Crushed...for Purpose  

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When was the last time you considered being crushed? Was it as a result of a friend's action? Was it because you didn't get what you wanted? Or something in between? When we normally think of the word "crushed" it is normally a bad thing. However, let's think of how it can be for the positive. That brings us to this week's quote...

The heart, like the grape, is prone to delivering its harvest in the same moment it appears to be crushed. ~ Roger Houseden
Being crushed can be used for good. Think about these examples: Peanuts become peanut butter. Apples become apple sauce. Tomatoes become tomato sauce. Grapes become grape juice. Rock becomes concrete. Wheat becomes flour. All those secondary products become useful for something else.

As you are crushed in life, how will your heart create a secondary product that is just as good, if not better then what you were prior to being crushed? The unfortunate part is that you don't know what the product will be until it is crushed. We don't welcome the crushing, but we see what we can do after the crushing.

A crushed grape may look ruined, but rather is just being used for another purpose. A crushed spirit may seem ruined, but it can be used for another purpose, maybe greater than before!

This extra quote helps make the point...
"Pressed out of measure and pressed to all length;
Pressed so intensely it seems, beyond strength;
Pressed in the body and pressed in the soul,
Pressed in the mind till the dark surges roll.
Pressure by foes, and a pressure from friends.
Pressure on pressure, till life nearly ends.

"Pressed into knowing no helper but God;
Pressed into loving the staff and the rod.
Pressed into liberty where nothing clings;
Pressed into faith for impossible things.
Pressed into living a life in the Lord,
Pressed into living a Christ-life outpoured."
by L.B. Cowan

Have a fantastic rest of your week!

Reminding myself that I can be crushed and useful...Share/Bookmark

Frazzled or Focused?  

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Been so busy that it caused your mind to be frazzled instead of focused? Ironically, I was there on Sunday. It is funny how things can sometimes work out like that. It was a lesson for me, one I need often. How about you, can you relate?

The times that you were "frazzled" was it because of something you could have prevented? Late for something; could you have left earlier? Weak faith; could you have asked someone for help or to pray for you? Behind on a project; could you have started sooner? Job stress; could you have given it to God? Marriage problems; could you have talked it out? It seems that for just about every "frazzle" moment, there was a point prior that you could have done something to prevent or, at least, lessen the effect it had on your focus. Sunday, we looked at I Peter 1:13 and the phrase "sober minded". See if you've been getting a little "tipsy" with any of these situations...

  1. Taking the "drink" of self-righteousness can cause us to become very intoxicated. We become like the Pharisees and cannot see the error in our ways. If it is pointed out by others, we become defensive, much like a drunkard. "I'm not drunk" the drunkard says as he staggers about. The same goes for the those who like to point out the sins/errors and will not acknowledge their own. If you are prone to "put down" before you "praise", you may want to think about sobering up.
  2. Shooting up with sulk, lately? Felt like everyone's been against you? Doesn't someone "owe" you? Surely if someone doesn't see things your way, they've got to be wrong. Sulking allows Satan to be invited in to your mind. You start thinking that life would be better "if...". You may become short with others. Sometimes taking things out on others when the real problem is what you are "shooting up" with. If you have been shooting up lately, you may want to think about sobering up.
  3. Been taking too many whiffs of uncertainty to cause you to wobble in your faith? Has it caused you to lose your focus from seeking Him first? Have you kept your composure when someone wronged you? Have you told someone something about the "good news" or been too afraid? Have you had doubts about any part of your faith? Have you been "working" to make sure your salvation is secure instead of appreciating grace? If you have been inhaling these uncertainties, then you are likely wobbling. If you're faith is not giving you a steady step, you may want to think about getting some "fresh" air and sobering up.
We operate much better on a clear mind; resulting in better decision making abilities. We must make decisions all the time, regarding our spiritual walk. What do you need to do to sober up or stay sober? I hope any state of "drunkenness" you are/have been experiencing will not keep you from being/becoming "sober". God needs you to be clear headed to be able to have a firm faith and resist the temptations to "drink" that may come our way!

Striving to stay focused...Share/Bookmark

Venturing Out While Losing Sight  

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In Junior High I had an assignment in Art Class to recreate the line drawing (at right) of Igor Stravinsky, as originally drawn by Pablo Picasso. Forget the fact that it was a "famous" drawing; I was more concerned with doing the assignment! Not only were we to try to recreate it, the drawing was hung upside down and that was how we were to recreate the drawing. "Why is it upside down?" were the questions, followed by many groans and complaints.

Nevertheless, we started to tackle what seemed to be impossible, with our 4' X 4' sheets of paper before us. I drew some, erased a lot. I drew more, turning my paper around every so often to see how it was looking. This assignment took a few days to finish, but in the end I had impressed myself. That brings us to this week's quote...

One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time. ~ Andre Gide

At the beginning of the assignment I remember being very frustrated. Like anyone who is inexperienced in drawing, you want it to look "perfect" in the end. You try and try and try to make it look good. You are longing to stay close to the shore because that is where you feel safe. You don't want to venture out and just let yourself see what you might discover. Venturing out requires trust - in this case, in yourself and your abilities. The assignment was to teach us to draw what we see and not what we think we see. In other words, draw lines, not fingers, eyes, cuffs, etc.

Much the same is life. We like to stay in where we feel safe. We don't like to venture out. However, when you venture out you not only lose sight of the shore, you gain sight on something you haven't ever seen before.

So, what seems impossible for you? Making new friends? Losing weight? Learning a new hobby/skill? Sharing Jesus? Giving up a bad habit? Praying? Completing a degree? Forgiving? Reconciling a relationship?.....Go ahead, venture out. Don't look at what you think you see, obstacles, but look at what is actually present, opportunity. By the time the "assignment" is finished, you may impress yourself with the results!

Losing sight of the shore...Share/Bookmark

Making Preparation  

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Is there something that is on your "list" that you are preparing to do in the near future? A building project? A trip? A household chore? A speaking engagement? A ____ (you fill in the blank)? How are you preparing for it? Each one requires different types of preparedness.

Jesus asks us to be prepared for when he comes back. Jesus also challenges us to count the cost pertaining to the journey of following Him. Peter reminds us that we must get our minds ready for whatever comes our way so that we will be prepared to how we deal with the situation. Yesterday, we focused on the concept of "preparing our minds for action". Here are some applications to choose from from the lesson...

  1. Sample Prayer for the Unexpected: "Lord, Your ways are higher than my ways, and I don't know what will happen today, be it in the next few minutes or hours away. Regardless of what it is, I ask that you help me to see what You want me to see through it. Help me to be fully prepared."
  2. Sample Prayer for the Expected: "Father, I know that ____ is in the future. It is something that has been on my mind and I ask that You help me to use it to Your glory! I am Your instrument and I want to be used in the most effective way by You. Please guide me as I prepare for ____. Help me to be fully prepared."
  3. Plan, in advance, what may happen next. Whether you're at the store and the line is long, someone you know is on your nerves, your service is terrible at a restaurant, someone asks you about your faith (or contests your faith), or a host of other possible scenarios, decide how you would deal with them that would reflect and honor Christ the most.

As we understand that preparation means we must be active, may we be a people who commit to making sure we're doing all we can to be prepared for things in the future.

Preparing my mind for action...Share/Bookmark

Discovering a Surprise  

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In the school I went to the most, we had an indoor pool. It was an Olympic sized pool. This may not seem like much, but I lived in a town of about 3,000 people, and this was in 1982. Though I enjoyed being in a pool, I didn't really know how to swim. I was very scared and nervous when our PE class had swimming each quarter. However, through my time there, I not only became very comfortable with the water, I became a much more skilled swimmer. I would sometimes surprise myself with being able to make it to a different level or learn a different stroke. Life can often be a lot like my experiences of learning to swim...

One of the greatest discoveries a man makes, one of his great surprises, is to find he can do what he was afraid he couldn't do. ~ Henry Ford

Trying a new skill is not comfortable to most. You may feel like you are going to make a fool of yourself or afraid of hurting yourself. I've had lots of these types of learning situations - riding a bicycle, learning to snow ski, learning to do a forward flip, etc. All entailed many times of failure before you figure out the skill. Even after learning the skill, there are still moments of failing, but it doesn't stop one from going at it again. Also, once you learn the skills, it is very enjoyable to practice them, again and again.

The same goes with sharing Jesus. You are nervous because it is not something that you are accustomed to doing. You may also have a "one method" mindset that shackles your thinking from realizing you can share Jesus in any way that is natural to you. Regardless of what fear prevents you from sharing Him daily, may you be empowered to overcome that fear. Knowing that once you figure out what is natural to you, you will look forward to the next opportunity. Even if you "fail", you have learned the skill enough to know how enjoyable it is to keep trying!

So, say "Hi", ask "How's your day going?", tell someone, "I'm praying for you", ask "Are you afraid?", just listen, leave a good tip, pay someone a compliment, or any number of things that are natural to you that allows you to have an open door to share Jesus.

Looking forward to the next opportunity to use my skills...Share/Bookmark

Then, She Became a Mom  

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She always dreamed of becoming a mom. She played “Barbies” as a child, anticipating the time when she became the young woman Barbie represented. She took care of Cabbage Patch dolls like they were children of her own, looking forward to that special day - the one when she would have a real baby to feed, burp, nurture, change its diapers, etc.

As she matured into a teen, she was called on to take care of other people’s children. By the time she was a college student, she had developed a special knack for connecting with kids. She showed and taught them what it was like to own their own faith. Kids were drawn to her. They respected her. Adults admired her. She had a personality that people, young and old, were attracted to.

A few years later, she married. She cherished and adored her husband. Anticipating the day when they would become parents. That anticipation grew and grew, but as the months, then years, passed with no baby, questions were being raised. For example, “Why am I not able to have a baby?” was one such question. After several years of praying and hoping, the optimism had just about diminished.

Then, after several years of trying, praying, and hoping, a pregnancy test revealed “two lines”! “Could it be?” Finally, she found out what many other women get the chance to experience - the feeling of carrying a baby.

Through the next several weeks, she would praise God over and over, while praying for the safety and the health of the baby.

Then, she became a mom when Oliver came into her life. A beautiful, blue-eyed baby boy. The answer to her many prayers. She took to being a mother like she had already raised several other children. He is a gift from God, but more importantly, he was given a greater gift...being blessed to be raised by the mother who had waited for years for his arrival. All the waiting was worth it, and it couldn’t have happened to a more deserving woman other than my beautiful wife.

Happy Mother's Day to all!Share/Bookmark

Doing the Tough Jobs - With Enthusiasm  

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We all have those jobs we dread. Whether they are jobs that are around the house or at our workplace, we may hold off doing them until we absolutely have to or until someone else does them. Then there are the tough jobs, the ones that seem utterly impossible to accomplish. Sometimes we lump tough jobs in with dreaded jobs. However, they aren't always the case.

Think back to a group of men who were asked to feed all the people who came to the "revival". Jesus said that they were going to feed them. However, the disciples looked around and asked, "How?" Jesus took a boys small bit of food and made more food out of it than what you see at any restaurants buffet, at any given time. The feeding of 5,000 men (plus women and children) seemed impossible. Actually it was. But a miracle happened...which leads us to this week's quote...

When we accept tough jobs as a challenge and wade into them with joy and enthusiasm, miracles can happen. ~ Arland Gilbert

This may be hard to see sometimes because we are clouded by the toughness and overlooking the possibility. Maybe it is tough to get along with someone at work, your spouse, or other family member. Maybe it is tough to share the joy you have in your faith with others. No matter the situation, you look at it with this "we're-going-to-feed-all-these-people-how?" kind of attitude.

May you start looking at more tough jobs with envisioning the outcome instead of seeing it as it is before you tackle the issue. Remember, God makes miracles out of that which is mind-boggling.

Have a "joy and enthusiasm" filled week!

Anxious to see today's "miracle"...Share/Bookmark

Praising God - I Peter 1:3-9  

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Have you ever experienced a trip to the store and realized, after you came home, that you forgot to buy something you needed? The flaw in the situation was because you didn't put the item you needed, which you forgot, as a priority. To make sure you don't forget requires one of two things: putting the item on a list or establishing a habit of buying the important things.

The same principle works with praising God. Have you ever ended a prayer and realized you forgot to say much of anything that would be considered praise? You may have forgot to put it on your list, became so busy wanting to ask God other things you forgot to praise, or you didn't make it a priority. As we looked yesterday, Peter shows us that praising should be a priority in our lives. We have a merciful God, an undefiled inheritance, and serve an invisible, awesome God! These are reasons to praise. Here are some additional applications:

  1. Use one opportunity a day to say nothing but praises. It doesn't have to be an actual prayer, just a time when you praise. What all has God done for you today that you can reflect on to praise Him for?
  2. Thank God for your weaknesses...which allow you to "improve" on in the future and they keep you humble in the meantime.
  3. Think of an adjective to describe God and use it either to "shout out" to God or to describe God when you pray next.
  4. Reflect to what you appreciate about being a Christian...What makes that so appreciative? Tell God "Thanks" for it.
As much as we are allowed to ask God for things, we also should be remembering to praise Him for the different things He has done in our life and/or the lives of others.

May you have a week filled with praise!

God is Good...Share/Bookmark

Danger Ahead - Putting Them Behind  

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Do you think there is anyone in this world that could honestly say they are not afraid of anything? Common areas of fear are heights, public speaking, spiders, snakes, and drowning. What are you afraid of? I am a bit fearful of heights and any kind of death that involves suffering. However, as long as I'm afraid, the danger will always be there..

In this world there is always danger for those who are afraid of it. ~ George Bernard Shaw
The basic way of overcoming fear is to face your fears. So, as long as you do not do anything to conquer your fear, there will always be a danger looming in the midst. When it comes to being active in sharing our faith, we all have a certain amount of fears too. What fear(s) in this area do you have? The danger will always be there as long as you are afraid of it. Our challenge is to find ways that we are sharing Jesus and that comes so natural to us, that there is no longer any fear involved. When you do not have fear - you will go about it like crazy.

Think of it like riding a bike or swimming. Each ability had a sense of danger that came with it, but if/when you mastered it, you can be "crazy" with the talent. You may learn to do tricks on a bike (my best was riding without hands for several yards). You may learn how to do all kinds of specialty dives or hold your breath for long periods of time, with swimming (I never did anything more than a front flip).

Once you learn to look at opportunities in life as a chance to share instead of fear, you will go "crazy" with looking forward to each encounter. Don't be afraid, that involves danger, with sharing Jesus, there should not be any danger, just salvation!

Removing danger ~Share/Bookmark