March 1 – Get on the Train and Enjoy the Ride

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Who made you? Who knows you, I mean really knows you? Listen to King David pour out his heart to God in Psalms 139:

God, investigate my life; get all the facts firsthand. I’m an open book to you; even from a distance, you know what I’m thinking. You know when I leave and when I get back; I’m never out of your sight. You know everything I’m going to say before I start the first sentence. I look behind me and you’re there, then up ahead and you’re there, too—  your reassuring presence, coming and going. This is too much, too wonderful— I can’t take it all in! Is there any place I can go to avoid your Spirit? To be out of your sight?  If I climb to the sky, you’re there! If I go underground, you’re there! If I flew on morning’s wings to the far western horizon, You’d find me in a minute— you’re already there waiting! Then I said to myself, “Oh, he even sees me in the dark! At night I’m immersed in the light!” It’s a fact: darkness isn’t dark to you; night and day, darkness and light, they’re all the same to you. Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;  you formed me in my mother’s womb. I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking! Body and soul, I am marvelously made! I worship in adoration—what a creation! You know me inside and out, you know every bone in my body; You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was sculpted from nothing into something. Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth; all the stages of my life were spread out before you, The days of my life all prepared before I’d even lived one day.

God knows each of us better than we know ourselves. If the truth be known, He longs to introduce us to our real life (Colossians 3:1-4). Therefore, our lives are designed to simply be a journey with Daddy God guiding us from one place to the next. My prayer today for all of us is one derived from the statements of a dear brother in Christ; may we choose to get on the train and enjoy the ride! There is no need to worry about a thing because our heavenly Father has paid the tab and He is well able to handle any obstructions amidst the train tracks of life. Happy Travels!

Therefore I tell you, stop being perpetually uneasy (anxious and worried) about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink; or about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life greater [in quality] than food, and the body [far above and more excellent] than clothing? Matthew 6:25

 

 

February 25 – He Sees and Knows

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I can be guilty of having temper tantrums from time to time. And although I am not proud of it, they tend to encroach upon me just about the time things are going pretty good. Sometimes, all Hades breaks loose and I find myself questioning God as to “why,” but not so much anymore. I’ve lived long enough to know it’s usually darkest before the dawn and if you just hold on awhile, things will get brighter.

What tends to trigger the oversized baby in me is a sense of not being understood by those closest to me. Here’s an example: I have a certain way I fold my t-shirts. Not a big deal, normally, but definitely a preference.

On most occasions I am just grateful when Jen or one of the children goes the extra mile and does mine. But there are those rare moments when that little voice says, “If they really cared about you, they would know how you like your shirts folded.” If I don’t nip it in the bud, that kind of thinking will hit me in the backside before I know it, leaving a whole lot of precious people feeling unappreciated. I know, you can’t relate…

The fact of the matter is every human being can and will feel that no one truly understands them at times. And guess what? They are right! We are so unique and our ways are very individual. God made us that way on purpose. One, a puzzle won’t come together if all the pieces are just alike. And two, if we had someone on planet earth that knew us “picture-perfectly,” we would never need to seek the face of our Creator. He alone knows and sees who we are and where we are headed. All others are His instruments to help get us there.

I love how Nathanael said to Jesus, “How do You know me?” Jesus wasted no time on frivolous introductions, He spoke in a way the man would know He knew him; but how? And here’s the nugget I encourage you to ponder with me and my family today: Jesus stares into Nathanael’s eyes and He says, “I see you! And I know you better than anyone, including yourself. Don’t worry; what I see in you doesn’t change what I think about you. So, if you feel the need to have a pity party, no problem; fits don’t faze Me. I’ll still be around when the smoke clears. Then, I will remind you that in Me alone lies perfection, not people.” He sees!

Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward Him, and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit!” Nathanael said to Him, “How do You know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you. John 1:47-48 NKJV

 Biblical Meditation: Psalms 139:1-4 O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD. (Check out all of Psalm 139!)

 

February 24 – Show Me

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Most of the people you know are “show me” kind of people. That simply means they prefer actions over words. In my estimation, it is pretty normal and I don’t think that God is too terribly offended by that sort of initial reaction. Now the desired goal, as we grow up spiritually, is to walk more by faith than we do by sight. But we shouldn’t expect to jump out of a boat and start walking on the water overnight, if you know what I mean.

There is a whole lot more to it than that. When we hang around the Gospel account of Jesus’ time on earth, we will find that most of those who were ministered to and mentored by Him were “show me” kind of people until they grew to trust that His words could back up His ways.

That brings us to Nathanael, one of my favorite Bible guys. I see him as an honest, genuine, hardworking individual who was all about the truth. Depending on where you look, the name “Nathanael/Nathaniel” can mean, “Gift of God” or “No guile, no deceit, no falsehood, no duplicity!” And since I have a Nathaniel for a son, I reckon the Bible Nathanael was a little bit of both of these two traits: gifted and brutally honest.

That’s important to me when I survey his response to Philip. When Philip came to tell him that they had located the One the Law of Moses spoke of, he wasn’t being disrespectful with his question, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”

It’s possible that he was saying, “I don’t remember the law saying anything about the Messiah coming out of Nazareth, of all places!” But regardless, I don’t see him or those like him as rude and faithless because they require some, “show” before they say that they “know” all is well and good. And the way Philip responds is perfect when dealing with a Nathanael. He didn’t try to debate or further explain; he simply said, “Come and see.”

This is good wisdom for me today. Because there are still times I forget.   With my own son, I can find myself a tad frustrated when he unconsciously challenges me to show him instead of just pointing it out to him. And sadly, there have been more times than I care to mention that he has come to me and asked why my actions failed to line up with what I had previously told him. You and I are surrounded by Nathanael’s. And if we will let them, they will help us always have something to show for what we think we know!

Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” And Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” John 1:45-46 NKJV

 Biblical Meditation: Proverbs 16:13  Kings take pleasure in honest lips; they value a man who speaks the truth

February 21 – On Time

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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

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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.

 

January 30 – The “God-Kind” of Nature

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Not long ago, my son showed me where a mother ringneck dove had built a nest in a tree close to our home.

She was so beautifully camouflaged by the branches and leaves I could barely see her. There was something very “Genesis” about this momma and her nest. Nobody had to tell her what to do; instinctively she found the proper location, at the proper time, to do what she was created to do.

In my estimation, that’s so simple, we almost need help to misunderstand it. The activities of the birds and the fish are seasonal reminders to those who choose to pay attention. A Creator crafted all that exists to function according to supernatural specifics.

Many of us call that “nature.” And if that Creator thought enough of doves and dolphins to give them built-in “honing devices” to operate in certain seasons, surely He has not forgotten us! On the contrary, there is more than ample evidence surrounding us that is literally shouting His love for us.

So the next time you take note of the many minnows teaming in the streams, or the robins singing their morning song, remember…you, too, were created to do that thing only you can do. It’s your “God-kind” of nature.

 Then God said, “Let the waters abound with an abundance of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the face of the firmament of the heavens.” So God created great sea creatures and every living thing that moves, with which the waters abounded, according to their kind, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. Genesis 1:20-21 NKJV

Biblical Meditation: Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the thoughts and plans that I have for you, says the Lord, thoughts and plans for welfare and peace and not for evil, to give you hope in your final outcome.

 

January 26 – Stay Hungry

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We squint at absolute truth. It is so pure; our minds struggle to contain it.

Truth, real pure truth, does not rely on reason. It doesn’t have to make sense. It is the truth whether it is ever accepted by anyone. Truth need not jockey for a place. Because the truth is the truth, places and people will ultimately be examined under its lens.

When Christ told Nicodemus the truth about the Son of Man (Himself), Nicodemus had no file for it. “The Son of Man must be lifted up; that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” But His statement was the truth, nonetheless.

And this Nicodemus, a great teacher of the Jewish people, pondered and wondered on this truth for many mornings and evenings. Maybe he never truly understood it, but yet he continued to stand under the truth-laden messages of Christ until Christ was “lifted up” on the cross. Perhaps then he caught a glimpse. Who knows?

My prayer for us all is that we may so hunger for truth that we become willing to ignore the abundance of what we do know for a sliver of what we cannot comprehend. Because when this occurs, our pursuit of God will take orbit.

And just as I envision it might have been for Nicodemus, Christ will gently develop room within us to contain what often cannot be explained, in order that it might remain. Oh, that we may hunger!

Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. John 3:14-15

Biblical Meditation: Psalm 119:160 The sum of Your word is truth [the total of the full meaning of all Your individual precepts]; and every one of Your righteous decrees endures forever.