September 19, 2013

Living in a prosperous country, it’s easy to get sucked into the mindset of the world. In our society, there is a feverish pursuit of those things which are above and beyond the basics. We like the “extras” and almost think we’re entitled to them.  In every area, we are subtly being convinced that the basics aren’t sufficient; that we can’t live without the “extras”. There is an all-out campaign to convince us that the “extras” are responsible for our happiness – or lack of it.

Looking to relocate? We want bigger, nicer and with more amenities. Grandpa’s old farmhouse with the front porch swing and creaky floors wouldn’t be an option.

Going out to eat? Our taste buds are being trained to enjoy only gourmet. One-pot, home style meal around the family table? Nah. Too boring… and a few notches below our taste.

Shopping for clothes? “Designer” is the word. Mom’s old Singer sewing machine isn’t used to dress the family any more. The name on the tag is what matters now.

How about education? Extracurricular activities somehow seem to take center stage for many kids. The 3-Rs? Are they really so important, anyway?

With this inverted value system, many of us are unaware of what the real “extra” in life is: godliness with contentment. The apostle Paul expressed it this way: “Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content.” (1st Timothy 6:6-8 NKJV)

Tracing Paul’s footsteps through the New Testament, we realize that he lived through very diverse scenarios and learned godly contentment. In fact, he wrote to the believers in Philippi: “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.” (Philippians 4:11,12 ESV) Paul enjoyed the “extras” at certain times in his life; but his heart was not attached to them. He was set on pursuing Jesus and keeping Him in the center. Then, when life’s “extras” vanished, Paul’s contentment was still intact.

Let’s give kudos to those people, who like the apostle Paul, have learned godly contentment. Whether they possess only the bare basics, if they are blessed with plenty, or if they’ve lost it all, they are content. God grant the rest of us His grace to passionately pursue Him; then with or without the “extras”, we will learn true godly contentment. We will have discovered the only real “extra”!


September 14, 2013
A New Outlook for Kayra!

A New Outlook for Kayra!

A few days ago my daughter-in-law texted me a picture of 11 month old Kayra perched on her daddy’s shoulders. A sense of awe was etched on her innocent baby face, and her eyes were bursting with wonder. She had discovered a new outlook on the world around her. Until that moment, crawling and scooting only allowed Kayra to see ankles, chair legs, closed doors, dust bunnies under the sofa and the vegetable bin of the open refrigerator. None of that is awe-inspiring. With the new perspective she had on top of Daddy’s shoulders, everything was different!

Isn’t that the way we are? We scoot along every day, seeing only what’s around us: our job, our town, our family and our issues. None of that is really awe-inspiring, and some things in our limited surroundings may even cause us boredom, disappointment, grief or pain.

There is good news! We don’t have to keep shuffling along in our limited corner of the world. We get to choose to see things from up above! We are encouraged by the apostle Paul to see our surroundings from God’s perspective. Here’s what Paul wrote to Christ followers: “So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ – that’s where the action is. See things from his perspective.” (Colossians 3:1,2 from The Message)

When we allow God to lift us up and show us our circumstances from His perspective, we get a new outlook. Our surroundings may not change, but looking at them from above may cause us to be in awe as we get a glimpse of the big picture the way He sees it. Shuffling along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of me? No, thanks! I want to let my Father God lift me up, show me His perspective and let Him give me a new outlook. How about joining me?


September 10, 2013

In the past few weeks we’ve been seeing “Detour” signs all over our community. Because of road repair, they are popping up everywhere – especially when we’re in a hurry to get to our destination!

The purpose of a detour is not to irritate us or to make us late. Unexpected detours are not set up to confuse us, make us angry, or leave us stranded. Detours are planned and set into place to allow travelers to eventually get to their destination safely, with the help of signs and arrows. If we would be left alone to figure out which way to go, we would have cause for despair. On the unknown route of a detour, we can be grateful for guidance.

Sometimes God allows detours in our lives: a major change of plans, an unexpected illness, a sudden loss or tragedy can alter our course. At that point, we are disoriented and blinded by our circumstances. Facing the unknown, we need to rely totally on the wisdom of the One who planned that detour in our lives and look for His signs and arrows to guide us. When we face a detour, God’s promise to His people comes alive. He said: “I will bring the blind by a way they did not know; I will lead them in paths they have not known. I will make darkness light before them, and crooked places straight. These things I will do for them, and not forsake them.” (Isaiah 42:16)

If you are experiencing a detour, remember this comforting truth: God planned it for you and He will be with you all the way. Thank Him for His guidance and praise Him because He will NOT leave you stranded!


September 5, 2013

Knock, knock.

“Who’s there?”

“Your friend. I need something.”

“Go away and don’t bother me. I can’t help you now.”

That may have been the dialogue in Christ’s example in Luke chapter 11. We aren’t told how many times the “knock-knock-who’s-there” scenario took place, but we know it was more than once, because Jesus said the friend in need would be answered because of his persistence.  Immediately following that illustration, Christ assured His listeners (and us!), “… ask, and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and it will be opened to you.” (Luke 11:9)

Not long ago I was rewarded for persistence, and this passage came to mind. The president of the company I work for has his main office at company headquarters in another state and he comes to our office / manufacturing facility several times a year. Because I make travel arrangements for upper management, engineers and visitors, I make the president’s hotel reservations when he comes to town. “Hotel A” is his preferred home away from home, so I called “Hotel A” and requested a reservation for the date he would be staying. Unfortunately, all the rooms were booked and I had to reserve a room at “Hotel B”. My plan was to call “Hotel A” several times again before his arrival to see if they had a cancellation and could get the president in before we would be charged for “Hotel B”. On my fourth attempt in the course of about three weeks, I was rewarded. The reservation clerk of “Hotel A” gave me the reservation and commented: “Well, since you’ve been so persistent, I’ll give him a room.”

No one who calls on God expects Him to say, “Go away, I can’t help you now. Don’t bother Me.”  We ask because we expect an answer. If we don’t get an answer, we keep asking. And we ask again, we seek again, and we knock again. And again. And again.

If that’s your experience, don’t give up! Remember the promise of Jesus: “…everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” (Luke 11:10) We know the promise and we can expect an answer, because God rewards persistence!


September 1, 2013

At my place of employment, I do travel arrangements for upper management, engineers and guests. Because some trips are complicated, I often call Cindy, who works for the travel agency that specializes in corporate travel. She always does an excellent job of getting the best itineraries at excellent prices. When I call, my name appears on Cindy’s caller ID, so she immediately responds and we get down to business. A few days ago when I called and Cindy answered, she didn’t greet me by my name, as she usually does. Recognizing my voice, she explained that her caller ID showed “UNKNOWN”. The call then proceeded as normal; I laid out my need and Cindy prepared the perfect itinerary for our traveler.

That incident reminds me of a very encouraging truth: God knows my name. If He had to depend on caller ID – and thankfully He doesn’t – it would never show “UNKNOWN” when I call on Him, because His Word gives us the assurance that “He knows those who trust in Him.” (Nahum 1:7).

Are you a child of God? If so, you don’t need to wonder if He’ll hear your prayers. God doesn’t need caller ID. He knows you, your voice, your need and your name. Be encouraged by the promise He made in Psalm 50:15: “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.” Whatever your need, whatever your trouble, don’t hesitate to call on Him. His promise is true and He is faithful. He will answer you!

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