT working.
  • determine how it got that way.
  • work on how to fix it.
Developing a balanced life is a process that takes PLANING and INTENTIONAL living. Learn the power of one. To get started, select one area that is out of balance and decide on one intentional act to move your toward your goal of balanced living. For example, if you're out of balance in the "contribution" aspect, select one act of kindness to perform this week. If you're out of balance in the "friends" aspect, invite someone special to lunch next week.

God wants us to live a balanced life and will show us how to live abundantly if we let him be our guide!

Let you moderation be known to all men. Philippians 4:5a.

Balanced Wheels

Monday, January 3, 2011

Have you ever driven a car when the wheels were out of balance? A clue that you have a balance problem is vibration. In fact, when my wheels were out of balance, the car vibrated so much, I thought the tires were going to fall off! It was hard to steer the car and keep it going toward my destination. It’s good to know some symptoms of a wheel that is out of balance:
• Vibration in the steering wheel when the car reaches certain speeds.
• Vibrations in the seat or floorboard at certain speeds.
• Wear patterns on the tires.

When wheels are balanced, the tires and wheels spin without causing any vibrations. To balance the wheels, mechanics check for heavy spots on the tire and place measured lead weight on the opposite (balanced) side of the heavy spot.

Do you ever feel so out of balance that your wheels are going to fall off? We experience vibrations of another sort. If a "spoke" of your wheel of life is out of balance, you'll have a hard time reaching your God-given destination. What are the symptoms of a life out of balance?

Are you too busy?
Have you put off planning for your future?
Do you struggle with time management?
Are you battling stress?
Do you suffer from low self-esteem?
Do you have a sense of hopelessness or despair?
Are your finances out of control?
Have you given up on developing your mind or intellect?
Are you living without the benefit of friends and community?
Is your health affected by bad choices?
Is your prayer or devotional life shallow?
Are you suffering from lack of intimacy in any of your relationships?
Have you gone for an extended time without a vacation?
Have you forgotten to take time to “smell the roses?”
Are you underutilizing your potential?
Are you overindulging in any area (eating, spending, etc.)?
Are you ignoring good nutritional or fitness practices?
Have you given in to worry?
Have you failed to contribute to others through service, volunteering, or financial donations?
Are you more consumed with self than others?
Have you left prayer, meditation, and Bible reading out of your daily practice?

If you answer yes to any of the following questions, your have a "spoke" out of balance.
Developing a balanced life is a process that takes planning and intentional living. To get started, use the power of one. Select one area that is out of balance and decide on one intentional action to move you toward your goal of balanced living. If you’re out of balance in the area of “contribution,” select one act of kindness to perform this week. If you’ve neglected your devotional life, make a plan to read one meditation each day.

God wants us to live a balanced life and will show us how to live abundantly if we let him be our guide.

Now may the God of peace make you holy in every way, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again.
I Thessalonians 5:23

Leading Forward - by Templates para novo blogger