February 23 – Found to Follow

8c9623578-today-tiger-costume-zoo-131107-3-today-inline-large

One of the toughest things in the entire world is to get boys to follow. That’s the truth, even if I am a boy. Many of my lumps and bumps came from not following whoever was in charge of leading me at the time.

Very rarely was it because I was being willfully defiant or stubborn. On the contrary, most of the time, it was a matter of memory; I’d forget the instructions about as fast as they were given. At that point, I would follow the first fun-loving notion that popped into my head. Now I’m a dad raising my own crop of boys and nothing’s changed!

I’ll never forget the time my Caleb almost spent the night at the zoo. He was about four at the time and all he had to do was stick with his big brother. That’s it. But between big brother’s own set of distractions and Caleb’s desire to go another direction, when it came time to board and depart, little Caleb was nowhere to be found.

Thankfully, the story doesn’t end there. Just about the time Caleb realized he was lost, the park security guard and his big brother came to the rescue. Now, if you were a bit panicked reading this, imagine being the parents hearing about it after the fact! Like I said, getting boys to follow is no easy thing, but very necessary.

In the case of Jesus and Philip, I see Jesus, like a big brother, looking purposefully for Philip. Now, the Bible doesn’t elaborate a whole lot about Philip’s particulars, but it is clear that Jesus sought him and instructed him to follow. The amazing part of the story is Philip’s response. With no questions, no qualifications, and no qualms, he obeyed. God knows, I want to be like that!

The truth is all of us have been sought after by the Lord. And like a big brother, He is telling us “Come, this way.” May we recognize His demands as divine direction. The Father has sent Him to help us get to the right destination without too many “bought lessons.” Today, I make a fresh commitment to pay attention and follow His lead, no qualms. Pray for me, and I’ll pray for you!

 The following day Jesus wanted to go to Galilee, and He found Philip and said to him, “Follow Me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. John 1:43-44 NKJV

 Biblical Meditation: Matthew 16:24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

February 22 – Home Sweet Home

frnt_angle_lightboxOur relocation to the country has been a blessing. Maybe I’ll be talking about it for many devos to come. Much of what we know God has asked us to do is continuing without a pause. The surroundings we are in just play a different kind of part in enhancing each day’s work. Here’s a little sample of what I heard from Benjamin, our 4 year-old, tonight.

Mom, why is this bug I caught called a lightning bug?”

 “Well, because he lights up.”

 “Is it because he hates darkness?”

 (Long pause) “Yes, I guess he does his job because he hates the darkness!”

Wow! That little guy just hit me right between the eyes! He lights up because he hates the darkness!! What a beautiful, powerful picture of all that God has given us to do and be in this dark world. We have no idea or clue who or what we are affecting, just by living our everyday lives.

Anytime I watch the combines roll through the fields, I can’t help but get teary. Not just because I love observing the familiar process that breathes hundreds of childhood memories, but because I am seeing first hand an example of ripe and ready fruit getting plucked out of the field and whisked into the harvest truck. Have you noticed lately? Doesn’t the time seem short?

Don’t be weary in well-doing, and most of all, don’t forget what home really is. Let the mission we’ve been given infiltrate our hearts, our actions, and our words, so that through each of our days on this earth, all the rest of the harvest can come home, too.

Jenny 🙂

When the harvest time approached, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his fruit. Matthew 21:34

 Biblical Meditation: John 14:23 Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.

February 21 – On Time

punctual 

Jen and I had been married a couple of years when I took a position as a youth coordinator in our community. My primary focus was a junior leadership council with an emphasis on entrepreneurship. That’s just a fancy way to say I was teaching a group of youngsters leadership skills through running a t-shirt and mug business. I found out pretty quickly I was over my head – I didn’t know the first thing about shirts or mugs.

Thankfully, I met a wonderful local merchant who was interested in working with us as a partner. As time clicked on, we started making progress. Orders were rolling in and I found myself spending a majority of my time down at her store. That part was great. But what I didn’t realize was how often I would tell Jen I was “on my way home” and didn’t actually leave for another thirty minutes or so (i.e., until I finished what I was working on).

So one day, the owner of the store (who was and is a dear friend) said, “How does your wife feel about you telling her you are on your way and you don’t leave here until quite a bit later?” I thought to myself, “Jen understands I’m working. She knows I don’t mean to be late.” I’m sure I had a puzzled look plastered across my face as I told her I didn’t know how Jen felt about it. She encouraged me to ask her. So I did. I will never forget that day. With tears in her eyes, Jen communicated to me that she had been praying God would somehow help me understand how much it means to her for me to be on time. “If you’re not sure when you’ll be here, just tell me.”

Because I am a “one-task-at-a–time” person, I often find it a challenge to break away and move on to the next assignment. And thus, punctuality is always a constant work in progress. But that does not excuse its importance. God is all about timeliness. Now, don’t misunderstand, He controls the clock! Things might not happen when you think they should, but it won’t be because He’s late. And as for you and me, one of the greatest gifts we can give each other is the gift of punctuality—be on time. If you are like me, don’t beat yourself up if you know your struggle, just receive the correction and get going in the right direction!

The Character First I WILL’s for Punctuality:

I WILL be at the right place at the right time

I WILL prepare for unexpected delays

I WILL do my work ahead of time

I WILL plan a daily schedule and keep it

I WILL not fall into the trap of “just one more”

God gives a hand to those down on their luck, gives a fresh start to those ready to quit. All eyes are on you, expectant; you give them their meals on time. Generous to a fault, you lavish your favor on all creatures. Psalms 145:14-16 Message Bible

 Biblical Meditation: Ecclesiastes 3:1a There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:

 

February 20 – Depth of Perception

hebrews-4-12

God’s Word is like a time machine. If you spend morning, noon and night reading it, thinking on it, talking about it, digging around in it, memorizing it, you will, at some point, go for a trip. And you will see things you never imagined. Most importantly, you will see answers.

I guess that’s why I’m a bit strange to some. Back when I had no time for the Bible, I was in the dark on a whole lot of things. And fear of the known and unknown dictated much of my behavior. But one day, somebody told me the Bible contained God’s Word, written straight to me… and that through it He gave insight to all who gave it priority.

I figured I had nothing to lose, so I went to work. At first, my mind struggled. Focus was a big issue because the words didn’t instantly start painting pictures. I realized later this was largely due to the dulling process of modern entertainment. My mind was used to sitting back while all the creative work of perception was done without my participation.

As I stayed with it, however, something remarkable began to happen. I would lose track of time and I would come away with marvelous insights. The Bible began to come alive to me with practical wisdom for my everyday life.

 I truly believe creativity is dictated by the depth of one’s’ perception. To the degree in which I can see, I can achieve. The creative soul starts with a notion (thought) that soon becomes motion (action). And that’s exactly what happens when God’s Word becomes a way of life for you and me.

Creative success follows. Why? Then you and I can see where we’re supposed to be going. So today, take a ride in God’s time machine. See what He has in store. Don’t worry; He’ll get you back in good time!

This Book of the Law shall not depart out of your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, that you may observe and do according to all that is written in it. For then you shall make your way prosperous, and then you shall deal wisely and have good success. Joshua 1:8 Amplified Bible

Biblical Meditation: Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

 

February 19 – Get Back Up Again

a2aebd709982fe71d37e3808902ea0e5

I got on the scales the other day and man, was I surprised! I hadn’t weighed in a year and my workout schedule has been a little sporadic, to say the least. I’ve been running and I’ve been swimming. But I haven’t been consistent.

Though I’m not a fanatic about working out, I know if I plan on being around in good health any length of time, it is necessary. All my life, I’ve never really put on much weight, so I didn’t really consider that to be the reason for my pants getting snug. (!) Nonetheless, the extra pounds snuck up on me.

Accomplishing anything of value will require the steady stream of tenacity. No matter how instantaneous success might seem, nothing significant happens overnight. It takes years of root development for a mighty oak to be able to stand strong in the midst of a raging winter storm. The same is true for you and me.

And with all the planning and persistence you can muster, there will be days when you lose your grip and start to slip helplessly out of control. The tiger indeed gets you by the tail. That’s when grace comes in: you rise again to regain your strength, and once more, begin.

For though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again, but the wicked are brought down by calamity. Proverbs 24:16 New International Version

Biblical Meditation: 1 Timothy 4:8 For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. 

February 18 – Classy Conversations

229883-be-quick-to-hear-slow-to-speak-slow-to-anger

Just because something may be true doesn’t mean you go around blabbing it. And sometimes things appear one way when truly they are not that way at all. Those are the moments when you might be glad you don’t open your big mouth.

As a kid, I had a hard time knowing when to be quiet. Back then I was smaller than everybody else so I tried to make up for it with my mouth. One day I let my mouth get me into a good-size mess with some ornery older boys and they decided to teach me a lesson. Several of the neighborhood kids and I were all hanging out at the playground at the end of the block.

All of a sudden, I found myself peddling my “banana seat” bicycle toward my house as fast as I could go. The boys I had smarted off to were about 14 or so and I was only 11. All I could think about was beating them to my front door and diving in before they got a hold of my neck. But as I bolted into my driveway, my dad pulled in.

He surveyed the situation and gave those bullies a few stout words about picking on me. Boy, don’t you know my chest was sticking way out. I thought to myself, “Yeah, you’re not so tough now!” After daddy finished chastising the boys and they rode off, he quickly turned around and got right in the middle of me.

In no uncertain terms, he gave me the “how come” about my mouth. “Son, you better learn when to keep your mouth shut or one of these days somebody might help you shut it!”

I didn’t know it then, but having “class” about when to speak and when to listen is a Biblical principle. I often counsel friends and family members to take their matters to God in prayer first and ask Him for wisdom before they start sharing their ideas with others.

The primary reason I’ve made this a permanent practice in my life is because I’ve come to realize the hard way that words are like toothpaste; once they’re out of the tube, there’s no getting them back inside! So today I invite you to join me in allowing God to further develop discretion in our discussions. And maybe, that way, nobody else will have a chance to!

The Character First I WILL’s for Discretion:

I WILL choose my words carefully

I WILL practice good manners

I WILL listen to criticism

I WILL not make fun of others

I WILL turn down any invitation to do wrong

Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. Colossians 4:6 New International Version

 Biblical Meditation: James 1:19 My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry…

 

February 17 – You’ve Got a Friend

211082-you-ve-got-a-friend-in-me

Have you found yourself, lately, wondering who is really telling the truth? There seems to be more talking going on than ever before. More news, more talk shows, more magazines and all of them claim their information is true. But the sad reality is time has taught us to beware of what we hear in the media. So what do you do? How do you know which way to go? And how do you keep from feeling frustrated and confused? Is there a way to know the truth in the midst of deceptive messages?

Let me start by asking some key questions: Are you convinced in your heart that there is a God? Have you settled the matter in your heart that He indeed created the heavens and the earth (i.e. Genesis 1 in the Bible is true)? And do you believe that God sent His one and only Son into the world in order to save mankind (i.e. John 3:16-17)?

 If there are questions concerning any of these, you have a good place to start. Ask God if He really exists. Why not? If He’s God and He truly loves you, He won’t be offended in the least. If you are not settled on the accounts of creation, ask Him to help you clarify those issues. And if the whole “Jesus, the Son of God” thing messes with you and you’re not completely sure about it, ask God to shine some light on the answer for you. Until your heart is settled on those three questions, truth will forever be elusive.

And for those who say “yes, I am confident about all of those questions,” take a moment to re-read the focused verse at the beginning. Do you see the word Friend? That Friend is described as the Spirit of the Truth. When we received God’s Son, Jesus, as our Lord and Savior (believed in Him), He gave us a Friend. And that Friend is with you right now. But in order for Him to help you much, you have to give Him something with which to work.

Assumptions, theories, and intellectual ideas do nothing for Him. He deals with the Truth, the whole Truth and nothing but the Truth. And you ask, what is that? That is simply God’s Word, the Bible. As you feed on God’s Word, your Friend comes beside you and enables you to see the Truth in tangible ways. And the more you do that, the more the Truth begins to shape your thoughts, ideas, and actions. Then, when you hear someone talking about the economy or the state of the world, you don’t panic. You can rest knowing you have a reliable source, a Friend that will guide you into all Truth.

“I still have many things to tell you, but you can’t handle them now. But when the Friend comes, the Spirit of the Truth, he will take you by the hand and guide you into all the truth there is. He won’t draw attention to himself, but will make sense out of what is about to happen and, indeed, out of all that I have done and said. He will honor me; he will take from me and deliver it to you. Everything the Father has is also mine. That is why I’ve said, ‘He takes from me and delivers to you.’ ” John 16:12-15 The Message

Biblical Meditation: John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.