January 22 – Ears to Hear

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Mr. Alexander wouldn’t let me off the hook. I had a habit of making excuses for my irresponsible actions.

I realize now that my behavior stemmed from a reluctance to obey authority. It wasn’t blaringly obvious, but it fueled my occasional tardiness and lack of excellence in the classroom.

When I would walk through the door to Mr. Alexander’s office, ready to give an array of excuses for being late, he would say, “Close the door and read the sign.” The sign on the back of the door read:

EXCUSES

Excuses are tools of incompetence

that build monuments of nothingness

Those who are good at excuses

are seldom good at anything else.  After having to read that sign in my teacher’s office more than a hundred times, I began to see some real change in my habits. I wasn’t “cured” overnight, but I did begin to take responsibility for my actions.

Mr. Alexander would say, “When you make excuses for poor behavior or for lack of obedience of a command, you are seeking to persuade the other party to be okay with your behavior and lack of consideration of their time. “ Wow.

Obedience is crucial in every arena of life.

It is one of the highest forms of responsible living. We all have a higher authority we must submit to, and ultimately, as a believer, God is that authority. But if we can’t obey those who are in natural authority over us, chances are we aren’t following God very well either.

Take time to do a self-examination of your attitude. You might even ask your spouse or a close friend to help you (if you are really brave). Are there areas in your life where you are making excuses for disobedient behavior?

If you find anything, don’t let shame beat you up. Just tell God you apologize and ask for His help. Start practicing by “letting your yes be yes and letting your no be no.” (Matthew 5:37) The following “I WILLS” from Character First help enforce an obedient attitude:

 I WILL obey my authorities immediately

I WILL have a cheerful attitude

I WILL complete all that I am expected to do

I WILL not complain

I WILL go the extra mile

When he gets them all out, he leads them and they follow because they are familiar with his voice. John 10:4 The Message

Biblical Meditation: John 15:14 You are my friends if you do what I command.

 

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January 16 – Law and Order

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The other day I was pulled over by a police officer as I traveled through a small town in Oklahoma. I rolled through a stop sign and by the time I realized what I had done, it was too late.

The kind officer stated to me the obvious and commenced to doing his job. Although I meant no harm and my actions were accidental, for all practical purposes, I had broken the law and thus warranted correction. That may sound a bit harsh, but in reality, law and order are the basic building blocks to everything that exists. And if they are not adhered to, chaos and confusion will destroy all that is good and right in the world.

God is the original law giver, so, His spoken words are literally ‘law in motion.’ And it is by that law all created things find their unique place and function in the grand scheme. This is insightful for all who desire to comprehend God’s way of establishing calm in the midst of chaos.

First, you have to accept the God-given right and responsibility to call forth law and order in a particular situation. At that point, don’t try to re-invent the wheel.

Take time to research laws God has already established. From Genesis to Deuteronomy, you will find all you would ever need to build a solid moral “right and wrong” compass. From there, order your steps accordingly. You may have to rename some things and get rid of others.

But whatever you do, make sure that your physical actions align with the laws you verbally legislate. And if you should ever find yourself floating through one of life’s stop signs like I did, refrain from the urge to complain. On the contrary, take time to thank the Good Lord for the reminder and make the needed adjustments, quickly, if possible!

 Then God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear;” and it was so. And God called the dry land Earth, and the gathering together of the waters He called Seas. And God saw that it was good. Genesis 1:9-10 NKJV

 Biblical Meditation: Isaiah 30:21 Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”January 

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

January 7 – Good Words (Jenny)

boise_valley_wheat_fieldLet me start by saying I don’t get a special letter every day, but I thought these words from a recent note from my husband were worth sharing:   You are truly God’s gift to me. Some days, you are the gentle soft touch that tells me I am loved and cherished. And some days, you are the burr under the saddle that tells me to kick it in gear, it’s time to go! But whatever the day and whatever the message, there is no other place I’d rather be than here doing life with you. You are my wife,  you are my friend.

With encouragement like that, I could climb the highest mountain! Yay!!! Through the process of time, we have lived and learned just a little. There’s been some good, bad, some ‘ugly’ we’d rather forget. We have learned how far gentle words can go. (And make no mistake; a ‘sharp tongue’ has often helped us fall flat on our faces!) No matter what situation we encounter, the tone of voice we choose and the emotions we put to use can make or break each moment of the day.

 In the New Testament, James goes into much detail about the power of the tongue. He really goes into specifics concerning the results of a tongue that’s out of control. I love to see the flip-side of consciously putting our tongues to good use, though. If the product of rough and callous words is unfavorable, how great can the results be when our words are kind?

 I grew up on a cattle and wheat farm. Everything I watched my daddy do involved a complete trust in reaping what he had sown. Our words are like that. The principle of “sowing and reaping” WILL work…for me, for you, for all of us. If you don’t give up, you’ll start to see wonderful results…one “good word” at a time!

A calm and undisturbed mind and heart are the life and health of the body, but envy, jealousy, and wrath are like rottenness of the bones. Proverbs 14:30 Message

 A gentle response defuses anger, but a sharp tongue kindles a temper-fire. Proverbs 15:1 Message

Biblical Meditation: James 3, Galatians 6:7-9

January 6 – Strange People

DSC_0539Little babies provoke people into grabbing them, even if it’s a child they don’t know.   When we had our first child, I really had a tough time with the ‘grabbers.’ I was not very fond of sharing my baby! I can only imagine what Mary and Joseph were going through when Simeon takes their baby out of their arms and begins to walk around with him! Even if he was saying a blessing over the boy, this still must have been a little bit hard to swallow.   If that wasn’t strange enough, a little lady in her nineties starts throwing her hands up and praising God, all the while telling everyone their child is going to ‘set them free!’ Now granted, with the angel visits and the sheepherders’ arrival, Mary and Joseph were probably not too taken aback. However, I don’t care who you are, these people were a little strange!

Take Anna, the ninety-one year old praising widow. For eighty-four years, she lived in the temple, night and day. That’s like camping out in one of the local congregations 24/7.   Not only that, but she was apparently known as a prophetess, and if you know anything about the Old Testament prophets like Samuel and Elijah, you can imagine her conversations were not “light and fluffy!” All of this, coupled with the fact that her diet consisted primarily of fasting and prayer.   Nonetheless, this strange woman’s story is highlighted in the best-selling book ever written. And not only that, for all of us who know that baby as Jesus, the Lord and Master of our souls, she is a witness.

This Anna brings to light one of my favorite definitions of the word “strange.”   In Webster’s 1828 Dictionary, “strange” can mean “foreign; belonging to another country.” So what does that tell you? Maybe all of us should “deluge” ourselves with the Master and His ways until others think we are from another planet!   Seriously, stop right now and thank God for all those strange people you’ve passed off as crazy, or just a little annoying. Who knows, God may have them on a special assignment to change your life.  

Anna the prophetess was also there, a daughter of Phanuel from the tribe of Asher, She was by now a very old woman. She had been married seven years and a widow for eighty-four. She never left the Temple area, worshiping night and day with her fastings and prayers. At the very time Simeon was praying she showed up, broke into an anthem of praise to God, and talked about the child to all who were waiting expectantly for the freeing of Jerusalem. Luke 2:36-38

Biblical Meditation: Luke 2 & 1 Peter 2:9

January 5 – Coming Through!

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I read a quote one day. “Remember: God sends children through you, not to you.” I remember thinking out loud, “Wow, that’s good!” It wasn’t until years later, when I was holding my own precious babies, that the quote really jarred me. All of a sudden, I felt out of control and powerless. Their destinies are in the hands of the One who sent them.

Dr. Luke’s historical account of the child who would one day be known as John the Baptist is quite insightful. What an entrance he made into the world! An angel pronounced his birth, a woman past the age of childbearing carried him, and a daddy who couldn’t speak declared his unexpected name.

So, you knew this baby was on his way to the top of his class and would surely be the next High Priest of Israel. On the contrary! The Bible says he lived in the desert. This great man was hidden from mainstream society most of his days. For all practical purposes, he was a social misfit; I mean the guy had a diet of grasshoppers and wild honey!

But, at the proper time, God brought his purpose to light. Everyone then and now can see and receive the precious Gift of God because he followed God’s plan for his life. Maybe you wonder if your “spirited child” will ever get it together. Be encouraged.

Our children are in His grasp. To Him, they are time capsules set to go off at the proper time. Indeed, they have landed on this planet through you, but always remember to Whom they ultimately belong!

 And the child grew and became strong in spirit, and he lived in the desert until he appeared publicly to Israel. Luke 1:80 NIV

 Biblical Meditation: Psalm 127

January 4 – What’s Your Name?

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I grew up in Midland, Texas. We moved away when I was 12, but it is still “back home” to me. If you went there and interviewed some of my old buddies, you wouldn’t find out much. This is not because they have been sworn to secrecy.

It’s because they know me by my nickname, “Jude.” My mom says that the old Beatles song, “Hey Jude,” described what life would be for me and those I encountered.  I would “take sad songs and make them better.”

 It wasn’t until we moved to Oklahoma that mom required me to start using my birth name. I will never forget that day as long as I live. I felt like I had put on shoes that weren’t mine.  To me, “Lorenzo” was my dad, not me.

Oh, how I struggled! Teachers would call roll and I wouldn’t even answer because I wasn’t accustomed to my real name. It wasn’t until I was in my twenties that I encountered the power of my identity. I was reading this passage in Luke around the Christmas holidays and there it was.

It jumped off the page. “And you are to give him the name John.” The next few verses described why his name had to be John. It was all about the purpose for which he was born. At that moment, I went and looked up the meaning of Lorenzo Leon.

The meaning of Lorenzo is “crowned” and Leon is “brave lion.” I have to tell you I laughed when I read that my name meant “crowned lion.” (I put my first and middle name’s meanings together.) I saw myself as anything but a lion, let alone a king. But that is right were God nailed me between the eyes.

God planned before the ages for me to bear that name for His purpose in the earth. And even though “Jude” had a place in my life, it did not adequately describe my destiny.

What’s your name? Find out the meaning and post it somewhere you will see it daily. Start calling yourself by the meaning. There is a great book I use that gives scripture connotations so I can quote God’s word over my name.

The book is called “The Name Book” by Dorothy Astoria. If you are anything like me, you will be overwhelmingly surprised at how insignificantly you’ve viewed your name and contribution in the sight of God.

God wants all of us to know He plans to use our name in the service of His Kingdom and we or no one else has a right to discount it. So, let Him unlock your name today and introduce you to the you He sees.

11 While Zechariah was in the sanctuary, an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the incense altar. 12 Zechariah was shaken and overwhelmed with fear when he saw him. 13 But the angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer. Your wife, Elizabeth, will give you a son, and you are to name him John. 14 You will have great joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great in the eyes of the Lord. He must never touch wine or other alcoholic drinks. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even before his birth. 16 And he will turn many Israelites to the Lord their God. 17 He will be a man with the spirit and power of Elijah. He will prepare the people for the coming of the Lord. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and he will cause those who are rebellious to accept the wisdom of the godly.” Luke 1:13-17 NLT

 Suggested Biblical Meditation: Luke 1