Making Room  

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Inventions are coming out all the time. Just when you thought about everything that could be invented had been…a few months later, something else is out on the market. Sometimes when I see a new and clever product, that seems very logical, I think, “Why didn’t I think of that?”

As I observe a newly released product I will either be attracted to it, repelled by it, or want to investigate it. Sometimes it is just a short time before I realize that this product does not serve much purpose with me. However, for much of the world, they are buying the product “left and right.”

Do you fall into one of those categories? Do you like to buy it, refrain from buying it, or look more into the features? When it comes to the product, it may lead to a boom in sales over a short period of time. It seems that no matter what is invented; there is always more for more inventions. This thought brings us to this week’s quote…

The world has the habit of making room for the man whose words and actions show that he knows where he is going.  ~ Napoleon Hill

Similar to inventions, people who are confident in where they are going in life seem to be attractive. Also, similar to inventions, there is always room for another confident person who makes a positive difference to people in life.

It can be interesting how “attractive” people are that display a knowledge of confidence. I can speak from experience that I have followed someone with this trait; also I have had people follow me based on this trait.

As you are going about life, develop that positive attitude, show it with your words and actions, and lead someone to a great place…there’s always room for more!

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The Other Prodigal Son  

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There are times which a story has a “main character” and any “supporting characters” are not given as much attention in lessons. To notice the supporting character in a frequently overlooked Bible text is one of the most thrilling parts of being a student of the Bible.

In the story of the Lost Son (aka Prodigal Son), the younger son, who squanders his property is often the one who is looked at as the “main character” and the lessons hinge on his part of the story. The older son, also has traits of being a prodigal, so referring to him as “the other prodigal” is not out of line. There are some valuable lessons found in the “older son” and today, here are some applications to choose from to use this week…

  • Enjoy Your Reward, as Well as Theirs ~ It can be easy to think we should be the ones that are rewarded. Recently, we went to a public gathering in which prizes were drawn. For the second year in a row, our children didn’t win anything. Because the “luck of the draw” was not on our side, it could be easy to be bitter at the others who won. However, even if we did not “win” we can enjoy the victory that was experienced by others.
  • Look in the Mirror ~ It is easy to look at someone who you label with a judgment. There are many labels that someone could be given. Basically the label is meant to demean the person, no matter the label. May we look in the mirror to see ourselves as a faulty mortal, just as the one who we are forming the opinion about (aka judging).
  • Wrong View of the Father ~ To fully understand God (aka Father, Heavenly Father) is an undiscoverable mystery. Because He is totally undiscoverable, we often put our suppositions in for what God must be doing in a situation. This supposition is usually based on how we’d operate in a given situation. To skim the surface on understanding how God is dealing with any given catastrophe is still beyond our capability. Most of which is because we are not Him, some is because we are not in that situation. To form a judgment on how God deals with a situation would be taking a wrong view of God. May we try to “mind our own business” when we see how God deals with peoples’ situations.

We are all prodigals, no matter which side of the line we stand. May we not overlook the last son because of the shadow created by the first son.

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My parents would probably tell you that I was a handful to raise. I did not do things that would have landed me in handcuffs or sent to the principal’s office. No, I was a smart aleck. My mouth caused me to be a “handful.” I remember being upset with my father and hollering down the hall “You’re the worst father in the world!” Needless to say, my father came back and let me know he didn’t approve. My parents were smokers and we didn’t go on a vacation one summer, I told them, “If you guys wouldn’t smoke, we’d have at least $520 extra dollars a year to go on a vacation.” That didn’t go over too well, either. Still another time, when I was twenty-two years old and was traveling to see my fiancé, I stayed at friends of the family overnight. When I talked to my mom after she had called to see if I had arrived safely, I communicated to her that I didn’t need to check in with her, as I was older now. This caused her to be very upset with me.

Can you see how I was a handful?

God must have been laughing at me as He knew that when I became a father I would be dealt some humbling blows. I have only been a father for three years, but I have already had my fair share of humble pie pieces to eat.

The first piece was just seeing my firstborn in the flesh and thinking “He’s mine and I’m responsible for him.” I started to feel a love that was unlike anything else I had ever felt. A love that feels pain and “hurts me more than it hurts him.” A love that loves always even when I do not like all the things he does. A love that is proud when I see him do something that his mother or I have instructed him to do – not go beyond limits or use his manners.

The other pieces came in times where he showed signs of stubbornness – unfortunately comes from both parents. He also has an unfortunate trait that I remember possessing, which is his keen ability to ask for something to drink or a snack as bedtime approaches to be able to stay up a few minutes more. Also, once he is in bed to need to go to the bathroom one more time.

Now that I have a daughter, she is bringing even more fun to my life. I love seeing her personality coming through as she is developing into a toddler. It will be interesting to see what type of “parent curse” she brings to my life. What will her personality bring about that reflects me when I grew up, that my son’s didn’t? I look forward to the “emotional moments” of seeing her excel in areas of learning that my son is experiencing.

I never would have thought that I would have had children that reminded me so much of myself and the stories I heard about me from my parents. It is unfortunate, the mannerisms that come about that remind me of one of my parents when it comes to dealing with my children. I say this “tongue-in-cheek,” that it is all just a “curse.”

Looking at my children through a father’s lens has caused me to be more appreciative of my parents and what I made them endure (don’t tell them that). It has also caused me to look at myself differently by viewing what I do through God’s perspective.

He must be proud when we make choices that are beneficial or when we use our manners. Maybe it is other times when we use the talents that He gave us to do good things or share our faith with others. Then, there’s the other side, when we make poor choices and it probably frustrates Him, possibly because we didn’t learn the lesson in the first place.

Seeing a situation through a different perspective can cause us to be humbled and appreciative. Think about how the “parent curse” has impacted you. After that, may we appreciate the children in our life a bit more, but most importantly, appreciate the Father in heaven more for what He deals with in us.

Love is a multifaceted component. One of those facets is the love for a child. This facet will most likely cause you to have many feelings you couldn’t imagine having until your child was born. Whether you’re a mother or a father, enjoy seeing your children through your lens and then correlating it to how God, the Father, sees and loves you.

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Being Nice to Your N—uh—Me  

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You have to be phonetical with the last word…it is “enemy.” I just needed it to start with “n.”

A few days ago I had a friend who was having a difficult time due to some “negative nellys” where he works. It isn’t the most fun to be in a leadership position. It seems that some times people are only in your life to torment you. They may not even realize that they are doing that. It may just be in their nature. 

Things have since calmed down, for now. However, there is always a possibility that things may flare up again…something leadership never looks forward to!

One of the things he did, which they didn’t like, was to be kind to them. This brings us to this week’s quote, dedicated to one of my best friends…

Love your enemies, they hate it.  ~ Unknown quote, reference is from Matthew 5:44
I have been the one who did this. It is almost fun to do. People do not like you in one area or another, or you’ve just made them upset for something. Either way, your kindness just aggravates them to the point that they just hate your “love” and “kindness.

As one similar philosophy that I’ve lived by for years says, “Kill ‘em with kindness.” When someone is doing things to you which is causing friction, just be overly nice to them and set them go down with good news!
May we all be nice to our enemies! If they’re going to go down, make sure it is with good news, not with put downs!Share/Bookmark

The Father’s Grace  

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Parenthood, it can start at about any age from the teenage years and beyond. I had the unexpected surprise to be connected with a dad that came into that position at fifteen. This was way beyond when I was blessed to become a father. For me I was thirty-three before parenthood began.

The unique thing about each of us is that we had our own “turning point” of what I call the “curse of parenthood.” That “curse” is, in part, realizing how much a parent loves a child, in which, you didn’t realize how much my parents loved me because I didn’t appreciate it like I do now that I have a child.

Sunday, we looked at Luke 15:20b-24 as the first son comes home to be met and embraced by the father. This text displays the father showing grace to the first son. Similarly, this is a small parallel to God’s grace displayed to us. Here are some applications to choose from to use this week…

  • Go to the Father ~ The son had greatly messed up. He took the blessings that the father had given him (inheritance) and blown it. I know that I am not pleased with our three-year old when he takes a new toy and seemingly ruins it. “Don’t you understand the value of taking care of it” I think. Of course he doesn’t, he’s only three. We are “three” at times and we all blow what is given to us. With our three-year old, I don’t love him any less in those times. When we do that with what God gives us, He’s still loves us and wants us to come to Him…let’s do that!
  • Always in the View of the Father ~ The father in the parable saw the son a long way off. We are never out of view of the father. This is a humbling thought. However, it seems each of the times that God is referred to as a father it describes him as going over and beyond what we would expect. God is always looking for us to come to Him – whether we are in a state of “messing up” or just our daily fellowship with Him. He longs for our relationship to deepen. It is neat to think He’s always looking for us to “come home.”
  • Dressed for Success ~ The first son came home with little hope. The father dispenses so much hope that he “dresses” the son for success. He gives him the best robe, a ring, and shoes. Receiving the robe was an honor. Why would/should a “squanderer” be honored? That was probably the question going through the first son’s mind. Regardless of the questions going through his mind, he was now given a position of success – all because of the father’s grace.
Grace is so mysterious. There are extremes of both – too conservative or liberal with its dispersion. Though I may not ever fully understand it, I can learn to fully appreciate it. May you enjoy the Father’s grace!

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Winning Doesn’t Just Happen  

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We all know that kids go through stages of wanting to be something or someone when they grow up. My three-year old has gone through a few already. Of late, he is saying he wants to be a “fire fighter-man.” Other times he’s wanted to be a “Chinese food worker” and a “Pizza worker.”

I know as life moves forward, he’ll see other things he wants to become and eventually will find passion in a career. My passion came via a previous career.

Being successful or “winning” in life is what we desire. However, to become a winner in an area is going to take work. Even becoming a “fire fighter-man” or a “Chinese food worker” is going to take some work, it doesn’t just come to us. Even if a job is offered, to do well at that job takes effort to stay on top of your career.

We are created to “win,” which brings us to this week’s quote…

You were born to win, but to be a winner you must plan to win, prepare to win, and expect to win.  ~ Zig Ziglar
Most would have loved Zig to stop after the first five words but he didn’t. We have to put in some effort – planning, preparing, and expecting. Winning doesn’t just happen. What are you doing to make sure that you are winning in life? If the answer is nothing, that’s what you’ll receive. Start dreaming, preparing, and expecting to win. Do what you can to win and look forward to the win that will come your way in the future!Share/Bookmark

Not Worthy of God  

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Do we desire to grow up sooner than we should for the sake of feeling more worth out of life? Is that why young kids like to hang out with older kids and teens like to hang out with young adults? Are we rushing our life all for a tiny feeling of more worth?

In most situations, worth starts to diminish as something ages. Usually that comes to a monetary value. This can pour over into humans when it comes to the worth of an athlete. As they age they become less productive and are simply worth less. On the contrary, when a person stays in a position long enough their worth increases and they are paid more and able to keep their job.

To be let go of a position takes away some of your feeling of worth. Even when we disappoint someone we feel like we’ve lost some of our worth. There are times our view of God is paralleled to that – we disappoint Him and our feeling of worth takes a nosedive.

The story of the Prodigal Son takes us in to the mind of the first son. In this section he does not feel worthy to be called the son. He is in a desperate situation and he gets ready to go home. Here are some applications to choose from to use this week…

  • Come to Your Senses ~ With every situation where we are swallowed up and it is taking us deeper into a state of recklessness, we must wake up. We must realize that we are in that state and acknowledge we need to do better. Whether that state is in our job, marriage, relationship, or our service to God, let’s wake up and turn ourselves around.
  • Grasp the Love ~ Being a parent is like a curse in love. You don’t realize how much your parents loved you until you are a parent. All that icky affection your parents tried to keep going after you were seemingly too old was because they care about you so much. I know I will feel that feeling about my children even when they are “too old” for affection. Try to understand how much God loves you and that He is always waiting with open arms, not crossed arms, even when you’ve messed up greatly!
  • Decide and Go ~ Do not sit in a corner and think that you are not worthy of God. Technically, we aren’t; thanks to Jesus, we are. No matter what has gone on in your life, you are worth the death of Jesus to God. He gave His only Son – His only child – for you and your wrongdoings. Whether you are holding a positive pregnancy test, a drug needle, a phone book open to a divorce lawyer, a bank statement with an overdraft, or an eviction notice, you are definitely worthy to God! You must get up and go to Him to get that life of yours straightened out.
May we all see ourselves in the life of this son and then see that we are worthy to be called a child of God’s!

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Take the Opportunities  

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“What if?” That question could be applied to so many different situations. As I look at that question it means that I am probably looking back on something with a sense of regret or wonder about a decision I made.

The decision could have been one where I didn’t make any choice, not just a “good versus bad” choice. Either way I am looking back to that point and wondering.

There are things that I’ve decided in life that I wondered “what if” about. When it comes down to it, I’ll never know the answer – which can be a very frustrating point, if you dwell on it. As we reflect on this concept, this brings us to this week’s quote…

Plenty of people miss their share of happiness, not because they never found it, but because they didn't stop to enjoy it.  ~ William Feather
If you want to have happiness you need to keep an eye out for it. You may have had plenty of opportunities for happiness, but you passed it up for something else. Maybe it was because you were busy or just overlooked it. Regardless, you passed it up. Now, when you are at a point of frustration in your life you may be looking at a situation and saying “what if?”

Take every opportunity to find happiness. It may not be packaged the way you think it should or in a “recognizable” package. When you look for it you won’t be saying “what if” after you passed it.  Stop and enjoy life!Share/Bookmark

Squandering Son  

Posted by Jarrod Spencer

One if the lessons that we try to get across to our son is about eating. Overall, he’s a great eater of various foods. For example, though he just turned 3, he started liking “hot and sour soup” from a local Chinese place when he was 2-years old.

The lesson is to choose entrée over dessert. For most of us the sweets are more palatable, so the temptation is a bit natural. However, if you squander the sweet food for the good food, then you’ve wasted your hunger on something that is not healthy for you.

Sunday we looked at verses 13-16 of Luke 15. This section of the Prodigal Son includes the son “squandering” his possessions away and ending up with nothing. Similar to eating the dessert first, to the point of not wanting the “good” food, you end up with very little of food that has good nutritional value to it. From this lesson, here are some applications to choose from to use this week…

  • Be Patient ~ This may be the “nails on the chalkboard” phrase to some people. We hear it often and tend to not like to hear it at all. When we are waiting on something in life to happen and it is beyond our control, patience is the “action” that we can take next. Being patient has its benefits. Here are a few: It allows you to take a look at a situation, it allows God to work, it allows you to mature, it allows for better understanding.
  • Appreciate ~ Ever heard of the Dr. Suess’ book “The Best Nest"?  Mrs. Bird is wanting to have a better nest. The book is filled with the journey of her trying to find a place that is better. The book concludes with her realizing it is best to remain where she was at, originally. We often can think it would be better if… Sometimes it would be, but there are times when it would not. We need to appreciate where we are at, right now, and make the best of that situation.
  • Enjoy the Limit ~ “Yeah, right!” you might be saying. When I purchased my first cell phone back in 1995, I paid $29.99 per month and had 40 minutes to use. It was a plan more for “emergencies” than for simply chatting. Now, I basically have an unlimited amount of talking on my cell phone plan – due to the fact that we don’t go over and we have a “rollover.” It all comes down to how limits are needed to keep us disciplined and reigned in. Even if we are frustrated with a limit – no matter the context – may we step back and enjoy the limit.

May we take moments not to squander away the good areas that life brings our way!

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March Madness  

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It is that time of year when there are several NCAA basketball games on throughout the month. The first part of the month involves conference tournaments. Conferences like Big XII, Big 10, PAC-10, ACC, SEC, WAC, along with several others compete to see who wins. The winners of each conference have an automatic bid into the top sixty-eight, with a chance to make it to number one.

I don’t watch NCAA basketball that much – football is my sport of preference between the two. However, during this time of year, I will watch and enjoy watching basketball. This month tends to be filled with very exciting games and the occasional upset. Fans are hoping for their teams to continue on and upset when their team fails to play to potential and are defeated. Others play the “fill-out-your-bracket” game and enjoy seeing teams win to get them closer to the monetary prize.

As maddening as all this basketball is during the month of March, there is something else that is madness about a march. This isn’t the month of March; rather I am talking about the concept of marching in order to defeat an enemy.

In the book of Joshua, one of my favorite books of the Bible, the Israelites have reached the Promised Land, Moses has passed away and Joshua is in charge. The city of Jericho is within sight. Joshua now sends men in to spy it out before the Israelites take the city. The city has been spied out and the preparations have been made for the Israelites to overcome the city. The maddening part is the method to overcome the city of Jericho.

God tells Joshua to have the Israelites to march around the city one time for the first six days. At the end of the march they can go back to camp. Then, on the seventh day they are to march around the city seven times.
Are you kidding me? God has every method to defeat someone by His people and He chooses to have His people march! This isn’t a type of marching where people just walk over the people, defeating them. This marching is going around the city walls one time for six days, then going home, and seven times on the seventh day. To quote one of the only lines of The Princess Bride, “Maddening, just maddening.” If this was a basketball game, it would be about as entertaining a battle as watching a team stall and stall. Observers would be “booing” the people because there was not any action happening.

I can just imagine the men who were defending the walls were getting a good laugh seeing the Israelites simply walking around then going back to camp. I wonder if the Israelites even brought much for weapons those days they were simply walking.

After the seventh day comes and the Israelites march around the city of Jericho seven times they blow their trumpets and after the noises come forth the walls start to crumble. All the walls, except Rahab’s, who housed the spies, fell inward and the Israelites defeated Jericho.

God’s method to defeat Jericho was “march madness.” Who could have orchestrated much more of a maddening plan than to have people simply march around a city, followed by blowing a few trumpets? No combat at all.

The next time you see a battle on your hands, the solution to the battle may be something that is maddening. However, God can do amazing things with a maddening method!
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