February 16 – Commissioned to Go

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The other day I blew it. Jen and I were in the grocery store and we met a delightful fellow. We got to talking about football.   At one point in our lengthy conversation, I made a move toward a close so I could wrap up my shopping. And right then, Jen saw some folks she knew from college.

It was at that point, my new buddy followed me down a quiet aisle. He shared with me a personal issue he was dealing with and asked my opinion. As we talked I had an “unction” down on the inside to go a little deeper. The atmosphere was ripe for me to share with him God’s love for his situation.

There was a God-connection just waiting to be made. But because I never want to “witness” to people about my Lord and Savior without first establishing a relationship, I sometimes look up and find I have failed to take the initiative when the stage is set. I missed a golden moment to go further in blessing this new friend. These are the times when I thank God for His mercy and I dust myself off and prepare for the next opportunity.

Initiative is a beautiful trait. Every one of us is familiar with it in some capacity or another. But when it comes to spiritual growth and development, we need to be constantly encouraged to take the lead. I heard someone say, “Jesus has done His part on the cross. Now it’s time for us to do our part on the ground.”

There is a whole lot of truth to that. And since God knew we’d need all the help we could get, He gave his Rod (The Bible) and His Staff (The Holy Spirit) to guide and comfort us along the way (Psalms 23). When it comes to taking initiative, a college degree isn’t required, just time with the Father. And if you are like me and you recognize when you miss a cue or two, refrain from guilt and shame. Let the Rod and Staff work for you and you will be ready for the next go ‘round!

The Character First I WILL’s for Initiative:

I WILL do what is right before being told

I WILL not put off until tomorrow the things I can do today

I WILL contribute to the success of the whole team

I WILL be a part of the solution rather than the problem

I WILL look for ways to help others

Jesus, undeterred, went right ahead and gave his charge: “God authorized and commanded me to commission you: Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20 The Message Bible

 Biblical Meditation: John 21:17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.”

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                                                                                February 15 – Time Keeps On Ticking                             

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Each day I live I am so reminded of the preciousness of time. My kids are working on scrapbooks, and on a regular basis they show me pictures of days gone by when they were younger. Wow, I think to myself. Where did the time go? In my mind those days aren’t so far removed, but the photos tell a different story.

Whether I like it or not, time keeps on “ticking” and if I don’t manage my share of it, I’ll be the one taking the “licking.” I can’t count the times a wise soul over 70 has confessed to not making the most of every moment when they had the time and were physically able. What’s interesting is meeting older folks who began to view time as a “score card” early on in their life. They are as active now as they were 40 years ago. Why? How? I think they built a habit of time-management so they wouldn’t burn out.

Procrastination comes naturally for most of us. Many times early on in my life I would finish a project at the last minute and not think twice about it. But an intense desire to fulfill my God-given purpose has caused me to get His perspective on how to maximize each moment. And over the years I have found that this can only be accomplished when a person has an intense desire to get the most out of every minute.

Otherwise, human nature kicks in and we waste time and settle for mediocrity. Make no mistake about it, treating time as a resource and managing it takes effort just like anything else. But it is a commodity that grows in value year after year.

There is hardly anything that compares to being able to look back over a year and see that you were able to capture precious moments with your kids, go on dates with your spouse, consistently spend face-time with God, and give the ol’ body a daily workout. I am convinced, we all want to be resourceful, but life has a way of getting in the way…if we let it. Stop letting life steal your moments. It’s time to make your time your own!

Jenny 🙂

Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Ephesians 5:16 New Living Translation

 Biblical Meditation: Ecclesiastes 3:11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.

 

 

February 14 – A Lady Named Abigail

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I challenge you to read up on Abigail Adams. The wife of our second president, John Adams, Mrs. Adams has much to say to this present generation concerning our ability to control “self.” She was known for her ability to look a bad situation in the eye and say something good. One story I recently read told about her month-long voyage across the Atlantic Ocean to meet her husband and son following a seven-year separation.

The trip was long and grueling in tight quarters with few amenities. After weeks of sailing through storms and fighting seasickness, Mrs. Adams became the encourager of the passengers and crew alike. Instead of giving into her anger at losing even their bare necessities in the storm and the almost disgusting state of the inside of the ship, she decided to pick one project a day that would better their surroundings until the entire ship had been scrubbed from end to end.

After the arduous trip was over, Mrs. Adams still faced another test. Upon arriving in London, she soon found that her husband wasn’t even there, he was in Paris. Many encouraged her to hop on a ship to France. And she was torn with misery at the prospect of waiting several more weeks for her husband after such a long time.

But she finally decided to stay right where she was, according to the original plan her husband had made. What she did not know then was that Mr. Adams was already on his way to meet her. Acting impulsively would have only prolonged their lengthy separation!

I think of Abigail Adams sometimes, in the day-to-day moments of needing self-control. I heard one woman speaking about this subject and I loved her take on it. She said, “Our response is usually that we CAN’T stop yelling, or cussing, or speeding, or whatever. But the truth is that we CAN!

Just watch a woman who’s been yelling at everyone open her front door to the Kirby salesman. Guess what? Her face totally changes, and she greets him with a smile as she says, “Come on in!”

Isn’t that a funny picture? You bet we can exhibit self-control when we WANT TO. I challenge you to read Galatians 5 when you have some time. Paul says that one of the fruits of the Spirit is self-control.

This means that you have the ability to control “self” inside of you, right now, if you have given your life over to the Lord. Self-control is internal. It’s all about putting the right things inside of your “toothpaste tube” so when pressure comes, the right things will come out!

Spend some time today in God’s Word, ask the Lord to “set a watch over your mouth,” and practice moment by moment putting “self” in its place. You’ll be glad you did!

The Character First I WILL’s for Self-Control:

I WILL not act impulsively

I WILL not equate desires with rights

I WILL set my own limits

I WILL see anger as a sign that something is wrong

I WILL walk away from things that aren’t right

Jenny 🙂

The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear-minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:7-8 NIV

Biblical Meditation: Psalms 141:3 Set a guard over my mouth, O LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips.

February 13 – Hurry Up and Wait

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 As a kid, I had “ants in my pants” and I needed to dance, often. But loving parents, loyal leaders and a gracious God helped me to cultivate some crucial characteristics for living. And with them have come a few coined sayings, such as: “No Freedom Without A Fight,” “Difficulty Develops Discipline,” and “If You Plan To Stand Forever, It Won’t Take Very Long.”

 These all remind me that without patience, nothing of intrinsic value ever gets accomplished. You and I are tempted to think we know a little because we’ve experienced a thing or two along the way. But the truth is we haven’t learned much of anything at all and we still need the good Lord’s wisdom and guidance.

I don’t believe God goes around breaking His children’s ankles to teach them to obey, but I have gained a few knots on this hard head of mine when I’ve chosen to take Frank Sinatra’s advice and “do it my way.”

Everyone should read up on the first followers of Jesus. They were just like us; they were working with the brains they were given. And boy, did they misunderstand the Master plan from time to time.

But the more they walked, the more He taught; until the day came that He left them in charge of His earthly ministry. Why? Because they finally learned all there was to know? No! Because, in my opinion, they knew enough to be patient and wait (“Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.” Acts 1:4, emphasis mine).

Read the rest of Acts and you will see how much patience would be needed for these forerunners to focus on the promised day. Again, we are no different. If it was mandatory then, it’s mandatory now.

If you have refused to pray for patience in an effort to avoid any unnecessary tests, I do have some news for you. The test will come anyway. You’ll just end up taking the make-up test because your patience is underdeveloped.

The tests are to prove what you have learned thus far. So, don’t run from the help (The test, I mean!). Pray and embrace all that God wants to give you.

The Character First  I WILL’s for Patience:

I WILL change the things I can and accept the things I can’t

I WILL keep trying until I succeed

I WILL make the most of my spare time

I WILL not interrupt

I WILL not complain if I don’t get my way

There’s more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit! Romans 5:3-5 The Message Bible

 Biblical Meditation: Philippians 4:4-7 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

 

February 12 – I’m Not Ok When You’re Not Ok

 

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One summer I was chosen to lead about 20 young men, ages 12-14, on a “Wilderness Expedition” with three other counselors. The trip was a blast. We hiked, we rock- climbed, we bathed in the river, we slept outside, we cooked our food over an open flame, I mean, what more could you ask for, right?

There was just one smudge of a problem on the otherwise perfect outdoor canvas. The “whiner-boy!” This fellow took issue with every single detail of the trip. The hike was too long, the river was too cold, the rock climbing hurt his hands, and the food was horrible. By the end of the first of the three day journey, every counselor and camper was ready to blindfold him and help him get lost in the forest!

But on the third day, everything changed. Our last and final “wild trial” was an underground tunnel appropriately nicknamed the “birth canal.”

This thing stretched for thirty yards and you had to pass through flat on your stomach and fully extended. You crawled with your fingers and toes! It was so dark, you had to keep talking and touching the person’s feet in front of you so you wouldn’t lose your bearings.

Needless to say, it was an intense three hours. But when the whiner boy started trying to wiggle out of going through, a couple of the tough boys got in his face in a very firm but brotherly way. They refused to go without him. Those boys put whiney-britches between them and praised and pushed him every step of the way.

Before it was all done, that kid cried and cussed, but they didn’t give up on him. The rest of us were so encouraged and humbled by the action of these two boys, we all forgot about our own struggle and began to encourage our buddy in the middle. And I will never forget the look on the young man’s face when we all emerged from the canal covered in dirt from head to toe.

Without saying a word, everybody knew he would forever be different. He had experienced something that each and every one of us so desperately need. He realized that he mattered. Not just to his mom or dad, but to a group of people he barely knew.

His success and his failure in that canal affected us all. That young man tasted the privilege of responsibility. True responsibility’s core is made of care and concern for others. And in the eyes of God, that’s what living is all about (“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself.” Luke 10:26-28).

Don’t be easily frustrated by the whiners today. And don’t make excuses for them either. Just take a stand as you can, right by them. And walk a mile or two. You and God will be glad you did!

If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself. You might be needing forgiveness before the day’s out. Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ’s law. If you think you are too good for that, you are badly deceived. Galatians 6:2 The Message

 Biblical Meditation: Matthew 5:40-42 And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

 

February 11 – Soul Virtue

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Growing up, I had some favorite television programs I hardly ever missed because they kept me “in stitches.” But a funny thing happened after we started having kids. Those shows weren’t quite as funny as they were when I was young. I had never recognized their off-handed immoral flavor before. I had changed. I began looking with a different set of eyes. Daddy eyes.

God used this television lesson years ago to awaken me to the necessity of guarding the gates of my soul. Every person has five physical senses (taste, touch, smell, hear, see) that serve as their “information receptors.”

Whatever comes through our senses goes directly to the station where data is stored and processed (the Mind.) From there, the Mind shares it with the Emotions to see what kind of vibes they pick up. And then, the Will issues its “yes or no” vote on the matter. There you have the soul in motion.

In my estimation, the greatest need today is not one of spiritual revival, but of soul renewal. In a lot of ways, this is harder. Spiritual rebirth comes by way of a free gift given by God. Through the precious blood of Jesus, the penalty of sin is washed away for all who believe (Romans 10:9-10, Colossians 1:21-22).

But if you and I are going to see any changes in our attitude or appetites, we will have to cultivate the changes ourselves. This is very similar to our physical health. If I want to avoid the “dunlap” disease (my gut “done lapped” over my pants), I have got to pay strict attention to my shape and my plate.

This is why a couple of congregational worship meetings during the week can only be the beginning of our training. They serve only as a catalyst to what is required daily. Your Soul (Mind, Will and Emotions) is like your belly, it’s always craving something to eat. If you do not master what it takes in, its cravings will master you. And if it does not get a daily dose of vitamin “W” (The Word of God) it can’t properly assess what it needs.

If your relationship with God means anything to you, ask yourself this question: Am I feeding my soul enough of God’s Word daily? Don’t get religious. You don’t have to hide out in the farthest corner of your house all day long feverishly reciting scripture.

Just make God’s Word the standard that governs all other thoughts and ideas presented to your soul. If you will, your soul will begin to take on a virtue you’ve never known before. And like a well-conditioned body, it will bring encouragement and motivation to others without saying a word.

 The Character First I WILL’s for Virtue:

I WILL do what is right and encourage others to do the same.

I WILL guard my eyes, ears, words, and thoughts.

I WILL learn to stand alone.

I WILL abstain from anything which might damage or pollute my mind or body.

I WILL treat others as I would want them to treat me.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:1-2 New International Version

 My son, pay attention to what I say; listen closely to my words. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to a man’s whole body. Biblical Meditation: Proverbs 4:20-22

 

 

 

 

February 10 – True, Through and Through

 

 

Have you ever heard, “A hard head makes a soft behind?” Well, I must say, I am all too familiar with this phrase. It simply refers to those individuals who tend to make things hard on themselves by not heeding the warnings of the wise.

That was the case when I decided to buy a pricey gold necklace for a young lady I admired in high school. At best, she considered me a friend, but I, however, thought she was pretty special. My mother warned that the necklace was a bad “token of our friendship” idea.

But my mind was made up. Bad move! By the time that deal was over, I was so soured on jewelry that my wife, years later, almost didn’t get a wedding band (a little exaggeration, but not much).

Yet over the years and with the birth of each child, my love for Jennifer caused me to search for something, something that would express what she truly is to my life. It was then I came across the Character First lesson on sincerity and the attributes of the pearl.

Previously, I thought diamonds were by far more superior. But as my sincerity story described the difference between cultured and genuine pearls, I knew I had found my something. Although the cultured pearl comes from an oyster, just like a genuine one, at its core it is really a ready-made glass bead.

On the contrary, the genuine pearl is the result of a tiny piece of sand or debris getting trapped in a very sensitive spot when an oyster opens up. And in an effort to ease the pain, the oyster coats the particle with endless amounts of a tear-like liquid called nacre.

 And over time those many layers of tears form something very precious. That’s my Jennifer! Time and tests only seem to make her shine brighter because her heart is true.

But ponder this. God thinks the same about each one of us. We are His strand of pearls. He paid a premium price for us; the precious blood of His Son, Jesus. And there is nothing in this world that He won’t do for us. So, the least we can do is draw near to Him with a Teachable, Respectful, Undaunted, Eager heart.

Having a true heart doesn’t mean you are “mistake-free.” It simply means you are real before God. It means that you are “all in.” No games. And that guarantees you will miss it from time to time. But that’s what sets you apart. Because you love Him enough to continue to pursue, His love will cover your edges and make you true, through and through.

The Character First Five I WILL’s for Sincerity:

I WILL be all that I can be.

I WILL take responsibility for my own actions.

I WILL respect others’ opinions.

I WILL always mean what I say.

I WILL not take advantage of other people.

Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. Hebrews 10:22 KJV

Biblical Meditation: Matthew 13:45 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls.