Thursday, September 30, 2010

Knowing God - Philippians 4:12


... I have learned the secret ...
Philippians 4:12
Would you like to know the secret of life? That's what Paul is talking about today.
If we read a little more of this verse, he gives us a little more context for contentment, joy, and the secret of life. He says, "I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty ... of being well fed and going hungry."
Circumstances! Good and bad. For richer or poorer. In sickness and in health. Apparently the secret Paul learned transcends circumstances. So what is it?
It's a relationship with author of life!
Paul says -- next verse -- "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."
That's why Jesus kept telling us, "blessed are the poor ... the meek ... the merciful ... and the ones who persevere." Why? Because theirs is kingdom, hope, love, and joy.
In Christ's Love,
one whoooo
can doooo
all throoo
Christ whoooo
strengthens this yahoooo

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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Knowing God - 1 Samuel 12:24


But be sure to fear the Lord
and serve him faithfully with all your heart;
consider what great things he has done for you.
1 Samuel 12:24
How do we honor and serve the Lord -- the first half of this verse? By following the second half of this verse!
I have created a new discipline for myself in the past year. I have a prayer journal. It's pretty simple. I pray for a few big general things each day -- including church finances and personal, congregational, and national revival. Then I pray for a few specific things -- like members in hospitals, kids in trouble, marriages in crisis, and friends out of work.
And the more I pray in this intentional way, the more the word "thank you" starts popping up on the page! I can cross off answers to prayer. I can "consider what great things [God] has done for [us]."
And that helps me fear, honor, and serve him even more energetically. When we take the time to look -- and rehearse daily his blessings (and for me it's been helpful to do it in written form) -- it gets easier and easier to see that God is an active, loving, powerful God!
In Christ's Love,
a guy who will pray
for each of you
as I send this out today!

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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Knowing God - Judges 1:6

Adoni-bezek fled;
but they pursued him,
and caught him, and
cut off his thumbs and big toes.
Judges 1:6
In my daily reading I came across this unsettling verse -- unsettling enough that I was tempted to switch to an alternative ... Galatians 6:7, for example: "Remember ... you will always reap what you sow!"
My guess, however, is that most of us don't like that verse much better. We want to reap better than we sow. We want blessings without costs or discipline.
You would expect the toe-less king, Adoni-bezek, to be angry in his response. Instead, he was reflective and chastened. "7 Adoni-bezek said, 'Seventy kings with their thumbs and big toes cut off used to pick up scraps under my table; as I have done, so God has paid me back.'"
I tend to think than "reaping what we sow" is usually more logic and Biblical wisdom than divine judgment and retribution. But today think for a minute about what you'd rather not reap and be repaid in your life ... and resolve to sow a little more faith, hope, and love.
In Christ's Love,
a guy who's lucky he still has his tongue
(how many of us haven't wounded with our words?)

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God's Riches At Christ's Expense

defined as:  The exercise of love, kindness, mercy, favor; disposition to benefitor serve another; favor bestowed or privilege conferred.

It is given freely, yet costs much to accept.
Is simple to explain yet difficult to understand.

Many years ago, I was teaching in a one room school in Montana and had little furniture and less money.  A dear friend took me to the pound to pick out a puppy ... thus Hank Aaron French became my first fur-kid that was all mine.  For Christmas this same friend gave me a futon for my single wide trailer/home/school.  In a fit of pride. Stubborness. feelings of unworthiness. I declined the gift.  I told her I couldn't accept something so expensive and large.  It was the perfect gift.  I needed a place for guests to sleep.  It was multi-functional.  And I wanted one.  But I said no.

That rejection hurt our friendship.  Our friendship has not been quite as close as it was prior to that event.  I don't know if I have ever asked for her to forgive me, but if I haven't and you're reading this, will you forgive me for being stubborn and prideful? For not seeing the gift for what it was? Please?

A little over a week ago I went on a retreat and was showered with grace.  Initially I was trying to stay disconnected.  Not wanting to receive what was being offered.  Keeping my heart walled off and 'safe.'  Then cracks started appearing in my wall.  God was showing himself in so many little ways.  From the timing of events to songs that were played to people who helped me rediscover my smile and laugh.  Pastors that threw grapes. Tablemates that thought I could draw. A husband that held my hand.  Strangers meeting our every need.  Seeing a flock of wild turkeys fly over a misty lake.  All moments of grace.

Near midnight on Sept 18, I was in a true struggle between myself and God.  I wanted to keep my fists clinched.  I didn't think I was worth God's forgiveness and grace for certain things in the past.  I was scared to release them. To truly live in him.  I was about to turn 40 in a matter of minutes as I stood before the cross and wept.  Wept for my stubbornness. my pride.  my past. my son in heaven. my children on earth. my husband. my fear of opening my hands to God and letting him take the past hurts.  Then, with the help of someone who exemplifies grace, I prayed - out loud - and eventually opened my hands. unclenched my fists and released the hurts. the fear. the pain.

and felt calming peace.

There have been many instances of grace since coming down the mountain.  The person who paid for breakfast one morning.  I was expecting a free sandwich with my coupon and got an entire meal for free!  The beautiful gifts for my birthday.  The rain.


A week later I have had enough time alone.  I am still processing everything from the weekend, but I need people to talk it over with. Someone with skin and ears.  I still feel so new here and alone.  I am scared that if left alone too much, I will end up repairing my wall and returning right back to where I was.  I don't know how to seek help without sounding too needy. I am volunteering for so many things, yet not really getting to know anyone.

We were taught, "Make a friend. Be a friend. Bring a friend to Christ." But what about make a friend, be a friend, help a friend keep growing in Christ?  Isn't that where grace in action continues?


Monday, September 27, 2010

Knowing God - 1 Samuel 2:2

There is no one holy like the Lord;
there is no one besides you;
there is no Rock like our God.
1 Samuel 2:2
Lately, I've been focusing a little on St. Peter -- the rock -- and I couldn't help but think about how he occasionally sank like a rock. So when 1 Samuel 2:2 talked about God being a rock, the first words that slipped into my mind were sinking and seas.
And then I payed closer attention -- "there is no Rock like our God."
I sink. He is the foundation at the base of the seas. He is Gibralter -- not only the bedrock that keeps me from sinking, but the promontory that towers from the sea. He is God ... and "there is no one besides you."
How many things besides God do I try to stand on and rely upon?
In Christ's Love,
a guy who's a sinker at worst
and a bobber at best
(but who's been thankfully invited
to stand on the Rock!)

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Sunday, September 26, 2010

Knowing God - Proverbs 19:2


Desire without knowledge is not good,
and one who moves too hurriedly
misses the way.
Proverbs 19:2
Instant gratification. I'm increasingly believing that it is one of the greatest curses of our current age.
Not only do we want things, but we want them right now. And we don't stop to count the cost. Teens naturally enjoy friendships and fun more than school work ... then are surprised when career doors are closed to them. Companies want immediate profits and lay off the wise but costly experienced workers ... then are surprised when bankruptcy follows.
The Scriptures tell us that desire without counting the cost in every knowledgeable way is foolish. Indeed, moving too hurriedly -- without considering the long-term ramifications -- will lead us astray.
In what ways are you addicted to instant gratification?
In Christ's Love,
a guy who needs less candy
(instant gratification)
and more fruits and vegetables

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Saturday, September 25, 2010

Knowing God - Proverbs 14:17

One who is quick-tempered acts foolishly,
and the schemer is hated.
Proverbs 14:17
Surely you know what a bell curve is, right? Using this bell shaped graph, pretend we're measuring we're measuring intelligence. In the large center are most people with a few brilliant and less than brilliant people at either extreme. 
In our reading for today, scripture tells us about two unfavorable extremes. At the one end are the plotters and schemers. Scripture labels them as despised. At the other end are the people who fail to plot and plan. They are impulsive. Quick tempered. They are resented for an entirely different reason.
The question is ... how would you describe the middle?! Rather than quick-tempered, we might define someone as joyful, satisfied, easy-going, and content. And rather than planning, plotting, and scheming, we might say that the joyful, satisfied person does not have an agenda and is not manipulative.
Now, in our world today, what percent of people -- would you say -- are satisfied and content rather than impulsive or driving? 
I don't know about you, but it seems to me that the bell curve is flattening ... if not flipping. Too many of us are upside down, exhausted, pressing, and uncontent. Peace is discovering the joy of the Lord and rising above the pressures of the world.
In Christ's Love,
a guy who wants to ring the bell
of joy and contentment

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Friday, September 24, 2010

Knowing God - Psalm 64:10


The righteous shall rejoice in the Lord
and trust in Him,
and all the upright in heart shall glory. 
Psalm 64:10
Who shall rejoice? The righteous. Why?
It's normal and natural for all of us to desire God's blessings. So why don't we see more? Often it's because our lives aren't aligned with God's plans and purposes. Even a few degrees off of center makes a greater and greater difference as the miles of life add up.
Righteousness -- and right living -- aligns our lives with God. Righteousness is more than just honorable acts and upstanding ethics. It's proper prayer, deeper devotion, wonderful worship, and passionate praise.
If you want even more rejoicing and joy, start asking God where you're a degree or two off. And settle even more fully into his grace.
In Christ's Love,
a guy who's odometer
keeps reading more miles
and needs to save the engine
by heading in the right direction

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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Knowing God - Genesis 39:6-7

Joseph was handsome and good-looking.
And after a time his master's wife cast
her eyes on Joseph and said, "Lie with me."
Genesis 39:6-7
I learned a new word this morning from an old devotional. "Perfidious" means "guilty, treacherous, faithless, or deceitful."
With that in mind, I'm very intrigued by the phrase "Lie with me." In English (and in this context), "lie" has two perfidious (treacherous) meanings. In the more literal sense, a perfidious wife wants to lie down with someone other than her husband. But I'm more interested in the less literal sense ...
Potipher's wife wants Joseph to "lie with [her]." Yes, she wants to physically entangle him in her adultery (perfidy), but she also wants to entangle him in her lies and deceitfulness and treachery.
Adultery, obviously, entangles not just one person in a web of lies. But the question is: Who are you entangling in other kinds of lies and perfidy? And whose treachery are you tangled up in?
In Christ's Love,
a guy who used to use conditioner on his hair
(I didn't even want my hair to be tangled
... but God made sure I didn't have to worry
anymore about tangled hair.
You don't have to just get tangled up in other's lies ... you can get tangled up in the lies that you yourself believe.  That you create out of your reality.  These lies can be just as destructive. Just as perfidious. And - to use pastor's illustration - if anyone has gotten their hair tangled, you know how painful it can be to untangle it. 

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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Walk Down This Mountain

It's a better place standing high upon this mountain
I've seen your face full of the light that only this height can show
A blistered hand is what you've given
But you've been given all you'll ever need to know

So walk down this mountain with your heart held high
Follow in the footsteps of your Maker
And with this love that's gone before you and these people at your side
If you offer up your broken cup
You will taste the meaning of this life

It's a common ground, and I see we're all still standing
Just look around and you'll find the very face of God
He's walking down into the distance
He's walking down to where the masses are

So walk down this mountain with your heart held high
Follow in the footsteps of your Maker
And with this love that's gone before you and these people at your side
If you offer up your broken cup
You will taste the meaning of this life

We're standing in a place of peace
But this is how the world should be 
Walk down this mountain with your heart held high
(Bebo Norman)

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Know God - Job 41:25

By reason of breakings
they purify themselves.
Job 41:25
Stick with me for an extra minute or two today. I think you'll like this!
I pull verses from a number of places. Some touch my heart immediately. Others -- like today's -- are a complete mystery! Here's was my process in trying to figure this verse out ...
First, other translations weren't much help. Combining different versions, they read ...
1) At the crashing, thrashing, consternation, and/or breaking ...
2) some group of people -- identified as either broken down, afraid ... or ... the strong, the mighty, other gods, or angels --
3) retreat, cower, run away, stand there perplexed, are beside themselves, keep themselves free, and/or purify themselves.
Let's try a little more context ...
In perhaps the oldest book in scripture, Job's life has been turned upside-down by tragedy. Job and his friends keep asking God questions -- mainly, "WHY?!" Instead of answering directly, God asks Job a series of questions. Chapter 41 is one of God's final questions.
In this question God talks about a beast that is mightier than man -- some translations call him Leviathan (a mythical sea creature), others envision him as a real creature (we'll use the New Living Translation's crocodile) -- and the chapter goes essentially like this (today's verse -- in this and other translations -- in bold) ...
1 [THE LORD SAY,] "Can you catch a crocodile with a hook or put a noose around its jaw? 3 Will it beg you for mercy or implore you for pity?
4 Will it agree to work for you? Can you make it be your slave for life? 5 Can you make it a pet like a bird, or give it to your little girls to play with?
7 Will its hide be hurt by darts, or its head by a harpoon? 8 If you lay a hand on it, you will never forget the battle that follows ...!
10 And since no one dares to disturb the crocodile, who would dare to stand up to Me?
12 "I want to emphasize the tremendous strength in the crocodile's limbs ... 13 [And] who can ... penetrate its double layer of armor -- [called it's] hide? 14 [And] who could pry open its jaws? 18 "When it sneezes, it flashes light! 21 Its breath would kindle coals. 24 Its heart is as hard as rock. 25 When it rises, the mighty are afraid, gripped by terror. [Indeed, the mighty -- even gods and angels -- cower before its tail-thrashing turbulence.] 34 Of all the creatures, it is the proudest. It is the king of beasts."
But ... says (or implies) God, I am king of the king of beasts. If you won't confront a crocodile (much less a sea monster), would you actually dare to confront me? Indeed, "11 Who will confront me and remain safe ? Everything under heaven is mine."
And Job responds, "42:6 [Oops.] I take back everything I said. 2 I know you can do anything. 6 I [will just] sit [here now] in dust and ashes to show my repentance."
Because our God is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, we try to tame him like a basset hound puppy in a nickle pet store. But in so doing, we make our God much too small. He is mightier -- by far -- than a mortal crocodile. He is God. He doesn't submit to our human interpretations of justice. He is Justice. He is Truth. He is Love. He is God. 
God's message to Job is: Even if you don't understand, just bow before me. Just trust.
In Christ's Love,
a guy who loved to watch The Crocodile Hunter
(you always wondered how that guy didn't get killed
... and then he did get killed.
I want a God who is stronger than the crocodile
... and stronger than death.)

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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Knowing God - Exodus 20:16


Thou shalt not bear false witness
against thy neighbor.
Exodus 20:16
One of the comic strips that I remember from childhood was about the "bodacious hillbilly" Snuffy Smith.
"Bodacious hillbilly" is how Snuffy's own website describes him. Listen to how it describes his wife: "Loweezy -- Snuffy's adoring wife. The only thing she enjoys more than servin' up tasty vittles to Snuffy and the kids is servin' up a bit of juicy gossip to her best friend, Elviney."
Why do we laugh at gossip? It's probably because its so common. We see ourselves and others in this habit. But in laughing, we sometimes excuse the destructiveness.
Proverbs 16:28 tells us that "gossip ... plants seeds of strife ... [and] separates the best of friends." Romans 1:29 places it nearly on par with hatred and murder. And Proverbs 25:10 warns that it could become the source of a great fall -- "you [may] never regain your good reputation."
But in Proverbs 26:20 we are told that "Fire goes out for lack of fuel, and quarrels disappear when gossipstops."
Become a firefighter. Always refuse to gossip.
In Christ's Love,
a guy who wants to own a Dalmatian
(i.e. I want to be a fireman)

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Monday, September 20, 2010

Knowing God - Isaiah 55:6


Seek the Lord while he may be found,
call upon him while he is near
Isaiah 55:6
Today's lesson proclaims one of the mysteries of God.
On the one hand, one of the promises of God is "Emmanuel" -- which means "God is with us." Indeed, scripture proclaims an omnipresent, always available God.
On the other hand, scripture also cries, "Why, O Lord, do you stand far off?" (Ps 10:1). Even Jesus on the cross repeated the cries of Psalm 22, "1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so farfrom ... the words of my groaning?"
Scripture says, "The Lord is near to the brokenhearted" (Ps 34:18). So why does he also -- and sometimes -- seem so far away? 
The Psalms give us a hint of an explanation. Psalm 119 tells us that "155 Salvation is far from the wicked" and Psalm 138 tells us that "6 he perceives the haughty from far away." Sin causes the distance. Our sin erects a barrier between us and God. But the Psalms also tell us what God wants to do with our sins: "As faras the east is from the west, so far he removes our transgressions from us" (Psalm 103:12).
When God seems far, maybe we need to ask which sins are creating the distance.
Now, we can over-do that. We can beat ourselves up, searching our past for some unconfessed transgression. I that know for me the separating sin is usually much simpler -- "I've been too busy to turn to him often enough!"
So ... whenever you have one of those seasons when "he may be found" -- our verse for today -- "seek" passionately! "Call on him" actively! Ride this wave until it peters out on the shore. Then swim back out and try to catch the wave again.
Indeed, the more we practice his presence, the more continual the waves will seem to be.
In Christ's Love,
a surfer dude

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Sunday, September 19, 2010

Knowing God - Proverbs 23:26


I will give You my heart and
let my eyes delight in Your ways.
Prayer based on
Proverbs 23:26
Sometimes when I come across the scripture I'll be writing on, I'll clip it from a source of prayers.
In the actual verse, we can almost hear God's call, "My child, give me your heart, and let your eyes observe my ways."
In the prayer above, "will" may be the most important word. "I WILL give you my heart." "I WILL ... let my eyes delight in your ways."
What if we turned more of God's words to us into prayers? What if every "come to me," "follow me," "obey my commands," and "believe in me" was greeted with a quick and joyful "I WILL! I WILL come, follow, obey, trust, and believe!"
As parents, we all know how frustrating it is to have a child that ignores wisdom, scoffs at rules, and goes hisown way.
Oh, how we must frustrate God!
When we pursue our own way, scripture calls us foolish sheep. ("Fools think their own way is right" -- Proverbs 12:15 and "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have all turned to our own way." -- Isaiah 53:6).
The alternative is love because as it says it 1 Corinthians 13:5, "love does not insist on it's own way." Love and respect causes us to honor, follow, and respect God our Father. And not insisting on our own way is also a positive way to love our neighbor.
In Christ's Love
a guy who knows that going my own way
is going the wrong way

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Knowing God - Psalm 119:81


My soul faints with longing for your salvation;
therefore, I have put my hope in your word.
Psalm 119:81
This morning I was reading about a nineteenth century educational philosophy that is gaining fresh momentum in many private schools across America.
Imagine a triangle, say its proponents, with teacher, text, and tot at the points.
The traditional model of education has the teacher at the top. We've all encountered the model of teacher as lecturer and teacher as authoritative interpreter of the text.
A more modern method has the student at the top with self-esteem and self-expression being the principal goals. And while student-oriented education sounds noble, children (humans) don't need any more encouragement to think the world revolves around them, that authority figures are there to cater to their needs, and that a text is waiting for their own interpretation to be authoritative.
This new/old style of learning puts the text at the top with students and teachers serving as partners in trying to understand what the text has to say.
In classical education the texts may be a novel by Dostoyevsky, a play be Shakespeare, or a painting by Renior.
In life, the text is scripture.
The Bible isn't about you (the glorified student on top), and it isn't about me (the authoritative teacher who knows better than the text), the Bible is about God who is revealing pieces of his nature through his Word. And when we put the text of God's Word at the top of our learning -- with you and I as partners in looking to understand -- then we learn infinitely more. In fact, we may even learn to see God.
In Christ's Love,
an autograph seeker ...
my hope is in God's Word
and I want to get close enough
to the author to get
his signature

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Friday, September 17, 2010

Knowing God - Psalm 119:67


Before I was humbled I went astray,
but now I keep your word.
Psalm 119:67
This verse is my life story.
Until I was unemployed, underemployed -- and totally humbled -- I always played cut and paste with the Bible. I would say, "I like this ... but I can't agree with that." My concept of God was based totally on me, myself, and I.
Do you see the problem with this? In basing my religion on my philosophies, my priorities and my politics, I was creating God in my own image.
When I was humbled, I finally hit my knees. I let God be God. And I was set free.
Psalm 119 puts it this way: "Before I was humbled I went astray, but now I keep your word."
In Christ's Love,
a lost sheep who's found The Way

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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Knowing God - 2 Corinthians 13:11


Aim for perfection, listen to my appeal,
be of one mind, live in peace.
And the God of love and peace will be with you.
2 Corinthians 13:11
In sports, all of my athletic ability was in my legs. I could run fast and jump high.
But what I couldn't do was shoot, throw, or aim straight. Therefore, I've often joked, "Don't worry. I'll just aim straight at you."
Now, that may work for me tossing softballs, but it's not a very good philosophy for life. In general, we become whatever we aim at.
The problem is that too many of us are aimless. We're so busy trying to make it through each busy day, that we haven't taken time to aim at all.
How many of us are so busy that we're like this race car driver? A race official proclaims, "Today's race is going to be five hundred miles." And before the official can say anything else, one of the drivers rushes out the door, fires up his car, peels out of the parking lot, and when his odometer hits 500-miles, shouts "I win!" Did he win? Well, if the finish line was in the other direction, he was simply going nowhere fast.
Do you ever feel like you're going nowhere fast? In today's lesson, scripture tells us where the finish line is: "Aim for perfection."
+ Now, many of us aim for good -- and we settle for alright.
+ Some of us aim for great -- and are happy if hit pretty darn good.
+ But what would happen if we aimed for perfection?!
Yes, we'll all sin and fall a little short, but I'd rather my trajectory be in the neighborhood of Christ and holiness rather than distracted mediocrity.
In Christ's Love,
a guy who wants to aim to be like Christ
(and will settle for being a fraction of him
than looking like a lot of the world)

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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Knowing God - 1 Chronicles 22:19


Now devote your heart and soul
to seeking the LORD your God.
1 Chronicles 22:19
In this passage, David is commissioning his son, Solomon.
God didn't allow David to build the temple. David was the warrior king with too much blood on his hands. So David is commissioning his son with this important piece of advice.
Whatever you are building (attempting, hoping, planning) in life, this is a magnificent starting point: "Now devote your heart and soul to seeking the Lord your God."
In Christ's Love,
a guy who needs to re-start today
with that goal in mind
... and everyday hereafter.

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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Knowing God - Exodus 33:17


And the LORD said to Moses,
"I will do the very thing you have asked,
because I am pleased with you
and I know you by name."
Exodus 33:17
In a verse like this, the temptation is to turn it around -- if we're not getting what we ask for, is God displeased with us?
Have you ever done that?
Please rest assured that this converse is not true. There's a million reasons why prayer is sometimes not answered. Nevertheless, here's a good indication for why and when extraordinary prayer is answered: Look at what Moses and God are doing.
What are Moses and God doing? They're talking together. Personally. Deeply. Wonderfully. There is a remarkable relationship.
Now, we could be tempted to say that the relationship that Moses has with God is a once-in-a-millenium-type-of-relationship ... and you'd certainly be right. But God is more generous with himself than most of us take advantage of. God wants a deeper relationship with you. That will give him great pleasure. And you'll find more answers to prayer.
Your answers to prayer won't be because God is a genie in a bottle who is just waiting to grant his buddy's wishes. Nor will the answers you receive be a sign that God likes you more than the next guy. Rather, it will be because you've learned more about your heavenly friend. And suddenly you're asking -- based not on what you want to accomplish -- but on what God wants to accomplish already.
That's alignment. When you want what God wants, it's amazing how many more prayers will get answered.
In Christ's Love,
a guy who needs a chiropractor
(get it ... better alignment)

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Monday, September 13, 2010

Knowing God - Psalm 65:9

You visit the earth and water it,
you greatly enrich it;
the river of God is full of water;
you provide the people with grain,
for so you have prepared it.
Psalm 65:9
Driving this morning, I saw a busy field. A big green combine was harvesting corn.
My grandfather and uncles are farmers. So I know these farmers worked hard for this season's crops. But God gave the growth.
In a purely human sense, I trust those farmers. 
In a purely human sense, I trust the mills and the grocery stores.
Think about it. I don't grow a thing. So I must trust others to eat.
But God gave the growth.
Today's scripture reminds us that it's ultimately God who gives us the rain and the grain.
And here's my question for today. If we totally rely on the farmers and grocery stores for our sustenance, why is it so hard to trust in God -- totally, fully, completely?
God wants to take our fields, our families, and our lives and "greatly enrich [them]." So why do take back control, raise our own crops, and say, "Look what me, myself, and I did."
No ... Look what God does ... and trust what he wants to do.
In Christ's Love,
a guy who loves seeing
those big old tractors
(... but wants to see God more)

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Sunday, September 12, 2010

Knowing God - 1 John 3:23

And this is his commandment:
We must believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ,
and love one another, just as he commanded us.
1 John 3:23
Which part of this commandment is easier for you: Believing in God? Or loving your neighbor?
Let me suggest that if you're like me, most days we do both halfway.
The problem with truly loving our neighbor is forgiveness. There's someone out there who's hurt you. And unforgiveness is like a cancer cell in your heart. It feeds on healthy cells -- slowly, gradually, silently. And sometimes before we even realize it's there, it's robbed us of much life and health.
Who do you need to forgive today?
Secondly, we believe in Jesus ... of course. And yet, how often do we take matters into our own hands. How often do we look for the approval of others, rather than trusting in God's love for us (a love so wonderful that he died for you and me). We confess with our lips that we believe in God, but in practice, why don't we trust him more?
What's one thing you can trust him with more today?
In Christ's Love,
a guy who wants to
follow the commandments
The longer it sits there, the more dangerous it 

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Saturday, September 11, 2010

Knowing God - Jeremiah 17:13

O Lord ...
Those who turn away from you
will be written in the dust
because they have forsaken the Lord,
the fountain of living water.
Jeremiah 17:13
When I found this passage, I copied it down, and then thought to myself, "Wait! I can find a more positive passage on living water."
For example, to the woman at the well, Jesus equates living water with God's fullest blessings, saying, "If you knew the gift of God ..., you would have asked [me], and [I] would have given you living water" (John 4:10).
A few chapters later, Jesus says essentially that if your heart is filled with living water (God and his blessings), then out of you -- "out of the believer's heart [--] shall flow rivers of living water.' "
I like those. Positive. Uplifting.
So is Jeremiah 17:13. But it's also challenging.
It tells us triumphant that God is fountain of life -- indeed, "a spring of water gushing up to eternal life" (John 4:14). But it also warns us not to forsake the wet and wonderful blessing of God and grace.
When (God-through-)Jeremiah says, "those who turn away from [the Lord] will be written in the dust," I imagine a vast and dusty desert. But then -- miracle of miracles to the heart that is parched -- a bountiful oasis. In the midst of this dry and dusty world, we can draw to God -- the true oasis, the fountain of life -- or we can ignore it, forsake him, and gradually starve ourselves to death (spiritual and terminal dehydration). 
In Christ's Love,
a guy who wants his name
written in the book of life
-- not by an old cattle skull
in the dust
Those who turn away from you
will be written in the dust
because they have forsaken the Lord,
the spring of living water.

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Friday, September 10, 2010

Knowing God - 2 Corinthians 1:5

For just as the sufferings of Christ
flow over into our lives,
so also through Christ
our comfort overflows.
2 Corinthians 1:5
There've been moments in my life when I would have liked to adopt a La-Z-Boy chair. I would have taken him over a dog. Both are soft. Both are provide a warm welcome at the end of a day. But dogs you have to walk, while La-Z-Boy's invite us to put our feet up.
"Comfort overflows" is the gift of a La-Z-Boy. And it's the ultimate promise of our verse for today.  The only problem is that 2 Corinthians 1:5 suggests that to get this river of comfort we must wade through pools of suffering.
From a purely human perspective, God has a warped economy -- suffering equals comfort, humility equals strength, sacrifice equals blessing, and death equals life.
How many of us would instinctively prefer a La-Z-Boy, but how many of us ultimately seen how focusing on ourselves leads to a life as healthy as an ingrown toe nail?
In Christ's Love,
a guy who wants to humble,
healthy toe nail

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Thursday, September 09, 2010

Knowing God - Matthew 4:4

People do not live on bread alone,
but on every word that comes
from the mouth of God.
Matthew 4:4
I will often succumb to the temptation of a mid-afternoon candy bar.
Jesus fasted for forty days, and yet he still wouldn't succumb to the devilish temptation of earthly foods.
He quoted Deuteronomy 8:3. Moses was preparing God's people to enter the promised land -- and while doing so, to live faithfully. The verse begins with these words, "[the Lord] humbled you by letting you go hungry and then feeding you with manna."
I would summarize that as, "he brought you to a place of need ... then he met your need."
What we know from the midst of the Exodus story is one more piece: He brought them to a place of need, THEY CRIED FOR HELP, then God met their need."
Do you believe that God will bring us to a place of need? I do! Because when we're dependent on him, our relationship with him grows. And that -- rather than a mid-afternoon candy bar -- is really the purpose of live.
In Christ's Love,
a guy who needs to live
by more bread and less candy

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Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Knowing God - Psalm 119:103

How sweet are your words to my taste,
sweeter than honey to my mouth!
Psalm 119:103
In recent years, "SWEET!" has become a one-word exclamation of joy and satisfaction. The question is: When was the last time you yelled, "SWEET!" when reading God's word?
Isn't that a common problem in our world today? We have God's Word in history’s most easily digestible translations and we have more than enough of pages of accessible commentary to feed us richly, but too few of us take the time to feed on the Word.
With these daily devotionals, it's a treasure that you and I are snacking, but why isn't the whole church, our whole nation, the whole world feasting? Why? I think it's because most people don't like the digestion process.
For example, while God's plans are sweet and his victory eternal, some of God's purposes require a time and discipline to achieve. They occasionally require repentance -- a change of heart and habits. Therefore, rather than change, too many people put their fingers in their ears and refuse to hear. Some even put their their fingers down their throat, because a little regurgitation seems to taste better than change.
Isn't that awful ... but true? Think of the addicts who taste more and more poison rather than embrace the need to change. And the sad truth is that we're all addicted to something that's not of God.  
In Christ's Love,
a guy who learned early,
that if you want to taste the sweet stuff (dessert)
you first have to finish the vegetables (the healthy discipline)

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Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Knowing God - 1 Kings 8:27

But will God indeed dwell on the earth?
Even heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you,
much less this house that I have built!
1 Kings 8:27
Solomon built the temple ... then asked this question.
The temple was supposed to be "the house of God," but as the last blocks were being laid in place and God's house was being furnish, Solomon was realizing how absurd this notion was.
"Even heaven ... cannot contain [God]," cried the earthly king.
That's why we are advised -- in Exodus 20 along with the ten commandments -- not to make "graven images" (pictures or statues) of God. No matter how great the artist, we can't paint the Lord whom the heavens cannot contain.
In fact, any picture or statue or mental image of God puts him in a box and limits him.
We need to quit putting God in a box -- even one that sounds good and holy -- and step back instead and just say, "Wow!" Actually ... just step back, bow down, and saying, "Awe."
In Christ's Love,
a guy who needs
more servings of awe in his daily diet
than even additional servings of vegetables

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