05 Apr

Worth the read?

Why read the Bible?

The Bible is not merely a collection of religious rituals and commendable ideas. The Bible shows us how to know God personally. It also provides desired and practical instructions on how to deal with problems that arise in daily living.

Understanding God’s Word is an essential ingredient of wisdom, which is the ability to apply God’s truth to life’s complexities.

Having wisdom does not mean that you understand all of God’s ways; it means that you respond to life God’s way.

The better you know the Bible, the wiser you will be.

RAY’S PERSONAL TIP:

Spend the next 31 days reading a chapter of Proverbs. Then spend the next 6 days reading a chapter of James. Then jump into Psalms and then the Gospels! Next thing you know you will have read the entire Bible! How many people can say they have done that? Why not you? Why not ask a friend to join you in the journey?

(Thoughts from Ken Sande’s book, The Peacemaker)

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30 Mar

CODE 4: As a man thinketh!

What are we to do when everything is upended and life is a mess?

How are we to react when a new normal, that isn’t nice, invades our everyday lives?

In times like these being worried and anxious is easier than ever before. The frailty of life has become evident as an invisible army has invaded our shores and works its way across the nation.

Where do we find hope in such a time as this?

When faced with a life threatening illness, making ends meet and doom and gloom are at every turn, the power of positive thinking seems to have lost it mojo.

Nonetheless, it’s in the thinking, the thought life, where hope hides out.

How are things going for you right now?

What occupies your mind at the moment?

What are you focused on?

What challenges are you facing under this new normal?

What if I told you help was on the way?

How would that change your perspective?

We have a choice right now.

Will you join me in a little exercise?

Right down these words:

TRUE

HONORABLE

RIGHT

PURE

LOVELY

ADMIRABLE

EXCELLENT

PRAISE WORTHY

You can’t fake yourself out.

This idea, to focus on the things above, wasn’t my idea.

It is an excerpt from Philippians 4:6-8.

God has a plan for times like these. It involves prayer and perspective.

When we invite him into our thoughts and challenges something changes. My mind resets and hope is renewed.

No, I’m not sure how it works, but it does. The power of perspective and prayer, not positivity, works.

There may in fact be many positive realities and we should certainly embrace them and elevate them in our thinking. But ignoring reality won’t make challenges go way. At some point, we have to face what is true and navigate accordingly, good or bad.

People in Nazi concentration camps, that tried to put a spin on positivity, lost hope.

Don’t confuse hope with positivity. There was little to nothing positive in a gas chamber.

The key is to be real with yourself, gain proper perspective, deal with reality and invite God into the mix. Hope lies in this perspective.

FOCUSING on THESE THINGS:

Keeping it real and realistic, what is …

True, right now?

(Note: I didn’t suggest spinning it to look positive.)

Honorable?

Right?

Pure?

Lovely?

Admirable?

Excellent?

Praise worthy?

When we pray and gain proper perspective, worry has a way of fading from our minds as we recognize the Lord is with us, come what may.

He works all things together for good for those who love him and are called according to his purposes.

There within lies the hope to die another day.

I refer to this little exercise as CODE 4, given its location in scripture.

Remember CODE 4 when worry and anxiety start to creep in. Put CODE 4 into practice.

Pray and think on these things. The results are very positive!

 

 

 

25 Mar

Unprecedented and uncertain times?

Time and again. Over and over. Not once but multiple times a day, the word unprecedented continues to appear in news feeds, chat rooms, online conversations and nearly every form of communication.

It has been said that there is nothing new under the sun. Maybe not, but this global pandemic is sure new to a lot of us.

Life has all but slowed to a grinding hault as sports fields are vacant, movie screens are darkened, restaurants go carry out, grocery shelves go bare and toilet paper becomes as good as gold.

As some fight for their lives and live in fear, others struggle to make ends meet and wonder if they too might be next.

Our busy lives kept us distracted from our vulnerability and in many cases what really matters. If the virus doesn’t kill us, the silence surely will. We simply don’t know how to live with so much time on our hands let alone the potential of handing off a contagious life threatening invisible enemy.

Until a few weeks ago, who had ever heard of social distancing other than possibly a support group for introverts. Is there such a thing? Groups for introverts? That would apparently be the equivalent of offering a bald man a comb. I should know how absurd that would be. Why? Because I am, you guessed it, a bald man.

Where is God in all of this? Has he left us alone to work it out amongst ourselves? Is he mad at us or indifferent? Does he really even care?

Something tells me he is right where he has always been.  He is right in the middle of it all. Like the virus, he might be invisible, but he is certainly present.

No, he didn’t run away. He never left our side. He also didn’t waive a magic wand and make it all disappear or kiss it and make it all better. He is in it for the long haul. He is running with us toward the finish line. He is working through scientists, medical professionals, political leaders and ordinary angels otherwise known as the human race.

We have our issues and we often fall very short of being our best but in times like these, we pull together and with God at our side, we not only survive, we thrive. We come out better than before.

Yes, we will get through this. How do I know? Because I have looked to the past and I hope in the future knowing that when faced with unprecedented times, we prevail.

I suppose we are living in unprecedented times but I take comfort in knowing that while I haven’t been here before, he has. I’m not sure how it all works out, but it will.

To be honest, sometimes it feels like God only offers air hugs. If only he were more tangible. Other times, it feels as if I literally heard his voice and felt him taking my hand leading me in the way that I should go.

Is he the ultimate fixer upper? Not always. But one thing is for sure, I have come to learn that he doesn’t waste anything. Not even suffering and pain.

I don’t know why he cares but I know he does. When I call on him he assures me he is near and willing to walk with me even through these unprecedented and uncertain times.

 

20 Jan

Content with the content?

PEACE AND CONTENTMENT WORK HAND AND HAND

I. THE KEY TO PEACE?

(The Big 8)

THINK ON WHATEVER IS:

  1. TRUE
  2. HONORABLE
  3. RIGHT
  4. PURE
  5. LOVELY
  6. ADMIRABLE
  7. EXCELLENT
  8. PRAISEWORTHY

Philippians 4:8-9 NLT

[8] And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. [9] Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me— everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.

II. THE KEY TO CONTENTMENT?

(Dependence)

Know where your strength comes from. Truly, supernatural power.

CONTENT WITH or WITHOUT

Philippians 4:11-13 NLT

[11] Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. [12] I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. [13] For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.

III. THE BOTTOMLINE?

DON’T WORRY

  1. Tell God:

(invite Him into the equation)

  1. Thank God:

(remember he has and will again)

Worry is a prompt to pray.

Trust. Have confidence (Faith) God is at work in your life.

Without faith it is impossible. Faith is a requirement for God to act. Otherwise it is on us. God only does what God can do. Everything else, he leaves to you.

Pray like it depends on God.

Act like it depends on you.

At the end of ourselves, we find Him.

Philippians 4:6-7 NLT

[6] Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. TELL GOD what you need, and THANK GOD for all he has done. [7] Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

 

18 Jan

A reflective perspective

The beauty of age is a reflective perspective.

The older we get the more we realize how much we still have yet to learn.

The more we know the more we realize we don’t.

I love what Paul said as a man who had learned a lot from life and was willing to make the much needed adjustments in his perspective. “I once thought,” were the words he used to describe his humble retraction regarding his former way of thinking.

As a pure-blood citizen of Israel and former zealous Pharisee, his culture,  heritage and life experiences had led him in one direction but a divine encounter set everything on end.

In coming face to face with Jesus, reality set in and something had to change. The truth had set him free to forget what had lied in the past and then to press on to what waited ahead in the future. Paul was a new man with a new outlook on life. Nothing would ever be the same again.

The older we get the more stubborn we become. We have worked hard to collect our vault of knowledge. Learning some of the files are corrupt or might be out of order can upset the whole operating system.

Some would rather live in denial than face the reality that the system is flawed. It takes a good measure of humility to admit you were wrong.

Thankfully, while opinions change, people change and the way things get done change, the truth never changes. The key is making the necessary changes when we realize the truth. To do otherwise is to live as an arrogant fake as if we are somehow an exception to the rule.

Don’t believe it, it is in fact possible to teach an old dog new tricks, especially if they are true!

Perhaps it is time for a little reflection. Is your operating system outdated? Is it possible what you thought was, really isn’t? It is worth an ask. Like Paul, is it possible for you to say, “I once thought.”

What did you once think? What changed your mind or convinced you otherwise? Is your perspective rooted in truth? A personal experience or encounter? Is your belief a mere opinion or premonition or is it based on truth?

Take some time to reflect but like Paul, don’t spend too much time there or the paralysis of analysis will set in and you will be stuck!

Make the necessary adjustments, ask for forgiveness, accept some much needed grace and then press on for what lies ahead! More insight. More enlightenment. More truth!

Let us begin again each day with our sights set on learning, for it is within this journey that we ultimately arrive.

 

13 Dec

Are you a dreamer?

Are you a dreamer!

What do you dream about?

Maybe it is time to start visualizing your dreams. Write them out. Clip out images of them. Create a dream board. Share your dreams with a friend. Share them with the Lord!

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life.” Proverbs 13:12

“It is pleasant to see dreams come true, but fools refuse to turn from evil to attain them.” Proverbs 13:19

What is keeping your dream from coming true?

Trust? Faith? Fear? Initiative? Habits? Courage?

Sleep on it and then … dream big!

04 Dec

Who’s your daddy?

Who’s your daddy?

Do you love your kids?

Would you do anything in the world for them?

Do you want the best for them?

Do you sometimes have to correct and disciple them?

Could they do anything to make you love them more?

Do you desire for them to trust you?

Do you desire for them to be with you?

No doubt.

Now, remember.

You are God’s kid.

Does he love you?

Would he do anything in the world for you?

Does he want the best for you?

Does he sometimes have to correct and discipline you?

Could you do anything to make him love you more?

Does he desire for you to trust him?

Does he desire for you to be with him?

No doubt.

Who’s daddy are you?

Who’s your daddy?

You know how much you love your kids.

Do you know how much God loves you?

Rest and trust in these truths. Fear not. Why worry? Why doubt? Your daddy has got this. Act and live like a King’s kid with Jesus as your Lord.

Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.

Let Daddy know what’s up. He’s got really big muscles.

29 Nov

The Lump

The clay is put into the potter’s hands, and then lies passive there, submitting itself to all the turnings and overturnings of the potter’s hands upon it. There is really nothing else to be said about the clay’s part. But what must the potter do?

The potter takes the clay and begins to mold and fashion it according to his own will. He kneads and works it; he tears it apart and presses it together again; he wets it and then suffers it to dry. Sometimes he works at it for hours together; sometimes he lays it aside for days, and does not touch it. And then, when by all these processes he has made it perfectly pliable in his hands, he proceeds to make it up into the vessel he proposed. He turns it on the heel, planes it and smooths it, and dries it in the sun, bakes it in the oven, and finally turns it out of his workshop, a vessel to his honor and fit for his use.

The clay is not expected to do the potter’s work, but only to yield itself up to his working.

What can be said about man’s part in this great work but that he must continually surrender himself and continually trust?

The lump of clay could never grow into a beautiful vessel if it stayed in the clay pit. But when it is put into the hands of a skillful potter it grows rapidly, under his fashioning, into the vessel he intends it to be. And in the same way the soul, abandon to the working of the Heavenly Potter, is made into a vessel onto honor, sanctified for the Master’s use.

Having taken the step of faith by which you have put yourself wholly and absolutely into His hands, you must now expect Him to begin to work. His way of accomplishing that which you have entrusted to Him may be different from your way; but He knows, and you must be satisfied.

Maturity can not be reached in a moment, but is the result of the work of God’s Holy Spirit. We cannot hope to reach this maturity in any way other than by yielding ourselves up, utterly and willingly, to His mighty working.

The lump of clay, from the moment it comes under the transforming hand of the potter is, during each day and hour of the process, just what the potter wants it to be at that hour. Or on that day, and therefore pleases him; but it is very far from being matured into the vessel he intends in the future to make it.

The apple in June is a perfect apple for June but it is very different from the apple in October, which is a perfected apple.

By an act of faith we put ourselves in the hands of the Lord, for Him to work in us all the great pleasure of His will, and then, by a continuous exercise of faith, keep ourselves there. This is our part in the matter. And when we do it, and while we do it, we are, in the Scripture sense, truly pleasing God, although it may require years of training and discipline to mature us into a vessel that shall be in all respects to His honor, and fitted to every good work.

Our part is the trusting; it is His to accomplish the results. Trust is the beginning and the continuing foundation; but when we trust, the Lord works.

Just as the potter, however skillful, cannot make a beautiful vessel out of a lump of clay that is never put into his hands, so neither can God make out of me a vessel into His honor unless I put myself into His hands.

(Excerpts abridged from Hannah Whitaker Smith’s book, The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life) Written in 1875.

 

 

15 Nov

Browns and Steelers Fight

Browns and Steelers Fight

Take a few minutes to watch this series of clips from last night’s Browns and Steelers game.

It was awful. Guys so mad that they blacked out. Can you relate?

Notice the apologies. The regret.

As adults, I think this level of outrage helps remind us of a child’s perspective when we lose control. God help us that it is not physically abusive but there is no question as to why the Lord says man’s anger does not produce His righteousness.

Our pasts don’t have to dictate our futures.

Having grown up in a home where domestic violence was prevalent, I can relate too well to the emotions present in these clips.

I am also grateful that it is possible for the apple to fall far from the tree with the help of others and the power of God’s love to transform lives.

Help is available for anger management. If you need to talk let me know.

https://youtu.be/eef-l5pcEIk

https://youtu.be/NXF2vqGej_8

https://youtu.be/KWF3cGKO9VQ

https://youtu.be/SpuWBD-n8E4

https://youtu.be/6Fv1d4bWlrI