Obstacle vs. Opportunity  

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For many, during the holiday season, presents obstacles. Some would be categorized under financial. Buying or the desire to buy gifts for others becomes rough, due to limitations.

However, there are other obstacles that may come about. Relationships, job, weather, etc. may bring about issues that financial cannot even fix. But what do you do with obstacles, do you allow them to become opportunities? That brings us to this week's quote...

"What is the difference between an obstacle and an opportunity? Our attitude toward it. Every opportunity has a difficulty, and every difficulty has an opportunity." ~ J. Sidlow Baxter
Whether life is in the holiday mode or just going from day-to-day, obstacles present opportunities. Where are the opportunities? Right there! We must open our eyes to see them. The opportunity in a financial situation may not be to cause you to be better off but to learn to do something better in the future.

There are opportunities all around you. Opportunities to smile during a busy holiday season. Opportunities to be patient in a long line. Opportunities to show your faith to those who do not know Christ.

Make the the most opportunities this holiday season! Now it's your turn...how do you feel about the quote?
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Christmas Down and Dirty: Dirty Laundry  

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One of the many reasons I love to stay in a hotel is for the fresh, clean towels one can have each day. Part of the reason for that is that I really like a totally dry towel. Having any sort of moisture in a towel just takes away some of the feeling of cleanliness.

Does anyone share in my preference?

Each person starts off clean. There are some who feel that we start off sinful, but each person is responsible for their own sin (see Ezekiel 18:20, for example). Though we are born into a sinful world, but we are not born sinful.

With that, we start off clean, like the towel. Then, as soon as it is used, it is no longer clean. It is soiled and must be cleaned to be at the point it started. So too, you, were once clean and became dirty at the point when sin came into your life. One side point, I think that there is a distinguishable difference in "sin" and a "mistake" when it comes to a "point" when we become "dirty" - but that's for another time.

Sunday, we looked at Romans 3:23 & 6:23a and Colossians 2:13-15 discussing "Dirty Laundry" in our "Christmas Down and Dirty" holiday sermon series. Here are some ways of application to choose from to use this week...
  • See the Past ~ Acknowledging where you've been in the past (or present for some) and realizing you were/are unworthy of being able to commune with God. Even if you have the luxury of having that past as wiped clean, acknowledging it is important to know where you have come or will come.
  • Clean, Not Just Smelling Good ~ I remember the first few Febreeze commercials that talked about taking the odor out of clothes or other porous materials. Febreeze may take the odor out of clothes or upholstery, but does not cause it to be clean. Whether one is spraying Febreeze on your soul may make it smell better, but it doesn't make it clean. We must realize there is only one way to make ourselves smelling good and clean!
  • Stay Clean! ~ When you have an item you greatly value, you will most likely want to keep it clean. Even if it may get dirty, you will want to make it clean, again. Again, if it becomes dirty another time, the point of the item is to stay clean. With that said, as our soul started off clean, then became dirty we should value our (presumed) cleanliness to keep it that way, even if it has been soiled once, twice, or a few times.
Our laundry is bound to become dirty. From spilling of food, dirt, or some other means. Our spiritual side became dirty, but the fact that we can now be clean. Thank goodness for Jesus to come "down" to a "dirty" earth for our dirty souls to become clean. What an awesome opportunity!

Now it's your turn...What do you appreciate most about Christ coming down to clean us up?
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Time Spent Worrying  

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I have wasted a lot of my life worrying. Another way of phrasing it is that I have lost a lot of my life worrying. There are a lot of minutes or days that could have been spent more wisely if worry would not have been present.

Some worries were brought on by myself (i.e. procrastination) where as other moments were not (weather, bad news). Either way it has caused me to lose time that will never be gained back. However, worry for any reason causes one to focus on themselves and their desires too much.

Worrying often points back to how "I" will be able to accomplish something. Some things may be valid, within this context, but there are a lot of situations in which worrying does nothing to help the situation, but God does! That brings us to this week's quote...

Often times worrying is trying to figure out what to do to save yourself rather than trusting in God for deliverance. ~ J. Meyer
How much time have you wasted in worry? Probably more than you should have. How many of those times of worry did you gain anything? Probably not many.

As you can see there is a lot of truth found in the quote. With life situations that are basically "out of your hands" you should be trusting God He will take care and accept the outcome. It is probably easier said than done.

Now it's your turn...How does the verse impact you?
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You Have Value  

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Criticizing oneself is a habit that most everyone is guilty of. "I don't look good in ____" or "I'm no good at ____" or "I stunk at ____" are something people have said of themselves at one one point or another, in one form or another.

It is easy to look at yourself and see all the flaws. You know yourself better than just about anyone. You know what you're not good at, as well as, what you are good at. However, living in a society of achievement, we don't want to just be better than the worst. We want to be higher than that, but we rarely see ourselves as that high aspect. That brings us to this week's quote...

Too many people overvalue what they are not and undervalue what they are. ~ Malcom Forbes
We must understand that we are of great value, practically priceless. It doesn't matter how old you are or how many "bad" things you've done in life, you are of great value. Embrace that! Enjoy that!

Don't put the value in what you are NOT, value what you are and go with that...let it take you places!

Now it's your turn, what is one of your best features? Personality or physical or ____...
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Christmas Down and Dirty: "The Time Has Come"  

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Deadlines can be very stressful. It could be a deadline for work or school or life. Projects or budget proposals can become stressful for an employee. Papers or tests can become stressful for students. Bill paying or taking time for appointments can become stressful in life.

I do not like tests, in school. For that, I am thankful that I am not in school. It really centers on those tests I didn't feel I was quite prepared for. The times I would cram and study and try to remember. Sometimes hoping to have a bit of extra time to study before the test - in all actuality, just putting it off. But, inevitably, the time had to come when I needed to take the exam.

For most everything there is a time which must come. That same principle impacted our the coming of Jesus. Which brings us to discuss this week's lesson from the "Christmas Down and Dirty" series. Here are some applications to choose from to use this week...

  • The Time Has Come ~ Imagine living in a time where Jesus had not come yet. Do you think you'd have doom as your thought for yourself? You could do all the ceremonial washings you want, but without a cleansing of the conscience, you'd be worried (or I would). The fact that Jesus has come and we get to live on this side of the cross, we can revel and be thankful in that. Appreciate that!
  • Getting Dirty ~ My mind goes to a scene in the movie "Gladiator" where the main character is in the ring and the emperor is in the stands watching. The gladiator is dirty, where the others are clean. Imagine if we were to look up at Jesus like that, not knowing what it was like to be in the ring. Fortunately, Jesus is in the ring, right there with us and fighting alongside of us. He's come down to be in the fight with us. What a great feeling!
  • Left Home ~ Going off to college was quite the experience for me. It was not that far away from home, but just far enough away to be "on my own." However, I had to leave some comforts. I had to manage money, make decisions, do my laundry, etc. all things that were not at the caliber, if existent, at home. Christ left home to come to earth. Leaving lots of comforts for this dirty earth. May we appreciate what He was willing to do for us!
What an indescribable blessing to have Jesus, the perfect Son of God, come to this earth for you and I. May it cause us to revel even more in His choice to be the sacrifice for our sins.

As you go into this holiday season, what do you appreciate most about Him?
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Fall: Fall With Thanksgiving  

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What are some things you are thankful for this year? Some would say family, faith, job, friends, health and home. What else are you thankful that you have? What about eyesight, sanity, knowledge, any material blessings, experience, life-lessons, etc.

It is easy to get wrapped up in the things we have and this time of year seems to bring about the thankfulness in all of us.

I just sold something on eBay and checked to see if I had feedback yet. I did. It was nice to see the appreciation coming through in the feedback. If the customer had not ever left feedback, I'd begin to wonder if they'd received the package and if they liked their purchase. Since they had left feedback, I now know.

That brings me to the point of thinking that God, as much as He loves us, must really enjoy hearing our "thanks" expressed to Him. What do you think?

Sunday we looked at Psalm 95 as our inspiration for the last in the "Fall" series as we "fall with thanksgiving." Here are some applications to choose from to use this week...

  • Fall ~ This week would be a good time to do something out of the ordinary and take time to pray on your knees. Don't forget to thank God a lot before you ask for things!
  • With ~ Don't do it alone. As you are praising God, whether it is in your prayers or singing a song, have someone join in with you - family, spouse, friends, etc. Do it with someone!
  • Thanksgiving ~ There are simply a lot of things to be thankful for. Maybe your life is going downhill or is "in the toilet." Those are difficult times to see the good. Regardless, challenge yourself to try to find at least 10 positive things in your life to appreciate or be thankful for this week!
One of my favorite things is to sit down at Thanksgiving with my family and to say the things that we are thankful for. It is neat to hear everyone's responses.

May you have a blessed Thanksgiving!

Now it's your turn...what is something you are thankful for? Even something "unusual"...
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Change Happens  

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I am young enough that my first computer wasn't purchased until the late 1990s. The internet was in full swing by then. I remember a commercial that was being played around then that showed a screen on the computer "You've reached the end of the internet." I think it is amazing the good that is out there on the internet, even back then.

That first computer was a 4.3 GB hard drive. My second was 12 GB and was a laptop. My third was a desktop and was 120 GB. Now, I've seen computers that are 1 TB (one terabyte - 1000 GB). Things have really changed in the past 14 years!

I remember forgetting our directions to go on a trip during this same time frame. I didn't take my atlas because I thought we had directions. Long story short, we got lost. If we would have had a navigation tool, like a GPS we would have had no problem making it to our destination. Times have changed! This brings us to this week's quote...
Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future. ~ John Fitzgerald Kennedy
Think about all the things that have changed since John F. Kennedy was around? Technology and industry are ever changing. The Apple company introduced "apps" a few years ago with the infamous phrase "There's an app for that." Now apps are all over...many for free and in additional platforms (Android, Blackberry, etc)!

The big key is to understand that things are going to change and there is nothing we can do about it. However, if we concentrate on the past or present, we will miss out on an exciting future.

Don't get left behind!

Now it's your turn...what is one of your favorite modern-day inventions or concepts that you may think "how did I ever live without it?"
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FALL: Love Mercifully  

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How deep does your love go? You may say that it depends on the person. I think we are all at that point. However, isn't it great that God didn't have that same philosophy? To love mankind didn't "depend on the person." In a world full of "who you know" then it is nice to have a God that loves us all evenly and sent His son for everyone.

Imagine if our love from God was based on a point system or we were placed on tiers. The stress that would cause may be too much for some to handle. I know I'd struggle. But oftentimes, we treat others as if they were on a point system or how close they are to us, right?

Look across some of the people you know...wouldn't you do "more" for some than you would for someone else? It seems natural to do that, though it may not be correct. Sunday, we looked at the Parable of the Good Samaritan and how the person who received the parable was instructed to "love mercifully." As we reflect on that, here are some applications to choose from to use...
  • Finding a Loophole ~ Sometimes employees or students will fulfill a requirement but only do what is required of them, nothing more. Of course, in some cases doing more will not get you further, but not all things are tangible that may be doing more. When you are asked to do something, are you ever tempted to just do the minimum? Have you ever "looked the other way" at something that needs done? May we not not look for a loophole in our quest to fulfill any requirement laid before us.
  • Look for Opportunities ~ To turn a blind eye to help someone is a way of missing an opportunity. The opportunity may not be to help them with their actual request, it could mean to help them in another way (which is almost limitless) Keep your eyes open to see how you can offer a hand of mercy to someone. (Please don't limit yourself to think of only ways you can help that are physical)
  • Fight Through ~ One time I was asked if I would offer to help someone if they had just "hit me." I said "Yes." This was s surprise to them (the setting was a teachable moment while subbing in a school). Once I was being treated poorly by my employer and in my last remaining days fighting through to still give 100% was difficult, but I was able to do it. May you fight through times that are tempting to not offer your kindness to someone.
To love (action) by doing it mercifully (adjective describing the action) is deep. It may be difficult to do, but we are challenged to do that to our "neighbors."

May we be the best "Good Samaritans" we can be this week!

Now it's your turn...what has been your experience with "good Samaritans?"
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Are You Small? By this measurement...  

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I grew up being one of the smallest in my class. There were about 3 or 4 of us that were usually around the same height, prior to our growth spurts. I finally grew a bit. I wasn't shorter than most of the girls anymore, but I was still one of shorter males. So being small has been in my history...can you relate?

Small is not always associated with height or body shape. It also describes a number of objects compared with the rest of the objects. It can mean a statistic in numbers. "There are a *small* number of people who can ____" represents a number. That brings us to this week's quote...
Small is the number of people who see with their eyes and think with their minds. ~ Albert Einstein
Do you see with your eyes or mind? I agree that few people see the possibilities and analyze the impossibilities. They look at something and think about all the negatives. "We/I can't do that, what if ____ happens?" "Our budget isn't that big!" "We're too small!"

"Mind-seeing" because we analyze it way too much. Ever taken a test and you can't help yourself but to analyze the question so much that you work yourself up? I have.

We are sometimes like that with the way life treats us. We analyze the "minor" things so much instead of trying things and seeing where things may take us.

Are you in the bigger category or the smaller one? If in the bigger, maybe you should thinking about trying out the smaller side once in a while..who knows where life will take you!

Now it's your turn...what do you think of Albert Einstein's quote and its relevance to your life...
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Stand Up Conversion  

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Conversion - a word that is often associated with religion. Some may convert to a new team to root for or a new food product to start using. However, I would say that most of the time it is associated with the religious scene.

What was your conversion like? Mine wasn't too exciting. I was too young to have done anything "bad" but knew what I needed to and was persistent about being baptized. Though I hope my "conversion" was before that - not equating it to my salvation.

It is interesting that in the story we looked at on Sunday, three men were able to convert a "god" believer into a "God" believer. Nebuchadnezzar was a king of which thought of himself as the person who was all powerful. He had a statue made, he made the rules, and he was in charge. Power can do that to a person. However, three men showed him that he was not in charge. They didn't bow to the statue, even under threat. They didn't fall. They stood up. Their "stand" caused King Nebuchadnezzar to be "converted." This taken from Daniel 3. Here are some applications to choose from to use this week...
  • Behavior Makes the Difference ~ Being a parent, I am now in the role of showing behavior. I can "tell" behavior, but if it is against what I show, the effect will not carry much weight nor have much of an impact. The same goes for living out our faith. We can say we love God or He is first in our life, but when our peers start seeing that He is actually 2nd, 3rd, or 4th in our lives, over job, family, sports, hobbies, etc. then we are not showing our faith much at all.
  • Which "God"? ~ King Nebuchadnezzar challenges the 3 (Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego) of which god will rescue them? I am sure there have been times in which you have asked that same question. In a bind? Is it the god of self or of Heaven that will get you out of the bind? I am not describing the type of bind where you need to find your keys, but one that is causing your life to fall apart in matters that are just out of your hand. When the 3 were being confronted with the thought of going in the fiery furnace - which god was going to rescue them? Nebuchadnezzar was oblivious to the power of the God of Israel - sometimes we tend to be oblivious too...but He is WAY POWERFUL! Choose Him!
  • Second Chance ~ The 3 (mentioned above) were given another opportunity to think about their actions. We have had times in our life in which we think about giving in to the "easy" side. I know I have. But to stay strong is where the rewards will be. The pleasures are just for a season. If the things that go against your faith or cause you to compromise are coming back around for second chances - keep holding them off. It will pass and then you will "win."
To stand up to someone of higher authority or even our friends for what we believe it can take a strong faith. Usually it depends on how close the relationship is or appealing the matter is to you.

In the movie, "Courageous" there is a gentleman who was offered a promotion, but was told to skew the numbers. He knew the benefits of the promotion but also knew his conscience. He chose correctly and was blessed with the promotion.

May we make the right choices in life and possibly cause someone to be "converted" based on standing up for what we know is right!

Now it's your turn...How hard would it be for you to "stand up" to a person/situation?
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Does Being Late Make You Jolly?  

Posted by Jarrod Spencer

How do you respond when you are late? Or what does your posture reveal?

I work in an environment in which people are late all the time. They aren't late to a "job" but for an appointment - Bible class or the church assembly/worship. We are slated to start at 9:30 AM on a Sunday morning, but I know it is unlikely to start at that time. I usually start my class about five minutes after.

As much as it may irritate me, my irritation generally is much bigger than their shame of being late...why? That brings us to this week's quote...
I have noticed that the people who are late are often so much jollier than the people who have to wait for them.
I do not know who said this quote, but I wonder which side they were on?

Is it because they are embarrassed and they are trying to "laugh it off?" Is it because they just don't care? Is it because the ones that are irritated are at a higher irritation than the one on the other scale?

To know why people who are late may be more jolly than those who are not may be an unanswerable question. However, the outcome does seem like it is possible and I've seen people who are late and do seem more jolly than those who are not late.

May we not be late just to see if we are jolly...be on time to make everyone happy!

Now it's your turn...how'd you answer the question?
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Emergency, Emergency!  

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"What are you going to be when you grow up?” If you ask my son this question, his answer will be “a fireman.” Over his short forty-five month life, he has told us that he is going to be a Chinese-food worker, a Pizza Hut worker, and a few other occupations, when he grows up. The latest, a fireman, has come after being introduced to the movie “Fireproof.” Though it is a movie that involves the subject of marriage, what my son takes from it is the thrilling life of “Fireman Caleb.” Caleb is the main character in the movie, played by Kirk Cameron.

Wanting to be a fireman has invoked a wide range of imaginative play. He takes the plug-in side of a cell phone charger to be the walkie-talkie that a fireman uses. He has used his bicycle helmet to be fireman’s helmet. He uses a smaller oatmeal container with a bungee cord through it as an oxygen container. It is rarely a dull moment when his imagination is in full swing and “Fireman Caleb” comes out to save the day.

Recently, I found a toy fireman’s hat and got it for him. When I showed it to him, he was very excited. I love his over-the-top showing of excitement when he receives something he really likes and the receiving of this new toy was no exception.

Recently, my son was going through his pre-bedtime ritual when I heard him exclaim, “Uh oh, Dad, your razor is in the toilet.” I ventured into the bathroom to find that one of the attachments to my mustache trimmer located at the bottom of the toilet. Upon my arrival at the toilet I said “Yep, that’s what it is.” My fourteen-month old daughter is growing more capable of taking things she finds in the house and putting them in places where one would commonly find water. As I start to reach into the water I hear my son come running from his room exclaiming “Emergency, emergency!” He had gone into his room to put on his newly acquired fireman’s hat. Now he came into the bathroom with only a t-shirt, underwear, and his toy fireman’s helmet.

As I pulled the attachment out of the toilet, I couldn’t help but laugh hysterically. The scene provided quite the entertainment.

As I thought about this situation, I couldn’t help but to think about how God must have his moments where He watches us scurry around in our “emergency” situations. My son’s “emergency” situation was no emergency at all. For him he was just playing fireman. However, in his pretending he was serious. He wanted to make sure and have his hat on so that he would be protected for the job.

As I go through my life being on God’s “team” there are times that I see a situation as an emergency and He must think, “Relax, I have this all under control.” Do you go through situations like that? Are there situations that come up that are major to you, at the time, causing you to become frazzled? However, in the grand scheme of things they are pretty little? Maybe it is losing your keys, missing a turn, forgetting an assignment at home, or a host of other issues we face.

Does God become worked up over those types of examples? I seriously doubt it. So why do we? One reason, because they are an “emergency” to us. When you miss your turn you may be heading to a job interview or some other event in which you are on a timeline. When you forget an assignment at home you are in jeopardy of having your grade lowered.

When the Israelites were in front of the Red Sea and the Egyptians were coming from behind, they, in their mind, were in an emergency. “Emergency, emergency!” they exclaimed. Though their words are paraphrased, “Why did you bring us out here to die to the Egyptians? You should have left us back in Egypt!” Putting the human aspect to the scene, I wonder if God was thinking something like, “Relax, I have it all under control. I need the Egyptians to come closer so that they will follow you across the Sea and then I can wipe them out, protecting My people.”

Are you in the middle of an emergency? I have my own emergencies often as deadlines approach. However, we must remember that God has these things all under control. As for a real emergency, that’s for another time.
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Shortness of a Season: Autumn  

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Fall colors are practically indescribable. The deep reds, bright oranges, and golden yellows and so marvelous to look at. Last year, there was a gorgeous tree that was full of colored leaves. Then, one day, as it happens in Western Kansas, the wind blew. This was such a windy time that the beautiful tree was now just left to a few leaves and branches.

My wife and I were disappointed as we love to look at the fall colors. Like most things, they are here one day and gone the next, which brings us to this week's quote...
Autumn is really the best of the seasons; and I'm not sure that old age isn't the best part of life. But of course, like autumn, it doesn't last. ~ C.S. Lewis, "Letters of C. S. Lewis [1966] "27 October 1963""
What do you think of fall/autumn? Is it an enjoyable time for you?

Life, especially as I get older, reminds me that it is short. I want to treasure the minutes I have with my kids. Not only is our time limited, but their time as "little ones" also goes quickly.

May we appreciate life and the moments in life. The moments add up through life to give us our span. I am not the only one who has taken things for granted, but may little reminders like this help me to appreciate the moments in my life more.

Now it's your turn, What is something you wish you could have a "do over" in your life?
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Fall: The Fall  

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What do you suppose the average is in which a person falls in a lifetime? 1000, 10,000, 25,000, 50,000, 100,000 or more? Then you'd have to define what is a fall? Simply losing one's balance or tripping? Basically, anytime they come down off their feet?

THE Fall, which it is commonly called, took place soon after mankind was created. It didn't take long for mortal man to make an eternal mistake. The crafty Serpent convinced the woman (later named Eve) to take of the forbidden fruit. She then offered some to Adam, who also took. This set up man's spiritual separation. Separated until someone took the place of the mistake. That was Jesus. What a great day that was for those before the cross, to have their sins taken on by Christ.

As we discussed The Fall on Sunday, here are some applications to choose from to use this week...
  • Fallen and You Can't Get Up ~ When we become spiritually separated from God, aka fallen, we cannot get back up and return to that walk with Him until Christ picks us up. Our glory will be returned once we are immersed and have our sins washed away. May we relish that we have a way out of our sin problem.
  • Understand Your Limitations ~ If you're like me, you like to try to handle things on your own. However, each of us has limitations. We can only be "so good" on our own. In addition, there are situations that are beyond our control. Since we are not equipped to handle everything and cannot create things to happen beyond our control, it is nice to appreciate the One who can. When you fall, give it over to God.
  • Plastic Surgeon ~ If I were to go in and have a plastic surgery performed, I'd want to have a reputable doctor. I would like to have certain things removed - at least as much as possible. Christ is that figurative plastic surgeon. He can take scars away that are seemingly never going away. Though the memory may always be there, the scar can be gone. When would you like to make an appointment?
Marks can be left by a fall. The Fall left marks on mankind. Most of which were taken away by Jesus. We can be thankful for Him taking those marks away. May we relish in this fact and enjoy the freedom of having the marks wiped away. 


Now it's your turn, what do you appreciate about Christ coming to take away the spiritual effects of the Fall?
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Appreciative  

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"I'm bored!" was a phrase that I can remember saying as a kid. It happened more than once in my life. This comment would draw a comment from my parents to say "You have too many toys to be bored." Though there was truth found in that statement, to me it was not what I wanted to hear. I wanted to hear something that showed they were going to do something about my boredom.

I have a cousin that seemed to have "everything" as a child. I loved going to his house, which was seldom, as we lived far apart. He had all the "Hot Wheels" cars, along with all the Star Wars action figures and vehicles/spaceships, plus a pinball machine. Later on he had all the cassette tapes a person could want and a two-seater go cart. Do you see why I liked to go to his house?

I wanted things that he had in a bad way. I was like a slobbering dog as I saw all the things he had each time I saw him (which was maybe twice a year). I bet he never was bored, right? With all these things he had, how could he become bored? I bet he did, though. My desire to have what he had brings us to this week's quote...
Be thankful for what you have; you'll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don't have, you will never, ever have enough. ~ Oprah Winfrey

It seems that time does help in creating appreciation for what you already possess. However, as new things come about, there will always be something you want.

I know that there was a time which I started to appreciate what I already had, so much that what others had was not as appealing. It is such a good feeling to appreciate what you have.

Look around and do some inventory on what you have and start to appreciate it!

Now it's your turn, what have you had to appreciate more due to overlooking its value?
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You Will Build It, the Question is Where?  

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Natural changes occur to people as they grow. Babies start to fill out. Then comes sitting up, walking, and talking. Growth spurts will take place at various times. Puberty will take place. Maturation of mind and body will happen over time. As the body ages, wrinkles, lack of eye flexibility, and gray hair comes into a person's life. We cannot forget the skeletal system begins to lose some range of motion along with joint pain.

People will go through these stages at various times. Some may not experience all of them, but they are common. One thing is for sure, if you are going to go through the stages, you cannot escape them.

Jesus finishes his discussion of life lessons at the end of Matthew 7 (24-29). He has just filled them with lots of behavioral changing information. They should be thinking differently about various areas in their life, now. As he has given them all of this information, He says now do something with it. You, as the modern-day recipient, are to do something with this information. What will you do? Here are some applications to choose from to use this week...
  • Location, Location, Location ~ When it comes to real estate it is all about location. When it comes to building your life in Christ, it is also all about location. If you are building it on sandy areas, then you are going to shift, especially as life brings about situations to you that are not the most pleasant. In the end, even the pleasant things could cause you to shift. Either way, the shifting could make you weak - so build on the Rock!
  • Dig Deep ~ Luke's rendering of this scriptures in Luke 6:48 speaks of digging deep. As we set up shop in Christ we must dig deep so that we will be able to stand firm in the days of "trouble."
  • Anchors Aweigh ~ If what you are building is having a hard time staying in that rock, maybe you need to let down an anchor to keep you where you need to be. Or maybe in the meantime while you are digging deep or laying your foundation you need a place to keep you grounded. Now is the time to make sure you are firm in your walk with Him and that you can understand what Jesus wants in your life. Don't let yourself slip...drop the anchor...secure your faith...build on the rock.

For those who feel they have their faith secure, congratulations. However, do not underestimate the sudden coming of a disaster.

Also, this is a "figurative" location, so no matter where you are at in the world your structure will be secure if built on the rock, rather than shifting sand.

Do you need to "move?" If so, now is the time! Move from the sand to the rock...God will help you in the transition!

Remember, the question is not if you will build it, but WHERE! So where will it be?
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Visit the Grave; Look to the Future  

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I am fortunate to still have my parents in my life. I, also, have all my siblings around. I have not lost anyone in my immediate family. Some are not so fortunate. This writing is not about losing someone, though it is about losing something.

In regards to the grieving process, it is generally advised for people to be involved in their normal lives within a reasonable time following the tragedy. Having your mind fixed on something in the past does just that...keeps it fixed or anchored there.

We can visit the grave, lay some flowers in place, but then we must move forward with life. That brings us to this week's quote...
If you're still hanging onto a dead dream of yesterday, laying flowers on its grave by the hour, you cannot be planting the seeds for a new dream to grow today. ~ Joyce Chapman

Those that have lost someone close to you have had the experience of going to that person's grave. Your return trip varies in reason. You may take flowers or some other sentimental object to resurface the memories you had with that person. But after the graveside visit, you can move on with your life and each year becomes a bit easier to handle.

Do you have a dream? Have you seen any growth take place? Is there any growth potential?

Make it a point to look to the future. Do not spend all your time at the grave. Ideas go there to die...leave them there. Then go back to plant some seeds of new flowers!
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False Peeps  

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Friends are there to encourage and support you as you go through life. Occasionally, you will experience the tragedy of a person of whom you thought was your friend, turn their back on you. It is full of heartbreak. One might argue you were a bit delusional in your trust, depending on how deep or solid the friendship was at the time.

Maybe you've been the friend who has "pulled the wool over their eyes" and caused someone else to be delusional in your friendship.

Either way, it hits home about what Jesus is saying in Matthew 7:21-23 about saying "Lord, Lord" to Jesus. As we reflect on that, here are some applications to choose from to use this week...

  • Peep Show ~ Is your life in Christ just something for "show?" Are you doing the various actions for others (spouse, family member, parent, public) to see what you do? If it is for show consider the end result possibility "I never knew you...away from me you evildoer." Kind of frightening!
  • A Name is Just a Name ~ As I am a parent there are times when I ask my son to reply "Yes, sir" when it comes to responding to something I've instructed him to do. Partly because he has said "Yes" in a snotty way. He will respond with the words "Yes, sir!" in an emphatic and snotty way. You could easily read that as simply emphatic, but that isn't the way he is responding. There are different ways to emphasize a word or words. And by that emphasis would convey various things.May we acknowledge Jesus as our Lord, but do it in a way that brings honor to Him, not belittling.
  • Reflect Your View ~ Is Jesus "Lord" of your life? It should be reflected in that way, so much you don't even need to say anything - people should see Him in you. I have my moments when I try to tell a joke or funny story, but it doesn't come out well, so I have to explain it. May our life properly reflect Christ in a way we don't have to tell people - they will just see Him.
Our following of Christ must stem from the heart. The heart is vital to the rest of the body. When God has our heart, he will have the rest of us too.

Does God have your heart?
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Dream Reaching  

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"Reach!" A "game" a taller person plays with a shorter person when the taller person is trying to keep something away from the other. You've played it I'm sure. You've probably played it on both sides. It is just "not fun" enough, when you are young, that you want to play it with someone else when you grow up.

I remember in Preaching School where our whole class wasn't allowed to make a 100% on a first mid-term exam. It didn't matter if you missed zero or a lot. That is not to say that we all received the same grade, just the ones that didn't miss any didn't receive a perfect score. I was one of them. This decision made some of us frustrated. However, his reasoning was to keep us reaching to improve. That brings us to this week's quote...
Better to have spent a life reaching for a dream that never came true, than to have slept through a life that never had a dream. ~ Samantha Pickreign

One could look at this and think how disappointing it would be to make it to the end of your life and receive nothing. However, how exciting the journey that you can envision your dream so much it keeps you going despite adversities. One could easily sit on the sidelines and never attain anything. But you could also be in the game, always striving for more!

What dream are you reaching for today? Share your comments below...
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Fruit Recognition  

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When I was in high school art, one of the assignments dealt with caricatures. Our assignment was to take something significant about the person and overemphasize that feature. A couple of examples: Jay Leno - chin and Tina Turner - hair. Some are more difficult to pinpoint one feature, but the point is to see something people recognize about that person and "play it up."

You can recognize certain people based on the iconic features that they possess. Some people may not have an external feature that they possess, but some other characteristic. You may know a radio personality based on their voice, and would never recognize them if you passed them on the street. You may recognize a cartoonist based on their drawings, but never be able to recognize their body or voice.

As we looked at Sunday at the words of Jesus in Matthew 7:15-20 where he identifies the fact that there are false teachers around and his audience will recognize them by their fruit. Here are some ways to look at the text and see some applications you can choose to use this week...
  • Giving Off ~ Fruit is a part that comes from a plant, which will likely have "seeds" somewhere on or within the fruit. Occasionally the fruit may not be "protecting" the seed, as when they are found in the middle of the fruit. The seed of a strawberry is on the outside and a seed of a dandelion is at one end of the umbrella-like structure, that is blown in the wind. Something to ask yourself is "what do you give off?" What are you leaving with people which they are having the seed of your faith found within? Are you giving off anything? I hope you are giving off something that points back to Christ. I hope it is taking root with people, too.
  • Bad Fruit ~ Fruit that has gone bad is not appealing to the palate. However, occasionally fruit that has gone bad may not look bad on the outside. It is not until you bite into it do you learn that it is not appetizing. By that time, it is "too late" to not taste the bad taste. May we be careful as we pick people we are going to be around - the "bad taste" of the bad fruit may not be realized till it is too late! People that have characteristics of bad behavior would fall into this, and whatever you deem as a bad behavior may be a rule to determine.
  • Investigate the Possibilities ~ Most all of us know the common types of fruits and how to recognize them. However, there are several fruits that are not as common and are harder to recognize. You would be able to recognize them if you took time to study. The same goes with people. There are lots of people out there that are good, but you must understand them to see if they are not good. Check out various fruit to see what is good and check out various people to see how "good" they are! Without the investigation we do not know who are the good fruit!
  • Be Fruity ~ May you be able to share love, joy, kindness, self-control, etc with the people you come in contact with this week.
Recognition is often found from something on the outside. However Jesus, says look a their fruit...is it good or bad? Is their fruit worth picking? Something you must ask yourself...

Now it's your turn - what do you see in the post that could be added to or just thought? Respond and let me know...
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Turning the Negative to the Positve  

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Have you ever noticed in yourself or others that when a rough day comes and something positive comes in to it, it radically changes the outlook on your day? If you haven't experienced it you are missing out. I have had such an experience and it really enhanced my day. I would presume if you do or did, it would enhance your day, too.

When your day is filled with bad news, bad luck, stress or negativism, to lift your head up to see the outcome of the future is super challenging. However, just one positive thing can make all the difference. Sometimes, for me, it is coming home to a beautiful wife and kids, receiving their "welcome" is a real mood lifter.

Speaking of things that lift the mood, here is this week's quote...
Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings. ~ William Arthur Ward
To be stuck looking at all the negative things in life will leave you very frustrated. It will seem as nothing is going right, when in fact there are many things to leave you with a smile.

Focus on the negative, and that will be what you're seeing. Look for the silver lining portions of your day that may pop up suddenly and a whole new "day" may come out of it!

Are you focused on your burdens or your blessings? Being thankful, or showing gratitude for your blessings may make the day seem like a much better day! Try it sometime!

Now it's your turn...How does gratitude transform your days?
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The Road Less Traveled  

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Robert Frost is an interesting American poet. The poem, The Road Not Taken, reminds me of much of my life. I am sure we all have instances similar to this in our lives, and I am not unique to having to decide on things based on a choice I make. Choices are always in front of us and the one(s) we didn't choose is always behind us. The one(s) behind us are less traveled by us. We may go back some day, but probably not.

In the Sermon on the Mount, specifically Matthew 7:13-14, we read of Jesus pointing out to them to take the narrow way. This is quickly followed up by showing them why they need to take it. The narrow has less choices on it, maybe that is one reason it is narrow. Another possibility, is that you would be expected to do more things that are disciplined...have a good attitude, be salt, be light, not murder, be patient, do not worry, do not look at a woman lustfully, do not judge, etc. The previous list was all taken from earlier segments of the Sermon on the Mount.

As you seek to take the "road less traveled" here are some applications to choose from to use this week...
  • Prioritize ~ Sometimes my life can be chaotic. That chaos is usually because of my lack of prioritizing. I may bounce around to do a small thing here, then a small thing there, which adds up to time. I think part of the "narrow road" concept is to make sure that we prioritize where our "following Jesus" is going to be. Prioritizing means one is more disciplined. This could mean with your daily tasks to fit God in or it could mean with bigger tasks. Make sure that He is above all!

  • Take a Break ~ When you go on a journey, you will want to take time to have a break and stretch your legs. Sometimes when you do that you may look over your journey, see how much further you have, think about the distance covered thus far, etc. As you take a break in life to stretch and relax, may you examine your life to see where you've come from, what you're going to do in the future. Have you made mistakes in the past you are not learning from? are you willing to learn from them, how can you be a better person in the future, as you seek to be on the narrow path?

  • Understand "Destruction" ~ When the Twin Towers came down on 9/11 ten years ago, there was destruction. It was horrific to see those buildings fall and know thousands were impacted. The wide road leads to destruction. It will tear you down and cause issues as you seek to continue down that path. Enter the narrow gate!

  • Consider the "Pay Off" ~ It may be rough to go against the grain while here on earth, but think about the eternal rewards. They are practically indescribable. Having to "toe the line" for a while, here on earth, is much better than seeing the "wrecking ball" of destruction in the end! Enter and stay on the narrow road!
Which road will you take today, tomorrow, and the next day. Will you remain on the "road less traveled" or will you jump over to the easier road? Choose today the life-supplying path!
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Maturity: How Does One Measure It?  

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In my lifetime I have been around a lot of people, as I have moved around quite a bit. I have seen lots of different personalities both young and old. They all have their own level of maturity. Some that are old have their times of acting like a teenager and those that are young act like an older person. Depending on the context this can be good or bad. For the older person to have the vitality of a younger person is good; the younger person to have the rigidness of an older person is bad. However, there is the other side of the coin, in that an older person to throw a fit like a teen would do, is bad. For a younger person to have patience and a level-headed demeanor is good.

What is the most scary is when you have an older person that believes they are mature just because they are older. When they expect, or should I say, demand to be respected because of their age, but their demeanor is very immature.

I have seen this in a couple of areas. One is in the church. The other is in sports. I will comment after you read this week's quote...
Maturity has more to do with what types of experiences you've had and what you've learned from them and less to do with how many birthdays you've celebrated. ~ Unknown
The church has become, in many respects, a "me church" attitude. Whatever the individual wants or deems pertinent should be done. Sometimes when something is done that is not what the person deems important, they start to complain, gossip, or just leave. Much like a child on a playground who didn't get their way with the game that was being played. Examples of this could be the direction a church is taking, leadership, worship issues, teaching styles, or decor issues.

In sports, I've had experiences as a fan, player and as an official. I have seen people who can coach and officiate so much better than the coach or official, or so they think. One of the main issues is with people who have "played" the game so long that they "must" know all the rules. But they have never really opened a rule book and read it front to back. Did you know there is not a rule in baseball/softball that "tie goes to the runner?" However, everyone likes to throw that out there - I still don't know where that came from - maybe the playground?

I remember having to stop a little league baseball game, in a rural town, just to go to my car and retrieve the rule book to show a coach he was in error. It wasn't my choice, I asked him because he didn't believe me on the field. Of course, he was probably twice as old as I was, at that time, as I had just graduated from high school the previous May. Though he was older, he didn't show the patience and maturity to let the game go, instead he wanted to try to prove he was correct. Whether I am a fan, player or official, I have seen people get upset over coach's decisions, player's inability to perform, and an official's "blown" call.

Within the quote are two important phrases to keep in mind. One, experiences will help people mature. Two, learning from those experiences is key. You take the learning out and the experience means nothing. You learn little from the experience. The gain is little. Learn much - the gain is much.

I am challenged in many areas with this quote. Probably one of the greatest challenges for me is handling conflict with my wife. I know a lot, but if I don't apply the things I know, I haven't learned much. So, as I become grayer through the years, if I lack learning, my maturity will just be skin deep.

Now it's your turn. How have you seen this quote played out in yourself? Others?
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"Drive By" Preaching - How'd you react?  

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What do you think of this form of "evangelism?"

To be honest, I could not watch much more than about 4 minutes, so I don't know what happens in the latter part.

After you watch - no matter how many minutes you watch - I invite you to leave your comments... 



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How the World Treats You  

Posted by Jarrod Spencer

One of my areas where I lack mercy is when people feel they "deserve" a certain type of treatment or they are "owed" sort of treatment. I think that people are going to be treated the way they "advertise" themselves. Whether it is conduct, attitude, the way they dress, the friends they choose, etc. With all those in mind, the outsider should not judge a book by its cover. However, the cover helps explain what is in the book.

When we expect certain treatment "just because" then we are selling ourselves short of any responsibility on our own for how we are treated. That brings us to this week's quote...
Expecting the world to treat you fairly because you are a good person is a little like expecting the bull not to attack you because you are a vegetarian. ~ Dennis Wholey

Why should those around you treat you a certain way? What is it that you "deserve" to be treated a certain way? Common decency says kindness should be our first response. But when a person starts to not appreciate the kindness then what?

I deal frequently with benevolent help, in my line of work. There are times that resources are offered and that is not good enough. One person said they didn't think they should have to "beg" for help. I replied, "You're not begging, I'm offering." Overall, he was getting defensive and didn't appreciate the kindness.

He was expecting a certain type of treatment, something beyond kindness. I wasn't giving him what he wanted.

Now it's your turn...What do you think of this week's quote?
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9/11: Where Would We Be...If...  

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It hardly seems possible that it has been ten years ago since the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City. That day was filled with so much emotion that I think every teen to adult remembers that day. This was probably the most horrific situation that has happened in my lifetime. However, what would America look like if we had not experienced “9/11”?

Think about the opinion of George W. Bush. I am sure there would have been many who still poked fun at his lack of oratory skills.

Think about how our airports would be different. They must have thought they were being lackadaisical in their failure to keep the airways safe. Would they still be checking people and bags the way they did prior to that day or would things have changed by now?

Think about our freedom. Were we beginning to take it for granted as it had been years since anything had happened. (I’m thinking Pearl Harbor was close to 9/11 - unknown attack, lots of people killed). Was this a wake-up call to realize “mighty” America is still very vulnerable?

Think about our patriotism? Following the attacks lots and lots of people started flying flags and appreciating their freedom. Songs like “God Bless the USA” by Lee Greenwood had a new-found pride. The National Anthem was appreciated more.

Think about how we view our police and fire departments. After all of this we started to appreciate those who serve in those capacities much more than we did prior.

Where would we be if 9/11 wouldn’t have happened? If that tragedy didn’t happen, how would the effect of events like Hurricane Katrina change? We can only speculate as so much that has happened in the last 10 years!

Now it's your turn, what would you add to the list of "Where would we be's"...?
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9/11: One Nation Under God  

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"What in the world is happening?" May not have been what I was exactly thinking, but it was going through my mind on Tuesday, September 11, 2001. As President George W. Bush had not been in office too long, I had not been in full-time ministry too long when this major catastrophe happened. For me, it had just been a few months since I started ministry and this event rocked me personally and professionally. I was not even prepared to handle the congregation in this situation. It was definitely a day I will never forget.

It was a day that probably anyone from 10 years of age on up (on that day) will remember. It impacted our nation, communities, schools, and families so much that it was searing on our emotional canvases.

As we are a nation founded on biblical principles, resolving to remain "one nation under God" is a must for Christians. They must resolve to keep their faith a priority when it comes to decisions as citizens in this country (aka voting). As we reflected on 9/11 on Sunday, here are some applications to choose from to use this week...
  • Pray ~ Pray for our country - its leaders, its protection, its service departments. Pray for our community. Pray for the victims' families. Pray for our enemies. There is seemingly so many things to be praying for, regarding this event. What would you add?
  • Stand Up ~ When you feel strongly for something that affects your freedom, stand strong for it. Whether you're right or wrong; win or lose, to stand up for what you believe in has a lot of respect within the action.
  • Understand Our Vulnerabilities ~ As a country, we felt our vulnerabilities attacked. Probably no one thought that someone would plan such a horrific act - taking planes and using them as missiles. If there would have been any suspicion, I would bet that our defenses would have been incredibly high. However, our defenses were low and our country attacked causing 3000+ killed on that day. Additionally, we must keep in mind our vulnerability when it comes to our soul. Satan is always trying to attack our weak areas. What are your weak areas? Acknowledge them, so you know how to protect them.
  • Strength Does Not Mean Strong ~ As the Psalmist writes in Psalm 33:16 regarding a king not being safe no matter the size of his army, I am reminded that our country may be one of the best armed military countries in the world, we are still not strong. A country that is committing itself to God is going to be strong. God makes the country strong and can bring down any size of army/country in an instant! May we keep our country one that relies on God to help keep up its strength.
Our country is one that millions of people in the world wish they could live in. We are blessed to have such a country. May our nation remain fixed on its biblical principles of which it was founded. With these principles in tact, let us continue to be "one nation under God!"


Now it's you're turn...What are your thoughts after reading the post?...
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Dropping the "F-Bomb"  

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Now that I have your attention, I bet you’re wondering what this article could be about?

You may be saying to yourself, “Surely it is not what I think it is.” And, you’re correct. The point of the phrase in the title is to communicate about a word without having to repeat it. For some, words are repeatable in some places where they are not permitted in others. That is a bit of where we are going.

On more than one occasion I have been challenged with being able to talk to people about where they stand in their Christian walk. Each of us are at a different place, different pace, and different resting points.

I think we all have a tendency to be nervous about talking about our FAITH (that is the “f” word I am alluding to). We may be fearful because we know that when the word “faith” is mentioned, the whole room may go figuratively silent. Making us feel very awkward in the middle of the situation.

“How do I get out of this?” may be what we’re saying to ourselves as we just dropped the “F-bomb” to our friends. Or maybe it is to people we just met and we feel those awkward looks coming at us, piercing into us.

Yes, I’ve been there.

I think that we want so desperately to be the “good Christian” and share our faith that by the time we say it, it may come across as forced. One reason it has become a “bomb” is because of our lack of familiarity in telling people. Walk up to a gathering where something relates to a life situation you’ve been involved in and you can go on for several minutes talking about it. However, because of the awkwardness or anxiousness of not wanting to offend, we cower at the opportunity to talk about our Savior, faith, or our church. May we be challenged to talk about our faith more, so that it doesn’t become awkward to tell someone else about it.

Now it's your turn? What do you think?
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Progressive Minded  

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When I was a young child to teen and I would go visit my extended family (most lived in the same town at the time) I didn't want to spend much time with my mom's side of the family. This was basically because there were no cousins near my age and the only thing that seemed to happen at my maternal grandmother's house (or later on, my maternal aunt's house) would be visiting. It was boring to me. Nothing to do (except get into trouble with my brother). I would ask and ask and ask if I could go over to my cousin's house, on my dad's side. I loved it there. So much to do! He always seemed to have the coolest toys - including a pinball machine and a go cart!

I could not simply sit around. I wanted to be moving and going in the direction of my cousin. That was where happiness was for me.

In life, things should be the same way. To sit around means we are not going anywhere. To be moving toward a goal means we are heading into something usually better. That brings us to this week's quote...
Happiness and success are to be found in forward motion. ~ Unknown
As I minister in a church, I aim to get people going. I think that having a "happy" faith-life, you need to be moving also. If we are not going anywhere, we are simply stagnate. To be progressive sometimes will have a bad rapport with people. Thinking one is "liberal" in their theological mindset. On the contrary, one can be the most conservative, but yet still be moving forward - it may simply be a bit slower than others.

Whether you are a business person or a patron, moving forward has its definite successes. May you find them in your daily tasks, as well as, your epic tasks! 


Now it's you're turn!

What do you think? Can there be happiness and success found when you're moving forward? Feel free to leave a comment...  
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The Universal, Portable Rule  

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Do to others as you were the others - Unknown

The "golden rule" as Matthew 7:12 has become better known as is a lot more challenging than we often think of it as being. It is probably one of the verses that every child learns when they go to Sunday School or even Vacation/Holiday Bible School. Kids are instructed and encouraged to play fair with one another, including sharing and treating each other with respect. It can be challenging for them to apply the verse because of their lack of maturity. So that is an excuse for a youth...what's an adult's excuse?

When adults are reading this rule, do we think to apply it or brush it off? Have you ever thrown out the excuse of "That's the way I was treated, so evidently I can treat them the same way"? Justifying yourself being on the back end of the verse, not the front end? I have been guilty of this...and when you look back on it, it is immaturity shining forth.

As we reflect on the verse for a moment, here are some applications to choose from to use this week...

  • Analyze ~ Look over your life, probably the immediate life - past week or two - and see what kind of treatment have you been demonstrating? Have you been applying this rule? Have you been leaving it behind, so as to excuse yourself from obeying it? Why have you been guilty of doing such a thing? Maybe it is because you lost track of its universal application. Maybe it is because you just didn't want to obey it? There are probably other reasons you can come up with. However, we must analyze to realize where we are in the following of this rule.
  • Take It With You~ When you grow up and move out of the house it is usually known that you do not have to live by your parents rules anymore. You are now an adult. However, when it comes to the "golden rule" you are never too old to have this apply to you. Also, you never are too far away that you are exempt from this rule. It is something that you must live by wherever you go and whoever you're with.
  • Utilize It ~ Do you feel the need to complain about someone's effort in their profession? Do you feel the need to "express yourself" by putting a negative comment about someone on Facebook or some other social media medium? Do you feel the need to pick on (physically) another person? Do you feel the need to take out your aggression toward someone or a situation with violence? The big questions are...What do they accomplish?...&...Do they really make things better - even if you may feel better afterward? Think about this sentence I recently read in a book..."Think about what others ought to be like, then start being that yourself." If you start out a sentence something like "I probably shouldn't be telling you this," you'd better stop, because you shouldn't. We must think to ourselves how one must feel if the situations were reversed. Use the rule!
  • Apply It Everywhere ~ "All men are created equal" and "Love your neighbor as yourself" are two important points to think about when we are thinking about who we should apply it toward...everyone and everywhere!
The "golden rule" is more than golden...platinum? However, it is universal, in that it applies to all mankind. And it is portable, in that you take it wherever you go.

May we take advantage of what impact the "universal, portable rule" plays on our life and start living it out! Share/Bookmark

What Do You See in the World?  

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I am probably typical when it comes to wanting to look at myself in the mirror. Those flaws will be seen more so than the good areas. We all probably would like to lose something here or there, have something changed, etc.

Though we look at the mirrors in our bathrooms and bedrooms with certain judgments about ourselves. How does the world look at you? That brings us to this week's quote...
The world is a great mirror. It reflects back to you what you are. If you are loving, if you are friendly, if you are helpful, the world will prove loving and friendly and helpful to you. The world is what you are. ~ Thomas Dreier
I read in a parenting book some advice about not being too upset when your child wants to do something radical with their hair or even wear something unconventional. Hair - whether colored or cut off - will grow back. Clothes are apparel on the outside, they can be changed - even if it is over time.

One's social circle will greatly influence how you are formed. It will also be your "judge" as you try new things out. Have a crazy haircut and the schoolyard will determine if it stays that style. Unfortunately, the schoolyard may have a greater influence over parental advice.

How are you being seen by the world? You may not even realize what peoples' views are of you, based on the views not being told to you. However, it probably won't take that long for you to realize if you are loving, friendly, helpful, and the list could go on. These are determined by how much you are reflecting them in your own life.

Make sure you do all you can to have a positive reflection!
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You've probably seen the scene. Someone is running away from something and they come to a dead end. What will they do now? Sometimes the outcome is good, other times, not so good.

In life, you've probably felt that way. You feel like you've come to the end of your path and there is nowhere else to go. Up, down, left, right...nowhere! What are you to do?

This past weekend, I was given the opportunity to speak at a youth event. Due to Hurricane Irene, the scheduled speaker could not arrive on time. I was called at 6:00 PM on Friday to speak on Saturday at 4:00 PM. Not much time to prepare, but through prayer and planning, God's strength came through victorious amidst my weakness. The other glitch was, after arriving at the event site, I was told the first speaker was not going to be able to make it, so I was now the first speaker, moving up my speaking time to 2:00 PM - TWO HOURS SOONER! Again, it all worked out!

The theme for the event was "Unshackled." I found a cool song on YouTube (here), by Decyper Down, that pertained to the theme and projected my thoughts forward as I was preparing for the talk. It was a hard rock Christian song which I had never heard of, nor the heard of the band.

I went with the idea of the Israelites being on the beach, before they crossed the Red Sea. They had the Egyptian army behind them and a Sea in front of them...nowhere else to turn! Who gave them their way out...God! Who is the same answer when life is closing in on us? GOD!

Here are some applications from the lesson you might be able to use in your life...
  • Identify the Shackle ~ What is hindering you from becoming what you need to become? Friends, relationships, yourself, circumstances??? Are you becoming something you do not like to make sure your friends are liking you? This can be for adults or teens. We are being shackled because of these people we're around. Relationships that we are involved in are causing us to be uncomfortable. Doing things we're not comfortable doing. Saying things or going places we're not comfortable with. You are making decisions that are putting yourself in a shackle. Not finishing responsibilities, procrastination, choices...keeping us in shackles. What are your "shackles" in life? Do you feel like you have nowhere to turn?
  • Shatter the Shackle ~ Life can hand us situations that will encase us, much like a candle in a glass jar. We cannot become anything else, other than what the jar allows us to be..in this case cylindrical. how can you break free from that? Just shatter the jar. It is like taking the old self and getting rid of it, revealing a new self underneath. This new self can become anything it wants to be. No longer confined to the jar. Shatter the shackle giving yourself room to become something new...
  • Create the New You ~ Once you shatter the shackle now you are free to discover the next chapter in your life. In some cases it may be a "new you." The new part could not have been created as long as the shackle was impeding you. Now that you're free from that, you can become something new. What will you create in yourself? What will the future hold for the "new" you?


  • Life, which is full of definitions, can shackle us. Depression, peer pressure, parental pressure, pressure from a superior, sexual temptations, affairs, thoughts of suicide, alcoholism, drugs, financial struggles, fear, cancer/health issues, work woes, and the list can go on. All will define life for various people. All of which can cause us to feel like we are that candle encased by the glass. We must find a way to shatter the shackle and break free from it! Let's hear the shackles falling off as we look to the future with a new found freedom!
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"Serves" Up!  

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"Cowabunga, Dude!" "Gnarly!" "Hang ten." "Surf's up!" These among hundreds others (see here) are terms from the surfing community. I am totally out of my element when it comes to the surfer scene! This 'community' of people have an understanding that those on the outside would probably just think they are crazy. One thing is for sure, they are adamant about their lifestyle and becoming good at surfing. They come from all walks of life. One of the main parts of being successful is their ability to go back out and conquer the waves that come their way.

Maybe not everyone can surf - I don't know that I could. However, turn the word around to "serve"...that brings us to this week's quote...
Everybody can be great... because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love. ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

Serving is one of those areas in life some people resist to dive into, but once they're in, they enjoy. Like that pool that seems a bit too cool to the touch of the toe. You don't want to get in, but you jump in and once you're in, it's exhilarating! Though it is a bad illustration, based on the context, I have to think of the funny scene of the movie "Vacation" where "Clark" jumps in to the hotel pool (If you've seen it you are probably laughing).

If you've had opportunities to serve, you know how "gnarly" it can be. When you're finished, and you're asked how it went, you may respond with "It, like, totally rocked, dude!" And you're looking for the next time you get to ride the waves!

Look out into the ocean of life and see what waves you can ride...keep in mind, "'serves' up!"
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You Cannot Win If You Don't Enter  

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"Winner, winner, chicken dinner" is a line from the movie "21" that came out a few years ago. I don't think it is original with that movie, but it was the first time I heard the line. It is a catchy line and stays in your head as you repeat the line over a few times. It was said when a person won at roulette; such a risky game, but usually a big payoff.
You will not experience the great payoff if you do not put your money down. Guaranteed not to win. You can win pretty big if you do play. The more confident in your guess of the number, the more you will put down.
As we examine that text from Sunday's sermon, here are some applications to choose from to use this week...
  • Enter ~ Only those who enter will have any chance at winning. Are you wanting to know an answer, looking for something, or anticipating an open door? Enter in to the process of going to God. Ask what you want from God. He can definitely provide what you need. Ask for whatever, but keep in mind, the answer you receive must have been what was needed for you at this point in time. Seek for the grandest and you will enjoy what you find. Knock with the understanding the answer will be just what you need. If you don't you will receive nothing.
  • Take a Chance ~ There are times when I utilize a process of asking people for something with an understanding they may say "no" but if I do not ask, I will never know. Do you think it is totally out of the question that you are given what you want, whatever the "want" is? Maybe it is in your future and you just need to ask God. Take a chance and see what you might receive. If you don't you will never know.
  • Be Confident ~ "Go big or go home!" One saying says "Aim for the moon. If you miss, you may hit a star" by W. Clement Stone. When you are wanting an answer, seeking something, or knocking on a door, do it with confidence and go big. What may come about may not be what you aimed for, but it could be something worthwhile, nonetheless. However, if you aim for something less than the "moon" you will get even less. I don't want to limit God, but ask for something big and leave it up to Him where to send my "arrow."
You could be the next "winner" but you have to open up to do so. Go to God in confidence and humility as you ask, seek and knock. You may be amazed at what you receive, find and what is on the other side of the "door."
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A Reason I Love Coming Home  

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"Daddy!" exclaimed by my 3-year old son as I drive up in the driveway or after walking in the door. It has been a short time since I started hearing that when I arrive, but it never, and I mean never, gets old. Just the other day my one-year old daughter showed her excitement when I came in the door and it was awesome! She cannot talk yet, but I look forward to the time when she can make that exclamation as I arrive.

Whether it is the exclamation of "Daddy" or an ear-to-ear smile when I come into view, there is just something special that every parent feels when their child shows excitement to see them.

We thought we were not going to be able to have children at one point in our life, so when my wife became pregnant the joy was overflowing. I couldn't wait to be a daddy. I couldn't wait to hold my expectant son in my arms and dream of what we'd do as father and son as he grew up.

I cannot say it enough how much I love being a father...this brings us to this week's quote...
A truly rich man is one whose children run into his arms when his hands are empty. ~ Unknown
I may not ever have a lot of money, but I will have two kids for the rest of my life. Even if something drastic happens to them before I pass on, I will always have the memories that each day provides.

My kids are one (make that two) of the reasons I love coming home! I look forward to the next time I hear "DADDY!"
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Appreciate the Gift  

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Judgment...can be a difficult thing to do correctly. Maybe it is an official trying to determine the correct call on a play, a judge determining whose correct in a courtroom, or deciding which item will be the best for your needs on a particular job. It can have its difficulties.

Usually the times in which judgment is easy are when we do not gain the necessary information to make the correct "ruling."

Jesus discusses judgment in the first part of Matthew 7, specifically, verses 1-5. Then, in verse 6 he uses the idea of judging and makes a profound and deep statement, “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces." This was our text for Sunday. Here are some applications to choose from to use this week...
  • Who? ~ Dogs tear things apart, similar to their kin, the wolf. Pigs do not have a "conscience" in the sense that they will eat practically anything and trample on whatever is under their feet. People who are willing to do this are who Jesus is mentioning. Do you know someone who likes to tear lives apart and just run over whatever is in its path? This is probably someone Jesus is discussing. This person should not be offered the greatness of salvation, at this point, because they are not at a point of being able to receive it. The preciousness of salvation will just be ripped up and/or trampled on.
  • Determination? ~ Be careful who you put into this category. Jesus had just mentioned about not judging. If you put someone in this category just because they are obscene, profane, or evil, they still may be needing to hear the good news that comes from knowing about Jesus. You may be taking away someone's opportunity to hear what they need to hear. This is a tough call...probably worth praying about and asking God for clarity.
  • Err on Side of Caution? ~ As I sometimes will buy my son a toy that may be a bit too "old" for him, I am giving him a chance at playing with something fun. Occasionally, that will result in him tearing things up. As we think about casting out what is sacred, or connected to God, to people - trying to decide if they are dogs/pigs - maybe there are times we should cast it out regardless, and see if the heart is fertile. Maybe we'll know if it is not fertile based on their reaction, then we can determine that for the next time.
  • See Yourself ~ Have you been tearing the "good news" to pieces and not appreciating its benefits? Have you been trampling the pearls underfoot? Think about who you are being when you are trying to determine who you are not going to "cast" to.
  • Until really studying and researching this verse, did I realize how tough and deep it goes. It is similar to a vein of gold that may run deeper than seeing it on the surface.

    We are not to judge, but we are to determine who are pigs and swine...tough thing to do! Good luck fulfilling the verse!
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Climbing Ladders  

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School is about to begin. Sports practices have already begun in some places. Retail stores are busy with school shopping. Teachers have already started to begin planning and organizing their classrooms. the summer is winding down! When the school year winds down we think about graduation, that brings us to this week's quote...

All that stands between the graduate and the top of the ladder is the ladder. ~ Author Unknown
As you are entering in to another school year, graduation is one of the goals. Whether it is formal graduation or simply graduation to the next grade - inching closer to the formal graduation. This quote was a way of reminding those that have graduated - 3 months ago or 70 years ago - to keep going up the ladder, one rung at a time. May you make it to the top of where you want to go...then find another ladder that will take you even higher in some other area of life! Keep climbing ladders! Share/Bookmark

Take a Hard Look In the Mirror  

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Pointing fingers...figuratively or in reality, we all have a tendency to do it in our lives. There may be times it is innocent in nature; other times it is to direct attention to a person. I have had my fair share of times that I have looked (down) at someone and formed a judgment about them (not simply an opinion). It is sad to say, but I have. Though it is getting less and less frequent the more I try to think like Jesus would, I am not free of it completely. It is probably one of those areas that I will always be working on. In the Matthew passage that we looked at Sunday (7:1-5), one of the bigger "hit me on the head" areas of the text was "in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." WOW! My grading scale toward someone else is what will be used to grade me..how do I measure up when I'm evaluated? Scary thought. Continuing with that thought, here are some applications to choose from to use this week...

  • Gauge Perfection ~ Think about all the things in which you excel. Specifically, those areas you do not make mistakes in. Now, see how long that list is. One, Three, Ten, or more items? As you look to a person that you see as a bit lower than you, they can have a list, too. I am guessing that each will be fairly short, if there is any existence to them at all. As you think about the brevity (or existence) of your list, may this keep you humble to not look at someone else with a harsh judgmental attitude.
  • Where are you - Tree or Roadside? ~ When Jesus came into Jericho in Luke 19, there was a great crowd alongside the road. One man was shorter than most and had a great desire to see Jesus, so he climbed up in a tree to get a better look. Jesus talked to him, invited himself over, and upon that, people started to form judgments upon Zacchaeus. When someone of "lower" (perceived) stature comes around, where are you - in the tree trying to see Jesus or looking around forming judgments about certain people? May that question just cause you to think a bit about where you "are" in those situations.
  • "Embrace" People ~ Casting Crowns has a phenomenal song titled "If We are the Body" that talks about the things we can be implementing to go out and "be" the Body of Christ to people so that they will see Him in us. By doing so they will see Christ in us rather than a "judge" in us.
Jesus is not condemning the idea of forming an opinion, but rather having a harsh and brash forming of a judgment. We must watch the line between the two. This week, show Jesus by embracing them where they are at in their life! Share/Bookmark

Producing the Pearl  

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When I was dating my wife, pearl rings were given as a traditional "promise ring." My wife was three states away from where I was living at the time. I had no clue on the "tradition" where she was living. Thinking diamonds were more "valuable" than a pearl, I went with a diamond ring that had two interlocked hearts. It basically was diamond "pieces" in one heart and gold making up the other heart. I liked it; come to find out, she didn't. I should have listened to a she-friend that said, "not all girls like hearts."

The value of the pearl was off the radar for me. I thought it looked too much like costume jewelry. Diamonds were where you find the value. However, it is diamonds in a certain setting that is good. The pearl has a lot of value and it is quite pretty when looked at with the proper perspective. That brings us to this week's quote...

A pearl is a beautiful thing that is produced by an injured life. It is the tear [that results] from the injury of the oyster. The treasure of our being in this world is also produced by an injured life. If we had not been wounded, if we had not been injured, then we will not produce the pearl. ~ Stephan Hoeller

When a person lifts weights or participates in some other strenuous activity, the muscle fibers actually tear. This tearing will come in with additional muscle and will eventually become "bigger." Tearing has its advantages. Tearing in the oyster produces a beautiful pearl. A stone that many have several of in their jewelry collections. However, that beautiful stone comes as a result of a tear.

Life tears at different points and in different ways and to different degrees. But I think for all of us, we have tears in life. We use a phrase "tears my heart" or "tore my heart out" to indicate that we are hurt over a situation. Tearing has it's benefits. My question for you is, how has it benefited you?

I think I have grown by many tears in life. The "muscle fiber" that has come in and made me stronger was painful but that didn't mean I want it to happen anytime soon!
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God First  

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What is the most important thing in your life?

You might say your family (a particular member, depending on your situation), your faith, your job, your house, or other material item. Regardless of what your answer is, you have a "most important thing in your life." It will come out sooner or later, and could possibly be evident to others. It may also change, due to life's circumstances.

The most important thing in your life is also something you put a lot of stock into. You also may or may not realize that you place some sort of security into it, too. As Jesus continues His teaching in Matthew 6:25-34 He points out that when we become anxious, to the point of consuming our thoughts, we are squeezing out God in our life. We start to place more emphasis in our abilities to try to handle our anxieties and less emphasis in Him. We stop giving our anxieties to Him, which we are told to do so (Philippians 4:6-7), in these situations.

The following are some applications to choose from to use this week in relation to being anxious (or worrying)...

  • Compare and Contrast ~ This may be difficult for some, depending on your spiritual beliefs. Challenge yourself to compare the effects of putting your trust in something earthly or something heavenly. Earthly things fade away and are perishable. Heavenly things are forever and imperishable. The hard part is to trust something intangible - but the rewards are worth it!
  • Look Around ~ Seeing things that appear better usually stops with the word "appear." They really are not better, they just "appear" better. Take a long look at the things you are putting your faith in or what your "most important" thing is, and see if it is something that gives you the assurance you are looking for.
  • Let the Past Be Just That ~ The more of the past you can leave in the past, the less mind-baggage you are bringing into the future. See what you need to let go (even if it is only by God's help you can leave it in the past.)

Our challenge is to not place a lot of trust in the things of life, but rather in to the one who takes care of the birds and lilies. That challenge is an ongoing one for me...how about you?



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