Unless you let them

Proverbs 26:21 reads, “As charcoal to embers and as wood to fire, so is a quarrelsome man for kindling strife.”

It is human nature to want to be liked by others. I’ve heard that 20% of the people we will encounter in our lifetime will not like us. In other words for every 10 people I know, 8 will like me and 2 will not! The question is why do we tend to focus on the 2 that do not like us instead of the 8 who do?

When I was a little boy, my dad used to take me to an auto-parts store. It was similar to Autozone but more of a Mom and Pop store. The owner did not like my dad; in fact, whenever we were in the store, he was rude and condescending to my father. He had this look about him as if my dad was the last person on the planet he wanted to see. One afternoon as we left the store, I asked my dad why he was so nice to the man when it was obvious the guy hated him. Pops took my hand, and as we walked to our car he explained, “That guy? Michael, he is always that way to me.”

“I know!” I answered, “and you are always so friendly to him. I want to punch him in the nose!”

Pops laughed. “I can’t do anything about the way that fellow treats me. What I can do is control how I act toward him.”

There is no doubt we will interact with people who are rude and treat us poorly; but it doesn’t mean we have to respond in like fashion. Do not allow others to dictate how you behave. The moods and negativity of others cannot alter yours unless you let them.


A Late Start

This morning I’ve gotten a late start. The sounds of the birds, the warmth of the covers, a conversation with my wife, and the time ticking away. Time waits for no one. It accepts no excuses nor adjusts for events or crises or celebrations. Time moves whether we like it or not.

Life is so very fragile. As I communicated with God, I realized how aware God is of the seasons of life. We tend to think because He is outside of time that He really does not understand. I mean, someone who has been around forever and will be around forever, really shouldn’t “get it,” but He does.

I do not know what your day holds. You may be excited to start the morning. Your feet may have hit the floor running. You can’t wait to get to work or school. Maybe you have a breakfast meeting with a friend or you’re visiting a family member. Maybe today is the day your baby is born.

And then, I know all too well, that some of you dread today like the plague. You’re facing unsurmountable odds, difficult decisions, news you do not want to hear. Maybe you are heading to take a test on material you haven’t studied, or today is the day you know your boss is going to fire you. Maybe you opened your eyes to what you hoped was a bad dream but the reality of the loved one being gone is real.

I do know this, whatever you are facing today – God is in it. Whatever you need today – God will cover it. Whatever happens today – God is prepared for it.

Joshua 1:9, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

Isaiah 41:10, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Deuteronomy 31:6, “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” 

Romans 8:38-39, “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

John 14:16-17, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.”

God holds you in the palm of His hands with a love we cannot comprehend. Move forward with the confidence you need because He is with you.

 


Crying Out to God

Discouragement comes at the most inconvenient times. It is not selective of persons. Discouragement hits anyone at any time and at any place. Even the best of us have a tough time covering that heavy, weighted down feeling which makes our feet feel like they’re wearing cast iron shoes. A fog moves in, thicker than pea soup, hovering over us, hammering down on our shoulders.

“I cry aloud to the LORD; I lift up my voice to the LORD for mercy. 2 I pour out before him my complaint; before him I tell my trouble. 3 When my spirit grows faint within me, it is you who watch over my way. In the path where I walk people have hidden a snare for me. 4 Look and see, there is no one at my right hand; no one is concerned for me. I have no refuge; no one cares for my life. 
5 I cry to you, LORD; I say, ‘You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.’ 6 Listen to my cry, for I am in desperate need; rescue me from those who pursue me, for they are too strong for me. 7 Set me free from my prison, that I may praise your name. Then the righteous will gather about me because of your goodness to me.” Psalm 142: 1-7
When David wrote this Psalm, he felt like he had lost just about everything. David writes of feeling as if he were in prison. His words read hopelessness, despondency, despair. The heaviness of all that is happening in his life has ensnared him in the prison of despair.
Have you been there? Do you know how he feels?
David cries out to God for help. What about you? Are you crying out to God or to someone around you? Maybe its alcohol or drugs or some other form of addictive behavior. Maybe its food or isolation that you seek for comfort.
God tells us when we cry out to Him:
Revelation 21:4-5, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’ Then he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’”

Psalm 107:19, “Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. He sent out his word and healed them; he rescued them from the grave. Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind.”

Philippians 4:6-7, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

I want to challenge you today to reach out to God for your source of help. He is ready and available to see you through.

 


If Only…

This is what the Lord says— your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go. 18 If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your well-being like the waves of the sea.”  Isaiah 48:17-18

When I was a boy, a neighbor had a beautiful Tennessee Walking Horse gelding, jet black, about 17 hands high, with a white star on its forehead. My neighbor enjoyed showing his horse and most weekends we’d see him driving away in his truck pulling a horse trailer that probably cost more than our home. The Walker lived in a nice stable with all the amenities that separate an ordinary horse and a horse living in luxury.

Funny thing though, about once a week that horse would come wandering up our driveway. I remember my grandmother flinging a fit when it tore through her newly washed clothes she’d just hung on the clothesline. My dad would instruct me to walk that horse back home, and we wouldn’t see it for a few days and then its hooves adorned with large shoes would come clacking up the driveway yet again.

My mama would shake her head – if only that old horse knew how good he has it!

Ahhhh…not unlike us…knowing what the Lord has in store for us…knowing the plans He has for our lives…knowing we are children of the King…and yet, we wander away, wondering if there is something better, something more, something we can entertain ourselves with outside of God.

I don’t know about you, but I want to stay inside the protective bubble of my Lord and Savior.  I want to stay under His wings.

When we choose to live according to the commands of God, even when the waters seem rough; even when the waves of the sea appear to want to sweep us away, God’s mighty Hand is there to steady the way.

I challenge you today if you are wandering from God – stop. Get in line with His Word. Stay close to the scriptures. Connect with God in prayer. He knows what is best for you and for me.

 


Owning Your Winters

I see life in seasons. I’m not sure when that started or who told me to see it that way, but it is a lens in which I view life.

Summer is my happy season. When things are fun in my life; when the kids come to visit; when the grandchildren are running around; when Connie and I are hanging out – that’s a Summer for me.

Spring is a beginning for me. Maybe I’ve started a new project. Or in the church, we are preparing for a mission trip, or iReach, or a new sermon series. Spring is preparation and newness for me.

Fall is a harvesting time. It is fruits of the labor. It’s how I feel when all the grass is cut at my house, the garage is cleaned up, my “Honey Do List” is complete, and I can go fishing. That is  my Fall feeling.

Winter is sadness, grief, loss. It is that time when tragedy strikes, or I’ve lost someone or something of value to me. Winter is a time in life for reflection and thought. It is that moment when one has to stop and take in the struggle and pains of life.

Seasons come in and out of life. It can literally be Spring outside, but Winter in our hearts. And that’s ok.

One of the most important aspects of grief is owning it. Not hiding from it – owning it. Sometimes grief wants to own us. When we are in the middle of a tragedy and we do not know how to put one foot in front of the other, it is key to know where the source of strength can be found. Sometimes we feel like there are so many questions and there are no answers. It’s ok to feel that way because the truth is, there are so many questions and we all want them answered immediately.

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” -Isaiah 41:10

When we experience loss, sometimes we just need to feel the presence of someone near us. God demonstrates this in a powerful way. He is our support. He will hold us up. As people who love God, we must demonstrate the same to those who are experiencing loss. It isn’t about what we say, it is about what we do. Be a presence for those who are grieving. Let them know you are there to help.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.  When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.”- Isaiah 43:2

God tells us that He isn’t just an onlooker in our times of despair, He will pass through the rivers with us. He will be beside us in the fire and keep us from being burned. Never doubt the importance of others during times of hardship. God is not only there for you, but He will send people to help you walk through the “Winter.”

If you are experiencing loss and grief at this time in your life, know that God is near. Reach out to those who offer to help. Stay close to God through your local church, the scriptures, and prayer.

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.” -Psalm 46:1-2

My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life.” -Psalm 119:50.

Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”

-John 14:1-4


Surely

Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other.” 1 John 4:11

Probably, the word that stands out to me the most in this scripture’s translation is “surely.”

I had a teacher in elementary school who would follow her statements with, “Surely, you can do that.” Maybe it was a project due in two or three weeks, and she would add, “With all the extra time I am giving you, SURELY you can have it in on time!” Or, maybe it was a playground rule after a rainy day where she wanted us to avoid mud puddles. She would qualify the rule with, “Surely, you are smart enough to stay out of the puddles!”

It is a word used to emphasize the confidence the speaker has in us that there is NO doubt we can complete a task.

“Since God loved us that much…SURELY!”

What does loving each other actually mean? Some people may define love as a universal, feel good, warm and fuzzy in the air kind of emotion – we love everyone. But does that love encourage? Does that love trust? Does that love accept? Does that love help?

There are times when we need to evaluate what love means to us and how we reflect that love with other people. I’m glad God’s love isn’t about that universal, feel good, warm and fuzzy in the air kind of emotion, because it wouldn’t be the type of love that brings us comfort in the middle of the night when no one else is around. It wouldn’t be the kind of love that pulls us from the pits of despair or the kind that tells us no matter how bad we’ve messed up, He STILL loves us.

How are you showing others love? At work? In your home? At school? What are you doing to demonstrate the love God has called us to demonstrate?

I challenge you today to evaluate what love looks like to you, and what it looks like to God. Ask God to help you love like He loves.

 


Never Have to Be Alone

Everyone struggles with loneliness at some point. For some of you, it could be the loss of a loved one; a recent divorce; empty nest; recent move; or depression. There are so many factors that can cause us to feel isolated and alone. Sometimes, we can even be in a crowd and feel totally alone.

I want to share some scriptures with you. Focus on His word and know God understands loneliness. It is the very reason He promises to never leave us.

Matthew 28:20, “…And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (NIV)

Isaiah 41:10, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (NIV)

Psalm 147:3, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” (NIV)

Psalm 121:1 -2 “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.” (KJV)

1 Peter 5:7, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (NIV)

2 Timothy 4:16-17, “At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them. But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth.” (NIV)

Psalm 68:6, “God places the lonely in families; he sets the prisoners free and gives them joy.”

Know you have a Father in Heaven Who loves you and wants to be a part of your life. With God, we never have to be alone.