Here’s to the Everyday

Here’s to the average day, the humdrum and the usual.  Here’s to another cup of coffee, stopping by the post office and saying your prayers.  Here’s to those things, people and habits that define our regular lives.  Hidden in them is the stuff of miracles.

"It is in the ordinary duties and labors of life that the Christian can and should develop his spiritual union with God."  Thomas Merton

It is in God’s wisdom that he should engage us in the things that consume most of our lives.  He is not relegated to worship services or prayer closets.  Those are special times but few in number compared to the daily tasks of life.  Imagine what could happen to your relationship with God if the routine became a partnership with Christ.

Think of those things you do on autopilot.  Washing the dishes.  Taking out the trash.  Paying the bills.  What if you reserved a little personal time with God in the process.  Not a formal prayer but some reflections with him on the spur of the moment like pausing at the trash bin to look up at the sky and marvel.  Or snatching a few moments reading your Bible study while you wait in line at the store. 

Learning to enjoy life in the middle of it is as old as Solomon.  "That everyone may eat and drink and find satisfaction in all his toil.  That is the gift of God."  Ecclesiastes. 3:13

"Nothing is too little to be ordered by our Father; nothing to little in which to see His hand; nothing which touches our souls too little to accept from Him; nothing to little to be done for Him."  Ed Pusey

Remember:

1. The more you allow God into your daily affairs, the easier you will find it to make the most of your busy day.

2. Opportunities for developing your relationship with God often lie in those unexpected places.

3. You sometimes hear God more clearly in the quiet and routine work of the day since it’s just you and Him.

The apostles were right.  "In Him we live and move and exist."  Acts 17:28  You can experience serenity in the midst of your busy life by inviting God into the mundane moments of life.

I hope you have a good, normal and boring day. 

All or Nothing

There is a certain inequity to God.  At least from our perspective.  Most of us are conservative by nature.  We have based our lives on the strategy of playing it safe.  Don’t run with sharp objects and don’t take chances.  From investments to wardrobe, we keep it down the middle of the road.

The only problem with that philosophy is that you get run over.  The economy takes a downturn and your investments lose their value.  You save for retirement and your health fails before you cash in.  It’s like the deck is stacked against you.  Even our Lord gave a chilling warning to the strategy of playing it safe.

"So take the one talent from him and give to him who has ten talents.  For to everyone that has more will be given, and he will have an abundance.  But from the one who has not, event that which he has will be taken."  Matthew 25:28,29

It seems like those who have get all the breaks.  Those who have the money make more money and the little man gets left out in the cold.  Such is the language of the cynic.

What if I were to employ the phrase, "Use it or lose it."  You can understand that concept.  If the athlete doesn’t practice, he loses his edge.  If the vocalist doesn’t rehearse, their voice fades.  That which not exercised, dies.  That we understand.

And so did Jesus.  No one is alike.  We each have different gifts and blessings.  That isn’t the measure of our worth.  It’s what we do with what we have.  Do we grow it, strengthen it and multiply it. 

Faith is the same way.  It is living thing.  It must be exercised and used or it fades and dies.  Jesus knew that and he used the parable of the talents to make it clear.  Sit on your faith and do nothing and you will wake up one day with no faith at all.  At least none that will help you. 

Use your faith and exercise your trust in God and He will give your more faith and greater opportunities to serve.  When it comes to faith, it’s all or nothing.  Move forward or soon you won’t be moving at all.

Success Is Cumulative

It has been a busy day but a good one.  Filled with its share of good and bad.  Probably not much different than yours.  The question is:  Was your day a successful one?  There seems to be this incessant need to be able to quantify the value of the day.  We need those victories that can confirm the day was worth living.  How shortsighted can we be?

Consider an average rain.  Those who study such things say that five million raindrops fall in a typical rainstorm over just an acre of land.  But which raindrop is more important? The first or the last.  We tend to see the resurrection of Christ as the most significant day of His life but did He value one day more than another?  Jesus understood the cumulative value of success.  It’s not the last stride that wins the race but the culmination of every step before it. 

Remember what Jesus said as He gave up His life.   "It is finished."  How did Paul describe living the good Christian life?  "They ran the good race and fought the good fight."  Every single day of your life is important to your faith because success is cumulative.  How you live the bad days is just as critical as how you enjoy the good ones. 

"The Kingdom of Heaven is like a farmer."  Mark 4:3

Every farmer enjoys a good harvest but they also enjoy turning the ground and planting the seed.  They understand the harvest is shaped by the quality of each day before it.  Can you live with cumulative success?  Can you accept the equal value of every day you live whether it goes well or not? 

"This is the day the Lord has made.  I will rejoice and be glad in it."

Show how is your day going?  Remember it is just as good as any other day.  They all add up so enjoy it the best you can.  Then rejoice that success is cumulative.

Hurry Up and Wait

Just got back from the hospital.  The patient was scheduled for one hour but it wound up being another hour.  So I thought this morning I would share a word about patience.  I hope it can speak to your life today.

"The two most powerful warriors are patience and time."  Leo Tolstoy

The apostle Paul spoke about being patient.  He encouraged Christians to ‘bear with one another in love’.  He knew that the impact of faith in Christ would have all sorts of ramifications in the believer’s daily life.  Life is tough enough.  So why would we add the demands of our faith tot he mix.  Because Paul understood that without the patience that comes with faith, we would wind up divided from those who see things differently. 

To deal with people and life, you need patience.  But understand that the world doesn’t have to dance in time with you.  Begin by accepting that few things in this life will work according to your timetable.  We live in a fast-food world but we don’t have to decide things at a fast-food pace.  If it is important, take your time.

"Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him."  Psalm 37:7

Then be deliberate about talking to God.  Set aside enough time each day to ask Him not only for wisdom but also for patience.  God will give the answer but it will be according to His timetable.  You do not get ‘patience’ right now but it will come.  That’s why they call it patience.

"Patience means living out the belief that God orders everything for the spiritual good of his children."  J.L Packer

Take a moment now and look at the rest of your day.  There should be at least one spot where you will need a little patience.  Talk to God now and see what He gives.

A Friend Indeed

It struck me today that some of you may be facing a tough decision.  It may be about your career, family, health or faith.  All of us eventually do but I wanted to remind you of God’s provision for those tough times.  There called friends. 

Ralph Emerson wrote, "God evidently does not intend us all to be rich or powerful or great, but He does intend us all to be friends."

But what I want to say about those friends isn’t what you expect.  Consider the following verse:

"Wounds from a friend can be trusted but an enemy multiplies kisses."  Proverbs 27:6

You need friends to enjoy life and share the good times but you have a select few friends who are both wise and committed to what is best for you.  You need those friends, especially if you have to make some tough decisions.  But remember that listening and hearing are two different things.  To hear what advice a good friend can give, you must:

Be humble.  It’s okay to admit that you are struggling and aren’t perfect.  Your friendship is made better when it’s honest.

Be patient.  Don’t make your mind up before you talk.  If your friend offers some criticism or tough advice, you can’t jump to the wrong conclusion and write them off.  Friends don’t do that.

Be prepared.  Friends can offer perspectives and answers you didn’t anticipate.  What they say may make such sense that you have to rethink everything.  But that is what friends are for!

Above all, don’t go it alone.  That position isolates you and curries the attention of the devil. 

"Encourage each other every day while it is ‘today’.  Help each other so none of you will become hardened because sin has deceived you."  Hebrews 3:13

Don’t become cynical.  Don’t wait to long to talk to a friend.  It is the best way to protect your heart in hard times.

End of Days

I don’t like television that much.  Especially prime time shows.  I tend to favor those Discovery and History channel programs.  Lately, they seem obsessed with end times.  There was even a show about the earth after we are all gone.  Amazing and disturbing because we are the ones who really believe that it will occur someday.  For the world it is a matter of despair or fate.  For us it is something completely different.  It is a matter of the Word.

"For whatever life holds for you and your family in the coming days, weave the unfailing fabric of God’s Word through your heart and mind.  It will hold strong even if the rest of life unravels."  Graham Tchividjian

There is a benefit from knowing your Bible, especially in this worsening world.  When Jesus was being battered in the wilderness, he recalled, "A person does not live by eating bread alone but by everything God says." (Matt. 4:4)  We know all too well what the world says about everything.  We hear it 24 hours a day.  We need to know what God says and what he promises.  It can give us the hope and courage to face the world around us.  Remember:

God will protect you from the sin of this world.  Psalm 119:11

God will speak to your heart when you need it.  I Kings 19:12

God will renew your mind every day.  Hebrews 8:10

And He will call you by His name.  John 10:3

Take a look at your Bible right now.  Is it close?  It should be.  To pun a phrase, "Don’t go anywhere without it."

Think Twice

"Trust the Lord with all your heart, and don’t depend on your own understanding.  Remember the Lord in all you do and he will give you success."  Proverbs 3:5,6

We work hard to teach our children responsibility, self-control and mature self-reliance.  We want them to stand on their own two feet.  But Solomon the Wise reminds us that we cannot take such reliance to far.  We cannot take it to the point of dependence.  Let me explain.

Being responsible is a very good thing.  But when our attitude reaches the point where we trust first in ourselves and fail to consult God, we can find ourselves spiritually shipwreck.  Our temptation is pride, an unhealthy arrogance that slips into our think when things are going great in our lives. 

What complicates life is the inevitable downturn.  As the commercial says, "Life comes at you fast."  When we are waylaid by life by things outside our control (illness, a difficult relationship or an economic downturn), we give into despair. 

What we cannot afford to give up is daily trusting in God.  The good habit of asking His opinion and considering His will.  Remember our Lord said, "The greatest person in the kingdom of heaven is the who makes himself humble like this child." Matthew 18:4

So how good are you?  I would recommend you think twice.  Don’t lean on your understanding alone.

Remember that God hears your prayers (Psalm 18:6), gives you refuge (Isaiah 4:5,6), refines you to his purposes each day (Zechariah 13:9) and eventually will resolve your trials (Isaiah 19:20)

Think twice!

Turn the Light On

Light changes things.  As I get older, I see the truth of it.  I need plenty of light to read or the words begin to blend.  I need light to move through the house or I spend more time bumping into things.  Now, more than ever, the first thing I look for in a room is the light switch. 

I was doing my devotional this morning and ran across a comment by Dr. Jack Graham that relates directly to light.

"Any light is dependent on its source for power. And the same is true for you and me as followers of Christ. The more dependent we are on Jesus… the one and only true source of our power… the more we’ll be able to be bright and shining lights for Him."

It struck me that the way we see things in our lives depends on the light we are using.  We all have our sources for light.  We all look for the light switches in our lives.  What motivates you?  Where do you turn when things aren’t clear and you need more energy?  Family?  Friends?  Work or worse?

Consider Dr. Graham’s next comment:

"Our world is filled with darkness, and there are people all around us who are living in that darkness. That’s why it’s so important that, as a follower of Christ, you stay plugged into Him so that you can “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven,” as the Scripture says in Matthew 5:16."

Did you see the insight?  Did the light come one for you in that scripture?  The light of our lives to the world are the good works that we do.  Our investment into the lives of those around us and the sacrifices we make every day for Him not only empower us but they also illuminate those around us.

In the darkness of this world, turn on to Christ and do those good things that brighten the day for everyone.

Let Them Howl

A wise man once wrote, "Do the thing and let them howl."  Jesus knew how unpopular some of his decisions were going to be with others, yet he let them howl. 

"Why do you concern yourselves with the approval that comes from man but do not worry about the approval that comes from God?"  John 5:44

Howler monkeys have been rated as the loudest animal in the world but they are far from the most powerful.  In fact, they are cowards.  That’s why they howl.  Judas cried, "Jesus, she’s wasting money."  Pontius Pilate said, "You don’t know how much power I have here."  The Pharisees howled, "You are from the devil himself."  Even Peter contested, "Don’t go into Jerusalem."

Sometimes we just want a peaceful life.  We want to be let alone.  So we give in and do what people want so they won’t howl.  We’ve all seen it in the grocery store with children.  The greatest challenge we face in life sometimes is recognizing those life-defining moments when we need to do what needs to be done even those some will howl. 

Jesus probably met with a few complaints when he turned water into wine.  He was, after all, improving their drinking.  But when he turned their system upside down, they began to howl because now he was affecting their drinking.

I like what Jesus said in John 6:41 "Your approval or disapproval means nothing to me."  It wasn’t that he didn’t care.  He just knew when to care.  Do you?  Sometimes the best thing we can do is to let them howl.

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