Archive for February, 2005

Winning in Life – 2/22/2005

February 22, 2005

Where’s your Source?

Hosea 8:7 “Look at them! Planting wind-seeds, they’ll harvest tornadoes”(the Message)

Ephraim, as well as Israel and Judah, had become complacent. They had a form of godliness, but it looked more like the “worship” of the people around them than the worship God had set up. They still went to temple, but their focus wasn’t God, it was their own appetites. They even made idols to “help” in their worship.

How easy it is to slip into a form of godliness. When I pray, am I talking to my Creator, bowing my head to his sovereignty and again submitting my life to Him? Or am I giving Him my list, completing a ritual, hoping that things will get better?

When I go to church, am I appeasing my conscience for another week, or am I seeking to know the King of Kings? When I read the bible, am I listening for my Master’s whisper, or am I attaining a goal? Am I planting wind-seeds, or am I planting seeds of humility in the ground of God’s sovereignty?

Pray: Lord, I spend time with You because I love You. Please be my Source today. Help me to turn to you not just to make myself feel better, because that will teach me to get my strength from appeasement. Instead, help me to turn to You because You are my reason for living. Give me the strength and abilities that I’ll need today. Work through me and in me. Help me to be more like You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.


Winning in Life – 2/18/2005

February 18, 2005

Living Life

John 1:4 “In him was life, and that life was the light of men.”

Jesus is eternal, yet He walked on earth. “In him was life, and that life was the light of men.” What does it mean that there was life in Jesus?

Without Jesus we walk in darkness. We walk in a world in which we must make our own way, fight our own fight, make alliances, stand up for ourselves…because no one else really will.

In this kind of life, we always have to be on the defense. We are always looking out for our own good, looking for the angle. Kind of like a black hole, a void of want, sucking everything to itself.

Jesus is light. Light shines in the darkness and fills the void. Light illuminates the world around us, helping us to give instead of take. Light helps us to see how similar we are to everyone else, and to seek to help fill the void for others. Light relieves the burden of need. Paul said “My God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory.” (Phil 4:19)

Sometimes, we try to block the light. We are born in sin, and our natural tendencies are toward darkness survival. Taking care of self. God wants us to look up, and let Him shine into our lives.

Then life begins. We find the joy of giving, the satisfaction of reaching out. We are able to be satisfied with what we have instead of looking at what we don’t have. We learn to be a friend instead of expecting others to reach out to us. We find joy and peace when we find Jesus. Jesus changes our perspective, cleanses our sins so we can enjoy the light that God shines into our lives, gives us the strength to give to others – and we learn to live life to the full.

Jesus said: “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10

Prayer: Jesus, help us to live in Your light today. Help us to begin to understand what it means to live life to the full – full of peace and joy that only You can provide. In Your name, Amen.

Winning in Life – 2/17/2005

February 17, 2005

Jane: “Tom makes me so mad. Mrs. Claire doesn’t see, but he is always poking me in the back.”
Sue: “He makes me mad too. He was my friend last year, but this year he is just a meany.”

Two hours later, during class.

Jane: (loudly) “Tom! Stop poking me! Mrs. Claiaiaire! Tom keeps poking me in the back…and it hurts!”
Mrs. Claire: “Sue, you need to stop yelling. Tom, why don’t you spend a few minutes in the hall.”

Tom walks slowly to the door. Jane looks at Sue, giving the thumbs up sign. Sue’s attention is drawn to Tom as he closes the door behind him. He looks so sad.

A few minutes later, Sue asks to go to the bathroom. In the hallway, she finds Tom, sitting on the floor with his arms and head on his knees. Tom looks up, hoping it’s Mrs. Claire.

Sue: “I’m sorry you got in trouble.”
Tom: “Stupid old Jane. She’s just not a good sport.”
Sue: “Tom, you keep poking her. She had to tell, because you won’t leave her alone. You were our friend last year.”
Tom: “That was before you started tattling on me. I was just trying to be friends.”
Sue: “If you want to be our friend, you need to act like one. I’m glad that the truth came out in class. Now maybe you can stop poking her and we can be friends again.”
Tom: Tom looks right at Sue. Being friends was what he wanted. “I’m playing wall-ball at recess.”
Sue: “Can Jane and I play too?”

Love does not rejoice in evil, but rejoices in the truth. Sometimes when people bug us, we can be tempted to have a personal party when they finally get their dues. Difficulties can debilitate us or teach us – and it often depends on the reaction of people around us. Sue went to Tom when he was having a rough time and restored him to relationship. She had reason to rejoice, not because Tom got into trouble, but because his situation gave her an opportunity to be his friend and restore him to relationship.

Pray: Lord, help us to not rejoice when those who bother us get what is coming to them, but help us to see instead the opportunity that the truth provides. Give us the ability to see others the way You do, and love them with Your love. Help us to step past our hurt feelings to reach the person behind the actions. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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February 16, 2005

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3% Error

February 16, 2005

Love…keeps no record of wrongs.

For some of us, this is a hard one. We get hurt, then later, we get hurt again. After a time of this, suddenly we erupt one day with a whole list of everything someone has done to offend us over the last decade. Yet, love keeps no record of wrongs. How can we grow past this?

First, Perspective: Romans 13:9 says to “love others as you love yourself”. Do you make mistakes? Do you beat up on yourself for them? Don’t do that. Scientists tell us that in any scientific process, there is a 3% variant due to human error. If people who are trying to do everything perfect are wrong 3% of the time, then we can surmise that we are going to mess things up at least 3% of the time. Don’t beat yourself up. All that does is turn your focus inward and not allow yourself to learn from a situation and grow beyond it. Instead, ask God to forgive you and help you to grow; then, forgive yourself – expecting that you will grow.

In a similar fashion, we can also surmise that other people are going to mess up 3% of the time, and sometimes those mistakes will come our way. So, we love ourselves enough to learn from our mistakes, not letting them become debilitating boulders in our lives. Then, we understand that other people are going to mess up too, and we give them the grace to be able to be learning, growing individuals as well.

When someone hurts us and we don’t deal with it properly, it’s like throwing a moldy towel into the dirty clothes. Within a short while, the entire laundry pile will smell horrible. To deal with things properly, we need to go to the person, and let them know that they have hurt us. We need to review the situation in question, and ask forgiveness for any part that we had. Then, we need to be willing to forgive.

What about repeat offenders? Jesus knows how to deal with these, so let’s ask for his help. First, start praying for the person who is repeatedly hurtful to you. Pray God’s blessing on them. Pray that God will help them to be the person He created them to be. Pray that God will give you wisdom, and help you to be the spouse, parent, friend, that this other person needs in order to become the person God intended them to be. Sometimes this will mean that He will help you set up boundaries.

Second, choose to forgive. Train your mind. When the list of offenses comes to mind:

· Remind yourself that you have chosen to forgive that person
· Refuse to recite the list.
· Choose to think on different things.

Last, be a blessing. Many people act out of their own defensiveness. When they hurt us, they then continue to hurt us because they are reacting to either our anger, or their anticipation of our displeasure. Choose to be a blessing. God can use this. Proverbs 25:21-22 says: “If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the LORD will reward you.”

Prayer: Lord, help me in my relationships to see others the way that You do. Help me, when I am hurt, to take the offense to You and rely on You to help me deal with it properly. Sometimes I carry around a whole backpack of the wrongs other people have done to me. I lay that at your feet and ask you to heal all those hurts in me and restore those relationships where appropriate. Help me to walk in Your power and love. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Boiling Points

February 15, 2005

Love: “Is not easily angered” (NIV), “does not fly off the handle” (Message); “Is not irritable” (NLT)

I noticed something this morning. Every time my tea kettle reaches the boiling point, it shrieks – loudly. Kind of like some (okay, most) of us. Yet, if I don’t want to wake the household, all I have to do is flip the lid before it gets to the boiling point, and the shriek won’t happen.

Have you ever been to the point of overload, and one of your kids, husband, friend…someone heaps on “one more thing”? The shriek that erupts is not unlike my tea kettle. How can we keep from loosing it? After all, this is our natural response, that seems to happen even before we choose it. We have to find a way to lift the lid.

Paul and Silas were beaten and thrown in prison in Acts 16. They were treated brutally, and thrown in a dank, awful place full of moaning people. Then, an earthquake happened, and all their chains fell away and the doors of the prison were opened. Their natural response would have been to run, to be released from the prison – kind of like our shriek can be a release from the pressure we feel.

Instead, Paul and Silas remained still. As a result, the jailer and his whole family came to Christ. Paul and Silas were exonerated the next day. If they had fled in the night, they could have been hunted down for escaping. Their calm response to pressure resulted in freedom for themselves (physically) as well as an entire family (spiritually).

How did Paul and Silas stay calm under pressure? Vs. 25 says that they were “praying and singing hymns to God.”

It isn’t easy to keep calm when the pressure rises, but we can lift the lid on our boiler if we begin with a different perspective. Philippians 4:8 says: “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” We open our lid, so to speak, when we sing praises throughout our day. As the pressure rises, we choose to focus our mind on the possible, for we serve a God who is Able, and no matter our circumstances, He won’t leave us. He will help us walk through it all with His peace in our hearts.

Pray: Lord, please put a song in my heart today. Plant Your joy deep in my soul so that no matter what I am going through, I will be able to walk in Your grace, wisdom and peace. In Jesus’ name, Amen.


February 14, 2005

I’ve started something new with my five year old. When one of her siblings starts ranting, I’m trying to teach her to give them a compliment. It sounds bazaar!

Sister #1: Stay out of my room! You got into my stuff! I’m tired of you being in my stuff! Leave!
Sister #2: Your hair looks great today!

One of the hardest things we do in life is look to beyond ourselves. Thankfully, we have help. Jesus not only looked beyond Himself, but He walked the road all the way to the cross. He died while still looking beyond Himself, and He rose again. Then He sent His Holy Spirit to walk with us and give us the power to see things from His perspective.

Why am I teaching my five year old this odd behavior? When life hits us, whether it is disappointment, fear or other people’s behavior, our natural response is fight or flight. We look to our own needs, and disengage from relationship in order to make sure we’re taken care of. We make sure our concerns are taken care of first. Sometimes, we hurt other people in the process.

It is my hope that if my child learns to look for something good in the sibling who is ranting at her, she will learn to look for the joy amidst the pain in life. She will also start to see her siblings as people, and hopefully begin to value their need for space. Now we all have a right not to be ranted at, and to have good boundaries, but don’t life’s pressures often feel like somebody’s rant?

The love that Jesus helps us to have in life is not self-seeking. This means that we don’t demand our own way. But then, who is going to take care of me, we ask? God is.

The next time you feel the pressures of life, take out your lists. We all have them. For some, the grievance list is handy. For others, the thankfulness list is well used. As you feel the stress of life, pull out the lists. Give the grievance list to God. He knows how to handle it. Then read the thankfulness list to yourself – out loud. As you remind yourself of all you are thankful for, of all God has done for you, the force of life’s rants will dissipate. You will find that Jesus has given you the power to love along the way.


February 11, 2005

Have you ever wondered why there is a rule that says that when you build a fence, the nice part goes toward your neighbor? I’m not sure if this is a real rule – I think it is a rule of courtesy. Nevertheless, when you go to all the work to build a fence, the fancy part faces away from you. Doesn’t seem fair, does it?

Fences serve many purposes. They keep things out, and they keep our stuff in.

Love does not act unbecomingly, is not rude, or in the Message, “does not force itself on others”. Love understands fences. When my children were very little, I found a mantra that worked: “discipline yourself, or I will have to discipline you for you.”

Love understands the importance of self-discipline. Love values the fences that we build in our lives. They keep us in our own space and help keep other people from overwhelming us. When we walk in love, we value other people more than ourselves – kind of like putting the nice side of the fence out, so that we are beautifying other people’s lives as well as our own.

Whose life are you beautifying today?

Lord, please help me to add value to other people’s lives today. Help me to add beauty, and to recognize the beautiful things in others. Help us each to not be rude or pushy as we walk with people, but to trust that You have our best in mind, and will get us what we need when we need it. As we reach out to others, we also know that you love those we interact with, and are very interested in working in their lives. Help us not to jump fences to fix other people, but to pray and trust You to work mightily in their lives. Help us to walk in love. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Look at Me!

February 10, 2005

Most people don’t enter life thinking they are better than everyone. In fact, most people would tell you that they don’t think this way at all. But there is a part in all of us that can become boastful and proud.

“You would not believe what they are doing to me” the story starts. Or, we tend to look down on others a bit because they haven’t a clue what it is like to really have problems.

Some people have reason, in the natural, to be proud. They have made great decisions all along, and their life is going good.

God told Gideon that his army was too big – that if it fought the battle and won, it would think it did so on it’s own strength. (See Judges 7).

It doesn’t matter whether we are typically on the winning side, or if life has beat us up, if we think we are winning, or sustaining, on our own, we are being puffed up.

A life lived in love is a life of outward focus. If we start looking for the answers in ourselves, then we will only find our appetites, ready to gobble up every ounce of energy we have. Instead, we need to look for our Source outside ourselves – in God. Once we have admitted our own need, we are much more able to see the need of others and be His hand extended to the world.

Christ, we each have areas of our life that we are tempted to maintain all on our own. Sometimes we even have goals that we think we can accomplish with our temporal resources. Help us to turn these projects over to You. Be our strength in every area of our life, and help our life be Your message to the world – a message of Hope. Amen.

Greener Pastures

February 9, 2005

You can put cows in the biggest, most beautiful pasture ever, and before long a few of them will be pushing at the fences. They will walk right past all the beautiful alfalfa in their own field, crane their necks across barbed wire, carefully avoiding the electric fence, to nibble at the grass on the other side.

Then there are the people who ignore all the ‘stuff’, blessings in their own life, and spend their energies on longing for what other people have. It doesn’t have to be stuff. It can be looks, position, accomplishments. Have you ever left someone’s house and wished you…had what they had, were as orderly as they were, could communicate with your spouse as nicely as they did? Don’t worry, we all have.

Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians that love…does not envy. One easy way to begin building our brain for this aspect of love is to cultivate an attitude of thankfulness. What do you have to be thankful for today? Did you find five minutes for yourself? Did you find the floor amongst the clutter? Are you caught up on dishes? Do you have a lawn to mow? Have you seen the sun today? Are you and your family healthy? I once talked to someone who said that she’d been to the so down at one point of her life that she’d lain in bed and said “thank you, God, that there is paint on that wall. Some people don’t have paint on their walls.”

Let’s start cultivating thankfulness today. Can you list five things that you have to be thankful for today?

Lord, thank you so much for all you have given us. No matter our place in life, we can see Your mighty work on our behalf. Help us to see what we have more than what we don’t have and to begin living a life of love. In Jesus’ name, Amen.