Are You a Name Dropper?

We are all familiar with name droppers.  The official dictionary definition of name-dropping is “the studied but seemingly casual mention of prominent persons as associates done to impress others.”

What if I told you that I once ate a meal at a fast food restaurant with Joyce Meyer? It’s true. It was in her early days of ministry and she was leading a woman’s retreat at my church. She was actually in my driveway as I happened to be riding to the event with the leader of our women’s group and Joyce’s van was to follow us. I also once sat next to the late D. James Kennedy at a banquet. He was a very interesting man to talk with. I enjoyed the evening immensely.

That’s name dropping. It sounds like I know both of those people. But if I were to meet Joyce Meyer today would she remember me? Highly unlikely. And I’m sure that Dr. Kennedy wouldn’t have remembered spending an evening chatting with me either. Those experiences were just brief encounters that I remember because they are well known people.

All of this leads to the obvious question, “So what?” So what if I met either of those people? Does a simple introduction and conversation amount to a relationship? Not at all. I couldn’t take someone to meet Joyce Meyer and introduce her as my friend.

What if you truly were friends with a very important person? What if you really did have a relationship with a president, or a king or even a movie star?  Wouldn’t it be amazing to tell all your friends?  But what would it get you?

You have an even more amazing relationship. You are on a first name basis with the Creator of the Universe. He’s not just an acquaintance, He knows you by name. He gives you His full attention when He knows you want to speak to Him. He’s interested in your problems, your fears, and your dreams. What more could you ask?

Be a name dropper! But not for the purpose of impressing others. Do it as a way to draw others into a relationship with the best friend they will ever have. Speak His name often. Tell everyone that you know Him and then… offer to introduce them.

There is none like you, O Lord; you are great, and your name is great in might.”                       – Jeremiah 10:6.

Life is a Maze

Have you ever been in a corn maze? In every direction, all you can see are walls. Walls of corn taller than you are. You move through the paths finding dead end after dead end. Each time you must retrace your steps, you wonder if the next choice will be the right one. It’s easy to get turned around and find yourself in the same dead ends over and over again. In a complex maze, it could be possible to wander for so long that anxiety increases to the point of panic.

Our lives are like that maze. We can only see the path we’re on and we can only make one decision at a time. We cannot always see whether we’re making any progress at all. We just keep moving, hoping we will eventually come out at the right place.

What we don’t want to do is let anxiety or panic take over. What must we do to prevent this? We must make the decision to trust God no matter how tall the walls or how complicated the path. No matter how confused we feel as we wander from dead end to dead end, we need to keep moving.

You see, God is the designer of the maze. He knows exactly which path we must take to get to the exit. If we could rise above the walls and see it from His perspective, we would not be concerned about making it out. We would be confident in each turn because we could look ahead and see the dead ends so that we could avoid them.

But we can’t see our lives from an external perspective. We can only rely on God for guidance.  We can also rest in the knowledge that even when we make a wrong turn, we don’t get lost forever. We can always turn around and try again. That’s God’s grace at work. He will patiently lead us along the path and will bring us out of this maze called life when we have completed all he has designed us to do. Each path teaches us something, even the dead ends.

Keep moving and trust God to guide you. Listen to the quiet voice of the Lord, leading you to Himself one step at a time. You really are getting closer every day even though you can’t always see it.

“Your ears will hear a word behind you, “This is the way, walk in it,” whenever you turn to the right or to the left.” – Isaiah 30:21 (NASB)

Here and Now

Sometimes I look at times gone by and wonder what it would have been like to live in a different era. I especially love the Victorian age. I love the slower pace of life and the way people paid attention to details. Things weren’t so hurried and people took time to enjoy the simple things of life. I love the stories of quilting bees and church picnics; of sitting on the porch on a summer evening. I could really get wistful about it.

But it wasn’t up to me to choose when I would be born or where. God did the choosing. He decided exactly when I would be the most useful to his kingdom. He decided where I would be most effective for His purposes.

It’s like God had a huge map and timeline, stretched it out before Him and planned in great detail the way it would be. Of course He didn’t do it that way. He didn’t labor over it like we would. It wasn’t like us trying to arrange the furniture in a room: “If this goes here then that could go over there.” His plan was perfect from the beginning.

Psalm 139.16 says, “Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” God knew where my life was headed before I was even born.

I Corinthians 12:18 says, “But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired.” He knew exactly where I fit.

God has designed each of us to be right here, right now. He looked over the entire timeline of humanity and the giant globe he created and he pinned an exact spot and time for you! This is the appointed time. Now is the time to look around you and see where you can make a difference. You were meant to be right where you are. There are things you can do that bring glory to God and advance his kingdom.

Hebrews 3:13 says, “But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still call ‘Today,’ so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”

Perhaps today there is someone whose encounter with you was ordained from the beginning of time. Maybe today is a day that you, by your obedience to live your life to the fullest for Christ, will help change a life for eternity. This is when we can say, “Seize the day!”

Can’t We Just be Kind?

Most of my boys’ first jobs were in food service or customer service of some sort. They regularly came home with stories about the rudeness and demanding nature of some customers. There are so many people these days who think the world owes them something… maybe everything.

Are Christians any different than the unbelievers when it comes to treating other people kindly, particularly those who are serving them? Sadly, my boys say no. In fact, sometimes the Christian customers are the worst when it comes to impatience and rudeness.

Lately it seems that judgment with regard to the “big” sins is being freely expressed.  Louder every day. You know, things like racism, stealing, murder, sexual sin.  Christians have become very outspoken about that sort of behavior.  But have we forgotten that God sees no “degree” of sin?

So when we are impatient or rude to someone who is serving us, how does God view our behavior? And, how are we reflecting Him to the world who desperately needs Him?

Can’t we stop being so self-absorbed and focused on our own needs or preferences and just be kind? We might be the blessing someone desperately needs. The fact is, if all of us decided to follow the golden rule, treating others as we would like to be treated, at exactly the same moment, all the strife in the world would cease instantly. If we all decided to love God and love others, we would be tripping over each other trying to be kind. Imagine that.

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.”Philippians 2:3-4 

How Well Do You Wait?

 

It’s hard to wait. Waiting in traffic, waiting in line, waiting on hold with someone else’s choice of music playing in your ear. We find ourselves impatient and frustrated because we want to see progress. We want answers, we want resolution so we can move on.

Our society doesn’t wait well. And in these recent months, that has become even more evident. Everyone, it seems, has no time to wait. We have too much else to do. Places to go, people to see, work to be done.

But there is a lesson to be learned in the waiting. God uses waiting to teach us to depend on Him and not ourselves. To trust His timing and not our own. He is never bound by the clock or the calendar. His timing has eternity in mind where today and tomorrow have little meaning.

Sometimes the things we have been asking the Lord to do in our lives are things we must wait for. You’ve heard the saying that God’s answer is either yes, no or wait.

Trust is like a muscle. It gets stronger when we use it. God uses waiting to strength our trust muscle. In the waiting, we are becoming more like Jesus.

It’s hard, but there is no other way.

“Wait for the LORD; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the LORD.”  Psalm 27:14

Why You Need a God-shelf

In the Shinto religion of Japan, they have what they call a “god shelf.” It’s a shrine where they place offerings to their god. This is not what I am suggesting.

My God-shelf is not a tangible shelf at all. What it is, is a symbolic way to surrender our burdens to God.

Imagine installing a simple shelf in your home that is nearly out of reach when you raise your hand as high as you can. You can reach this shelf only by stretching just a little. Now imagine that you have been carrying your troubles and worries around with you as you move about your home.

What I am suggesting is that you mentally design and install a God-shelf as a place to deposit all these issues. You walk by your shelf and reach up and place your worries on that shelf for God to deal with, out of sight and slightly out of reach so you can’t easily take them back.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be able to leave all your cares on your God-shelf where He is able to deal with everything and you can trust that He will? As you walk by, you simply reach up and say, “Lord, here is my marriage, I trust You to heal it.” Or, “Lord, here is my wayward child, I trust him into Your hands.” Or perhaps, “Lord, here is this difficult diagnosis, I give it to You and ask You to take care of it.”

In every home I’ve every lived, there has always been a small cabinet over the refrigerator. The things I store in that cabinet are usually things I don’t use often. Because they are out of sight, I often forget what I have put there. I think this is what God truly wants us to do with the things we put on our God-shelf. Just put it up there, and then allow God to replace your worries with His peace.

“Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.” – Psalm 55:22 (ESV)

Who’s Winning the Rat Race?

Today you get to hear from Randy. It’s always a special treat when he writes a devotion. I know you will be blessed!

Do you sometimes feel like you’re on a treadmill? An unwilling participant in the rat race? Spinning your wheels and getting nowhere? On a hamster wheel, running as fast as you can? Putting in long hours and seeing little benefit? Do you lose yourself in hours of watching TV or cruising social media? Need I go on?

I’ve tried over the last few years to read through the entire Bible in a year. I like to read it in chronological order using this plan because it gives me a sense of how God works through history. This year, I was making my way through Lamentations just as our church was presenting a 5-week series on the same book. Lamentations was written after Jerusalem had been destroyed and the Jewish people had been scattered. It was the culmination of centuries of God’s people turning their backs toward God.

Then we get to the book of Haggai. You know, that little tiny book in the Old Testament that nobody reads. A remnant had returned to Jerusalem. There was discussion about rebuilding the Temple. They said, “The time has not come for the house of the Lord to be rebuilt.”

God speaks through the prophet Haggai:

“Is it a time for you yourselves to live in your paneled houses, while this house [my temple] lies in ruins? Think carefully about your ways:
You have planted much but harvested little.
You eat but never have enough to be satisfied.
You drink but never have enough to be happy.
You put on clothes but never have enough to get warm.
The wage earner puts his wages into a bag with a hole in it.”

“Think carefully about your ways. Go up into the hills, bring down lumber, and build the house; and I will be pleased with it and be glorified,” says the Lord. “You expected much, but then it amounted to little. When you brought the harvest to your house, I ruined it. Why? Because my house still lies in ruins, while each of you is busy with his own house.”

Ouch. That hit me between the eyes. Are we so busy trying to maintain and “get ahead” or keep our head above water that we lose sight of our true calling: To worship God. Where are our priorities? Are we so focused on our work, or school, or getting our kids to every sports activity, or just trying to get by that we lose focus of the God who made us and deserves our worship…our time…our devotion?

What if you were to dedicate some of your time to ministering to others? Or giving a percentage of your income to your local church? Or leading a small group Bible study? Whatever it is, God wants to bless us but He can’t until we dedicate our hearts, minds, and time to him.

The temple was rebuilt.

Then God said, “From this day on I will bless you.”

Is there a lesson here for all of us? I think so.

Do You Have a Critical Spirit?

We all do it. Yes, even you. Even me. We all observe someone else’s behavior at times and make an assumption about their character.  True, good character leads to good behavior. But face it, we are all human and have moments of poor judgment from time to time.

When we observe someone doing something “wrong” or “bad,” we can make the mistake of classifying that person as “bad” too. We can then begin a sad, downward spiral, thinking that the judgment we just made will predict future behavior from that person.  I am guilty of this.  We once had a neighbor who was prone to excessive drinking. The loud parties on their deck would cause me great anxiety. The language they used caused me to cringe as I realized my small sons were hearing it. I formed an opinion in my mind about these folks and then it seemed I could find something to be critical about concerning everything they did. Then one day I observed the man playing with his infant daughter and I realized there was a side of him I had never considered. Even with all his faults, that I could easily list if called upon to do so, I had to admit he had one fine quality. He loved his little girl.  What else had I missed as I so quickly concluded that the “bad” was all there was?

In the current culture, the first response seems to be to criticize anyone who doesn’t hold the same opinions as we do. And then begins the labeling. We can see it escalating on a daily basis right now. It’s as if we are sorting people and categorizing them based on what we perceive as flaws, and then we proceed to cast them aside because they don’t fit our criteria.  The fact is, there are no disposable human beings. All are loved and wanted by God.

So when we find ourselves so quick to pass judgment, perhaps we should pause and examine our own hearts. Are we guilty of having a critical spirit? Do we first, jump to conclusions, and then allow those conclusions to form our opinions of others?

“But you, why do you criticize your brother? Or you, why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before the tribunal of God. For it is written:
As I live, says the Lord, every knee will bow to Me, and every tongue will give praise to God. So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God. Therefore, let us no longer criticize one another. Instead decide never to put a stumbling block or pitfall in your brother’s way.” Romans 14:10-13 (HCSB)

Is there someone you are feeling critical toward? Maybe a spouse, or child, or parent? Perhaps a neighbor, or co-worker, or maybe the President?  Are you quick to form opinions about someone without giving thought to what you don’t know about that person?

My challenge to you is to think of a person you have been guilty of judging, and spend time this week praying for their wellbeing. Not a prayer that God would change their opinions to make them agree with yours, but a prayer for the individual. For their needs and fears, for their health and for their families. You might just come away remembering that they are all human beings created in the image of God and loved with the everlasting love of a Heavenly Father.

A wise quote attributed to Abraham Lincoln says, “If you look for the bad in mankind, expecting to find it, you surely will.”  

Perhaps its time to step away from the ways of the world and begin to look for the good in people.  We just might find it.

Getting Caught in the Rain Is a Good Thing

As this difficult season drags on, we are all getting a little more weary every day. It seems that there is no end in sight to the difficulties we have experienced for most of this year. We may be tempted to give up; to shut down and just coast mindlessly.

That is how it felt for me a few days ago. Early in the day, we had been faced with a difficult conversation and some challenging decisions. We felt defeated and even headed toward despair. Perhaps we would have had more energy to deal with the day’s issues if we hadn’t already been so weary from the events of the past months. At least we’d like to think so.

In the evening, we decided to go to the beach to walk and just let the troubles of the day go. It seemed like a good place to cast our cares. It had been raining much of the day but was just cloudy when we arrived on the beach. We walked for a while enjoying the shore birds and watching the waves. At one point Randy visited with a young couple while I searched for seashells. We began to notice a storm forming offshore and decided we’d best turn around since the beach is not the place to be in a storm. We quickly began our return walk to our van but not quickly enough. Before we were halfway back, the rain began and thunder rumbled over us. By the time we got to our van we were drenched.

It’s been a long time since I was caught in a downpour that completely soaked me. The rain was refreshing and I found myself asking God to send His Holy Spirit to pour into my heart and refresh my soul like the rain. Of course, our God is faithful and hears our prayers, so He did just as I asked.

What heaviness have you been struggling with lately? You don’t need to get caught in the rain for God to refresh your soul. All you have to do is be willing to surrender your burden and ask for refreshing from His Spirit.

And you can do it right now. He’s listening.

“For I satisfy the weary ones and refresh everyone who languishes.” – Jeremiah 31:25 (NASB)

“Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your body and refreshment to your bones.” – Proverbs 3:7-8 (NASB)

Press On








Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14 (ESV)

Press on. This phrase implies effort toward a goal. It calls us to focus and keep moving forward.  The prerequisite from verse 13 is clear. We can’t keep looking back if we are going to press on.

Sometimes people get caught in a trap of analyzing their past mistakes over and over in hopes that they will learn from them. But there is a danger in this habit. I won’t deny that God causes us to go through a variety of experiences to train us in godliness, but I don’t think it’s His plan for us to dwell on the difficult ones for long periods of time. The danger is looking at our mistakes and falling into a pattern of regret. The more we focus on our past failures, the more regrets we have. We can’t change the past and we don’t get to do it over. We certainly can make better life choices in the future and we can learn from our mistakes. But if we were in a race, as Paul alludes to in this passage, we would surely lose if we spent all our time looking over our shoulder to see where we’d been.

This is not to say that we are never to think about things that happened before this moment. God tells the Israelites in 1 Chronicles 16:12 to remember His marvelous works. We are supposed to remember the wonderful things that God has done in our lives. We are supposed to tell the story of God’s faithfulness to us.

But we are not supposed to dwell on our failures or even our successes.  It’s God’s marvelous works we are supposed to remember, not our own. We have to ask ourselves a question. “Is there any good thing in my life that God shouldn’t get the credit for?”

If we could follow Paul’s example and quit looking behind us—if we could focus on the goal of giving our all for the Lord—how  great an impact we could have on those around us.

No more regrets.  No more looking over our shoulders. We run toward the goal, free as the wind, with nothing to hold us back!  What a race and … what a prize!