February 19 – Get Back Up Again

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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 17 – You’ve Got a Friend

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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.

January 25 – Fueled By Gratitude

 

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Take a moment and recall an event in your past that could have destroyed your life. Most likely you had some ownership in the matter, but found yourself out of control.   What a scary place to be!

One such occasion comes to mind for me. I was barely sixteen. It was the summer of ‘86 and my buddy Greg had just got his new wheels. His dad had restored a late model Mustang and it was “sweeter than candy.”

So on a Sunday evening after church Greg took me and two other friends joy-riding. After playing some video games we headed home. As we crossed over the overpass and approached the turn-on ramp Greg lost control of the car. Because of our excessive speed, the car went air-born, flipped, and rolled into oncoming traffic on I-35!

It happened around 8:00 pm and traffic was thick, but no one hit us. The three passengers (including me) came away from the wreck unhurt. But Greg went to the hospital that night, unconscious. He suffered several injuries to his neck and head but thankfully he survived the tragic event.

For all practical purposes, all four of us got a second chance on life. We didn’t know it then, but now it’s very evident that there are many people who would have been directly affected by our demise.

Now that’s quite a serious example, but that’s what gratefulness is really all about. It means always being ready to count your blessings. It’s recognizing that things could be a whole lot worse and making the very best of the life you have right now.

To drive this home, take a look at this idea from a God-perspective out of the Message Bible: We all did it, all of us doing what we felt like doing, when we felt like doing it, all of us in the same boat. It’s a wonder God didn’t lose his temper and do away with the whole lot of us. Instead, immense in mercy and with an incredible love, he embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ. He did all this on his own, with no help from us! Then he picked us up and set us down in highest heaven in company with Jesus, our Messiah.   Ephesians 2:3-6

 God is ultimately the One who is responsible for all the blessings we enjoy. So, our daily thanksgiving is a necessary part of healthy living. “Lord, thank you, thank you, thank you!”

January 8 – The Total Package

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I like a good fight. I didn’t say I like to fight, especially when it comes to getting hit! Because I grew up watching some of the greatest boxers in the world on Saturday afternoons, I have a great appreciation for the sport of boxing.

Some of my favorite fighters were “Marvelous” Marvin Hagler, “Sugar” Ray Leonard, and of course, Muhammad Ali. It was like watching a chess match between fists when these men went at it. Every boxer had his own “style” and was often quite successful when he would stick to his game plan.   I

’ll never forget the first time I saw Mike Tyson step into the ring. Wow! What a fighter he was. Not only did he have the raw talent, and the fighter’s instinct, but he was well-trained. His coach, Costamatto, saw his potential when he was a boy and began to groom him to be a champion.   Tyson had the jab, he had a rock-solid defense, he was in great shape, and most of all he had a crushing punch. He indeed had the total package. Unfortunately, he made foolish choices and lacked character, and today he’s often referred to as “the champion that could have been.”

In the above verses, Dr. Luke accounts that Jesus grew up with the real total package. In my home, this is the highest priority for my little champions. I want them to grow up in an atmosphere that promotes strong bodies – inside and out, spiritual wisdom, and revelation of the grace of God.   For all practical purposes, life is truly a fight and each of us enters the ring every day, whether we want to or not. I don’t know about you, but if I have to fight, I would rather win! And if that be the case, let God’s Word be your gym and His Spirit be your coach.

Every day, get dressed in His strength, put on His wisdom, and let Him robe you in His grace.   Never take your eyes off these three keys. Say them on the way to work, while you cook dinner, and before you go to bed. Then watch yourself start floating through trials “like a butterfly” and stinging temptations “like a bumble bee.” You can’t lose with God on your side, the Holy Spirit in your corner and Christ as your example. You’ve got the total package!   When Joseph and Mary finished everything required by God in the Law, they returned to Galilee and their own town, Nazareth. There the child grew strong in body and wise in spirit. And the grace of God was on him. Luke 2:39-40  

Biblical Meditation: 1 Timothy 6:12

January 2 – Waymaker God

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Sometime ago an old wise man told a story that touched me deeply. It literally changed my life. He said growing up as a country boy in the South, his family was poor. He was the oldest of several brothers and sisters and his daddy had passed away before he reached young adulthood.

He was a good-sized lad and could handle most of the “manual” tasks for his mama. So he planned on staying home with her after he graduated high school and working. But his wise mama had told him as far back as he could remember that God promised her he had a special plan for her son and He would make a way for her boy to go to college.

And although there were many great men in his day that made tremendous impact on him and his community who never had formal education, his mama was adamant God’s plan for him involved college.

So the day came. She loaded him on the greyhound bus and sent him on his way with his lunch sack in hand. He had no money. He knew the power of his mother’s faith. He had watched her go into the kitchen with just one chicken from the backyard and feed him and all his brothers and sisters, with leftovers to spare. But somehow, this was different.

He said when he got off the bus, all he knew to do was just go get in the enrollment line. Now he had been a good student in high school. He was at the top of his class and he had been accepted to this college. But now it was time to enroll and pay tuition. As the line got shorter and he found himself close to the registrar, he felt a tap on his shoulder.

The gentleman looked stern as he asked him his name. Startled and convinced the man had come to remove him from the line because he had figured out he had no money, he reluctantly stated his name.

The man told him to get out of line. As he prepared to protest and plead his case, the gentleman stopped him dead in his tracks. “Your tuition has been paid in full. And there is a work study job awaiting your arrival. So, get out of line and come with me.”

Just like that, God made a way out of no way. And fortunately, I’ve now lived long enough and had an ample amount of my own “by faith bus rides.” I can confirm the old man’s mama was ‘right on the money.’ God is a WAYMAKER!

Today, if you are dry, desperate, confused, frustrated, afraid, discouraged, or alone, the prophet Isaiah beautifully solidifies this promise about God as he so long ago assured his people that God would make a way. He doesn’t forget His precious ones. Ever!

Isaiah 43:18-20

18 “But forget all that—it is nothing compared to what I am going to do. 19 For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland. 20 The wild animals in the fields will thank me, the jackals and owls, too, for giving them water in the desert. Yes, I will make rivers in the dry wasteland so my chosen people can be refreshed. (NLT)

18 Do not [earnestly] remember the former things; neither consider the things of old. 19 Behold, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs forth; do you not perceive and know it and will you not give heed to it? I will even make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. 20 The beasts of the field honor Me, the jackals and the ostriches, because I give waters in the wilderness and rivers in the desert, to give drink to My people, My chosen, (AMP)

18 Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old. 19 Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert. 20 The beast of the field shall honour me, the dragons and the owls: because I give waters in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert, to give drink to my people, my chosen.

Context of Meditation: Isaiah 43:1-21

November 30-Bullies and Other Giants in the Land

2 Chronicles 20:2 The Message Bible Jehoshaphat received this intelligence report: “A huge force is on its way from beyond the Dead Sea to fight you. There’s no time to waste-they’re already at Hazazon Tamar, the oasis of En Gedi.”

I first knew of the fight with the Bully when I came to the spot my sister and I met to walk home together. My sister wasn’t there. But I looked to my left, over by the cedar trees, there she was…an enormously big girl was all up in her face. I knew my sis and I could tell she was terrified. If I didn’t do something quick, this mountain of a girl was going to squash her! Just then, I saw my sister’s purse on the ground where she had dropped it in the midst of all the drama. I came behind the giant swinging my sister’s purse like a sling shot. WHAM! I clocked the bully in the head, grabbed my sister’s arm, and we ran for dear life.

I don’t advocate violence, but what do you do when you’re faced with a fight and you are overpowered and outmanned? This is a picture of the above incident with King Jehoshaphat. He was minding his own business when some bullies decided they wanted to fight. Jehoshaphat wanted no part of it. As a matter of fact, he was afraid of the outcome. He knew he couldn’t win.   But unlike me at eight years old, Jehoshaphat turned to God for help (vs. 3). He also got others to pray with him. Bullies come in many forms and in this life there’s no way around them. For you, the issue might be gigantic, but it’s minuscule to God! So what if there are giants in the land! There are no giants too big for your God!

 

November 25- The “Something” He Wants

Don’t waste your time on useless work, mere busywork, the barren pursuits of darkness. Expose these things for the sham they are. It’s a scandal when people waste their lives on things they must do in the darkness where no one will see. Rip the cover off those frauds and see how attractive they look in the light of Christ. Ephesians 5:11-14 The Message Bible

 I have come to realize there are a whole lot of actions that are permissible for me. I can act on them and they aren’t necessarily wrong and won’t cause any major problems for anybody, so I tell myself. If you are in any way tempted by such human tendencies as I am, may I be a source of encouraging insight to you today. Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean it’s the “something” He wants you doing. Don’t allow your selfishness to pull the wool over your own eyes; every step is ordained, planned and orchestrated by the Author and Father of all Creation. There is no such thing as a self-made man or woman at the end of the day. All that we are belongs to Him and He has established some guidelines to help us decipher His will for today. If you have any desire to stand before Him on that “tallying-up” day with a clear conscience and a completed work order, you will have to spend some face time with Him now – day by day! So don’t waste your time in the dark alleys of “I know what’s best for me.” Get on your knees and report for duty with the Master Foreman and get to working in the Light.