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.

Building Correctly

Who built your house? Do you know? Should you know? Who are you working with to build your eternal home? Are you building with the right One? Have you invited Him in to work beside you? Are you willing to follow His instructions?

There are many builders in this world. Some good, some not so good. If you are going to build a new house, you often seek advice from others who have built a house, asking them who built theirs. You may even look at consumer ratings to see how well each builder is rated on their workmanship, design, and overall customer satisfaction.

Building a house that you intend to live in for several years, perhaps the rest of your life, is an important decision. If you plan to live in that house for 20, 30, or 50 years, you want it to be of good quality. You want to ensure it will last. You probably choose high quality appliances, so you don’t have to worry about replacing them for a long time. Bottom line—you put significant thought into building that new house.

Are we putting as much time and thought into where we will spend eternity? Are we working toward an eternal home that we will love living in forever? Unfortunately, I don’t believe we spend much time doing so. Too often we simply listen to what our parents tell us, our friends tell us, or perhaps what our co-workers tell us. We don’t think through it and plan our way forward.

Oh, we’ve all heard that we need to believe in Jesus. We’ve all heard that we need to commit ourselves to Him. We’ve all heard we need to be baptized. We’ve all heard we need to follow in His footsteps. We’ve all heard we are to read our Bible. We’ve all heard we need to spend time with other Christians. And … we’ve all pushed that advice to the side in some way or another.

One of the truest sayings that I’ve heard, yet is challenging to put into action, is that we all need to come into our own faith. What does this mean? It means we can’t simply follow blindly what our parents have done. They may be very faithful, going to church every time the doors are open. They may be very involved in the church, actively working to guide others and plan events. So, what does it mean to come into your own faith?

Coming into your own faith means that you spend time with God, developing your own understanding of His Word, and what His plan is for you. It means spending some time setting your own goals. Perhaps you start by deciding to read one particular book of the Bible in a month. Later, you decide to read the entire Bible in a year, or 90 days. Perhaps you start reading a devotional every day. Perhaps you start attending a Bible class. You spend the time to think about building your faith and coming to your own understanding of God and allowing Him to guide you.

I pray we all spend time to think about and design our own plan to get to know God better. I pray each of us decide to build our faith intentionally with God. He is waiting and eager to spend the time with you. Be intentional. Spend time with God. Read His Word. Build your own faith. You will build a strong house.

Psalm 127:1

Unless the Lord builds the house, 

the builders labor in vain. 

Unless the Lord watches over the city,

the guards stand watch in vain.

Powerful Hope

What do you hope for? Are you hoping for worldly possessions? Are you hoping for a better job? Do you hope for a change in your spouse? Perhaps you are hoping to acquire a spouse. Will you hope in the hope from God? Do you know that He has given us a powerful hope?

In this world, the word hope is often used as synonym for wish. If we say we hope our favorite team wins the game, we are really saying we wish our team wins. Unfortunately, that leaves the word hope as nothing more than some wishful exercise, rather than the meaning of the word as we often see it in the Bible.

When the word hope is used in the Bible, particularly when it is referencing our hope in God the Father or Jesus Christ, it means far more than wishful thinking. The word means there is a look to the future with the expectation that what we desire will come to fruition. We see hope carries with it an expectation of fulfillment.

The expectation of a future fulfilled by God is an amazing future. In order to see that future in its proper perspective, we must be of the same mind as God. To be of the same mind, we must spend time with God. Doesn’t this make sense?

How do we get to be of the same mind with someone? We spend time with them. There are many people who can finish the sentences of their spouses. They can also make decisions on behalf of their spouse in full confidence it is the same decision the spouse would make. There are people who have very close friends and can do the same.

When we have a close relationship with God, we too can make those types of decisions in accordance with Gods plan. We can finish the sentence just as God would finish it. This then converts our hope from wishful thinking to a powerful hope. You see, we then begin to hope for the same things God is planning. Don’t you think it would be powerful to hope and have confidence it is exactly what God is planning?

I pray each one of us will grow in our relationship with God, grow to the point of knowing how to finish the sentence the way God would. I pray we all experience the power in hope, having full confidence that what we hope for will happen. Come closer to God. Grow your relationship with Him. Experience the powerful hope He has given you.

Ephesians 1:18-21 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.

The Little Things

How is your integrity? How well do you care for what is in your possession? Do you spend your money appropriately? Do you realize that you have been put in charge of someone else’s property? Don’t think so?

In this world we are encouraged to go get all that we can. We see the advertisements that say we deserve it. We hear others around us that repeat that mantra. If we don’t have the next shiny thing, we feel as though we are less than the next person. We strive to be part of the “in” crowd and become rich. That reminds me of an old saying, “You can’t have your cake and eat it, too.”

You see, the issue with this is, when you spend your money on all those shiny things that you don’t really need, you end up still feeling like something is missing. The truth of the matter is, there is something missing, something that money can’t buy.

The bottom line is, all that we have belongs to God. Yes, our money, our clothes, our homes, our cars, our jewelry, our tools, everything. We are given them for a time as caretakers or, as the Bible states, stewards of what is Gods. He has entrusted us with some of His possessions for a period of time.

If we cannot adequately take care of the small things He has given us, how will we take care of bigger things? How can God trust us to take care of important things, if we don’t care of insignificant things? We don’t think much of leaving a light on when we know we won’t be back in a room for several minutes. Yet that is wasting the electricity, or money, that has been put in our possession.

Am I being a fanatic conservationist? No. I am simply pointing out something small that we can and should take care of. Think about how it works. If you save a couple pennies because you turn off a light this morning that you don’t need on for the next 30 minutes, that’s a couple pennies you wouldn’t have had. If you do that a handful of times per day, your electric bill is lowered by a few dollars for the month. If you add up those dollars across a year, it can add up to more than a hundred dollars.

Now, let’s apply that principle to everything else we have in our possession. How much driving around do you do? Do you plot the most efficient route to make your shopping runs? How well do you take care of your clothes? Do you fold them neatly and keep them clean so they last longer? How well are you caring for your home? Are you getting the message?

I pray we all decide to take care of the small things. I pray that as we do so, we see God putting bigger things in our lives to care for. I pray we all use what is put in our possession to bless others. Be a good steward. Take care of what God has given you. Be the one to bless another. You can do as Jesus instructed each of us.

Luke 16:10 “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.”

No One Knows

Are you doing your best? Do you do the best you can every moment of every day? Or do you allow yourself to get out of control? Do you conscientiously go about your day? Are you doing God’s Will? Are you obeying Him today? Are you living a life that others want to emulate?

We often hear people say that life is short. We hear it said that none of us know when our time on this earth will end. Yet we don’t really see people live that out. At least, we don’t see them do it at all times.

When a tragic event, such as the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant, his 13-year old daughter, and 7 other people happens, people will say it’s horrible, and it is. We then hear people talking about how life is short and can come to an unexpected end, and it often does. We see people commit to living better lives, but it often doesn’t last.

Folks, when will we wake up and realize we are being hypocrites? When will we commit to making a permanent change in our lives? When will we decide to give up our selfishness, hatefulness, anger, jealousy, and all that we claim this recently deceased person did not have and model our lives after Jesus?

It is true, truer than anything anyone has ever spoken, that we don’t know when our time on this earth is done. We don’t want to admit we are not in control, yet we are not. Wake up! Step out of the stupor that Satan, and this world, has cast over you. Open your eyes and realize what is truly important. It is the people around you, not possessions. Show those people they are important to you and stop the quibbling over silly things.

My heart and prayers go out to the Bryant family and friends in this time of extreme sorrow. I also pray that a tragic accident such as this will cause others to commit to the change they need to be the person God wants them to be. Because the truth of the matter is, none of us know when our last moment will be. Stop the arguing, fighting, disrespectfulness, and hatefulness. Let’s all focus our efforts on being a shining example to others.

I pray we all commit to be the person God desires us to be. I pray we release our self-centeredness and allow God to make the change in us that we need. We only have one shot, one life to be who we are meant to be. Let go of yourself. Let God make the change. Give up yourself. Be who God created you to be. He is waiting for you to make the decision, the commitment. Commit today.

Matthew 24:36,42 “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father…. Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.”

Don’t Worry

What are your plans for tomorrow? Are you planning for next weekend? Are you planning your next vacation and wondering how you will save the money for it? Are you worried about the doctor appointment you have next week? Are you worried about the job interview you have coming up?

We all plan different activities. We build our “to do” lists. We wonder what is going to happen at work tomorrow. We worry about saving money for a family vacation. We worry about college loans piling up and how we will pay them off. We scurry about with a long list of things on our minds.

I’m sure there are people who are planning for that Super Bowl party. They are deciding who to invite, who not to, and who is on the maybe list. They are setting up a menu, deciding when to cook, what they need to buy, and where they need to buy it. They are deciding if they should rearrange their living room for optimal viewing and whether they should use the stereo to boost the volume. Lots of planning and worrying going into that party.

We are told by Jesus not to worry about tomorrow. He instructed us to focus on today. I’m not convinced He meant that we should not properly plan for our future or future events. I do believe He meant that we should not allow the future to overwhelm the present.

Too often we fret about what is going to happen or what we need to do a week, a month, or even several months from now. We allow these things to cause us to be in bad moods, have negative attitudes, or simply be distracted and unable to function optimally. I believe Jesus is telling us to put these future events in their proper place. I believe He wants us to lean on Him and trust He is in control.

When we trust God to care for us, protect us, and provide for our needs, we can put the future into proper perspective. It isn’t easy. We want to feel like we are in control. We want to believe we can take care of things. We fool ourselves with this perception, even when deep down we know it isn’t true.

I pray we all learn to give everything over to God. Ask Jesus to take care of our future. Believe in Him and trust him to deliver on His promises. Know that God is in control. Lean on Him to provide for you. Stop worrying about tomorrow.

Matthew 6:34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Working Today

What are you doing today? What are you doing for God today? Are you showing His blessings to others? Are you telling others about Him? Are you sharing your blessings with others? Are you willing to work for God as much as you want Him to give to you?

We see people every day who want to be handed whatever they ask for. Our culture has transformed into an entitlement culture, where multitudes of people now believe they are entitled to whatever it is they want. It doesn’t seem to matter if it is something as large as a new house or as small as a stick of gum. If they want it, they think they are entitled to it and they should have it now.

There are still many of us who grew up having to earn what we got. I remember delivering The Grit newspaper as a young boy, saving everything I made. I had my eye on a new skateboard I wanted. Every week after I made my paper deliveries, which meant my Mom had to drive me around since we lived in a rural setting, I would go deposit the dollar or so into the bank. It took about a year to save fifty dollars. Once I had that saved, then I started saving for the skateboard. I eventually got it.

Unfortunately, we rarely see people saving for more than a few months, let alone more than a year, to get what they desire. This is a sad state for multiple reasons. The obvious one is we are not saving our money or our resources as a good steward should. Another reason this is sad is we are not saving those resources to serve God. Our resources also include are time, which often is completely scheduled, leaving no room to do God’s work.

God has the power to do what He wants when He wants. Yet He chooses to work through us when we are willing. The question becomes, “Are we willing to work for God?” God is calling us every day to work for Him and with Him to further His Kingdom here on this earth. He calls us to give of our time, our money, and our resources. But first, we must give Him our hearts.

Giving our hearts to God is not simply giving our time to Him for an hour or two on Sunday. It is giving Him our hearts every moment of every day. That is the requirement. It is what it means to give yourself up and give yourself to God. When we work for God, we find ways to bless others. We see people in a different light. We see the need and give what we have to fill the need. That may be as simple as paying for someone’s meal. It may be as difficult as sitting quietly, holding someone’s hand while they mourn a loss. It may require us to give financially or spend extra time in prayer. In the end, God blesses us richly when we give of ourselves to work with Him.

I pray each of us will decide to work for God and with God today and every day. I pray we give up ourselves to be who God wants us to be. Bless others with the blessings God has granted you. Be God’s hands in this world. Touch someone’s life in a positive way today. Receive God’s richest blessings.

Matthew 9:37-38 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

Christian Talk

How well do you use your words? What is your daily language like? Do you think about what you say? Do you understand the meaning of the words that come out? Do you think about the tone of your speech? Do you know the tone and the words you speak can cause people to tune you out? Are you willing to work at consciously changing how you talk to people?

We see all kinds of TV shows where people “speak their minds.” We are blasted with hateful, deceitful, and angry words on that colorful box we spend so much time watching. Unfortunately, we end up acting just like those people we complain about. Why? For one, we regurgitate what we’ve been fed. For another, we don’t consciously think before we open our mouths.

It is true that some words change meanings over time. Yet that takes several years and often the meaning doesn’t really change that much. Not to mention, the root of the word stays the same. So even if the contemporary meaning of the word has changed, the root meaning still exists. It is simply hidden by modern culture.

As followers of Jesus Christ, we are called to be different. That includes the way we speak to others and the language we use. When we dig into the Scriptures and learn more about God, we understand this calling from Him. We understand that we are to carefully consider not only how we treat people, but how we speak to them or about them. We should eliminate gossip of every kind, speaking ill of someone else, taking God’s name in vain, and cursing in general.

Some may say that we should not sugar coat the truth. That is very true. We see examples where Jesus did not sugar coat it. Yet He did not use the offensive language we hear so much of today, even from Christians. He confronted evil and bad behavior straight on. But He did so with the Word of God, not hateful language and a bad attitude.

Many of us would love to change the world, even if we don’t verbalize it. We may simply wish someone else we are acquainted with would change. We can affect that change by being the positive example, the one who shows them through actions and words that they can change. No, it doesn’t mean we have to tell them they need to change, though that may be appropriate at times. It means we can be an example for them to follow. That’s being a leader.

I pray we all decide to be leaders in actions and words. I pray we all decide to think before we speak. I pray we set the example, as followers of Christ, for others to follow. Seek Jesus’ words. Speak as He spoke. Act as He acted. Treat others as He treats them. Love God, love your neighbor.

Psalm 34:12-13
Whoever of you loves life
and desires to see many good days,
keep your tongue from evil
and your lips from telling lies.

Following Today

Are you following the plan today? Are you doing what God plan for you today? Are you listening for His voice today? Are you willing to hear what He wants you to do and do it? Will you be in God’s will today and every day?

We have lots of demands put on us. There are demands from our boss. There are demands from our teacher. There are demands from our spouse or dating partner. There are demands from our parents. Yet, how many more demands do we put on ourselves?

We put as many or more demands on ourselves than others do … every day. Some come from our innate desires. Some come from our learned desires. Some come from our desire for self-improvement. Some come from our desire to be accepted. All are self-generated. But what can we do about them?

We can simplify our lives. We have the ability to reduce the demands we put on ourselves. We do that by listening to God and His direction for us. When we are doing what God wants us to do, our life becomes simpler. God has specific tasks He wants us to do. Many of those are written in His Word, in the Bible. Yet there are also many that come to us through His Spirit—from that quiet inner voice. We are to listen and do what He wants us to do.

I know, many of you will say “I don’t hear that voice.” Folks, if you don’t hear that voice, I suggest you slow down, set aside some quiet time, and pray earnestly to God to help you hear His voice. We fill our days with so much noise that we often don’t hear Him. When we spend quiet time with God, more than just a couple minutes, we are able to block out the noise of the world and hear the plan and desire God has for us.

One thing I’ve learned over the years is that it takes practice to learn to hear God. We must learn to block out the worries of this world and focus on God. It’s a little challenging when we first start doing this, but it becomes easier as we continue the practice. In fact, it will get to the point that you can hear God, even in a crowded, noisy restaurant.

I pray each of us will decide to set aside some quiet time today to spend with God. I pray we each do so, no just today, but every day. I am confident that you will hear God, if you do and you keep at it. Listen for God. Hear His Spirit talk to you. Do as He guides you. Trust in Him. God is faithful.

James 1:22-24 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.