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Category Archives: Devotional Thoughts

These entries may be my own or from others. Hopefully they are poignant and encouraging.

“Rocky, the next Piper?”

[Rocky_Balboa_4.jpg]I posted this about a year ago but readership has increased since then… so this is one of the oldies…. enjoy!

I love the Rocky movies! You know…. humble guy overcomes crazy obstacles to win the Title, the respect of the world and the girl. He represents all things both manly and noble. In my view he is not just an American Icon, but possibly one of our leading theologians. (sarc)  Simple, deep, profound……man’s man!

See if you don’t agree…

The following is a small example of the genius that is ROCKY… Watch it here: http://youtu.be/UfjRcGDBvMQ

TRANSCRIPT:  “I’d hold you up to say to your mother, “this kid’s gonna be the best kid in the world. This kid’s gonna be somebody better than anybody I ever knew.” And you grew up good and wonderful. It was great just watching you, (1 Peter 5:2) every day was like a privilege. Then the time come for you to be your own man and take on the world, and you did. (1 Corinthians 13:11). But somewhere along the line, you changed. You stopped being you. You let people stick a finger in your face and tell you you’re no good (John 15:20). And when things got hard, you started looking for something to blame, like a big shadow (Hebrews 12:1). Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life (John 10:10). But it ain’t about how hard ya hit (Luke 6:29). It’s about how hard you can get it and keep moving forward (2 Corinthians 6:4). How much you can take and keep moving forward (Phil.3:12). That’s how winning is done! Now if you know what you’re worth then go out and get what you’re worth. But ya gotta be willing to take the hits, and not pointing fingers saying you ain’t where you wanna be because of him, or her, or anybody! Cowards do that and that ain’t you! You’re better than that! (James 2:5) I’m always gonna love you no matter what. No matter what happens. You’re my son and you’re my blood. You’re the best thing in my life. But until you start believing in yourself, ya ain’t gonna have a life(John 3:16). Don’t forget to visit your mother.” – Rocky Balboa

(Please read this post with some discernment. It is written “tongue-in-cheek” and only intended to make a few simple points about growing up and living life with some tenacity. No endorsement of “Rocky”, Sylvester Stallone, the sport of boxing, punching dead cows, violence, bad acting or the city of Philidelphia is intended)

REFERENCES:

  • John 15:20 “Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’[a] If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also”.
  • 2 Corinthians 6:4 “Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses;”
  • 1 Peter 5:2 Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve;
  • 1 Corinthians 13:11 “When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.”
  • Hebrews 12:1 Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,
  • Titus 2:12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age,
  • Philippians 3:12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.
  • Luke 6:29 “If someone slaps you on one cheekturn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them.”
  • James 2:5 “Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?”
  • Ephesians 1:7 “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace”
  • John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”


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“PRETTY VENOM”

I was recently reminded of the VENOM that sometimes comes out of our (my) mouths. You know…harsh words, slander, gossip, innuendo, critique etc…

We are (many of us) Christians, we love Jesus and yet we grapple with the words we speak…especially to fellow believers. Oh, we rarely have a “cussing fit” or just dress someone down…we are too clever for that. Our venom is much “prettier”.

  • We are routinely sarcastic/funny at someone else’s expense.
  • We exploit other’s weaknesses and say “just kidding”.
  • We make fun of someone and invite them to laugh along, or consider them too sensitive if they don’t.
  • We “rip” people when they are not around to defend themselves
  • Etc…

I think most of us struggle with our words, in fact, if we don’t then we are “perfect” (James 3:2). So I am not addressing the occasional slip up or word spoken in anger. I am talking about the systematic tearing down of a brother or sister.

LUKE 6:45 “…for the mouth speaks what the heart is full of…”

JAMES 3:6 “…the tongue also is a fire, a world of evil…”

MATTHEW 15:18 “… the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them.

SO here is the thing……We reveal WHO we REALLY are by WHAT we say to others…

THE GOSSIP: Reveals that He/She is INSECURE Gossip is idle talk or rumor, especially about the personal or private affairs of others. (Prov 18:8) NOTE: If your friends will talk about others when they are not around….they will talk about you when you are not around.

THE SLANDERER: Reveals that he/she is ARROGANT /JEALOUS A false defamation (expressed in spoken words, signs, or gestures) which injures the character or reputation of the person defamed. Happens all the time. Often cloaked in “teasing” but designed to keep folks “in their place”. INNUENDO – reveals that he/she is COWARDLY. They will not address something directly so they get to say it AND have “plausible deniability”. When asked if they said “it”…they are comforted by the fact that they didn’t actually use the words.

THE FLATTERER: Reveals that he/she is a MANIPULATOR/SHALLOW/CHILDISH Gossip involves saying something behind a person’s back what you would never say to his/her face. Flattery means saying something to a person’s face that you would never say behind their back.

THE CRITIC: The Root of most Criticism is ANGER/JEALOUSY Criticism is the judgment of the merits and faults of the work or actions of one individual by another (the critic). In an effort to tear down someone else’s work, we critique, judge and find fault where there is little to find.

Pretty revealing huh? SO what do I do? Well, since I’m guilty of all of the above, here is what I do.

  • Focus on Building others up….
  • Speak the truth in LOVE (Eph. 4:15)
  • Refrain from gossip (Prov 16:28, 17:9, 26:20)
  • Refrain from insincere FLATTERY (Prov 26:28)
  • Stop running others down (James 4:11)
  • Stop the SARCASM (Proverbs 26:24)
 

You Lose A Lot When You “Put Others First”

Most of us are keenly aware of our own need for recognition, money, praise, position, status, clothing, respect, love, shelter etc… and sadly, we spend most of our waking moments trying to meet (and exceed) those needs.

Scripture tells us in Phil. 2:3-4   Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

These verses really started to bother me a couple of years ago. Of course, it was always easy seeing the self-absorption in others before I saw it in myself…but eventually God made it obvious to me in almost every area of my life…not pretty!

God called to mind people who He was asking me to put before my own “needs”.  First it was my wife, then my kids. Then He brought up several people in the community, then it was a group of young college guys who just needed someone to look up to. The list got longer but you get the idea.

God showed me a lot about putting the needs of others before my own. He showed me that anyone who does it will LOSE A LOT… like:

  • deep feelings of JEALOUSY at OTHERS BLESSINGS
  • the CONSTANT STRIVING for personal ATTENTION and CREDIT
  • GUILE and POSITIONING
  • FEAR of being LEFT OUT
  • FRUSTRATION with “WHERE YOU ARE”
  • sleepless nights…
 

“THE MAN IN THE ARENA”

I had a great talk recently with a man who is running for public office. He talked of his determination to make a difference and impact the State for good. He also talked of what he knows awaits him (should he be elected) …criticism, misunderstanding and judgement.

With some sadness I reminded him that there will also be a never ending parade of arm-chair quarterbacks who would not dare step forward and make the same effort he will make but feel completely justified “tearing him down” when he does not do what they determine he should.

He smiled and referenced the “Man in the Arena”.

“The what?”  I asked.

“The Man in the Arena”, he said. “You know, it is the guy doing the work that counts and not the critics”

On the way home I Googled “The Man In The Arena” and came up with the following excerpt from the speech “Citizenship In A Republic”, delivered at the Sorbonne, in Paris, France on 23 April, 1910 -by Theodore Roosevelt.    download PDF

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

I read the entire speech (some 20 pages long). For you history buffs it is very cool. But even if you can’t stand looking back further than last week you will still enjoy what Roosevelt said.  I though about it a lot and started to see it all around me (and in me)  

Actual quotes….this week

“That ref is horrible” … spoken from a fan some 65 yards away from the play in question.

“The coach is an idiot”... this from a person who got as far as Pee Wee football so he clearly knows how a D1 College Coach should lead his team.

Our President is incompetent” – from someone who’s entire political education comes from Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. (I’m a fan too…but maybe need a little balance ya think?) 

“The administrators at (college) are stupid”... of course the alums know everything that is going into the decision in dispute.

“Our (player) is a choker” … yea, he is paid millions of dollars a year because he is no good.

We criticize from our ignorance….

How bout this: ….unless you have been “The player”, The Coach, The Candidate, The Ref, The Boss, The Pastor, The “whatever”  …then give them the benefit of the doubt before you decide “they” are complete “knuckleheads”.

REMEMBER: Someday YOU WILL BE THE “MAN IN THE ARENA” 

but only if you are willing to “DARE GREATLY”

 

FRIDAY “BEST OF” RE-POST: “One Thing” (From 3-16-11)

This is a repost from a couple of months ago. I believe this subject is HUGE so I hit is a lot on this blog….. enjoy.  

Most of us remember the movie City Slickers. It is a great movie about some restless middle age guys from the city who find themselves on a cattle drive in the great Southwest.

The defining moment in the movie plays out between Curly (the old cowboy/sage) and Mitch (the lovable bumbling “city slicker”) After Mitch complains about his marriage and life in general, Curly asks the question…

Curly: Do you know what the secret of life is? [holds up one finger] This.

Mitch: Your finger?

Curly: One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and the rest don’t mean anything* (edit).

Mitch: But, what is the “one thing?”

Curly: [smiles] That’s what *you* have to find out.

When it comes to marriage I think that I have found the one thing that will get your further down the road than just about anything. At the risk of sounding like a simpleton…here…I believe…it is that “ONE THING”: Drumroll please……. (wait for it…..)

A HUSBAND SHOULD “SET HIS WIFE APART”! HUH? That’s it? Yep…THAT’S IT! I am convinced that the key to a good marriage starts with the HUSBAND SETTING HIS WIFE APART as UNIQUE AMONG EVERY OTHER WOMAN ON THE PLANET! Practical ways to “set her apart”…

  1. “Be NICER, more patient, and more thoughtful of towards your wife than you are to your secretary!” Don’ t laugh…I have watched men shower their secretary with praise and their wives with critique. It is ridiculous but common.
  2. Never compare your wife UNFAVORABLY to anyone else….EVER!  Even if she says she “doesn’t mind” or she insists it is “ok”. By the way, every time you say that another woman is pretty, sexy or hot…(even in jest) you are “killing” your wife.
  3. Never speak a harsh word TO your wife in public…ever! It destroys trust, security and will build resentment towards you. You become the enemy.
  4. No one else is your wife……. so don’t treat anyone with the same deference or emotional closeness that you give your wife. She should be the one you talk to. She does not understand you… make her understand.
  5. Study your wife...what are the things that are important to her? What are her dreams? Do you know?
Eph 5:25. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her”
 

“3 WEEK”: 3 WAYS to RESTORE RELATIONSHIPS 5-16-11

I can’t remember the last time I started a post with references to the book of Revelations. Ok…I never have. But Something was brought to my attention this week that I wanted to share:

I had a long talk with a man who had walked away from his faith but wanted to come back. He told me that he grew up as a believer, interned at his church and even felt called to ministry. But now he was very ashamed of the life he was living…. he and his girlfriend are living together (yes it is wrong), he struggles with substance abuse, he is “tatted up”, pierced everywhere and has trouble keeping a job. He is full of self-doubt, unbelief, and addictions. He was at the “end of his rope” and he wanted to “GET RIGHT with GOD”.

His story is like many who start their faith well and then, for whatever reason (I have some ideas) they just fall away…. some, like my new friend, embrace everything that is the antithesis of what they once stood for.

So, I walked him through the following simple steps found in Revelations 2:4-5  Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.

1. REMEMBER. Can you remember what it was like when you desperately loved Jesus? Maybe it was when you first came to faith. Maybe when a child was born or you saw God do something miraculous. It might have been when you were a teenager….. whenever it was…… REMEMBER!

2. REPENT. literally “change your thinking” about the “sin that so easily entangles you”. Agree with God that some of what you are doing, thinking and even planning is SIN. Anger, jealousy, hatred, malice, gossip, fornication, lust envy etc….. turn from it and embrace God….then KEEP TURNING FROM IT.

3. DO THE THINGS YOU USED TO DO. Pray, seek, believe, trust… you used to do all of those things……. do them again.

By the way…this simple process works when restoring any relationship. If you are in a marriage that is “on the Rocks”. Remember what it was like early on in the relationship, repent of the “junk” that has infected the two of you, then do the things you used to do when you relationship was new.

 

FRIDAY’S “BEST OF”: Followership

Everyone on the planet is writing books about Leadership! Casually walk through any major bookstore and you will see all kinds of books on the subject. These books promise you can: “Lead Like Jesus”, Lead from the “Second Chair”, Lead with a “Limp”, Lead in a Circle (360 Degrees), become the “Leader You Were Meant to Be” (scary) and of course “Release the Leader In You!”.

While most of us aspire to be leaders (and probably will lead others)  the fact is that the vast majority of our lives will be spent following someone else’s cause, direction or mandate. (Even when we have made it our own).

Ok, Here is the point: Most of us are terrible followers. We bristle when told we must do something that we don’t want to do…..And for the Christian, their faith will mean nothing to a lost and dying world if they cannot follow well. 

A Few Problems with Following:

  1. WE ARE AMERICANS!  Nobody tells us what to do! Our whole country was established based on the principle: Don’ t tell me what I can or cannot do!”
  2. LITTLE LAWYERS rise up inside of us whenever we are told we have to do something (Parent, boss, cop, organizational leader etc…) We question their authority, their direction and even their lineage!
  3. ABUSIVE LEADERS ABOUND! We have all had to submit to the authority of someone who abused their authority either by decree or neglect.
  4. WE HAVE REBELLIOUS HEARTS. (Jeremiah 17:9)

CONSIDER:

  1. God expects you to follow an unbelieving, unfair, mean….. boss, teacher, cop, parent, president, chairman and “grand poobah”! For it is God who established the authority in your life. (1 Peter 2)
  2. Authority in your life represents ORDER and not VALUE. In other words, someone’s authority has nothing to do with their value. (Contratary to Secular Humanism, scripture actually encourage followers of Christ to become less and less in their submission to both Christ and “every authority instituted among men” (John 3:30/1 Peter 2:13)
  3. Following a boss well gives you a unique platform to share what is really important, faith in Jesus Christ? You stand out “like a sore thumb”! How can you ever be a “light in a dark world” if your own bosses (and others) question your integrity or work ethic or loyalty?
  4. If we are unable to follow the authority that we can see, how can we follow the authority we cannot see? (John 4:20, interp)
  5. God uses an unfair authority figure to make us better….. (James 1:3)
  6. Scripture says rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft…. in other words not good at all.  (1 Sam 15:23)

While we are all busy learning how to be better leaders…we may want to pay a little more attention to following whomever God has placed in authority over us.