February 18 – Classy Conversations

229883-be-quick-to-hear-slow-to-speak-slow-to-anger

Just because something may be true doesn’t mean you go around blabbing it. And sometimes things appear one way when truly they are not that way at all. Those are the moments when you might be glad you don’t open your big mouth.

As a kid, I had a hard time knowing when to be quiet. Back then I was smaller than everybody else so I tried to make up for it with my mouth. One day I let my mouth get me into a good-size mess with some ornery older boys and they decided to teach me a lesson. Several of the neighborhood kids and I were all hanging out at the playground at the end of the block.

All of a sudden, I found myself peddling my “banana seat” bicycle toward my house as fast as I could go. The boys I had smarted off to were about 14 or so and I was only 11. All I could think about was beating them to my front door and diving in before they got a hold of my neck. But as I bolted into my driveway, my dad pulled in.

He surveyed the situation and gave those bullies a few stout words about picking on me. Boy, don’t you know my chest was sticking way out. I thought to myself, “Yeah, you’re not so tough now!” After daddy finished chastising the boys and they rode off, he quickly turned around and got right in the middle of me.

In no uncertain terms, he gave me the “how come” about my mouth. “Son, you better learn when to keep your mouth shut or one of these days somebody might help you shut it!”

I didn’t know it then, but having “class” about when to speak and when to listen is a Biblical principle. I often counsel friends and family members to take their matters to God in prayer first and ask Him for wisdom before they start sharing their ideas with others.

The primary reason I’ve made this a permanent practice in my life is because I’ve come to realize the hard way that words are like toothpaste; once they’re out of the tube, there’s no getting them back inside! So today I invite you to join me in allowing God to further develop discretion in our discussions. And maybe, that way, nobody else will have a chance to!

The Character First I WILL’s for Discretion:

I WILL choose my words carefully

I WILL practice good manners

I WILL listen to criticism

I WILL not make fun of others

I WILL turn down any invitation to do wrong

Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. Colossians 4:6 New International Version

 Biblical Meditation: James 1:19 My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry…

 

Advertisements

February 17 – You’ve Got a Friend

211082-you-ve-got-a-friend-in-me

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.

February 16 – Commissioned to Go

initiative

The other day I blew it. Jen and I were in the grocery store and we met a delightful fellow. We got to talking about football.   At one point in our lengthy conversation, I made a move toward a close so I could wrap up my shopping. And right then, Jen saw some folks she knew from college.

It was at that point, my new buddy followed me down a quiet aisle. He shared with me a personal issue he was dealing with and asked my opinion. As we talked I had an “unction” down on the inside to go a little deeper. The atmosphere was ripe for me to share with him God’s love for his situation.

There was a God-connection just waiting to be made. But because I never want to “witness” to people about my Lord and Savior without first establishing a relationship, I sometimes look up and find I have failed to take the initiative when the stage is set. I missed a golden moment to go further in blessing this new friend. These are the times when I thank God for His mercy and I dust myself off and prepare for the next opportunity.

Initiative is a beautiful trait. Every one of us is familiar with it in some capacity or another. But when it comes to spiritual growth and development, we need to be constantly encouraged to take the lead. I heard someone say, “Jesus has done His part on the cross. Now it’s time for us to do our part on the ground.”

There is a whole lot of truth to that. And since God knew we’d need all the help we could get, He gave his Rod (The Bible) and His Staff (The Holy Spirit) to guide and comfort us along the way (Psalms 23). When it comes to taking initiative, a college degree isn’t required, just time with the Father. And if you are like me and you recognize when you miss a cue or two, refrain from guilt and shame. Let the Rod and Staff work for you and you will be ready for the next go ‘round!

The Character First I WILL’s for Initiative:

I WILL do what is right before being told

I WILL not put off until tomorrow the things I can do today

I WILL contribute to the success of the whole team

I WILL be a part of the solution rather than the problem

I WILL look for ways to help others

Jesus, undeterred, went right ahead and gave his charge: “God authorized and commanded me to commission you: Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20 The Message Bible

 Biblical Meditation: John 21:17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.”

                                                                                February 15 – Time Keeps On Ticking                             

6d988b820b2762a02f661ffe8c4bbf88

Each day I live I am so reminded of the preciousness of time. My kids are working on scrapbooks, and on a regular basis they show me pictures of days gone by when they were younger. Wow, I think to myself. Where did the time go? In my mind those days aren’t so far removed, but the photos tell a different story.

Whether I like it or not, time keeps on “ticking” and if I don’t manage my share of it, I’ll be the one taking the “licking.” I can’t count the times a wise soul over 70 has confessed to not making the most of every moment when they had the time and were physically able. What’s interesting is meeting older folks who began to view time as a “score card” early on in their life. They are as active now as they were 40 years ago. Why? How? I think they built a habit of time-management so they wouldn’t burn out.

Procrastination comes naturally for most of us. Many times early on in my life I would finish a project at the last minute and not think twice about it. But an intense desire to fulfill my God-given purpose has caused me to get His perspective on how to maximize each moment. And over the years I have found that this can only be accomplished when a person has an intense desire to get the most out of every minute.

Otherwise, human nature kicks in and we waste time and settle for mediocrity. Make no mistake about it, treating time as a resource and managing it takes effort just like anything else. But it is a commodity that grows in value year after year.

There is hardly anything that compares to being able to look back over a year and see that you were able to capture precious moments with your kids, go on dates with your spouse, consistently spend face-time with God, and give the ol’ body a daily workout. I am convinced, we all want to be resourceful, but life has a way of getting in the way…if we let it. Stop letting life steal your moments. It’s time to make your time your own!

Jenny 🙂

Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Ephesians 5:16 New Living Translation

 Biblical Meditation: Ecclesiastes 3:11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.

 

 

February 14 – A Lady Named Abigail

fruit-of-self-control

I challenge you to read up on Abigail Adams. The wife of our second president, John Adams, Mrs. Adams has much to say to this present generation concerning our ability to control “self.” She was known for her ability to look a bad situation in the eye and say something good. One story I recently read told about her month-long voyage across the Atlantic Ocean to meet her husband and son following a seven-year separation.

The trip was long and grueling in tight quarters with few amenities. After weeks of sailing through storms and fighting seasickness, Mrs. Adams became the encourager of the passengers and crew alike. Instead of giving into her anger at losing even their bare necessities in the storm and the almost disgusting state of the inside of the ship, she decided to pick one project a day that would better their surroundings until the entire ship had been scrubbed from end to end.

After the arduous trip was over, Mrs. Adams still faced another test. Upon arriving in London, she soon found that her husband wasn’t even there, he was in Paris. Many encouraged her to hop on a ship to France. And she was torn with misery at the prospect of waiting several more weeks for her husband after such a long time.

But she finally decided to stay right where she was, according to the original plan her husband had made. What she did not know then was that Mr. Adams was already on his way to meet her. Acting impulsively would have only prolonged their lengthy separation!

I think of Abigail Adams sometimes, in the day-to-day moments of needing self-control. I heard one woman speaking about this subject and I loved her take on it. She said, “Our response is usually that we CAN’T stop yelling, or cussing, or speeding, or whatever. But the truth is that we CAN!

Just watch a woman who’s been yelling at everyone open her front door to the Kirby salesman. Guess what? Her face totally changes, and she greets him with a smile as she says, “Come on in!”

Isn’t that a funny picture? You bet we can exhibit self-control when we WANT TO. I challenge you to read Galatians 5 when you have some time. Paul says that one of the fruits of the Spirit is self-control.

This means that you have the ability to control “self” inside of you, right now, if you have given your life over to the Lord. Self-control is internal. It’s all about putting the right things inside of your “toothpaste tube” so when pressure comes, the right things will come out!

Spend some time today in God’s Word, ask the Lord to “set a watch over your mouth,” and practice moment by moment putting “self” in its place. You’ll be glad you did!

The Character First I WILL’s for Self-Control:

I WILL not act impulsively

I WILL not equate desires with rights

I WILL set my own limits

I WILL see anger as a sign that something is wrong

I WILL walk away from things that aren’t right

Jenny 🙂

The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear-minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:7-8 NIV

Biblical Meditation: Psalms 141:3 Set a guard over my mouth, O LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips.

February 13 – Hurry Up and Wait

patience-is-a-virtue

 As a kid, I had “ants in my pants” and I needed to dance, often. But loving parents, loyal leaders and a gracious God helped me to cultivate some crucial characteristics for living. And with them have come a few coined sayings, such as: “No Freedom Without A Fight,” “Difficulty Develops Discipline,” and “If You Plan To Stand Forever, It Won’t Take Very Long.”

 These all remind me that without patience, nothing of intrinsic value ever gets accomplished. You and I are tempted to think we know a little because we’ve experienced a thing or two along the way. But the truth is we haven’t learned much of anything at all and we still need the good Lord’s wisdom and guidance.

I don’t believe God goes around breaking His children’s ankles to teach them to obey, but I have gained a few knots on this hard head of mine when I’ve chosen to take Frank Sinatra’s advice and “do it my way.”

Everyone should read up on the first followers of Jesus. They were just like us; they were working with the brains they were given. And boy, did they misunderstand the Master plan from time to time.

But the more they walked, the more He taught; until the day came that He left them in charge of His earthly ministry. Why? Because they finally learned all there was to know? No! Because, in my opinion, they knew enough to be patient and wait (“Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.” Acts 1:4, emphasis mine).

Read the rest of Acts and you will see how much patience would be needed for these forerunners to focus on the promised day. Again, we are no different. If it was mandatory then, it’s mandatory now.

If you have refused to pray for patience in an effort to avoid any unnecessary tests, I do have some news for you. The test will come anyway. You’ll just end up taking the make-up test because your patience is underdeveloped.

The tests are to prove what you have learned thus far. So, don’t run from the help (The test, I mean!). Pray and embrace all that God wants to give you.

The Character First  I WILL’s for Patience:

I WILL change the things I can and accept the things I can’t

I WILL keep trying until I succeed

I WILL make the most of my spare time

I WILL not interrupt

I WILL not complain if I don’t get my way

There’s more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit! Romans 5:3-5 The Message Bible

 Biblical Meditation: Philippians 4:4-7 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

 

February 12 – I’m Not Ok When You’re Not Ok

 

13costarica07017

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.