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.

 

January 10 – Nobody Wins

 

nickbrandtlionbeforestormii-sittingprofileMost of the adults I know who have children have at least one thing in common. They would rather hard times fall upon them instead of their children.

It breaks our hearts to see our little ones struggling with a cold or our older ones to facing a tough situation with friends. Likewise, any man worth his salt feels the same way about his wife. I don’t want to see her in need of anything.

But often we fail to equate those same intense feelings for our family’s welfare when selfishness knocks at the door. Every one of us is prone to give into selfish desires that can destroy the lives of the very people we love the most in this world.

I am convinced the governors and satraps who conspired to have Daniel killed never imagined the harm that could come to their families if the plan was unsuccessful. I mean, why would they? There were no records of anyone surviving in a den of lions!

Daniel had broken the law by praying to someone other than the king. But, in spite of the broken law, the motive of the governors’ hearts made them guilty of selfishness and pride. They were so focused on destroying Daniel; they couldn’t differentiate the forest from the trees. And lest we think ourselves much better, take a moment to reflect on some of your own story.

We have all been down the road of selfishness that leads to evil dealings. But, thank God, we don’t have to live there.

The main purpose in having a daily dialog with God is to avoid the plague of self. He alone puts life in its proper perspective and identifies the lurking lies of the heart that can get us into trouble. Outside of Him, there is no effective way to avoid selfishness; it’s instinctual.

My prayer for us all is that the testimony of the men in Daniel and the peril of their families will wake us up. May we find ourselves humbled by the fact that our own selfishness is sin and as long as we tolerate it, all that we hold dear is at risk.

 And the king gave the command and they brought those men who accused Daniel, and they cast them into the den of lions-them, their children, and their wives; and the lions overpowered them, and broke all their bones in pieces before they ever came to the bottom of the den. Daniel 6:24 NKJV

 Biblical Meditation: James 3:13-17

November 23-To Buf’ fet (buf-it) or to Buf fet’ (bu-fay): That is the Question!

I Corinthians 9:27

Therefore I do not run uncertainly (without definite aim). I do not box like one beating the air and striking without an adversary. But [like a boxer] I buffet my body [handle it roughly, discipline it by hardships] and subdue it, for fear that after proclaiming to others the Gospel and things pertaining to it, I myself should become unfit [not stand the test, be unapproved and rejected as a counterfeit]. Amplified

My daddy took me to my first “all–you-can-eat” restaurant when I was about 11. I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. It was breakfast, one of my very favorite meals. They had absolutely everything. Hot cakes, eggs anyway you wanted, sausage, bacon, hash browns, biscuits and gravy, everything. You can imagine what my plate looked like! This was not a morning to be eating oatmeal, if you know what I mean. This was the real deal. My daddy even let me have my own cup of coffee. By the time I was done, I was doing the Penguin shuffle! To say I overdid it was an understatement!

Over the years I’ve gotten better about moderation when I go to buffet- style restaurants, but I have to be intentional before I walk into the establishment or I will find myself going overboard. The problem isn’t the abundance of food at my disposal; it is my human tendency to get “just a little more.” Every person on the planet has this challenge in one area or another, because we are greedy and selfish by nature. You watch a couple of two-year-olds play together, it won’t be long before somebody’s crying about a toy they want and the other won’t give it back. Doesn’t matter that there are plenty of other toys to play with; no, they have got to have that one.

But here’s the deal, this word spelled “buffet” has another meaning. When you shift the accent it means “to deal harshly or to strike.” Every one of us has a continuing challenge when it comes to ourselves; we are going to either buf’ fet (restrain) or buf fet’ (indulge). As God’s master pieces, we have His Spirit living in us giving us the ability to know where we need to be aware. So, set your heart today on this nugget of I Corinthians 9:27. Let the Lord guide you as you train your “self.”

Lorenzo

 

November 17-Accustomed

Luke 2:41-43 Every year Jesus’ parent went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. When he was twelve years old, they went up to the Feast, according to the custom. After the Feast was over, while his parents were returning home the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it.  

Change can mess you up, if you let it. My oldest daughter loves to rearrange the kitchen and she does it with no warning. The first time she did it, I couldn’t find anything for days! Cups had changed places with bowls, pots and pans swapped space with the storing containers, and Lord knows where the silverware went. Up until that time, I thought of myself as a fairly flexible individual. In reality, I was no different than anybody else when it came to change. I believe it is just woven into the fabric of our humanity to dig ruts and camp out. It happens to us before we even know it.

Going to Jerusalem was a yearly thing for Mary and Joseph’s family and apparently quite a few people traveled with them from their home town of Nazareth. Jesus wasn’t on their minds as one of the youngsters who needed their attention. Needless to say, they were probably flabbergasted when they realized he was nowhere to be found. If you have ever misplaced a child, you are familiar with what they were going through! But add to the equation they had traveled a whole day home before they discovered he was gone!

What happened? How in the world do you leave your child somewhere and don’t miss them for a whole day? You become accustomed to the trip, the people, the event, and even the child. We do this all the time, everyday. Customs have their place, but in the midst of building our daily traditions, it is important to remember everyday is a new day. God is all about showing us something new right smack-dab in the middle of a routine we’ve done for years. So today, keep your eyes on Him and don’t take anything for granted, not even your own kitchen!

Lorenzo

Biblical Meditation: Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

November 13- Daddy to the Rescue

For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Colossians 1:13-14

My wife told me about a little boy who struggled when it came to paying attention. Although his parents would go over and over their expectations for his room, his toys, and his clothes, he had a hard time getting it. They tried everything to help him, and finally came to the realization their very smart and loving son just had difficulty with instructions. He required extra attention in this area.  As frustrating as this matter was for them, nothing would ever change their love for their son. Right around the same time, there was a neighborhood bully who liked to pick on the boy. One day the torment got so bad, the little guy screamed out, “DAD!” Well, before he could call again, his daddy was “Johnny-on-the-spot!“ The dad looked the bully square in the face and let him know he’d better never bother his son again. You can imagine what this did for the son’s confidence. It is interesting to me how the father didn’t bring up his son’s most recent struggle when the call for help came. No, because the struggle wasn’t a factor; love was! No matter what character flaws the son might have, he was still daddy’s boy! How true this is for each of us. Daddy-God loves us, bottom line. And He knows our flaws better than we do. But when we cry out for Him, He comes running to the rescue. He doesn’t look at our mistakes; He looks at His Fatherly Love.

Choose today to focus on the reality of the rescue. You are not alone in this world. Your Daddy is watching and waiting to hear from you!

Lorenzo

 

November 6- No Doubt About It

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 1 John 5:14 New International Version

I don’t know that I have ever seen a time when so many people seem to be second guessing themselves. Did I get the right college degree? Am I working for the right company? Do I have enough money tucked away? Did I marry the right person? The list goes on and on. Of course, questions arise as a part of life, but God has a plan that supersedes all wondering. And only through conversation with Him can you and I have the confidence that our plans will succeed, even when we fail along the way.

If you have been chugging away at life, giving it all you’ve got, and everything seems to be working against you (including the economy), I beg you to stop right now. Make sure there’s no one else in the room, and call a meeting, a God-meeting. Tell Him apparently there are some things you don’t know about how your life’s supposed to go and you would love some help. Be patient, He will answer you in time. And He will instill the confidence that only He can; assuring you that you are not alone and everything will work out just as He planned. No doubt about it!

Lorenzo

October 20- The Rock That Is Higher Than I

Psalms 31:1-3 I run to you, God; I run for dear life. Don’t let me down! Take me seriously this time! Get down on my level and listen. And please-no procrastination! Your granite cave a hiding place, your high cliff a place of safety. You’re my cave to hide in, my cliff to climb. Be my safe leader, be my true mountain guide.  

Have you ever got some really bad news? I mean really bad. Do you remember how that hopeless feeling tried to swallow you whole? You start to feel all alone and isolated. Then you get mad because it’s just not fair! “What did I do to deserve this? Yes, I know I have not been perfect, but who has?” If you have ever been on that mountain before, you can relate to the above verse. This is a desperate cry for help. There is nowhere else to turn but up. If God doesn’t come through, it’s all over. This plea is familiar to God. It does not catch Him by surprise in the least. He’s a parent, for crying out loud! How many times have you heard a distress signal from your kids? What they might think is eminent doom, you see as a teachable moment.

I recall the time I was rock climbing with a group of boys in the mountains. We had about 20 boys with us and I was one of the counselors. Our guides were certified, but we were all pretty efficient in rock climbing safety. But for some reason, I foolishly decided to try climbing without a rope. (This is still shocking to think about!) I didn’t want to influence the kids to follow my lead, so I snuck around the side of the mountain about 30 yards. It was a 40 foot climb and everything was going great for the first 20 feet. All of a sudden, there were no more places to grab. The next big rock was flatter than a pancake. After about 15 minutes at a total stand still, I began to panic. I couldn’t hold on any longer, so I braced myself for the endless fall. It would soon be over.

Right then, a rope from above hit me on the nose and I heard a voice say, “Connect this to your harness.” It was one of the guides who heard a noise and thought he’d check it out. He saved my life. Yes, I made a very poor choice. My heart appealed to God as I prepared for the worst. And right before the darkest moment, light broke through! He saw me and He knew what to do. Right now, you may feel like you are hanging by a thread and you could let go at any moment. Your situation may not even be the result of a bad decision. But even though you can’t see Him with your physical eyes, God is right there. He knows just what you need. Trust Him and let Him be your safe place.

Lorenzo

Biblical Meditation: Psalms 91:1 He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall remain stable and fixed under the shadow of the Almighty [Whose power no foe can withstand].