Tuesday, June 15, 2021

"Everybody Needs at Least One"

1st Chronicles 27.33b NLT

Hushai the Arkite was the king’s friend.”

This text may appear insignificant until you look closely at the context. At least five chapters of this book of the Bible (1st Chronicles 23-27) are dedicated to roles and responsibilities, designations and duties of various people in the leadership of David’s kingdom. There are priests, Levites, musicians, prophets, gatekeepers, treasurers, officers, judges, army commanders, tribal leaders, property managers, overseers, counselors, tutors, scribes, and a variety of other workers. Many of the leaders found in these one hundred and sixty verses were mentioned by name... Ladan, Shimei, Jehiel, Zetham, Joel, Shelomoth, Haziel, Haran, Zina, Jeush, Beriah, and about two hundred others. All of them were given titles and specific jobs. Yet, only one was called a “friend.”

Hushai the Arkite fulfilled a unique role in King David’s life. He remained loyal to David at the great risk of personal harm. Hushai earned the title “friend” and was the only person so named in the final days of the king’s reign.

A single friend of this caliber was probably all David needed. I know many wonderful people. I could probably mention by name well over two hundred from memory. Many of them I would call friends, or even good friends. But I have very few truly close friends. There is, of course, Jesus, who is my best friend. (An ancestor of mine, Joseph M. Scriven wrote a song about Him in 1855 which seems appropriate to note here... “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.”)

I miss my next best friends, my dad Gil Scriven, who went to be with Jesus about fourteen years ago, and my mother Betty, who died nine years ago. My very best friend ever was my loving and faithful wife Adonica, who lost her battle with Acute Myeloid Leukemia on August 30th, 2015. I’m still trying to figure out how to do life without her. Then there’s Lonnie, Matt, Ryan, Brandon, Scott, Ruth, Bill, Heather, Ken, Greg, Eric, Stanford, Robert, Josh, Benjamin, Johnny, and a handful of others. 

In the close “friend” department, one is probably enough. Everybody needs at least one. I have more than my fair share. I feel so blessed.

Monday, June 14, 2021

"Just Add Water"

1st Chronicles 22.16 NASU

“Of the gold, the silver and the bronze and the iron there is no limit. Arise and work, and may the LORD be with you.”

I am holding in my hand a box of Betty Crocker’s Buttermilk Pancake Mix. Mmmmm. Sounds scrumptious. Here’s the best part. If I want fresh and steaming buttermilk pancakes topped with melting butter and hot syrup… I can have them. All I have to do is... “Just Add Water.”

It’s easy, complete, and ready to go. “Just Add Water” and I will enjoy the fulfillment of Betty’s promise to start my day with a delicious, hot breakfast. Pancakes don’t just appear. Betty Crocker has done all she can. The rest is up to me. If I do not “just add water,” I will have no plate of pancakes. It’s not hard. I know what to do. The question is simple… Will I “just add water?”

“David made ample preparations before his death” (1st Chronicles 22.5). The king provided everything Solomon needed to construct the Temple of the Lord. But Solomon still had to work to make it happen...

“I’ve gone to a lot of trouble to stockpile materials for the sanctuary of God:
100,000 talents (3,775 tons) of gold, a million talents (37,750 tons) of silver, 
tons of bronze and iron — too much to weigh — and all this timber and stone.
You’re all set — get to work!”
1st Chronicles 22.14, 16 “The Message”

Has God made a promise to you? Then He will fulfill His promise through you! Without Him you can’t. Without you He won’t.

You are an essential part of the equation. He boxed the ingredients of your destiny. You have all you need to fulfill His will. “Just Add [the] Water” of passion, hard work, and decisive action.

Arise and work, and may the LORD be with you!”

Friday, June 11, 2021

"Semper Fidelis"

1st Chronicles 19.12-13 NIV

The United States Marine Corps
“Joab said [to his brother Abishai], ‘If the Arameans are too strong for me, then you are to rescue me; but if the Ammonites are too strong for you, then I will rescue you. Be strong and let us fight bravely for our people and the cities of our God. The Lord will do what is good in his sight.’ ”

My friend Wayne inadvertently referred to “ex-Marines” in a public address. After the speech a gentleman approached and informed him, “There is no such thing as an ‘ex-Marine.’ Once a Marine, always a Marine.”

When the honorable title of “U.S. Marine” has been conferred, it is retained. There are active duty Marines, retired Marines, reserve Marines, former (enlisted and commissioned officer) Marines, and Marine veterans but no ex-Marines. According to Col. James Hoke, “The title of Marine is an earned title and never goes away.” If you earned it, you’re a Marine for life. 

Joab and Abishai would have made good Marines. They exemplified the Marine Corps motto: Semper Fidelis. Joab and Abishai were “always faithful” to protect and defend each other in battle.

photo by Jim Mahoney, The Dallas Morning News, November 11, 2004
We all have enemies. They take the form of temptations, addictions, trouble, misfortune, and sometimes people. Do you have a ranger buddy who will come to your “rescue” and carry your wounded body off the battlefield? I hope so. I do. This is a reciprocal commitment of courage and faithfulness. I know I will be protected because people love me as I love them. I am willing to protect, and I am protected. I have friends I can count on. If I falter, men who are “always faithful” will pick me up. If they get hurt, I will be there to help them heal. We are “Joab” and “Abishai” for each other. We are Semper Fidelis, “always faithful” to rescue the other man in trouble...

“If the Arameans are too strong
for me, then you are to rescue me;
but if the Ammonites are too strong
for you, then I will rescue you”.

I thank God for “a few good men” and women who are “always faithful” brothers and sisters in Christ. They are there for me, and I am for them. I would have it no any other way. I could not make it through life without these dear souls by my side. I wouldn’t even want to try.
_____________________

"Generations of Valor" was taken by The Dallas Morning News staff photographer Jim Mahoney on November 11, 2004. "Pearl Harbor survivor Houston James of Dallas is overcome with emotion as he embraces Marine SSgt Mark Graunke, Jr. of Flower Mound, Texas during the Dallas Veterans Day Commemoration Thursday at Dallas City Hall. SSgt Graunke, Jr., who was a member of a Marine ordnance-disposal team, lost a hand, leg, and eye while defusing a bomb in Iraq in July of last year [2003]." 

Thursday, June 10, 2021

"I've Got an Idea!"

photo by Felipe T. Marques (click image to view Felipe's photostream1st Chronicles 17.1b-2 NASU

“…David said to Nathan the prophet, ‘Behold, I am dwelling in a house of cedar, but the ark of the covenant of the LORD is under curtains.’ Then Nathan said to David, ‘Do all that is in your heart, for God is with you.’

I have no idea where ideas come from. It’s a mystery. They just appear. An idea emerges, swirling around in the back of my head, slows down, gradually comes into focus, and presents itself for my evaluation. Is it a good idea or a passing thought of little worth? If it makes the initial cut I place the fledgling concept on the mental back burner and wait. If the thought continues to pop up as an idea of merit, I may run it by a trusted adviser or friend. A thumbs up at that level will likely prompt a plan of action. A few of my ideas actually become reality.

King David had an idea. It made perfect sense... David’s home was better than the Lord’s. The king lived in a cedar house. The ark of the covenant was stored in a tent. How unfair. David would build a beautiful Temple for the Lord. It seemed like such a great idea.

David shared his plan with Nathan the prophet who concluded that, since God was with David, David’s idea must be from God. Nathan told the king to proceed. 

Later that night the Lord paid Nathan a visit…

“Go and tell David My servant, ‘Thus says the LORD,
“You shall not build a house for Me to dwell in...” ’ ”
1st Chronicles 17.4 NASU

What a surprise! God did not want a Temple. It was a good idea. A Temple would eventually be built. But not now and not by King David.

Not all ideas, even good ones, are in sync with God’s plans. Your good ideas may be right for someone, just not you. They may be right for a future time, just not now. Good ideas are exactly that... good ideas and nothing more. God has ideas of His own
____________________

Black and white photo of a man holding a light bulb over his head is by photographer Felipe T. Marques. I found his image on Flickr. 

Wednesday, June 09, 2021

Men to Emulate

1st Chronicles 11.12-14 NIV

Eleazar...gathered there for battle. At a place where there was a field full of barley, the troops fled from the Philistines.

But they took their stand in the middle of the field. They defended it and struck the Philistines down, and the Lord brought about a great victory.”

Eleazar took a stand in the middle of “a field full of barley.” He “defended” his ground and “the Lord brought about a great victory.” I am inspired! Eleazar’s victory wasn’t free. He risked the loss of life and limb. There was no guarantee Eleazar would walk from the field of barley alive. At first Eleazar and “the troops fled from the Philistines.” But something happened. A switch flipped. Eleazar had the same epiphany Popeye did… “That’s all I can stands. I can’t stands no more!” This mighty man of God turned around to face his own Brutus. Eleazar and a few brave souls “took their stand” and “defended” their ground. It worked! It always does.

My dad was a trainer and fighter pilot for the United States Air Force. In his business, failure meant death. He taught me life was no game. It was win or die, succeed or die, do or die. Failure was not an option. Death? Maybe. Failure? Never! At a certain point Eleazar quit running. He astounded and inspired his companions. Eleazar stopped and turned to face the Philistines. He faced his death and ‘took a stand.’

I cannot succeed in marriage, parenting, business, ministry, or any other noble endeavor without facing the possibility of my own death... death of my income, image, reputation, or friendships. I must quit running, take a stand, and defend some ground. Running is slow death. Death of the spirit. It would be better to die valiantly attempting something great than to wither up and die from the shame of knowing I never had the guts to face my nemesis.

What’s the difference? Either way I die; and if die I must, then why not die with glory? A decision to defend some ground gives the Lord an opportunity to bring about “a great victory.” This Bible verse reminds me of William Wallace’s speech to an army of Scottish farmers on the threshold of battle with England in the movie “Braveheart”...

“Aye. Fight and you may die. Run and you’ll live. At least a while. And dying in your beds, many years from now, would you be willing to trade all the days from this day to that for one chance — just one chance — to come back here and tell our enemies that they may take our lives, but they’ll never take our freedom!”.

Our 16th president had the guts to face his personal demons [1]…

  • failed in business in 1831
  • defeated for legislature in 1832
  • second failure in business in 1833
  • suffered a nervous breakdown in 1836
  • defeated for Speaker in 1838
  • defeated for Elector in 1840
  • defeated for congress in 1843
  • defeated for congress in 1848
  • defeated for senate in 1855
  • defeated for vice president in 1856
  • defeated for senate in 1858
  • elected president in 1860

Eleazar, Popeye, Wallace, Lincoln... all men to emulate.

_______________________

[1] To be fair and add a little balance to this popular Abraham Lincoln story, check out
http://www.snopes.com/glurge/lincoln.asp. This site will give you another perspective on the claim that Abe Lincoln suffered a steady stream of defeats before being elected president of the United States. The Lincoln myth probably contains an element of ‘glurge.’ Regardless of the exact truth or sequence of events in his life, I am still inspired by Lincoln’s example of perseverance.

Tuesday, June 08, 2021

"What You Think May Matter More Than You Think"

1st Chronicles 9.1b NLT

The people of Judah were exiled to Babylon because they were unfaithful to the Lord.”

What is smaller than a fleeting thought? Not much. According to research conducted by “Google Answers”[1], the number of thoughts passing daily through a person’s mind ranges from 12,000 to 65,000. That’s a lot of thinking; a new thought every single waking second! If “a penny for your thoughts” came true, it’s an easy $500.00 per day or over $180,000 per year. Plenty for most folks to retire on. Unfortunately our thoughts aren’t worth “a penny.”

Realistically, most thoughts are probably worth nothing at all. Dr. Deepak Chopra once quoted a study that concluded of the approximately 65,000 thoughts per day, about 95% of them are exactly the same thoughts that passed through our minds the day before. This would  indicate our thoughts are worth less than nothing. In fact, some of our thoughts may have a minus, negative value or destructive impact. They cost us something to have them!

Jesus said, “Whoever is faithful in small matters will be faithful in large ones” (Luke 16.10 TEV). A thought is a small thing and yet Jesus claimed there was a connection between that which is small and that which is large.

The connection is our faithfulness. Are we faithful to think good thoughts or do we allow ourselves the luxury of negative thinking? People with negative thoughts are easy to spot. Their face and words normally betray their negativism. 

People with negative thoughts talk about them. Jesus warned, “For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart” (Matthew 12.34 NASU). They can’t help themselves. Negative thinkers seek and always find someone to spew to. What’s inside of them eventually surfaces.

Start thinking God thoughts, as the Apostle Paul said... 

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is
right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable
if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things.”
Philippians 4.8 NIV

Thoughts, as small as they are individually, will accumulate and can easily mount up to something large over the course of a decade, a year, a week, or even a single day. If we are “unfaithful to the Lord” in the small matter of our thought life, we may end up like “the people of Judah... exiled to [the] Babylon” of our own making.

What you think may matter more than you think.
____________________

[1] http://answers.google.com/answers/main?cmd=threadview&id=149262

Monday, June 07, 2021

"Letting Go of Kids is Hard to Do"

1st Chronicles 7:20a, 21b-22 NKJV

The sons of Ephraim were Shuthelah,… Ezer and Elead. The men of Gath who were born in that land killed them because they came down to take away their cattle. Then Ephraim their father mourned many days, and his brethren came to comfort him.”

Nemo and Dory appear clueless. Bruce looks hungry. www.disney.com

When my youngest child, Rachel, obtained her learner’s permit, I barked orders at her from the front passenger seat, just like I did with the other six teenage drivers in my family. It was scary for me, and still is! My older children eventually earned the privilege to operate a motor vehicle. I handed over the keys and watched nervously as each new driver backed out of the driveway alone for the first time alone. I thought exactly the same thing all six times: “That’s the last time I’ll see her [or him] alive.” Letting go of kids is hard for me to do.

In the 2003 Disney-Pixar movie “Finding Nemo,” Marlin, a clown fish, loses his wife and children to a hungry barracuda. Only Marlin and his unborn son Nemo survived the attack. Nemo hatches to become a wonderful, adventure-seeking young fish but his father Marlin suffers as an overprotective single parent. He unwittingly drives Nemo to take chances he shouldn’t. Letting go of Nemo was hard for Marlin to do.

Marlin looks worried. www.disney.comAbout a decade or so ago, I wrote down a conversation I had with God. I entitled it “The Daily Prayers of a Selfish Man.” There were nine mini-prayers, some of which I am too embarrassed to publicly record. Top on the prayer list was a request that “all of my children outlive me.” Nothing strikes terror in my heart like the possibility of losing one of my kids. This fear is not diminished by the fact that most of them have grown to adulthood and have children of their own. I have several friends who have lost children. I cannot imagine their pain. I hope I never have to.

Ephraim lost two of his sons, Ezer and Elead. They behaved like most young men do… stupidly. Other than to prove their manhood, there was no reason for Ezer and Elead to go down to Gath on a mission to rustle cattle from the Philistines. Machismo cost them their lives and caused unimaginable grief for their father. Ephraim let go of his sons and lost them. Terrible things like this can happen.

Marlin nearly lost Nemo but learned his lesson. After they were reunited, Marlin encouraged his only son to “go have an adventure.” He eventually learned to let go. 

Letting go of our children as they grow to adulthood is risky. They can be lost. Left on their own, they might take chances you and I would certainly discourage. They could even hurt themselves and cause us serious suffering and grief. Letting go of our children is hard to do... and right to do. 

Friday, June 04, 2021

"Formula Prayers Don't Work"


1st Chronicles 4.9a, 10
The Amplified Bible

Jabez was honorable above his brothers...

Jabez cried to the God of Israel, saying, ‘Oh, that You would bless me and enlarge my border, and that Your hand might be with me, and You would keep me from evil so it might not hurt me!’

“And God granted his request.”


God approved the simple request of an honorable and passionate man. The prayer of Jabez is not a magical incantation guaranteeing prosperity and life without pain to those who memorize and often repeat the verse. Jesus warned against that mentality…


“The world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer-ignorant.
Theyre full of formulas and programs and advice, peddling techniques
for getting what you want from God. Dont fall for that nonsense.”
Matthew 6.7-8 “The Message”

There’s something more here than religious prayer. Listen to Dan Allender’s take…

“ ‘Let’s pray.’ When you hear these words, do they invite you or irritate you? Praying is the right thing to do before preaching, teaching, or eating, but how about during lovemaking, playing poker, or shopping at Wal-Mart? We are impoverished if we consider prayer to be a religious activity.”[1]

There are two things we know about Jabez from the text: “Jabez was honorable” and “Jabez cried.” He had integrity and he had passion. I suspect life was not always easy for Jabez. That’s probably why he went to God in the first place. He treated God with respect by telling the truth. Jabez refused to gloss over his needs. He wept before the Lord from a soul filled with the anguish. Jabez struggled in prayer. God honored that.

More from Dan Allender…

“…we must enter prayer as a struggle. We do not merely utter a string of sweet words according to a prescribed sequence, such as adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication. Of course, prayer can be orderly and organized. But the prayer that pleads for exposure and engagement throws our desperation at God’s feet and wrestles naked with him for the blessing of a new name.”[2]

We cannot expect Jesus to answer our prayers just because we ‘put in our time’ and followed a clever ACTS acrostic.[3] Jabez did not pray that way. Nor should we. God is very big and very secure. He can handle your perception and version of the truth. Give it to Him straight in all its uncensored and raw un-glory. He can take it. Cry out to God. He may even bless you for it.

__________________________

[1] To Be Told – God Invites You to Coauthor Your Future, Dan B. Allender, PhD, Waterbook Press, 2005, pp. 167-168.

[2] Ibid., p. 170. 

[3] The ACTS prayer formula: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication.

Thursday, June 03, 2021

"Lead and Leave a Legacy"

1st Chronicles 1.10 NIV

“Cush was the father of Nimrod, who
grew to be a mighty warrior on earth.”

Cush must have been a proud father. He watched his son Nimrod grow into “a mighty warrior.” Nimrod’s legacy is recorded in both 1st Chronicles and the book of Genesis: “Nimrod... grew to be a mighty warrior on the earth” and “a mighty hunter before the LORD, (Genesis 10.8-9 NIV).

According to the Genesis account, Nimrod was also an amazing leader who built huge empires and cities like Babylon, Shinar, Babel, and Nineveh. Assyria was known as “the land of Nimrod” according to the prophets (Micah 5.6). This remarkable man literally established the governments and controlled the politics of ancient Mesopotamia. Who was this man whose greatness surpassed Pharaoh, Nebuchadnezzar, Alexander the Great, and Caesar?

Very little is known about Nimrod. He was the great-grandson of Noah and probably lived around 1,500 years before Christ. His name means valiant or rebellious. Nimrod must have been a person of incredible significance since he is described with a flourish among a list of about two hundred other less hailed names in the genealogical record of 1st Chronicles. Historical greats like Adam, Seth, Methuselah, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Ishmael, Esau, and Israel... Nimrod surpassed them all as perhaps the greatest leader of his millennium.

For reasons known only to God, Nimrod was divinely empowered with abilities far transcending the human norm. This man not only moved nations, he created them.

You and I may never achieve the influence and greatness of Nimrod. But like Nimrod, we have been divinely empowered to lead someone... a family, a company, a committee, a church, or a community. To that end, we must apply ourselves diligently…

“Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us,
each of us is to exercise them accordingly:… he who leads, with diligence.”
Romans 12.6, 8 NASU

Lead “with diligence” those few precious souls who will bear your legacy to the end that on some future day they will say of you, “He was ‘a mighty warrior’ for his faith in Christ.”

Wednesday, June 02, 2021

"The 5-Second Rule"

2nd Kings 24.3-4 NET Bible
Cartoon by Mike Bannon (c) 2006 www.mordantorange.com
“Just as the Lord had announced, He rejected Judah because of all the sins which Manasseh had committed. Because he killed innocent people and stained Jerusalem with their blood, the Lord was unwilling to forgive them.”

The “5-Second Rule” claims that food dropped on the floor will be safe to eat if picked up within five seconds. Is it true? Not according to Snopes.com calling it contemporary folk wisdom, an urban legend. In a July 4th, 2006 CBS New report entitled “The ‘5-Second Rule’ – Fact or Fiction?” readers were informed “existing pathogens will transfer” to dropped foods in under five seconds. Common sense appears to validate this warning.

More recently, however, two biology majors at Connecticut College in New London conducted an experiment with apple slices and Skittles candies on the college dining hall floor at 5-, 10-, 30-, and 60-second intervals. They found that the apple slices did not pick up bacteria until after one minute. It actually took Skittles 5 minutes or more floor time to become inedible.[1] In this latest, Connecticut College study, bad germs took time to adhere to the surface of even wet foods. This is encouraging to me since many times I have quickly consumed yummy foods dropped to the floor while invoking the “5-second rule.”

God is patient with the human race.

“The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering,
and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands,
forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin…”
Exodus 34.6-7 NKJV

“The Lord is… patient toward you, not wishing for any
to perish but for all to come to repentance.”
2nd Peter 3:9 NASU

I Love the Five Second Rule! by Brian HughesApparently there is a long period of time before the dirt of my sins keep God from picking me up off the floor. However, there is an endpoint. Because Manasseh “killed innocent people... the Lord was unwilling to forgive.” Divine un-forgiveness is an un-common occurrence in the scriptures, but it happens. Thankfully, the Lord is “patient,” “merciful and gracious,” “longsuffering,” and “forgiving.” But there appears to be a limit to His willingness to overlook sin. Like the apple slices on the floor, there is a point beyond which a person is so infected with the bacteria of sin he must be permanently discarded. Jesus called it “blasphemy against the Spirit”…

“Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people,
but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven.”
Matthew 12.31 NASU

The author of Hebrews agreed.

“For in the case of those who have once been enlightened...
and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance,
since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame.
Hebrews 6.4-6 NASU

I sometimes drop my Christian character and I fall to the floor. It’s good to know that the blood of Jesus covers my sin. I have some time, maybe even a long time, to pick myself back up again and fully experience God’s restoration and forgiveness. But I better not wait too long.

An intelligent person may pick up and consume a fallen apple slice in well under a minute or, better yet, adhere to the “5-second rule.” An even smarter individual will try not to drop the apple slices at all.
______________________

[1] The Oregonian, Science section, “Five-second rule really more like 30”, May 23, 2007. 

The funny cartoon above featuring chickens and the "5-second rule" was created by illustrator and cartoonist Mike Bannon and used here by permission. You can see his work at http://www.mordantorange.com/.

The creative Cheez-It crakers photo is called " 083/365 - I Love the Five Second Rule! (Explored!)" is used with permission of North Carolina photographer Brian Hughes whose work you can view at http://www.flickr.com/photos/briansbastion/.

Tuesday, June 01, 2021

"Without Regrets"

2nd Kings 20.1, 3b NKJV

“In those days Hezekiah was sick and near death. And Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amoz, went to him and said to him, ‘Thus says the Lord: “Set your house in order, for you shall die, and not live.”

“And Hezekiah wept bitterly.”

When I got up this morning my body reminded me how old I am. I have a hard time growing old gracefully. I do not easily accept my physical limitations. I dislike hypochondriacs and always thought I would remain quiet about my personal ailments when I got old. Now, at only sixty-eight, I am broadcasting them across the Internet.

Have I become that old guy who loves to commiserate about his aches and pains? I hope not, but I wish I had nothing to commiserate about. Fortunately, I was able to delay my body’s decline by losing forty-five pounds a couple years ago. Nevertheless, my final days are approaching at a faster rate than I can easily tolerate. I hate dealing with my mortality. It’s depressing to think that someday I may be unable to play my beloved Racquetball or practice West Coast Swing at the dance studio. 

King Hezekiah “was sick and near death.” The prophet Isaiah announced the gravity of his condition: “Set your house in order, for you shall die, and not live.” Facing the reality of his imminent demise, “Hezekiah wept bitterly.”

No matter what our condition, it’s terminal. Have you checked the statistics on death lately? It’s 100%. No one gets out of this world alive. We will all meet our Maker. Sooner or later our time on earth ends. I “shall die, and not live.” It’s inevitable. 

My wife, Adonica, is battled Acute Myeloid Leukemia, having been diagnosed on October 31st, 2014. She fought bravely for her life, facing the possibility of an early departure at only fifty years of age. I loved her and didn’t want to lose her. I prayed for her healing, as did our entire community of faith. But ten months after her diagnosis, she left me. Adonica did not want to go, but she had no choice. I miss her more than I can possibly express here. We will all leave this life in a similar way.  

The real question is… what will we make of our lives until then? I may have another thirty years or another thirty seconds. How will I use these precious moments?

The prophet told the king, “Set your house in order.” Jesus calls me to do the same. Every time I show kindness to a stranger, give my boy a real bear hug, kiss my daughter goodnight, laugh at a small child’s silly joke, make eye contact with someone who wants to communicate, talk about my faith in Christ, complete a chore around the house, reconcile with a lost friend, do superior work at my job, offer a token of appreciation with a smile… I am setting my “house in order” and endeavoring to leave this world a better place than I found it.

Jesus, help me “set [my] house in order” and ready myself to die without regrets. ---

Monday, May 31, 2021

"The Fruit of Accomplishment"

2nd Kings 19.30-31 NASU

“The surviving remnant of the house of Judah will again take root downward and bear fruit upward. For out of Jerusalem will go forth a remnant, and out of Mount Zion survivors.

The zeal of the Lord will perform this.

Enthusiasm for a project will only get you so far. At some point your excitement must turn into energy if you expect to make the idea a reality. Not so with the Lord. His zeal for a project is enough. Somehow, if the Lord God supports a plan, it just happens. He spoke and everything I have seen, known, or could possibly imagine, simply came into being.


“By faith, we see the world called into existence by God’s word...” 
Hebrews 11.3 “The Message”

That doesn’t work for you and me. We aren’t God. Our projects require both our hard work and God’s creative power. My success in any project begins with a vision and enthusiasm for that vision. I am then required to press into the assignment with all my might. I must become grounded and rooted in my resolve to accomplish the mission. Eventually the good fruit of accomplishment is born. The fruit of accomplishment is the evidence of the God’s hand of blessing in any endeavor.

I want the “zeal of the Lord” working on my behalf. His enthusiasm for the work I do guarantees its success. If the Lord has passion for my project, then without question, it will “take root downward and bear fruit upward.”

It does not work for me to come up with an idea, then ask Jesus to bless my efforts. The better questions for me are… 
What is Jesus passionate about?
What is He zealous to perform?
What makes the heart of God beat faster?
What causes heavenly enthusiasm and stirs Him to action?

I should be involved in whatever that is.  
_______________________

The album "Fruit Tree" is a 2003 production of beautiful instrumental piano music by artist Jeremy Morris on Jam Records label. For review and purchase information, go to http://cdbaby.com/cd/jeremy4.

Friday, May 28, 2021

"Surprises, Yes! Secrets, No!"

2nd Kings 17.9 NASU

“The sons of Israel did things secretly which were not right against the Lord their God.”

We always had a “no secret” rule in our home. I kept no secrets from my wife, and she never asked the children to keep them from me. I never hide pertinent business information from my clients. The practice of secrecy enables people to form unholy alliances. Those possessing ‘secret’ knowledge profit from the ignorance of others. Secret societies create division and promote class distinctions. Secrets keep those who deserve to know out the information loop. Secrets impart power to their holders and advance agendas outside of God’s will. 

We always taught our young children if asked, “Can you keep a secret?,” to respond automatically with, “No, I cannot. Whatever you tell me I will tell my mom and dad.”

We do make a distinction at home between secrets and surprises. Surprises are short term events and with happy endings. Surprises are kept private for the benefit of those from whom we keep information. Secrets are about what I can gain. Surprises are about what I can give. For example, if I buy a gift for my wife’s birthday I may ask the children to help me wrap it, reminding them with during this teaching moment: “Don’t tell mom. It’s not a secret
It’s a surprise!” Hopefully, Mom will be feel loved when we celebrate her birthday and present her “surprise.” 

Surprises are fun and exciting, but nothing good comes from keeping secrets. In our home surprises are encouraged, secrets are exposed. Surprises make others happy. Secrets would hurt them if they knew. We must face the consequences and reveal our secrets.

Except for promoting secret times of personal and private prayer (Matthew 6.5-6), Jesus was anti-secret. He taught full disclosure. The Lord hid nothing from the world He came to save. His life was an open book. 

“I have spoken openly to the world; I always taught in synagogues and in
the temple, where all the Jews come together; and I spoke nothing in secret.”
John 18.20 NASU

We cannot hide and keep secrets from God. Adam and Eve tried and failed. No secret you try to keep will be kept that way.

“But there is nothing covered up that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be
 known. Accordingly, whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and
 what you have whispered in the inner rooms will be proclaimed upon the housetops.
Luke 12.2-3 NASU

“The sons of Israel did things secretly” forming unholy alliances and creating a spiritual chasm between themselves and “the Lord their God.” They never got away with the secret plans they hoped to pull off. 

Thursday, May 27, 2021

"Stick-to-it-ive-ness"

2nd Kings 13.18b-19 “The Message”

“Elisha... said to the king of Israel, ‘Strike the ground.’ The king struck the ground three times and then quit.“The Holy Man became angry with him: ‘Why didn’t you hit the ground five or six times? Then you would beat Aram until he was finished. As it is, you’ll defeat him three times only.’”

Perseverance by Thomas Kinkade

You get out of life exactly what you put into it. If I want a good relationship with my kids, I must invest emotionally in their lives. If I want success in business, I have to work hard and remain dedicated to my clients. If I want to learn the Bible, I must take time to read and study it. If I want my wife to respect me, I’ve got to show her, in practical ways, how much I love her. If I want to be close to Jesus, I get to spend time in prayer talking with Him. If I want to be an accomplished musician, I have no other option but to practice, practice, practice!

If I want to be proficient at any endeavor, I am required to give, practice, work, pray, study, and invest with passion and perseverance.

The king of Israel lacked passion and perseverance. He wanted to defeat his oppressor Aram. Elisha promised it would happen, but it did not. Elisha was a “Holy Man.” He spoke for God. What went wrong?

Prophetic words do not act in a vacuum. They require cooperative effort from the person for whom their message is intended. If a true prophet of God says, “You will be a great leader in the body of Christ” and you do nothing to hone your leadership skills, his prophecy will not come to pass.

The next time you are called upon to exercise your divinely appointed gifts, don’t go halve-sies. Finish the job. Gather some passion and perseverance. Show some stick-to-it-ive-ness. Go all the way. Invest yourself with total abandon. “The king struck the ground three times and then quit.” Don’t make that mistake. “Hit the ground five or six times,” or more! It takes faith to work, pray, study, prepare, give, practice, and invest your life but Jesus will give you the strength. 

Trust Him and don’t give up. Do whatever it takes to get the job He’s called you to do... done!
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The beautiful painting above is entitled "Perseverance" by Thomas Kinkade (1958-2012).