Saturday, August 30, 2014

Feelings or Faith?

Recently I read this thought by John Maxwell: 

"If you do what you should
only when you really feel like it,
you won't keep your commitments consistently."
That got me thinking about the choice we have between living by feelings or living by faith.
When we live by our feelings, we simply make choices and take actions based on our emotions at that particular moment.  Obviously, this is dangerous, because we can not always trust our easily swayed feelings.  And yet we all must admit that some of our poorer decisions in life took place when we made decisions based on what was happening inside of us emotionally at that time.
When we live by our faith, we make choices and take actions that are based on what God says and wants for us.  This means we trust Him enough to live His way, even when we feel like living our own way.  Living by faith is happening when we live by the teachings of scripture and the promptings of God's Holy Spirit.
The Apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:7, "we live by faith, not by sight."  His point was simple and straight-forward:  He, along with other believers, chose to seek God and live in a way that was in step with what God wanted.  His faith led Him to set aside his feelings and trust God's plan for His life.
This is not to suggest that our feelings are bad or wrong.  Not at all!  God wired us with emotions, and they serve a wonderful purpose.  But we do have to carefully keep our feelings in check and remember that they can sometimes be influenced by things that are not of God. 
I'm glad I read that statement by Maxwell.  It really spoke to me.  This was what I was hearing:  "David, don't do the right thing only when you really feel like it!  Be better than that.  Do the right thing even when you don't feel like it.  Trust God more than you trust your feelings.  Live God's way rather than your way.  Have enough faith in God to travel the path He has laid out for you."
Let's all live by faith instead of feelings!  Doing this will keep our life moving in the right direction.  And it will protect us from dangerous traps that our feelings may cause us to overlook.

Friday, August 29, 2014

When Christians Act Like Atheists

"The fool says in his heart, 'There is no God.'"  Psalm 14:1

We Christians tend to be critical of atheists.  And I guess that's not a surprise.  After all, we believe in God, and they believe there is no God.

The reality is there are times when we Christians act just like atheists.  We just don't realize it during those moments.  Think about it...

When we sin and behave like it does not matter at all on a spiritual level, we are acting like an atheist.  If we really believed God is here and is fully aware of how we are living, we most likely would do some things differently.

When we choose to worry excessively and behave like all hope is lost, we are acting like an atheist.  If we really believed in the presence of God, we would not despair with a doom and gloom, pessimistic mindset.

Let's remember there is a God, and He is here.  He has been here in the past.   He is with us now.  And He will be present for all of eternity.

Remember these words of our Lord in Matthew 28:20 - "I am with you always, to the very end of the age."  What an awesome promise and an important truth.  The accompanying presence of our God is everlasting.  He will forever be with us.  Isn't that fantastic?!

So let's live with a heart that is aware of the real presence of God.

When we face temptation, let's remember He is here.  He can remind us of what is true and righteous, and He can empower us to live by His standards.

When we face trials, let's remember He is here.  He can provide peace and strength for us to cope with the difficult seasons of life.

Yes, God is here.  Let's believe that with certainty.  And let's live accordingly.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Hogging The Sidewalk

I was taking a walk down the sidewalk yesterday.  Two guys were walking towards me and talking with each other.  As we were getting closer to each other, I was waiting to see how they were going to share the sidewalk with me.  I just knew one of them would step in front of or behind the other so that a lane could be clear for me.  But neither of them did it.  They kept walking right by each other and hogging the sidewalk.  At the last moment, when we were only a few feet from each other, I had to step in the grass and walk around both of them.  Neither of them had offered to share the sidewalk and neither of them apologized.

Confession time:  I think that was a bonehead thing for them to do.  And it did bug me a little bit.  Most people know to share the sidewalk.

But as I reflect on that, I realize it's human nature.  We all can get a little selfish one way or another.  Occasionally, every single one of us can fall into the trap of only thinking about ourselves.  So the truth is, I can't get too down on those guys for hogging the sidewalk because I have also been selfish at times.

Ephesians 2:3-4 is where we find these words of the Apostle Paul:  "Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others."  What an important teaching!  He reminds us to look out for other people rather than selfishly focus on the person who stares back at us in the mirror.

The key to defeating selfishness is sharing with people what we have and who we are.  Just like Jesus was selfless and cared more for the needs of others, we have the awesome opportunity every day to focus outward and be a blessing to folks in our circles of influence.  Rather than our life being all about taking, it can instead be all about giving.

On this day, let's all think about the well being of others.  Let's do what we can to make life better for people we encounter.  When we do this, we reflect the goodness of our Lord to the world, and we make life for everyone a little bit better.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Cool Breeze In Pinewood

Scorching.  Suffocating.  That's how I would describe the heat I felt in Pinewood, South Carolina over the weekend.

I was at the cemetery for a funeral.  People were gathering together as the graveside service was about to begin.  Standing there in my suit and tie, with no shade in sight, I thought to myself, "Man, it's going to be rough standing here in this heat."

The preacher took his position and began to talk.

And then it happened.

A nice, gentle, soothing breeze began to blow.  Unexpectedly, it came over us all.  And it made everything so much better.

I stood there and quietly whispered Heavenward this three word prayer:  "Thank you, Lord."

I was immensely grateful.  The breeze was just what we needed.  And The Lord provided it.

I'm learning to be thankful for the little things that God sends our way during the day.

A good meal.  A hug from one of my kids.  An uplifting song on the car stereo.  A smile from my wife.  A laugh with one of my buddies.

Yeah, God blesses us all in big ways.  But He also sends us tons of small gifts too.  Simple things, like the cool breeze in Pinewood.

Let's all pause along our journey of life today and thank God for the little pleasures He graciously hands to us.

God is good.

Because of Him, we are fortunate in big ways and in small.

Let's have grateful hearts.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

It's Your Fault! Or Maybe...

I was sitting in a school cafeteria today with one of my children.  During our lunch together, I noticed these boys started picking on a little girl.  It wasn't anything severe, but I could tell it made her uncomfortable.  After watching this for a moment I was about to tell the boys to leave the little girl alone, but a teacher walked up and quickly put an end to it.  She told the boys they were in trouble for their behavior.  Then, when the teacher walked off, one of the boys turned to the other one and said, "Hey man!  It's your fault that I'm getting in trouble!"  I laughed to myself when I saw that.  Kids will do that sort of thing at times to get out of trouble and make themselves feel a little better.

"It's your fault!"

We sort of expect that from kids.  But the reality is adults do the same thing.  People mess up and lay the blame at the feet of someone else.  It seems to be easier to blame others rather than to accept personal responsibility for mistakes and poor choices.

"It's your fault!"

Remember the sin in the Garden of Eden?  Adam blamed Eve.  Eve blamed the serpent.  The blame game has been around since the very beginning.

James 1:14 tells us "each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed."  In this verse, the half-brother of Jesus Christ reminds us all that our wrongdoings are our fault.  We fail morally when we do not manage ourselves well.

It's important to keep in mind that we are responsible for ourselves.  When it's all said and done, whatever we do is all on us.  It's because of our own foolish decisions and selfish behaviors that we suffer tough consequences.  Never can we blame other people for our sin.

When I do wrong, it's my own fault.  When you do wrong, it's your own fault.  That's just the plain truth.

When we take personal responsibility for our wrongdoings we begin the journey towards healing and restoration.  The first step in recovering from a foolish, immoral blunder is to say, "I did wrong and it is my fault."  This facing of the truth enables us to start the process of recovery.  And this proves that genuine change is taking place within our heart and mind.

I hope those little boys didn't get in too much trouble.  And, more importantly, I hope they'll be nice to that little girl from now on.  Most likely, they'll learn and get along just fine in the future.

But more importantly, I hope we all remember this:  You and I are responsible for ourselves, regardless of our circumstances and regardless of what others around us may do or not do.  Our decisions and behavior are ultimately on us.

Let's take personal responsibility for what we say and do.   

Friday, August 15, 2014

Jumping To Conclusions

I attended a school orientation today for one of my kids.  As people were filing into the building, I noticed a student wearing a t-shirt, pajama bottoms, and socks.  I couldn't believe a young person would come to school like this.  Immediately I thought, "Wow, this kid just doesn't get it."

Then the orientation program started.  Everyone got quiet and focused on the speaker.  After a little while, one of the ladies announced, "Today, we're having a fashion show to let you see what  NOT to wear to school."  One after another, students walked out in front of us all to model what was not acceptable clothing for school.  Then, I saw her.  Pajama girl walked out with a smile on her face.  We all got a good laugh as the speaker reminded everyone not to show up in pajama bottoms to school.

I sat there and realized I jumped to a conclusion too quickly, and I unfairly formed a negative opinion about someone when I didn't know all the facts.  It turned out, she was a cheerleader who was just doing what her coach told her to do.  And she was bravely standing there in front of everyone to give us all an important reminder.  What a good kid!

I could tell God was teaching me a lesson.  And that was it:  Don't be too quick to size people up and form opinions about them.  There are reasons people look, act, talk, and live the way they do.

People aren't always what they may seem on the surface.  So let's be slow to make up our mind about folks we see.  Let's get to know people and learn their stories.  When we do this, we'll usually see there's more to them than what meets the eye.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Make Today Count

I just finished reading John Maxwell's book Make Today Count.

This must-read deals with what is necessary for any of us to be successful in our lives.  It is insightful, practical, and helpful.  In his introduction, Maxwell states the following:

"...the secret of your success is determined by your daily agenda.
If you make a few key decisions and then manage them well in your daily
agenda, you will succeed."

Then, to better explain his point, Maxwell explains it mathematically:

"Good Decisions + Daily Discipline=
A Masterpiece of Potential."

The rest of the book addresses twelve areas of our lives that require daily attention and discipline.  As I read about each of these areas, I felt at times like Maxwell had written this book just for me.  It really hit home in my mind and heart.  The twelve areas were attitude, priorities, health, family, thinking, commitment, finances, faith, relationships, generosity, values, and growth.  Each chapter was devoted to one of these important parts of our lives.

Maxwell, who writes from a Christian perspective, is a master when it comes to challenging and motivating.  With a positive tone, he uses real life illustrations, inspiring quotes, and scripture to drive home his points.  And he is a tremendous source of encouragement.

I'm glad I read this book.  It challenged me to take an honest look at my life and consider what I want to do with the rest of my life.  This was time well spent!

Let me encourage you to order this book and devour it.  Trust me, you'll be glad you did.  You won't be the same after reading his inspiring message.

To learn more about this book and order it, just click HERE

Saturday, August 9, 2014

A Marriage Thought

Early this morning I was reading a great article about marriage by Gary Chapman, Ph.D.  At one point he described the two stages of romantic love.  As I sat sat there soaking up his wisdom, I realized how right he was.

Chapman called the first part of romantic love the "euphoric stage."  This is when you're dating, getting engaged, and enjoying the honeymoon part of marriage.  And this is when there are lots of strong, deep feelings in the air.  He stated this is when we're "pushed along by our emotions."

Then, things change.

Chapman called the second part of romantic love the "intentional stage."  This is when the strong feelings cool down and you come off the emotional high.  In other words, this is when reality sets in.  He explained that when this happens, "we must learn each other's love language and speak it regularly."

Wow, Chapman sure explained that perfectly.  I've seen it myself.  And so have you! 

The intentional stage of marriage is when work and effort are required if we want the relationship to thrive.  It demands understanding, communication, and serving each other.  Survival of the marriage depends on us intentionally taking steps to protect and strengthen it.

When he mentions "love language" he is talking about connecting with our spouse in a way that is meaningful to her or him.  In other words, we are speaking the "love language" of our spouse when we do things that make her or him feel deeply loved.  It's meeting them where they are, and giving them what they need.

Some married people feel loved with words of affirmation.  Others feel loved with things like gifts, helpful deeds, sex, or a peaceful home life, just to name a few.  Everyone is wired a little differently.  The key is for husbands to figure out what makes wives feel loved, and focus on that.  Also, wives need to figure out what makes husbands feel loved, and focus on that.  When both spouses focus on meeting the needs of each other and pleasing each other, the marriage gets stronger, both partners feel loved, and life in the home is happier and warmer.

I really think Chapman is on to something good here!!

Marriage is about more than just warm, fuzzy feelings, roses, and emotional songs on the radio in the "euphoric stage."  Sure, those things are nice.  Who doesn't like that kind of stuff?!  But, marriage is also about a guy and a girl happily taking care of each other's needs because they simply care about each other.  It's about looking after that special someone they married.

Husbands, make sure your wife feels loved by taking care of her needs.  Speak her language and connect with her.  Your marriage depends on it.

Wives, make sure your husband feels loved by taking care of his needs.  Speak his language and connect with him.  Your marriage depends on it.

May God bless our marriages.

And may we husbands and wives intentionally take care of each other.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Nice People Vs. Good People

Some want to be a nice person.

Others focus on being a good person.

What's the difference?

Let's think on this...

Nice people will tell you what you want to hear.
Good people will tell you what you need to hear.

Nice people will smile to your face, but talk negatively about you behind your back.
Good people will say the same thing whether you are in the room or not.

Nice people avoid confrontation if at all possible. 
Good people will lovingly work through problems with people to reach solutions. 

Nice people will compromise their convictions to keep you comfortable and happy.
Good people maintain their values to do what is best for you.

Nice people can manipulate you.
Good people can bless you.

Nice people are those you will somewhat like for a season.
Good people are those you will forever respect and trust.

Yes, there is a difference between people that are nice, and people that are good.

Of course, it is possible to be good and nice.  That does happen.  But always remember there are plenty of people that are nice but not good.

What I've been thinking lately is this:  When my life comes to an end, I want to be remembered as a good guy instead of just a nice guy.  Don't you want the same thing?!

Let's be good men and good women.

Let's live good lives.

Let's leave a good legacy.

And let's remember these words of John Wesley:

"Do all the good you can.
By all the means you can.
In all the ways you can.
In all the places you can.
At all the times you can.
To all the people you can.
As long as you ever can."

Sunday, August 3, 2014

What To Bring To Worship

I like this little verse about worship:

"Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name." 

That's Psalm 100:4.  Short, but powerful.  And it serves as a fantastic reminder about what to bring to worship.

If you and I were to enter a temple, we first would walk in through a gate.  That would be the beginning of our journey inside.  The initial step.

So check back with the first part of the verse:  "Enter His gates with thanksgiving."

As we enter a time of worship let's first thank God for all of His many blessings.  Thank Him for how good He is to us.

Did God put a roof over your head, food on your table, and clothes on your body?  Thank Him.
Did God give you strength and energy to accomplish important tasks at work or home?  Thank Him.
Did God forgive your sins and save your soul?  Thank Him.

First, bring a heart full of thanksgiving to worship.

Now, let's go back to our verse.

After we initially enter through a gate, we would then find ourselves in a court.  That is the second part of our walk into the temple.  Part two of our journey.

So check back with the second part of that verse:  "and His courts with praise."

As we continue a time of worship, we are to praise our awesome God for who He is and what He does.  This means to acknowledge, admire, and celebrate His amazing attributes.  Brag on Him.  Compliment Him.

God is holy and sinless.  Praise Him!
God is powerful and unstoppable.  Praise Him!
God is wise and knows everything.  Praise Him!
God rules supremely over everyone and everything.  Praise Him!

Let praise saturate the time of worship.

So there you have it.  That's what to bring to worship.  Thanksgiving and praise.  Two gifts to lay at the feet of God.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Leon's Legacy

Last night a pastor told me something I'll never forget.

He explained that years ago his life was going in the wrong direction.  He was abusing alcohol, using filthy language, and throwing his life away.  Then, the pastor told me this:  "One night I was in a car with your Grandaddy and he started telling me I need to let Jesus save me and change me."  As his story continued, he explained how he eventually did turn to Jesus.  His life was never the same after that.  He was forgiven of his sin.  He began living differently.  And he became a pastor.  His life was dedicated to telling people about Jesus.

Here's what I'm thinking:

My Grandaddy, Leon Richardson, got saved by Jesus and decided to spend his remaining years living for Him.

Then he told a wild, rebellious young man that he needed to do the same thing.

So this wild, rebellious young man got saved by Jesus and decided to do the same thing my Grandaddy did.

Finally, years later, this wild, rebellious young man is now a retired pastor who is still talking about how my Grandaddy bravely spoke up and told people about Jesus.

I stood there are realized that Leon Richardson left quite a legacy!  He invested his life in matters of spiritual and eternal significance.  He did good things that people still talk about today.  Even though he has been dead and gone for years now, his life still has a positive effect on people today.

Leon's legacy is a good one.

One day you and I are going to be dead and gone.  We will no longer be on this Earth.  Our face will not be seen and our voice will not be heard by anyone down here.

What kind of legacy will we leave behind?

Will people's lives be different because of things we said and did while we were alive?

Will people speak of us with a twinkle in their eye and a smile on their face because of how we spent our years on this Earth?

I hope so.

Let's make the most of our remaining years.  Let's live for Jesus, treat other people right, focus on things that truly matter, and make this world a better place.  Let's handle our days in such a way that future generations will be affected positively for years to come.

God has given us the gift of life.  We should make it count and do something important and lasting with it.  And when we do, future generations will be blessed because of it.