Got Pets?

Do you have pets? I’m guessing many, if not most, of you have a pet of some kind. How much do you love and care for your pets? Do you ensure they have water and food? Do you take them out to get some exercise? Do you train them not to potty in the house?

We treat our pets pretty well. We love them and take care of them. We ensure they are vaccinated and take them to the vet if they get sick. We play with them and get them out to exercise. In general, they become part of our families.

If we do this for our pets, how much more do we think God does this for us? Particularly, how much more does God love us than we love our pets? Can’t imagine that? Well, He does. He loves us more than anything we can fathom. God takes care of us in more ways than we can count.

Oh, I’m sure someone out there is saying God doesn’t take care of them. They have run across a bad patch of luck and think God has abandoned them. Sorry, but you are wrong in that assumption. God has not abandoned anyone. He is right there in the thick of it, right beside each and every one of us.

Too often, we don’t reach out to God unless we are in way over our head. Unfortunately, because we have not reached out to God and developed a right relationship with Him, we will feel as though He has abandoned us in our time of need. Yet, He has not. He often will allow us to flounder for a while until we come to the ultimate conclusion that we cannot get out of our mess without Him.

This may seem harsh to some of us but stop for just a minute and think about it. If someone is so unwilling to spend a little time with God to build a right relationship, why would God not decide to let them flounder until they realize they need Him? As parents, we do that with our children at times. Since we are created in the image of God, we can make a reasonable assumption that God will do the same with us.

I pray each of us will take time to build a right relationship with God. I pray that we never forget that God is always with us. I pray we understand that we are His most valuable possession. I also pray that none of us gets in so deep due to our own mistakes that we think God has abandoned us. Spend time with God. Build your relationship with Him. Trust Him in all you do. Trust Him with all you are. God is always there and always faithful.

Matthew 12:11-12 He said to them, “If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? How much more valuable is a person than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”

Convicted

Are you convicted? Have you been accused of being a believer is Jesus Christ? Can others clearly see you are a follower of Jesus? Do they see Him in your actions and behavior? Or, are you convicted of sinful behavior? There really is no in between.

In today’s world we see so many people who want to believe they can do whatever they want. They want to believe they can set their own truth. We hear people saying that, “Perception is truth.” Perhaps in some very specific situations, but not in the vast majority and certainly not in all.

It is true that our perception can make us think that something is true—for a while. Yet, if we were to dig into the details, do a little investigation, there is a very high likelihood that we will find our initial perception was false and the truth is something different. Let’s take one example.

Let’s assume I see a husband and wife in a very animated discussion from afar. I can’t hear what they are saying, but their heads are jerking around, and they are making hand gestures as though they are trying to prove a point. My initial perception is they are having an argument. But what if I go ask them what’s going on to get to the truth? I might find that they were in complete agreement about how a teacher was treating one of their children. They might tell me they were rehearsing for a play. Then again, they may state they were, in fact, arguing.

You see, I don’t know all the information and therefore it’s very likely I don’t know the truth. I made an assumption based on limited information, which means I could be incorrect. Even if my initial assumption that they were arguing is correct, I don’t know what they were arguing about. There are numerous things a husband and wife could disagree about.

However, there is a truth we can know. When we dig into this truth, it will convict us. We will be cut to the quick and our hearts will have no recourse but to make a choice. For most people, once they learn the truth about Jesus Christ, especially when they’ve never known Him before, we see a deep conviction take place in their heart and a very strong commitment to following Him. It is those who have grown up hearing about Jesus that often take Him for granted. So, I encourage each one of you to dig into the Scriptures and really, really discover the truth.

I pray each one of us will be convicted in the truth of Jesus Christ. I pray each of us will encourage one another to seek Him out each day. I pray that we all stop making incomplete assumptions and pursue the truth. Study God’s Word. Seek God every day. Investigate to find the truth. Trust God to reveal His truth to you.

Hebrews 3:12-14 See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end.

Perfect in Love

How well do you love? Do you love only the “right” people? Are you only willing to love those people who will love you back? Do you not know that God has called us to love everyone, not just the ones we like?

We may have heard that God has called us to love everyone before. If so, we have likely said, “Oh, that doesn’t really apply to me. God didn’t make me so that I could love everyone. I can’t.” If you have said or thought this, you are sadly mistaken.

True, it is not easy to love everyone. In fact, it can be extremely difficult. Yet, Jesus gave us explicit instructions to love everyone, including our enemy. He has told us that if we love only those who love us, there is no reward.

How do we go about loving our enemies? How can we get to a point of looking beyond their evil ways and actions to love them? There is only one who can do such a thing and that is God. We must rely on God’s Spirit living inside us to help us get to the point of being able to love our enemy.

This is no easy proposition, mind you. We are bombarded by the media, co-workers, friends, and family to hold that grudge, give payback, return evil for evil. Much of this world will do exactly that and the cycle continues endlessly. At what point do you get tired of riding on the merry-go-round? When is enough, enough? When will you jump off and plant your feet on solid ground again?

Jesus tells us to love our neighbor and our enemy. He lets us know that even the worst of the worst in this world will love those who love them back. We are called to live by a higher standard. We are to love as God loves. We are to be perfect as God is perfect. Perfect in love. Perfect in seeing each person as a child of God that God cares deeply for and provides for, despite what we may think.

I pray each of us will reach out to God and ask Him to lead us in loving unconditionally. I pray that we take on the hard work of loving all people as God loves them. I pray God moves mightily in our lives. Love all God’s children. Show your love for them in your actions. Pursue being perfect as God is perfect. Perfect in love.

Matthew 5:43-48 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor  and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Thought of the Day

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Today’s reading is included below with the link to the Amazon Kindle format of Thought of the Day below it.

Word vs Action

Who are you representing today? Are you representing God? Are you showing Jesus to others? Are you spreading the gospel the world needs to hear and see? Are you doing as Jesus Christ commanded you to do?

We all speak of many things throughout each day. We talk about our work. We discuss family decisions. We likely talk about what so-so should do. You know, observing what everyone else is doing wrong and how they can fix it, even though they aren’t in the room to hear our “advice.”

Our churches have workgroups, councils, or action teams that discuss ministry and outreach plans. Often those discussions will go through several iterations with some of the ideas shelved and others (maybe) put into action.

Folks, if all we do is sit around and talk about what should be done, but do nothing, we’ve lost the point of what Jesus told us to do. Sure, we are to put our faith in Him. Yes, our first step is to accept Him as our Lord and Savior. However, once we’ve taken that step, He has given us a command to go and do for Him.

I’m sure some of you are thinking, “Great! Now he’s going to tell us how we are all to be ministers and preach the Word.” Yup. That’s exactly what I’m going to do. However, I’m not going to tell you that you should become what we call a pastor, minister, or preacher.

All of us are called to spread the gospel. As one old saying goes, “Preach Jesus Christ and when necessary use words.” Paul explains to us in Ephesians 4:4-16 that some are called to be pastors, ministers, or preachers. They are called to prepare the rest of the body to perform service. Notice Paul did not say that these pastors were called to do all the gospel spreading that needs to be done. That is the service the rest of the body is to do.

Each member of the body is to spread the gospel. And, yes, use words when necessary. I have had people I’ve worked with and clients of mine that have come to me and ask how I can remain so calm amidst all the chaos. My answer is always my faith and my trust in God. You see, the actions we take speak far louder than any words we can shout. Our actions allow us to use fewer words to spread the gospel. Now, doesn’t that make spreading the gospel a little easier?

I pray we all spread the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ, through our actions. I pray we answer the questions people will pose to us with a faith filled responses. Be the positive force in actions the world needs. Speak when needed to spread the gospel. Trust God to provide you with faith, actions, and words.

James 2:17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

Sneaky Lion

What are you wrestling with today? Are you debating with yourself about a decision you need to make? Are you analyzing the pro’s and con’s? Have you lost sleep over a major decision in your life? Do you worry about what other people think? Are you fighting against a serious temptation?

As we walk this world and live our lives, we face numerous decisions, temptations, and worries. How we go about navigating them will define us as a person. We see some people who seem to always make the right decisions and their lives appear to be smooth and easy. I’m willing to bet that isn’t really the case.

We are all human and we all struggle with decisions at some point in our lives. For some, it all comes down to sound logic. The logical thinkers will weigh the options, list the pro’s and con’s, and make a logical decision. It may not be the choice they prefer, but they will make the choice with an understanding that it is the best choice based on their analysis.

Others will look at the options and choose solely on emotion. Their choice is based on what they want now, rather than looking at what’s best for them down the road. This may ultimately end as a bad decision, since the choice made today can lead to disruptions later on.

Now, what is wrong with both of these types of decision making? In neither case has the person sought God for His guidance. Seeking God to make our decisions is difficult for us. First, we want to be in control. Second, we don’t want to wait. In our “give it to me now” society, waiting for an answer from God is simply unacceptable.

Unfortunately, all too many of us lack the patience to wait for God. Tragic! I once worked for a Warrant Officer who said, “If we are making any decision short of life and death, we should take time to think it through.” I believe that includes taking time to pray about it and wait for God’s answer.

Praying and waiting is extremely important. Why? Satan is using our earthly logic, our impatience, and our own desires against us. He is purposely using our weaknesses to trip us up and cause us to fail. Our Scripture reference states he is prowling like a roaring lion. Yes, but a roaring lion doesn’t roar when it’s on the prowl. It sneaks around quietly, approaching the unsuspecting victim, and pounces when they aren’t looking. I’m guessing none of us like sneaks and deceivers.

I pray we all become aware of Satan’s sneaky attacks. I pray we all seek God in our decisions. I pray we all acquire the patience to wait on God, while also accounting for our human logic and desires. Seek out God’s wisdom. Be aware of Satan’s tricks. Trust God to provide the answers you need, when you need them. God does not disappoint.

1 Peter 5:8-9 Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

In Step With God

Where do you see God in your life? Do you see Him at all? Do you see Him in your friends? Is He revealed in what you see around you? Can you see Him in the people you interact with? Or, do you feel as though God is hiding from you or has abandoned you?

We all experience what is termed as “dry times” in our lives. Those times when it seems God is not listening, or He isn’t answering us, or He isn’t guiding us as we would like. We may be going through a trying time, when there are tough decisions to be made. We may be going through a time when we don’t feel connected to God, other Christians, the church, or don’t feel like we can pick up the Bible and read.

The good news is—God is still there. He is right beside us, behind us, and in front of us. Though we may not see or feel Him, he is guiding us as He walks beside us. He is gently guiding us by the hand or shoulder. He is whispering in our ear when we come to a fork in the path, telling us which direction to go.

God is in front of us, clearing the path for His plan. He is ensuring the path we are to travel is cleared of obstacles. He is working in other people’s lives, putting them where they need to be to support His plan for us.

God is also behind us, keeping the predators away. He is putting His shield up to cover our back. Since God is everywhere at all times, He can be beside us, behind us, and in front of uys. Isn’t that amazing?!

I know, some of you will say this is all a bunch of hogwash. You don’t believe it. You say you have had too many bad experiences. I only have one question for you. Were you walking in step with God when you had those bad experiences?

True, God, like any good parent, will at times let us fail. It is when we fail that we learn some of life’s greatest lessons. Yet, if we are walking in step with God, He will never desert us and never allow us to go through more than we can bear.

I pray we all learn to walk in step with God. I pray we all learn to see God every day. I pray each of us will seek Him out in our daily lives. Look for God. Seek His face. Trust He is always there. He will strengthen you and guide you.

Isaiah 41:10

So do not fear, for I am with you; 

do not be dismayed, for I am your God. 

I will strengthen you and help you; 

I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Blessings Large and Small

How often do you praise God? Are you thankful for the many blessings He has been so gracious to grant you? Do you recognize all those blessings? Do you believe God is the One who gave them to you? Or, do you believe you’ve earned them all?

As we go through our lives, we have diverse experiences. Even with some of those being what we would call low experiences, we are still blessed. We quickly recognize those high experiences as being blessed. Though we often don’t attribute them to the proper Giver.

Isn’t it funny that we like to question God when things don’t go exactly the way we want and fail to shout for joy and give Him the praise when they do? Our humanness wants to take credit for our successes and place blame on someone else for our failures. The truth of the matter is, we are wrong in both cases.

There are some who believe in full destiny, meaning that every tiny little thing is scripted by God. There are others who don’t believe anything is scripted by God. I believe the true answer is somewhere in the middle. I believe we have the freedom of choice. I also believe God blesses and orchestrates situations in order to bless us or enhance a blessing.

What does this freedom of choice and destiny have to do with praising God? Whether you lean far to either side of these beliefs or are somewhere in the middle, you must recognize that God is the One who blesses. So, praising Him is the right thing to do, regardless of where you are on this seesaw.

Praising God for His wonderful blessings is good for our soul. As we spend time praising Him for the obvious blessings we easily recognize, we begin to see the smaller blessings as well. Giving thanks to God and praising Him is a good habit to form. It is one that will bring us peace, comfort, and contentment. Through our praising of God, we will be further blessed by His gracious works in us.

I pray we all develop a habit of thanking God and praising Him for all He does in our lives. He works in both large and small ways. He knows exactly what we need and the exact time we need it. Praise God for both His wonderful blessings and His perfect timing. Praise God. Know He is always with you. Trust Him in all situations. You have a wonderful inheritance ahead of you.

Psalm 16:5-8

Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup; 

you make my lot secure. 

The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; 

surely I have a delightful inheritance. 

I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; 

even at night my heart instructs me. 

I keep my eyes always on the Lord. 

With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

The Company You Keep

Who are your friends? Who do you hang out with? What is their influence on you? Or, do you have an influence on them? Often when groups of people get together there is a group mentality that manifests itself. Does that happen when you are with certain groups?

We see this group mentality manifest itself in numerous settings. We see it at sporting events, concerts, local bars, and in our schools. We sometimes refer to certain groups as the “in crowd” because of the way they act. However, we usually find that when we catch one of those people by themselves, they don’t exhibit the same behavior or attitude.

This brings us to reflecting on our own lives. Do we act a certain way when we are with a specific group? This is not to infer that we should not be more formal when at a formal dinner. Instead, the question is in regard to how we act when in the company of our friends, family, church, or the “in crowd.” Should we act different when with these different groups of people?

The short answer is no, but it isn’t that simple, is it? Sure, we should feel more comfortable when we are with family and friends. Perhaps we laugh a little more or can relate a personal issue without fear of reprisal. Yet, it is more common, because of letting our guard down with our family, that we react negatively and treat family members badly. Where does this come from?

I’m sure most of us have heard the old saying, you are what you eat. Well, the same can be said about our mental attitudes. If we bombard ourselves with negativity from outside sources, we will reflect that negativity. Our brains absorb so much of it that we can’t help but regurgitate it.

Jesus stated that what comes out of our mouth is what makes us dirty or defiled (Matthew 15:11). It is also why He said to pick up our cross and follow Him (Luke 9:23). Our cross is leaving the ugliness of the world behind and choosing to be like Jesus. The meaning of following a Rabi, which Jesus was considered to be by many while walking this earth, is to follow so closely that the very dust off his sandals would get onto your clothes.

The metaphor explained is that when we truly follow Jesus, we will be covered by Him and in Him. That means that we will say what He would say, we will react as He would react, we will treat others as He would treat them. How well do we follow Jesus? Our behavior and words will tell the tale.

I pray each of us will decide to truly follow Jesus. I pray we will do as He would do and speak as He would speak. I pray that we become the shining example to the world around us. Choose to follow Jesus. Learn more about Him. Follow His example and His commands. Be Jesus to someone today.

1 Corinthians 15:33-34 Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.” Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning; for there are some who are ignorant of God—I say this to your shame.

Joy, Peace, Hope

Are you filled with joy? Are you filled with peace? Do you overflow with hope? Are you trusting this world to provide those for you? Or have you put your trust in God to provide those for you? Your answer will make a huge difference in your life.

We all long for joy, peace, and hope. We all want to experience those in our lives. Yet we often chase after them as if we are chasing the wind as we go about our daily lives. We chase them through the products of this world. Our humanness tells us we are lacking something, and we attempt to fill it with the things of this world. 

I, myself, have chased after those things by chasing after earthly pleasures. I have purchased the new house. I have purchased the new car. There is certainly excitement in those…for a while. Eventually all that excitement goes away and the responsibility of taking care of that new possession sets in. We understand that if you do not take care of something, it won’t last.

I have discovered that none of the earthly pleasures can hold a candle to the joy, peace, and hope that God provides. It is difficult to explain, hard to put into words. It’s sort of like that initial puppy love that causes you to be giddy about the other person. It’s kind of like experiencing the promise of the everlasting gobstopper that would provide a different flavor periodically and never dissolve. It’s also like completing a marathon, a huge accomplishment, and finally being able to sit down and rest. If you wrapped all of these into one, you just might begin to get the idea.

Until we put our full trust in God, we won’t feel that joy, peace, and hope. However, when we do trust Him, He will readily provide it. There are no words to fully explain the feeling of this, but contentment may come close. The power of God’s Spirit living in us provides for our truest, deepest needs when we trust Him.

I pray each of us will trust God with all we are. I pray we experience the joy, peace, and hope that He will provide. Live for God. Trust God with everything. Experience the hope that comes from the power of the Holy Spirit.

Romans 15:13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.