How Do You Wait?

I am a creature of routine and habit. Every morning I grab a cup of coffee, sit in the same spot, and read a devotional and the Bible In A Year plan on the Bible app.  Afterwards I journal and pray.  Then I start the rest of my day.  It is comfortable and familiar.

But sometimes it is not effective.  Many times, once I open my laptop and start talking with customers, I completely forget the conversation that I had with the Father this morning.  I forget about the awakening that I felt regarding some verse or issue or prayer.

Most often, I forget about the request that went unanswered.  The desire for more that I left on the altar and walked away from.  Did I ever really believe that He was going to answer that one anyway?

Our Yorkie, Peanut, is also a creature of habit.  Every morning he comes downstairs and does spins on the floor until I let him out.  If I seem to be ignoring him, he will perhaps bark or put his front paws on the edge of the couch and scratch, just in case I didn’t hear the bark.

After he comes back in, he then walks over to his food dish and verifies that it has both food and water to supply him for the day.  If it doesn’t, he spins, barks, and scratches his nails across the empty metal bowls to secure my attention.  Then he will just sit by the bowl and wait.  If I don’t respond in a few minutes, he will repeat the process, and wait.  He repeatedly does this until I finally put down my bible and coffee, and fill the bowls.

In Psalm 5:3 David writes “In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly“.

David acknowledges that the Lord hears his prayer.  He acknowledges that he brings his prayers before him daily.  And then he waits…expectantly.  David knows that God is going to hear and answer.  His faith motivates him to wait.  Just as Peanut knows that I will feed him, and this knowledge motivates him to wait. And when he grows tired of waiting, he asks again.  And waits.  He believes that I will answer.

There is an old adage that says “I want to be the kind of person that my dog thinks I am”.

Perhaps to that I could add “I want to believe that God is the kind of person my dog thinks I am…and So Much More“.

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Before The Light Fades

As my wife and I were finishing up our weekly shopping, the cashier commented on the large number of Cup-o-Soups and other easily prepared meals that we had in our cart.  Jackie explained to her that our church fills back packs each week to send home with 30 needy children in our community.  All of those items were being purchased to give away.

Jackie and the cashier entered into a conversation about the living conditions and life circumstances that many people in our area face each day.  For many children in west Georgia, the free breakfast and lunch that they receive at school are the best meals that they have all week.  Many of the children that we assist take their back packs home each week and share the little that we give them with the rest of their family.

As we were preparing to leave, the cashier looked at us and said ‘I think that a lot of those people just have their priorities in the wrong place’.  In other words, they have the money, but they don’t spend it wisely.

Her parting comment has been weighing on my mind.  It is so easy to look for fault instead of offering help.  In the end, I think that we are looking for a way to justify our lack of action.  But it’s a fair question…whose fault is it that they are hungry?

In the 9th chapter of John, the disciples of Jesus had a similar question for their Rabbi.  Upon seeing a blind man, they asked Jesus ‘Why was this man born blind?  Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins?’

Can you hear the accusation in their voices?  Hey Jesus, whose fault is it that he can’t see?  Is it something that he did?  Maybe something his parent’s did? Who is to blame?  It’s easy to hear them today…Hey Jesus, whose fault is it that he doesn’t have any food to eat?  Is it something he did? Or are his parents just wasting their money on beer and cigarettes?  Whose fault is it Jesus?

It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,” Jesus answered. “This happened so the power of God could be seen in him. We must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the one who sent us. The night is coming, and then no one can work. But while I am here in the world, I am the light of the world.”
John 9:3‭-‬5 NLT

Jesus simply says ‘Neither’.  It happened so that the power of God could be seen in him.  When we give of our supply to help others, we are showing them the love that God has for them.  When we allow blessings to pass through us, we are revealing the power of God in the world.  We are being good sons and daughters.

And we too must act quickly.  There is a brief period of time in the life of a child where their innocence and sense of wonder are still intact.  Everything in the world is working right now to destroy their hope and belief.  Your sharing the love of Jesus through a meal, or mentoring, or countless other ways may be the act that opens their spiritual eyes and alters their life forever.

Make a difference in a life today.  Not because they deserve it.  And not because you ‘have to’.

Do it because the light is fading.

Remember To Forget

I have a terrible memory.  Names. Dates. Appointments.  You name it.  If I don’t write it down and put a reminder on my phone, it will not happen. Or at least I won’t be there to see it.  But why am I so good at remembering disappointments? Failures?  Hurts?  Sometimes it seems like my mind is predisposed to remember every pain and forget every laugh.
Sadly, I think that many of us suffer this way.  We seem to be stuck, staring back at what has gone before, as if we are expecting it to somehow be different this time.  And we are truly stuck, you know.  You remember Lot’s wife?  When their city was destroyed due to its extreme sinfulness, God chose to spare Lot’s family, but he gave them one simple instruction:  When you leave, don’t stop or look back, so that you won’t be overtaken by the destruction.  Leave the past in the past and keep going.  Don’t even look at it!  But what happened?  Lot’s wife, somewhat lagging behind, turned back to see what they had left, and she was turned into a pillar of salt, forever seeing, but never leaving.
And this happens to all of us who choose to obsess about the past.  We get stuck. Period.  We can’t move past the thing that we won’t stop staring at.  It becomes a captor who cannot release us, because unlike us, it truly cannot change.  How can something that can never change somehow hope to release us?  It can’t and thus the stalemate begins.
But we can change.  We can turn from our precious, hope-destroying obsession with the past, and simply turn our view to our present.  We can look at where we are, and shake off the cobwebs and dirt.  We can begin to slowly exercise muscles that have atrophied due to lack of use.  We can find other weary travelers who are plodding along life’s roads and join them on the journey, giving and receiving encouragement as we go.  We can change.  We can let go of the past that we have allowed to define us and move on.
Of course, the choices that we have made, the life that has gone before, it does affect our present and our future.  It does mean that some things will never be experienced, or perhaps never be experienced in the way that was at one time possible, but it does not limit the future.  The road ahead is still ahead, and until we reach the end of the road, our path is open before us.  We get to choose where we place the next step.
Perhaps rather than believing that we have made too many bad choices and failed to walk the right path, we can choose to hear and believe the words of David, in Psalm 16:11:
“You make known to me the path of life; in you presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

The Never-Open Desert Diner: Book Review

In his debut novel, The Never-Open Desert Diner, author James Anderson presents readers with a suspenseful mystery, which takes place in a fantastic setting, and if filled with rich and interesting characters.  The novel tells the story of Ben, a truck driver who runs a desolate route through the Utah desert.  Alone and on the verge of bankruptcy, he encounters love, loss, accusation, violence, and even a chance at being on a reality tv show, all through interactions with his boss and his customers.

The story itself is very intriguing.  The characters are well developed and the setting creates a mood that works very well to contain the story.  My chief complaint with the book is that the main characters move in and out of relationships too fast and behave in unbelievable ways.  I really had to suspend my disbelief to allow the characters to move through the story in the manner in which it is written.  In addition, the dialogue was a little flat.  There were times where the author had to tell me how a character was responding (angry, hurt, etc…) because the words on the page didn’t describe what the response was supposed to be.  I believe that truly good writing doesn’t tell us, but rather shows us, what is happening.

Otherwise, I felt that this was a great first novel and would definitely consider reading additional releases in the future.

I Don’t Wait Anymore : Book Review

I recently received a review copy of I Don’t Wait Anymore: Letting Go of Expectations and Grasping God’s Adventure For You by Grace Thornton.  The book itself is beautiful, with a thick, full color printed cover, glossy pages, and a ribbon bookmark.  If you are familiar with the hardback version of Jesus Calling, then you know what I am talking about.  Obviously, I lot of time and money was spent on producing this book, which I assume means that Zondervan expected big things.

In my opinion, the book falls a little flat.  The language of the book is as gorgeous as the book itself, but it is too disconnected to follow consistently.  The story tells of the author’s journey of releasing expectations and following God, but she tells it through stories of her own life (good idea) and those stories don’t follow any specific timeline or pattern and it ends up being very difficult to follow.  In the end, there were several moments of brilliance that seemed to be pointing in lots of different directions and left me unsure of how she actually got there herself.

The conclusion of the book encourages the reader to delve more deeply into scripture and bible study (GREAT idea), but I can’t say that the story that the book told drove me to this conclusion.   Reading this book was reminded me of several sermons that I have heard:  Inspired, but Scattered, and in the end, me left wondering if I somehow missed the point.

 

Led Astray

As I was reading Proverbs 5 this morning, something in the footnotes caught my eye.  You are probably familiar with 5:19b and 20 which read “be intoxicated always in her love (the wife of your youth). Why should you be intoxicated my son, with a forbidden woman…”  The thing that caught my eye was that the ESV study bible says that the literal Hebrew that is translated “intoxicated” is “to be led astray”.

The image that comes to my mind when i think of someone being led astray is always negative. I certainly understand why Solomon would warn his son to avoid the forbidden woman, as many a young man has brought unnecessary pain into his life through the pursuit of momentary pleasures.

But to be led astray by and through the love of the wife of your youth.  It is such a beautiful picture.  To truly forsake all others and everything else because you know that this one love will fulfill your human hearts desire above all others.  To be led astray and love every minute of it.  And for God to be smiling over it as well.

Too often, men are led astray by work, sports, or pleasures that ultimately lead to stress, loss, and ruin.  My prayer today is that I will continue to be led astray and intoxicated with Jackie, and let all of the other stuff fade to black.

A parting thought…God desires for us to be led astray and intoxicated with Him above all.  To be so in love with the creator of the universe and the redeemer of our souls that we are led astray from thoughts and cares of the world and only pursue Him, with the love of our life by our side.

That my friends, is a life worth living.

The More of Less

If there is a single word that contrasts with the American culture of 2016 it is Minimalism.  In Joshua Becker’s new book, The More of Less, he contends that most of us can have the life that we really want, but it begins with getting rid of all of the stuff that is in the way.  And by stuff, he means all of the things around your house and in your life that not only steal resources, but which also take valuable time to maintain, clean, and present.

I must admit that the message of this book intrigued me.  It was the sole reason that I requested the review copy in the first place.  And I could definitely feel the author’s passion, which sometimes got a little preachy (he is a pastor, so I guess he has that right), and I can see the accuracy of his message, but he never really engaged me at the level that would drive me to make significant changes.  The biggest thing that I did while reading this book was to clean out the cluttered desk in my home office.

I hope that this message and reading this book has planted some seeds.  Mr. Becker truly convinced me that a minimalist lifestyle could certainly lead to less headaches and having more resources available to pursue the life that I desire.  He just failed to convince me to do anything about it, at least for now.

I was a little set off by the editing of this book.  There are multiple references back to other chapters and previously stated material that were simply unnecessary and eventually caused me to start skimming the book, looking for truly new material in each chapter.  The book could have been shorter….

I will close by saying that I truly respect the book the Joshua Becker has written.  He has a very successful blog and I was expecting to find the book filled with promotions pushing me to purchase additional items and resources via his website, as seems to be the norm these days.  Thankfully, this book was only filled with his message and vision for what is possible for those who choose to limit their needs, and focus on bigger goals.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

We’re All Awkward

Rooted Delivers

In his forthcoming book Rooted, Banning Liebscher, founder of the ministry Jesus Culture, encourages his readers to focus less on God’s vision for their lives, and focus more on working with God to develop a healthy root system where they are now.  Subtitled The Hidden Places Where God Develops You, he uses the life of David as an example of how God may take years, even decades, to prepare us for the ultimate calling that he has placed on our lives.

Although anointed to be the future king of Israel while just a boy, David would spend years developing intimacy with God as he cared for his father’s flocks.  He would then be called to serve his country and the current king, as he faced down giants and used his talents to bless Saul.  In later years, while on the run, he would be called to lead a community of misfits who would look to him to lead, all the while knowing that God had promised him the kingdom.

These are the three areas that Banning uses to show how God develops a healthy root system within us:

  1. Intimacy – with God
  2. Serving- the body
  3. Community- doing life with the people around us

The big idea in this book is that growth takes time and we shouldn’t try to rush the process.  In 2016, that is not a popular view.  Society wants us to rush to the end.  We measure ourselves against others and try to imitate their success, whether its income, status, “likes” or “shares”, we want to have the success that others have achieved, but if we don’t have the roots in place, the fruit will not last.

Banning begins this book with a simple statement:  “Deep inside every follower of Jesus is a desire to have a visible, lasting impact on the world.”  Although his solution might not be popular, it is true.  Love God. Serve People.  Be in Authentic Community.  It will create the fertile soil that you need in your life to produce fruit that lasts.

Rooted will be available for purchase on May 3, 2016.  I received a review copy in exchange for an honest review.

Glory Days by Max Lucado

After the death of Moses, the Lord spoke to Joshua and gave him one monumental task:  Arise, go over the Jordan, and lead the people of Israel into the land that I have promised them.  Really?  Joshua had already scouted out the land some 40 years earlier.  He had seen the abundance of the land, but he had also seen the inhabitants.  He knew the battles that lay ahead.  Although he and Caleb wanted to trust God and take the land, it was the bad report by the other spies that had led to the people wandering in the wilderness all those years. Nevertheless, here was Joshua, preparing to lead this people into the land that God has promised.  And as you know, Joshua proved to be capable and God kept his promise.
That is the bottom line of this book.  As stated in Joshua 21:43, God gave them all land that he had promised.  And Joshua, as he learned to trust and rely on God, was capable of the task set before him.
In his new book, Glory Days:  Living Your Promised Land Life Now, best-selling author and pastor Max Lucado  walks with us through the book of Joshua, and along the way, he reveals to us how God used the obedience of Joshua and his men to lead to promised-land living for many.  At it’s core, the message of this book is simply this:  believe God and live your whole life rooted in that belief.  Yes, it will be hard.  Yes, you will struggle.  But, Yes, God is trust-worthy and he intends to do great things through your life of obedience.
Written in typical Max Lucado style, this book reads more like a conversation than a sermon.  Max provides great insights into the lives of the Israelites and practical applications in our everyday lives.  The book is divided into 16 easily read chapters, and includes a study guide for each chapter.
The big takeaway for me was “possess the land”.  God has already made abundant promises to us.  He has saved us and empowered us with his Holy Spirit.  But we have to “possess the land”.  We have to live out the promises of God now.  Too many of us are waiting for some breakthrough in life or our physical death to begin to be the person that God says we are now.  Living our promised land life begins with believing who God says that he is and who we are, and then living that out in our lives every day.
I would highly recommend this book.  If you are one of the 90% of Christians who feel that you are languishing in the wilderness, then this book will help you to begin to overcome your doubts and fears.
I received a complimentary copy of this book and agreed to give a full and impartial review.