Thursday, July 6, 2017

The Mermaids I Saw

Surfside Beach is where I was recently with my family.  We all had a great time down there.  One night, we went out to this big, all you can eat, seafood buffet.  When we pulled into the parking lot, I noticed something on the sign.  It read:  "Live Mermaids Inside".

Well, I've never seen a mermaid.  Have you?  So that kind of got my attention.  Yeah, I was mostly looking forward to the crab legs and shrimp on the buffet.  That's what really excited me.  But mermaids?  I was curious to see what this was all about.

So we all went inside.  This was a huge place.  Lots of tables and chairs.  A gigantic spread of food that was waiting to be devoured.  And then I saw it off to my left side.  A nicely decorated pool with a little fence around it.  And in this pool, were two mermaids smiling, talking, and swimming around.

Ok, I'll go ahead and state the obvious.  They weren't really mermaids.  As far as I know, those don't actually exist.  But what I saw were a couple of ladies dressed up as mermaids.  It was well done.  And their costumes were impressive, down to the smallest of details.  They pulled it off really well.  It was neat to see, and everyone seemed to be amused by the whole setting.

The ladies were just pretending. 

But they're not the only ones.

People all around the world pretend to be someone or something they're not.  I've done that before.  Most likely you have too.

We can easily manufacture this image that is not like who we really are.  Maybe we do it to impress others.  Or maybe we do it because we're ashamed of our flaws and imperfections.  Most likely it's for a combination of reasons.

But you know what life has taught me?  I've noticed along the way that it's always best to be real.  Be who you are.  And never hide behind a mask. 

It's a good thing when we are honest on the outside about who we are on the inside.  It's good because it is all about reality.  It's good because it means we're being genuine and sincere.  It's good because it allows people to know who they're really dealing with when they're in our presence.  And it's good because it means we're not playing games with God or other people.

There's no harm in a couple of ladies pretending to be mermaids at the buffet.  That's just a gimmick.  And it's for fun.  But when it comes to daily living in the real world, there's nothing gained by you or me acting like someone we're not. 

Let's be real.  Honest with God and everyone else.  Folks can far better handle us when we're real about who we are.

I'll never forget it.  In a church service here in Sumter back in 1996, my uncle, Phillip Reynolds, came up to me and gave me some advice.  And here's what it was:  "Be real, David.  Just be real."

He was right.  And that still is true.  It's alway best to be real.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

God Of The Stars

Let's just consider the stars for a minute...

A star is a heavenly body made of hydrogen and helium.  It is always burning because of a process called nuclear fusion.
As for the number of stars there are in existence, scientists tell us there are over 100 billion stars in our Milky Way galaxy, and we are just one of over 10 trillion galaxies in the universe. 
As for the size of stars, Betelgeuse is 1,000 times larger than the size of our sun.  And VY Canis Mayoris is 1,800 times the size of our sun.
As for the distance from Earth to stars, it is 93,000,000 miles to the sun from our planet.  The next closest star, which is Proxima Centauri, is 4.2 light years away from us.  In other words, we would have to travel the speed of light every day for 4.2 years to get there.  Or, to break that down even more, if we could drive all the way there from Earth, we would have to travel 60 miles per hour for 48 million years to reach it.

As you can see, stars are mind blowing.  There are more of them than we can count.  They are tremendous in size.  And they are spread way out over a gigantic universe that is impossible for us to measure or understand. 

But here's the really cool part of all this...

God made the stars.  In Genesis 1:14, we see that it was He who brought them into existance.  Intentionally and amazingly, He created each and every one of them.  That's impressive!

God knows the stars.  In Psalm 147:4, we see that He knows the exact count for how many of them there are.  And, as if that's not enough, we see that He has a name for each individual one.  That's incredible!

God controls the stars.  In Matthew 2:1-9, we see that God moves a star to guide the wise men in their search for baby Jesus.  That's remarkable!

As amazing as the stars are, they're no match for God!  He made them.  He knows them.  And He controls them. 

That really ought to be a comfort to you and me.  After all, if God is big, strong, and wise enough to handle the stars, then surely He is big, strong, and wise enough to handle us.  He can provide for us, protect us, and bless us in ways that are unimaginable. 

The next time you look at the stars, just remember what a mom once told her daughter.  They were laying out on blankets under the Colorado mountain sky one night.  As they gazed up at the stars in the sky, the daughter was saying how neverous she was about traveling to England the next day.  Her wise mom listened calmly and patiently to her daughter, and then she said this:  "The God who holds the stars holds you."  How true that statement was ... and still is.

The God of the stars loves you.  He is for you.  And no matter what, you can trust Him with your life, your needs, and your burdens. 

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Wrong Path To A Good Goal

Sarai wanted to have a baby.  It was a big deal to her.  And it pained her to not be a mother.  So she came up with a plan of her own.  She asked Abram, her husband, to have physical relations with another woman, named Hagar.  Then, when the other woman got pregnant and had the baby, Sarai would claim that baby as her own.  So, Abram agreed with the plan.  He slept with Hagar and she conceived.  But things got complicated and didn't go as smoothly as Sarai had hoped.

What happened here:  Sarai took a wrong path to a good goal.  God did not tell her to do what she did.  It was her own idea.  And it led to problems.

Was there anything wrong with Sarai wanting to be a mom?  No.  Absolutely not.  That's a good goal.  It was ok to want that.  But there was something wrong with the path she took to reach that goal. 

Sarai took matters into her own hands.

Sarai stepped outside of God's plan.

And Sarai refused to trust God's timing.

Let's not be too hard on her though.  She's not the first person to do that, and she won't be the last.  It happens all the time.

How many times in life do people take the wrong path to a good goal?  It happens daily around the world.  People want things that are perfectly normal, but they go about it the wrong way.

Think about the things people want:  A close relationship.  A better job.  A good income.  A win on the athletic field.  There's absolutely nothing wrong with wanting these things.  But there is something vastly wrong when we try to reach these goals in our own way and on our own timetable. 

Life has taught me this:  God's plan is better than mine.  God's timing is superior to mine.  And God's power is greater than mine.  And if I submit to His plan, cooperate with His timing, and trust in His power, life works out for the best.

What is it that you want in life?  Identify whatever it is that matters to you.  And talk with God about it.  Be real with Him.  Ask Him to give you the desires of your heart.  Then, get on with your life and know that God will orchestrate whatever He thinks is best for you.

Don't take matters into your own hands like Sarai did.  If you do, things will just blow up in your face.  Do this instead: Trust God.  He loves you and He is for you.  And if you allow Him to work out His plan, in His way, according to His schedule, you'll be more than satisified.  You'll be blessed and thankful forevermore.

May God help you and me both avoid taking the wrong path to a good goal.

** P.S. The story about Sarai is found in Genesis 16.  If you want to read it for yourself, just click here.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Ocean

There I stood with my son on the sandy beach.  We were looking out over the Atlantic Ocean.  And the cool water was feeling good on our feet.  As we gazed at the massive body of water, I couldn't help but think about how huge it is, and how small I am.

The Atlantic Ocean is world's second largest.  It covers over 41 million square miles.  And it covers around 20 percent of the surface of our world.  Amazingly, the deepest this ocean gets is a mind-boggling 27,841 feet.  It's just hard to fathom how gigantic this one body of water is.

But wait, it gets even better.  This is only one of the Earth's several oceans.  And collected, they cover just over 70 percent of the face of the globe.  What a huge amount of water that is!

Then I stood there and thought about this:  Although I'm small compared to that, the oceans are small compared to God.  This verse (Isaiah 40:12) popped into my head:  "Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand?"  That's a rhetorical question.  The obvious answer is God.  He is so big and mighty, that all of the oceans, rivers, lakes, and ponds of this planet could collectively and easily fit into His hand.  Because of this, He can measure how deep and wide this body of water is just by looking at what He's holding.

Wow. Nobody else can do that.  And it's just one reason we can say that our God is awesome.

He's big and powerful.  That means He's more than capable of taking care of us and handling any problems that come our way.  And that gives us one more reason God is worthy of worship.  Simply put, He is unlike any other.

The next time you see an ocean, remember this.  Yes, it is tremendous and impressive.  But God is even more so.  And we can trust Him with all that we are and all that we have.

Monday, June 19, 2017

God's Will And The Angry Girl

I was in Honduras for a few days.  While in that beautiful country, I met an American who was living full time down there as a missionary with his family.  He was good guy, and I really enjoyed visiting with him and learning what it was like to relocate from USA to Honduras.  He told me it was not easy at first.  Challenging, actually.  He and his wife were both convinced that God wanted them to make this move.  They were fully on board together.  And their young son was too.  But their teenage daughter was furious about it.  She did not see the sense in it and did not want to leave all her friends to move to Honduras.

He looked at me and said, "I'll never forget the Sunday before we moved down here.  We were back home in America at our church.  Our whole family was sitting on the front pew.  The preacher was just about to call us up in front of the church so everyone could pray for us.  It was at that moment my teenage daughter leaned over to me and whispered, 'I hate you for doing this to me!'.  That was one of the most painful things I've ever experienced."

He loved his daughter.  She really was a great girl.  It was just a difficult moment, and in her youthfulness, she didn't know how else to cope.  And even though he didn't hold a grudge against her, it did wound him.  Deeply, it hurt him.

But you know what?  He hung in there.  He stayed calm and loved her anyway.  He didn't get defensive or angry at her.  And he still moved his family down to Honduras.  Eventually she grew to like it.  His daughter adjusted emotionally and decided to have a positive attitude.  The family bonded even closer and had the adventure of a lifetime as one.

Sometimes in life, the right thing to do is the hard thing to do.  Obeying God is not always a happy cakewalk that is filled with ease and sunshine.  Not at all!  God's will for us includes pain at times.  But if we hang in there, cooperate with Him, and persevere, we will experience a blessing and enjoy the victory. 

In Galatians 6:9, Paul wrote this - "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up."  The apostle is encouraging people to stand strong and do what is right, even if it hurts.  And he is reminding everyone that there will be a reward waiting for those who follow God's leadership in their lives.

Maybe there's something you need to do, but it's really difficult.  And you know it's going to be painful on one level or another.  If that's you, just remember this:  God will give you eveything you need to get through those tough circumstances.  He will help you.  And when it's all said and done, your life will be better off because of it.

I'm glad my missonary friend hung in there.  He did not "become weary in doing good", and he did indeed "reap a harvest".  What an inspiration.  What an example!  May you and I do the same in our lives today and forevermore.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Scotty And The Gnat Question

I've got a good buddy named Scotty.  The other day I noticed something he wrote on Facebook.  And I liked it, because I've wondered the same thing he asked.

This is what Scotty wrote:  "Dear Lord, I try to never question Your creation here on Earth, but one night when it's just You and me talking, will You please explain the purpose of a gnat to me?  Thanks, Scotty."

That's a fair question, isn't it?  Who hasn't wondered that at least once in their life?  I know I have. 

So I decided to do a little research on gnats to find answers to the question Scotty and I both have. 

Here are some results from my research...

I learned a gnat is a tiny, flying insect (obviously) which is part of a group named Nematocera.

I learned some gnats bite, and some don't.

I learned that gnats are attracted to body heat, fruit, and sweet smells.

But what about Scotty's question?  Do gnats serve a purpose?  Well, it turns out they do.  Gnats do the following two things:  [1]  pollinate flowers.  [2]  serve as a food source for bats and birds.

That has me thinking now on an even deeper level that I was originally.  Even though gnats can be highly irritating, they can still lead to beauty in the world with flowers, and they can keep some of our impressive winged creatures fed and soaring in the heavens.  So aggravating things in life like gnats can still serve a purpose and be a blessing in the long run.

It's easy for us to be thankful and understanding when it comes to cirucmstances or people that are pleasant.  But when we begin to see the good in those things that are irritating, God is really helping us grow.  And this is when we begin to experience more of His life-changing joy. 

So, if it's ok with all of you, I'd like to close out this blog post with a little prayer.  You're welcome to join along and pray this too, if you'd like.  Here goes:

"God, You're amazing.  You have a purpose for everything You allow to exist or take place in this world.  Today I thank You for those circumstances, creatures, and people that are pleasant.  But I won't stop there.  I also thank You for those moments, experiences, individuals, and even creatures that irritating.  Even the gnats!  Because You are always up to something good, even when the circumstances are less than desirable.  No matter what's going on (or buzzing) around me, You are always worthy of worship.  I pray this in the name of Your Son and my Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen."  

Thursday, June 15, 2017

The Big Tipper

Shaquille O'Neal raised a few eyebrows earlier this year when he shared a true story about blessing a young lady in a restaurant.  She was the waitress who served him and his party that night.  And when she brought him the bill, he asked what she wanted for a tip.  The young lady responded with a bold request:  $4,000.  When she told him, Shaq responded, "Okay, no problem."  And he then proceeded to pay her $4,000!  Filled with gratitude, she said, "You just paid my rent for two months."

What an amazing story!  She was willing to make a big request.  And he was willing to come through with a kind response.

When I read that story, I thought about this verse in James 4:2 - "You do not have because you do not ask God."  It was there the half-brother Jesus explained that we miss out on some things in life because we have hesitated to make our requests known to God.  It's a simple principle that really does make sense.

Now it is important to be wise with this principle.  This does not mean that God is an ATM machine who throws cash at us whenever we ask.  And it does not mean that God is a genie in a lamp that exists for the sole purpose of granting our wishes.  But God is a loving Heavenly Father who cares about His children, and He can more than provide for them.  After all, He owns it all, and He has the resources necessary to bless those who call out to Him in prayer.  That's how awesome our God is.

What are your needs?  Maybe there's something you are lacking physically, emotionally, mentally, relationally, professionally, financially, or spiritually.  Whatever it is, try this:  Talk to God about your needs.  Be real with Him.  Be specific with Him.  Tell God what you think and how you feel.  He wants you to be yourself and cry out to Him with faith about what is really going on in your life. 

God cares about what you and I experience in our lives.  Also, He can come through for us in countless ways if we will simply ask Him in prayer and believe He's capable of meeting our needs.  He is the kind of Father who delights in taking care of His children.  That's what Jesus had in mind when He said the following in Matthew 7:11 - "If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him."

Shaq blessed that young lady when she asked.  What an incredible display of generosity.  And just think:  God can give far greater gifts and change way more lives than anyone else can.  That's just one more proof that our God is a good Father.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Too Much Free Time

I've been on both sides of the fence. 

Several years ago, when I was between jobs, I found myself with too much free time on my hands.  These days, because I work more than one job, my schedule stays full.  And even though it may sound crazy, I actually like my life better now. 

It's something I've discussed with several people lately.  And we all agree.  Too much free time is just not a good thing.

When we have too much free time on our hands, we can easily fall into some negative patterns.  Any of us are capable of these things.  Some of these include...

[A] Thinking too much and over-analyzing matters.
[B] Becoming too needy and demanding of other people.
[C] Getting too bored and vulnerable to temptation.
[D] Accomplishing too little and wasting our skills.

Life is better when we have things to do.  Having structure and a to-do list are beneficial to our productivity level, mental health, and emotional well-being.  And on a spiritual level, it's good for us to do something with the life that God has given each of us.

So how should we respond to those seasons of life when we have a little too much free time on our hands?  Well, let me share with you something Jacqueline Whitmore wrote on May 31, 2016 for Entrepreneur magazine.  Her article was entitled "6 Productive Ways To Spend Your Idle Time".  And these are her suggestions of what we can do when our schedule has a few too many openings:

[1]  Record your goals.
[2]  Listen to audio books.
[3]  Learn another language.
[4]  Check up on your loved ones.
[5]  Get moving.
[6]  Give back.

Jacqueline offers us all some fantastic suggestions in her list!

"An idle mind is the devil's workshop."  I've heard that statement many times.   And I really believe it's true.  Don't you?

May God help us all avoid two unhealthy extremes.  One is working all the time and never taking a break.  The other is having too much free time on our hands.  Somewhere in between these two radical ways of life is a happy and healthy medium where we all would do well to live.       

Friday, June 9, 2017

Just Glad

There he sat.  A tall and lanky old guy.  His legs looked rough and beat up.  And he was in a wheelchair at a nursing home.  He was not in the best of health.

As I walked towards him I said, "Good morning!".  He looked at me with a big grin on his face, raised his fists, and said "I lived another day."  We visited another minute before I walked inside.  But I was blown away by his awesome attitude.

Every day is a gift.  To simply wake up in the morning is something to be thankful for.  That's exactly what Psalm 118:24 means when it says, "This is the day that the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it."  That new day that just started is a nice present from God.

Just think about it.  Every day is a blessing.  If we are fortunate enough to wake up in the morning, we have been graciously given another opportunity to enjoy loving fellowship with God and be a blessing to our families and friends. 

Perhaps we all would be better off following the example of the old guy at the nursing home.  Let us wake up in the mornings just glad to be alive.  Thankful that God gave us more time on this earth.  And grateful for another opportunity to make a positive impact in this place where we temporarily live.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Before We Can Take Care Of Others

I was sitting in the home of a kind, elderly lady recently.  She was relaxing there in her big, cozy chair with a blanket spread across her lap.  And she had a pleasant smile on her face.

We had a great talk.  After a while, I held her hand and prayed with her.  Then, as I was getting up to leave, she looked at me and offered the following advice:  "Take care of yourself so you can take care of others."

I can't stop thinking about what she said.  It won't leave my mind.  She said it in such a way that it really hit home with me.

If we're going to take care of families, friends, churches, and hurting people, we've got to begin with making sure that we're ok.  It's a simple fact that we can't help bring wellness into the lives of others if we don't have it ourselves.  And we've got to accept the fact that it's ok for us to take care of ourselves.

1.  Let us take care of ourselves physically.  Eat healthy.  Exercise.  Get plenty of sleep.  When we do these things, we will physically be able to be present and helpful for those who need us.

2.  Let us take care of ourselves emotionally.  Talk with someone you trust about how you feel and what you think.  Surround yourself with people who lift you up and encourage you.  If necessary, see a counselor who can help you work through things you feel and think.  When we do these things, we are emotionally at a point where we can assist those who need us.

3.  Let us take care of ourselves spiritually.  Spend time in prayer.  Read God's Word.  Get alone daily with an edifying devotional book.  When we do these things, we will be able to encourge spiritually those who need us.

It's just a simple fact of life.  We can't give away what we don't have ourselves.  So let's remember it's ok, and even necessary, for us to take care of ourselves.  Then, and only then, can we be at our best to take care of other people.