Monthly Archives: July 2014

Staying focused



It’s not uncommon to hear about people who have car or pedestrian accidents due to being distracted. If staying ‘in touch’ is really all that urgent, maybe we should consider getting a ‘”seeing eye person” to guide us safely through our day!


Of course, the truth is staying THAT much in touch is not only unnecessary but it robs us of staying in touch with our surroundings! Have you ever had someone come to visit you and then proceed to spend most of their time checking their phone for messages? It’s not a feeling of being valued or honored is it?  You both miss out on the fullness of each other’s company when one’s attention is constantly drawn away.  I confess, I’ve been guilty of “being there but not all there.” It seems I have to continually train my wandering mind to stay focused in the moment.


Most of us would likely confess that we do the same with God. We start with a prayer, praising Him or interceding for others, and before we know it, our mind has wandered off track to some completely unrelated matter. And we find that our attempt to enter God’s presence and draw close to Him has fallen short. As a result , we miss out on the benefits of His presence.  We trade time with our Creator for some whimsical thought or needless worry.


If you’ve ever made a purchase that didn’t satisfy you know the feeling of missing out. You realize it was a bad trade of hard-earned money for something of lesser value. What do you do in such a situation? If you can’t exchange the item, hopefully you learn from the experience and make a wiser decision next time. Unfortunately, we can exchange or redeem the time we’ve wasted. It will never return to us. But we can make better decisions. If your mind wanders while in the presence of a friend, apologize and redress your full attention to the person.


Do the same thing with God. Distractions happen. Acknowledge it and get back in the game with Him. He IS your seeing eye person and will guide you to finding meaning and joy in your life.


“Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior and my hope is in you all day long.” Psalm 25:5



Practicing the presence of God





When do we go to God? Why do we seek His presence? Probably it is often for help in some difficult situation we face. Sometimes it is for peace and solace in the middle of an oppressing storm. Sometimes we turn to God on behalf of our friends and loved ones or to confess our wayward ways.


God honors all these. In fact, perhaps more than anything else, He just wants us to spend time with Him. He doesn’t need us, yet values a personal relationship with us.   But practicing the presence of God is a discipline that requires guidance throughout the day. Without it you will likely find every little thing drawing your attention away and in the process, forgetting who you really are and why you are so busy anyway.


Does it sometimes feel like your visit with God in the morning is to get your marching orders and then you report back to Him at night?  The problem is, we need His guidance throughout the day too. That is why He gave us the Holy Spirit, so we would have access to His power, wisdom, grace, and truth moment by moment. God never intended you to take marching orders and then face the battle all alone.  We need to practice the presence of God in our moment by moment lives to stand firm and focused.


But in our busy lives, how do we stay focused? It may help to use simple post-it-note reminders to draw your attention from the mundane to the One who loves you dearly, the One who wants to guide you safely through your day.  Putting notes in your car, on your computer, on the bathroom mirror, TV, book stand, and refrigerator (etc) will draw your attention to your God and prompt you to thank Him and seek His guidance. You have so many transition moments in each day between one task and another that can serve as opportunities to acknowledge God. Learning the discipline of one and two-word prayers may usher in His presence during those times. (We might find value in this at prayer meetings too, instead of filling the air with endless words.) Daniel set aside seven times each day to stay connected with God. You can too: when you rise, at each meal, at morning and afternoon break times, and before you go to sleep. The number of times is probably not so important as your desire to turn to God throughout the day.


Seek His presence. Find His power and His plan for your life.


“I will praise the Lord, who counsels me;      even at night my heart instructs me.  I keep my eyes always on the Lord.     With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

You make known to me the path of life;     you will fill me with joy in your presence,     with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” Psalm 16:7-8,11

Complaining and grumbling



I’m guessing that at some point in your life you have attended a whine party, maybe even threw one yourself. No, not ‘wine’ but ‘whine’. You know what it is like: someone complains about something and then someone else ups the ante with an even bigger complaint. And so the conversation slides quickly downhill, dragging everyone with it.


Complaining seems to be a national pastime. It’s easy to fall into the trap, isn’t it? When we get wrapped up in our own world of hurts and misfortunes all we see is ourselves.  I comment about my arm always hurting. My wife reminds me to be thankful because some people don’t have arms. Adding sarcasm to my whining, I think to myself, “Yeah, well they probably don’t hurt then, do they?”  See how easy it is? (sigh)


Paul warns us about grumbling and complaining in Philippians 2 where he encourages us to take our eyes off ourselves and seek the mindset of Jesus, the One:


Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death  –   even death on a cross!” Philippians 2:6-8


And so, Paul continues, we should:  “Do everything without grumbling or arguing…” (v 14). Why? So we can:

– Be blameless and pure, behaving as children of God. 

– Stand out from a warped and crooked generation.

– Shine our light among others like the stars of the sky. 

– Hold firmly to the truth of the Word. 

– Live life with purpose and passion, not in vain, even if our life is one of continual sacrifice and faith, ‘poured out like a drink offering.’ 


How can we live pure lives by constant complaining? How can we behave like children of the king, privileged in so many ways and still be whiners? How can we live our life set apart from a crooked generation when we complain about things just as they do? Does grumbling make our light shine brighter? Does complaining help us to hold onto the truth?  No, it works against us! Complaining begets more complaining and a dissatisfaction with our plot in this temporary and short life. It destroys a thankful heart.



My wife is absolutely right: the cure to complaining is being thankful. We stop complaining when we start being thankful. You’ve heard the saying, “I complained I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet.” Let’s declare a ban on personal complaining for at least 24 hours, and then renew the pledge the next day, and the next. See how your life changes and how your light shines brighter, when we refrain from grumbling and complaining when things don’t go our way.



Let it go


 Someone said, “you will find that it is necessary to let things go, simply for the reason that they are heavy.”

“Let It Go,” from the hit cartoon movie Frozen: you either love it or hate it (because you’ve heard it so many times)! Regardless of how you feel about the song, the title carries a powerful message for life.

Have you ever carried a burden a very long time? So long that it has weighed on your ability to cope and get on with life? Some burdens we have to bear – and ask others to help carry our load. But some burdens can be set down at our choosing. It might be a hurt caused by someone else. Or it could be a hurt you caused yourself. It might be a grudge you’ve kept against someone…or against God. It might be a concern that has weighed you down but you’re afraid that confronting someone will make matters worse. There is a time for biblical confrontation and with a biblical motive of love. God wants us to be reconcilers and peacemakers. But there are other times when it is best to simply, “let it go.” Write it on a piece of paper, burn it and resolve to move on. Get over it. Why?


Carrying grudges or the burden of bad memories about someone is like a cancer that eats away at your soul; it creates bitterness, wrath and anger and impedes the path to healthier relationships.  (See Ephesians 4:31-32 “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger be put away from you.”)

Constantly focusing on past hurts robs us of seeing new life right now. Dwelling on past hurts creates a wilderness barrier that keeps us from seeing  a clear path out. (See Isaiah 43:18-19, “Remember not the former things. I am doing a new thing. I will make a way in the wilderness.”)

Letting past hurts control us keeps us from enjoying the good future God has planned for us. You can’t set off on a new journey with one foot in the boat and the other on the dock. Holding back keeps us from God’s intended best for us. (See Philippians 3: 12-14, ” I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”)


Ask God about the burdens you’re carrying today. Is it a relationship He wants you to try to reconcile? Or is it something you need to let go so you can move on?  Maybe it is time to put that heavy burden down and rest.


“Come to me all of you who are heavy burdened, and I will give you rest.” Jesus, in Matthew 11:28




Do you believe in miracles?



The headlines of the Jewish Telegraph recently read: “Their God changes the path of our rockets in mid-air, said a terrorist.” The quote is attributed to a lady living on the West Bank. Actually it is a throw back to a 1956 speech by David Ben Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, who asserted that if one is to be a realist, one must accept that miracles happen. Recently, another news source – Arutz Sheva – reported: “The Jewish nation’s existence for six millennia is a miracle. There is no single Jewish life without a miracle. Miracle is an essential part of our life…it is a source of hope in the dark and a gift of our dreams. And we know why – because these miracles are true.”


What about you – do you believe in miracles? Do you believe they happen today? Do you think you could live your whole life without the supernatural interventions we can only explain as miracles?

– Recoveries from terminal illnesses

– Instances of protection that escape explanation

– ‘Sudden’ reconciliation after decades of separation

– Undeserved forgiveness

– A heart that keeps beating and lungs that keep breathing without our control

– The revelation of hope amid an environment of despair


Perhaps one of the greatest miracles is the power of God to convict us of our rebellious ways and to create in us clean hearts, to turn us from hatred to love, from self-absorption to being focused on the interests of others, from nearsightedness to an eternal perspective.


You don’t have to give up logic  to believe in miracles that you can’t explain. Perhaps Ben Gurion was right: if you want to be a realist, you have to believe in miracles and the certain hope they offer.


“What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived” — the things God has prepared for those who love him–” 1 Corinthians 2:9


“And what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe” Ephesians 1:19





Hope for today



Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. – Hebrews 11:1

We’ve commented before that true hope is more than a wish that things will go well. Wishing is a bit like saying, “Good luck.” I don’t know about you but I don’t want to pin my most precious hopes on wishes or luck.


We say we have real hope when we have a real sense of conviction that something will turn out well in our life. More than a wish, our hope is a conviction based on what WILL happen.


Vaclav Havel, the first democratically elected president of Czechoslovakia, describes hope as the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out. Havel’s views were not based on a Christian belief but more so in a type of ‘karma.’ I’ve heard even Christians state this belief, “If it’s meant to happen it will.”  The problem is, there are a lot of things that happen that are truly tragic and senseless, and not meant to be.


Personally, I don’t believe in the idea of karma. But I do believe in a sovereign God who allows us free will and yet whose overall plan will not be thwarted. God allows humans to make all kinds of bad decisions and He allows a degenerating earth to wreak all kinds of havoc. . . for a time.  But regardless of the circumstances that may confront us, His plan will prevail in the end.  We often see this life as all there is and we are quick to judge events as “fair” or unfair” from our viewpoint. On this side of heaven, we may never make sense of things from our limited perspective.


But things WILL make sense, perfect sense, when our eyes are fully opened to see the full reality that is presently obscured by our temporal vision.


Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. Hebrews 11:1 


For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 1 Corinthians 13:12



Finding strength in weakness



One ad for the movie, “God Is Not Dead” reads, “I am not Christian because I am strong. I am Christian because I am weak and know I need a Savior.”


We like it when we are strong, don’t we? It is exciting to be energetic and full of life, ready and able to take on the demands of life. God’s Word often tells us to be strong and courageous. It’s the stuff of heroes and champions. Life seems good when we are strong.


But what about when we are weak? When there is simply not enough strength to carry on, when others have to carry your load, and sometimes carry you? Who says, “Look at the weakling. I want to be like him? Let’s choose her – she’s the weakest?” And while everyone prays for strength at some time or another, who prays for weakness?


We all face weak moments – sometimes in the face of temptation, sometimes in the face-off against a formidable foe. Sometimes we are weak in the battle of our mind. Sometimes our body reaches its breaking point, where the storm walls fail to hold back the devastating storm. Face it, any thought that we are the captains of our own destiny or masters of our own fate, are illusions of our mind. But . . .


We need not fear our weakness, as painful as it. As humiliating as it feels, our weakness is actually our key to strength. It’s found in the children’s song: “I am weak but HE is strong.” Colossians 1:27 holds the secret to our hope: “Christ in us, the hope of glory.” Paul learned the secret: “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. . . I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:11-13


We want strength and vitality, but can we be content in weakness? If Christ is really in charge, then yes. We think our goal is success, but really our goal is to be found faithful in the challenge. Weakness, the experience of being at the end of ourselves, is the opportunity for Jesus to reign in us. Our faithfulness is His invitation. Even if weakness is for a lifetime, it is still momentary compared to eternity, and of little consequence compared to the weight of eternal glory.


Be strong and courageous…even in weakness.


“For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” Romans 8:18



Don’t waste your suffering



John Piper wrote a great little book called Don’t Waste Your Life, followed later by Don’t Waste Your Cancer. Both books spoke to me – before and during my experience with cancer. The premise is simple. Life is short so live it intentionally and live it well. Oh I know, when your journey is filled with suffering of all kinds, life seems to move slowly, like it may never end. A year and a half after achieving remission from cancer and after my stem cell transplant, I’m still asking my doctors, “When will I get stronger?” But even in the midst of all kinds of trials, life really is short compared to the eternity of time that awaits us. So, how do we respond?


“Don’t waste your suffering.”


Suffering seems to be wasteful in itself; it robs us of comfort, patience, strength, productivity, and so much more. Suffering leads us to experience indignities that we are sure are unnecessary to the human challenge. But suffering also is a worker, accomplishing in us that which we cannot accomplish ourselves. Consider Paul’s story:


Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.”  2 Corinthians 11:24-27


Whipped, beaten, stoned, shipwrecked, threatened by robbers and countrymen, surrounded by danger all around, sleepless, hungry, cold, and naked… I think you will agree that Paul knew suffering.  If anyone had reason to complain, it was him. But how did he perceive this tremendous distress?


” For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” 2 Corinthians 4:17


He considers his trials light and momentary, insignificant compared to what? Compared to what they are achieving right now for eternal glory. Our sufferings are at work to purify us and build us up, even as we are sure they are only working to tear us down. And they are working also to build others up too:


Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel.” Philippians 1:12


None of us like to suffer and we don’t like watching others suffer. But in the midst of these, we are called to pray (for ourselves and others) and to stand firm. Don’t waste your suffering, knowing that our loving God will not waste an ounce of the pain you give to Him.



Who’s your daddy?



In the movie, Master of Disguise, Dana Carvey plays a wimpy guy who becomes amazingly strong and talented when he assumes roles using various disguises. In one scene he successfully intimidates a larger, stronger opponent by repeating the line, “Who’s your daddy?!” Carvey’s character’s success comes from knowing who he is in relationship to his daddy. Do you remember this taunt as a kid: “MY dad can beat YOUR dad!” Our courage was based on whose kid we were – on the basis of our dad’s ability.


Have you ever thought about how things might have gone differently in the garden with Adam and Eve with the whole scene with the serpent’s lies? WHAT IF Adam had intervened, as he well should have, and said to the lying beast, “Wait just a minute! Let me check with my Dad about this.” That solitary act could have saved everyone a lot of grief because Adam’s Dad would have set things straight. There wouldn’t have been any conniving, confusion, or convoluting of the truth. Adam would have been victor of the day!


And so, let me respectfully ask, “Who’s your Daddy?”  Is He the King of Kings, the Creator of all you see and know? Is He the strong tower in whom you find safe refuge? Is He the firm foundation on which you build your life, one that cannot be shaken? Is He the always faithful one?


I ask this, because if He is, then that tells me who you are:


Holy and righteous in His sight (Ephesians 1:4)


Redeemed and forgiven (Ephesians 1:7)


Able to find rest at any time (Matthew 11:28)


Filled with hope (Jeremiah 29:11-13)


Filled with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness and so much more (Galatians 5:22-25)


Guided by wisdom (Psalm 48:14)


Secure forever (1 John 5:11-13)


You don’t need to be a master of disguise. Knowing who you are and who your Daddy is – that’s all you need to have power over the day before you.


“Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” John 1:12




Tired of being robbed?


The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life and have it to the full. – Jesus, John 10:10


When I was a teenager, our house was broken into. The thief didn’t take much except my jar of quarters, set aside for my college fund. It wasn’t nearly so bad as those who have been robbed of much more, but to me it was a raw deal. Why would anyone take a kid’s money?


Perhaps you’ve had something stolen from you too, maybe something a lot more valuable than a jar full of quarters. In fact, we all have been robbed, and sometimes it is our own fault. We might lock the door to our house but what about the door to our life? The articles we read, the things we choose to look at, the movies we watch, the company we keep, the thoughts we think, even our private ambitions – all open the door to our life and can steal from us the very essence of an abundant life.


The enemy, a thief, comes to steal, kill, and destroy. How does he do this? He connives and lies in such a way that it sounds believable, even desirable. And what do we lose in this robbery? Joy, confidence, security, sometimes faith and hope. And so often, we are the ones who let the thief into our house…our life.


Perhaps you can reflect back on decisions you made that went poorly and resulted in turmoil for you and others. It’s said that the train of sin will take you farther than you wanted to go and charge you more than you wanted to pay. There are consequences to robberies, including the ones we choose to allow. All decisions can be forgiven, but some bring consequences we can’t control.


But wait. There is good news. Jesus tells us that He has come to bring abundant life. He offers renewed joy, restored hope, and redeemed value. The thief tries to break in and steal our joy and our hope. But the Son of God offers a full life, that cannot be stolen away. You can lose all your money but still be rich. You can lose all your property and still have a home in His kingdom. Your name can be tarnished, but it cannot be wiped from the Book of Life. Your body may be robbed of pleasure but your soul will survive. Your relationships may be torn asunder but your relationship with God is not threatened. Every circumstance may point to darkness and despair, but God’s light in you cannot be extinguished – it always shines hope.


Are you tired of being robbed? Turn to Jesus right now, and accept His free gift of a life that is abundant.


The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” Jesus, in John 10:10