November 2- Fruit-full

Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. John 15:4 The Message Bible

 Independence is a phony thing. When you and I were little tots, we clambered and crawled toward the day of self-support; “soon I will do it myself.” And now, anywhere we want to go and most of what we want to do, we can accomplish without anyone’s help. Right? Today I am reminded of a dear older gentleman who taught me a thing or two about this subject. He was close to 90 when we met. I would go see him periodically on Wednesday afternoons for about 3 years straight. And every visit, I would learn something new about him, about Oklahoma, or about the world in general. There seemed to be no place or subject he wasn’t well-versed in. In my estimation, he had accomplished more in his lifetime than anyone I had ever known. And yet, he was wise enough to know at the twilight of his years, he couldn’t do some of the things he used to on his own. So, he had caregivers who assisted him with most of his day-to-day chores. No, he wasn’t too proud. When he was traveling the world, fighting the war, and surviving the Dust Bowl, he couldn’t do it on his own then, either. He learned his success and survival was directly connected to his relationship with the Lord. To the naked eye, this man was as independent as they come. But to the open heart and listening ear, he was the epitome of a “fruit-full” fellow well-connected to the vine. May we all learn and follow!

Lorenzo

October 23- A Wise Father Knows Best

Genesis 18:24 So Moses heeded the voice of his father-in-law and did all that he had said.

Nothing delights the heart of a parent more than the advancement and success of their children. And the same holds true, in most cases, when it comes to the spouses of the children as well. Every caring parent longs to share any wisdom and insight they may have to increase the peace and prosperity of their children, by blood or by marriage.

Jethro is a wonderful example, in my estimation, of a father-in-law who was cognizant of the delicate balance of respect for the gifts and goals of a child and the responsibility of a parent to give guidance even when it might be hard to take. Moses spent the better part of forty years serving Jethro after he ran away from Egypt. During that time, he married Zipporah, one of Jethro’s daughters, and helped Jethro tend his land and flocks. Needless to say, the two had a lot of history together. So when the day came that God called Moses to leave his father-in-law, Jethro knew. And Jethro was as eager as anyone to see what God would do through the hands of his Moses. In the process of time, God did indeed deliver all of the Israelite people through Moses from the wicked Pharaoh. Later on, Jethro was invaluable in steering Moses to be wiser in his delegation of responsibility after he saw some of the cracks in the foundation of Moses’ great mission. He counseled Moses to appoint able men to share the management of the million-plus people. Jethro’s counsel was well-received by Moses, evidence of their close relationship over time and mutual respect for each other.

I feel that this sort of parent and sibling relationship is a great need today. How we need fathers who can speak wisdom and encouragement into the lives of their sons, by birth or by law. And how we need young men who choose to honor, respect, and covet the counsel of their elders. God’s divine fingerprints are all over the father and son, parent and child relationship. Wise is the one who heeds and receives.

Lorenzo

Biblical Meditation: Deuteronomy 5:16 Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God has commanded you, so that you may live long and that it may go well with you in the land the LORD your God is giving you.

October 21- Will The Real Judge Stand Up?

Colossians 2:16 Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.

 I was 19 years old when God began to deal with me about ministry. When I was a kid, I admired pastors. But as I grew up, a couple of unfortunate experiences left me feeling let down when it came to preachers and their occupation. In a way, this was good because I began to realize that these men and women are human. They are subject to error just like everyone else. But I also began to see something else. I was responsible. See, like a lot of people, I subconsciously put the weight of my spiritual growth and development on the back of the preacher. I began to realize “all God’s children are ministers!” Over the years, I have become more convinced of this fact. And if there was ever a time for the people of God to step up to the plate and take responsibility for knowing God and His Word for themselves, that time is now.

Until the day I leave this planet, I will advocate that every believer is a part of Christ’s Body, the Church, and thus is responsible to know Him, His Way, and His Word well. That does not excuse us from congregating with other believers on a regular basis (i.e. going to church on Sunday, Wednesday, Thursday, whenever). But it also does not excuse us from turning our home, workplace, school, and neighborhood into a place for His Presence. Wherever you and I are present, He is present. And to the degree we are aware of His presence is the degree in which we will participate with Him in ministering to others.

God is your judge. And He has judged you “not guilty.” He has judged you “blessed.” He has judged you His. So, by all means, get knee-deep in the middle of receiving that judgment. And I can guarantee, it will give you a measuring stick for what others think you should and shouldn’t do.

 Colossians 2:20-23 Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.

October 19- God’s Right Hand Man

I Samuel 3:12-13 As Samuel grew up, the Lord was with him, and everything Samuel said proved to be reliable. And all Israel, from Dan in the north to Beersheba in the south, knew that Samuel was confirmed as a prophet of the Lord.

God wants to be our source. He wants to be our salvation. It is not considered irresponsible to Him when we live our lives in utter dependence on His guidance and direction. As a matter of fact, this sort of life alone brings joy to His heart. And when God gets happy, look out! Heaven comes down and earth and all its woes are changed in a moment. Samuel, the last and arguably greatest Judge of ancient Israel, lived this way.

In the days of Moses, hundreds of years before Samuel was born, God expressed His plan to forever be the people’s protection as they journeyed to the land of promise. There job was to simply obey His basic commands, i.e., respect Him as Holy Father and God. The goal was for Israel to never need a king to rule over them like the other nations. God would be their king. Unfortunately, human tendency prevailed over time and God’s people wavered time and again. And during those times, when they would cry out, He would answer their cry by way of a helper known as a judge.

The purpose of the judges was to lead the people back to God and His original plan, but often that was not the case. Many of them were plagued with personal character defects and these flaws impeded their ability to effectively govern. Then along comes Hannah’s miracle, Samuel. Dedicated to the service of God before birth, this man of God served faithfully all the days of his life. During some of the darkest days in the land (The death of Eli the Judge and High Priest and his sons, the capture of the Ark of The Covenant, and relentless persecution from the Philistines), his faith and dedication became the rock of safety for His people. And because his devotion had stood the test of time, he was able to get the people to lay down their evil ways and turn wholly to God. As a result, God routed all their enemies and restored peace and prosperity in the land (I Samuel 7). God is truly the Master of “the turn around.” It matters not how bad things get, if anyone will rehearse His promises, He will reverse their problems. And if He did it for Samuel and his generation, He can and will do it for you and me!

 Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

 

March 20 – Inebriated

It is not for kings, Lemuel— it is not for kings to drink wine, not for rulers to crave beer,  lest they drink and forget what has been decreed, and deprive all the oppressed of their rights. Proverbs 31:4-5 NIV

People have been abusing “strong drink” forever…that’s no new thing. And many a mother has begged her son not to fall prey to the sway of the bubbly brew or the obnoxious concoctions of the bar tender.

Not because they want to steal their fun and prohibit a good time. On the contrary. They have witnessed firsthand how one beer turns into twelve and one margarita lands daddy in jail. It happens.

And although this proverb is written from the perspective of a king leading a nation, my take on it today is every parent, every brother or sister out there is potentially leading their own nation. Whether we like it or not, we are making an impact on those who come after us.

In moderation is the motto of most sound wisdom. But let someone besides yourself make that call for you if you are serious about not falling victim to an alcoholic addiction. Unless mom or wife is struggling with strong drink themselves, they will be your best bet for the brutal truth. Because they want you well and here for the duration.

You and I have an important part to play in this story. But under the influence, we can’t and won’t play to our highest potential.

Lorenzo

March 19 – Tap Out

Do not spend your strength on women, your vigor on those who ruin kings. Proverbs 31:3 NIV

The term Mixed Martial Arts did not exist 25 years ago. But today, many around the world know those words to mean a skilled fighter in a varied assortment of ancient fighting disciplines.

And now days, there are sporting venues that pay guys and gals “skilled” in MMA big time dollars to showcase their talent. With the rise of the MMA movement, the words “tap out” have become infamous.

Stay with me, I’m going somewhere! “Tap out” is what a fighter is persuaded to do when they find themselves in a submission hold. Many times, their refusal to “tap out” could lead to them being rendered unconscious or severely injured. Sounds barbaric?

Here’s a thought instigated by a king’s mother striving to prepare him for the challenges he would face that might prove fatal: Don’t dissipate your virility on fortune-hunting women, promiscuous women who shipwreck leaders (MSG). So, in other words, tap outs have been around a very long time.

And don’t think for a minute it’s a one-sided affair. Just because this advice was to a son, many beautiful daughters’ hopes and dreams have been severely altered by a teenage tap out event.

Wisdom is wisdom. And no matter our age, these words still resonate. May the temptation of momentary pleasure not put an unsuspecting choke-hold on our otherwise fruitful lives and render us unconscious or tapped out!

March 5 – Don’t Mind If I Do!

“There are three things that are never satisfied, four that never say, ‘Enough!’ the grave, the barren womb, land, which is never satisfied with water, and fire, which never says, ‘Enough!’” Proverbs 30:15b-16 NIV

Old Bud Searcy was all about helping the women and children while the menfolk were away…helping them right out of a meal!

In the beloved Disney classic, Old Yeller (originally in print by the same name), one of the only characters one would dare not “take a liking” to was Mr. Searcy. This was basically because instead of taking care of those in need, he helped himself (at their expense.)

Even as a little kid, I knew old Mr. Searcy was a bad egg. He made for good comedy, only because we all know a “Mr. Searcy”! But, at the same time, it makes a case worth noting…

To him who is eager for a handout seldom finds value in a hand up. Therefore, the word “enough” will be strangely absent from his verbal repertoire.

Try as you may, life is not complete without the never enoughs. And from time to time, a meal on their behalf isn’t going to break ya. But remember, the Searcys do well to bump up against some, “yes you can” every now and again!

Lorenzo

March 2 – Try Me

Every word of God is tried and purified; He is a shield to those who trust and take refuge in Him. Proverbs 30:5 AMP

I have problems with this proverbial statement. I’m not proud of it and wish I could honestly say, “I have tried and tested every word God’s written in the Bible and they have all proved true…for me.”

As a matter of fact, many of the “words” I have tried didn’t work out quite like I thought they were prescribed to work.

For instance, “give and it shall be given back…a good measure, pressed down and running over (Luke 6:38) shall men given unto your bosom.”

And, “No weapon formed against you shall prosper…and every tongue that rises up against you in judgment (Isaiah 54:17) shall be shown to be in the wrong.”

Although, I will admit, there are many events in my life that are undeniably awesome and “other worldly.” At the same time, there are basic needs and necessities that were met with anything but “awesome” and I’ve wondered… “did I miss something?”

What I have found, over time, to be a solid rock to stand on is the fact that something pure or tried reflects pressure, heat, and intensity. And with all sincerity, I lack in all three. I am guilty of giving up before I get the test results back.

I hope for you, this proverb is easy and you can emphatically say, “Yes!” “Amen!” But if that’s not the case and you find yourself in the same boat I’m in, be encouraged.

Because even if you and I don’t know that every word of God’s is tried and tested and is absolutely true…He does.

And that works for me.

Lorenzo

February 12 – Radio

A gang of cynics can upset a whole city; a group of sages can calm everyone down. Proverbs 29:8

As a father, it’s my job to look out for my brood. And for that, I admit, at times I “miss the forest for the trees.”

A touching movie came out a few years ago about a mentally challenged young man who impacted his community…forever.

Based on true events, “Radio” captured the struggle of a community of moms and dads trying desperately to understand the head football coach’s infatuation with a disabled twenty-something young man taking high school classes and disrupting the athletic program.

Their counsel and advice was legitimate, reasonable, and quite understandable. But Coach Jones answered them like a true sage:

I know some of you don’t know or don’t care about all that Radio’s learned over these past few months. But truth is, we’re not the ones who’ve been teachin’ Radio. Radio is the one who’s been teachin’ us. ‘Cause the way he treats us all the time is the way we wish we treated each other even part of the time. Look, I know somethin’s gotta happen here. I know some changes gotta be made. And I know I can’t let what happened last season happen again. So I’ve decided to step down as Head Football Coach.

Needless to say, this young man, not so young anymore (68), and his story has touched the hearts of many. Had it not been for a few sages along the way to issue calm, cool instruction, we may have never got to hear about…the Radio.

Lorenzo

February 4 – “That’s a Lovely Dress You’re Wearing . . . “

Whoever rebukes a person will in the end gain favor rather than one who has a flattering tongue. Proverbs 28:23

“That’s a lovely dress you’re wearing, Mrs. Cleaver.” Oh, Eddie Haskell always had something nice and kind to say for the adult population. But all the while, he was up to no good.

Leave it to Beaver is a TV land icon. Though set in the 50’s and aired in black and white much of the time, many of its ideologies shaped our culture.

Most of what I remember about the show promoted wholesome behavior and responsible conduct.

But it was old Eddie Haskell that you loved to hate. His flatttery was so annoying. He never called anything straight. Anything he said or did had to do with getting his way or pulling the wool over somebody’s eyes. And most of the time, when it came time to pay the piper, somebody else was paying Eddie’s bill.

Most of us don’t struggle to that extent. But, if we are honest, flattery comes a lot easier to most of us than a rebuke.

I don’t suggest we go around being “brutally honest” to everyone we meet. However, there are many times situations arise that call for us to issue a firm word or two on behalf of a friend or loved one. And if we are in the custom of playing the flatterer, we will miss the moment by a mile.

Lest this proverbial pearl comes across as if I was solid and firm-footed like old Wally Clever, I admit . . . God has worked long and hard on my “Eddie Haskell tendencies.”