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What Do You Think About? Maybe It’s Time to Take Out the Trash.

Have you watched the news recently and just been depressed when it ended? I was recently looking at the headlines and remembered again why I don’t spend much time there. I sure don’t find many stories that make my life richer.

I really don’t care how much jail time rapper Chris Brown received this week. Although I must confess he is a great reminder that money isn’t everything. Here is a guy worth an estimated quarter of a billion dollars and he can’t get his life together.

I really don’t care about what product Lady Gaga will use for her next dress. Is it raw beef or some other equally appalling product used to gain our attention? And, yes, she did make a dress from raw beef.

I don’t want to know all the details on the latest mass murder that took place somewhere in the world. Knowing every detail won’t make my life happier.

What am I interested in? How about teacher, Julie Bauchman, who arranged a big surprise for one of her students. Mrs. Bauchman’s little kindergartener hadn’t seen her military dad since he was deployed two years ago. Mrs. Bauchman made a wonderful surprise reunion happen.

What about the man in China who every day carries his disabled son 18 miles a day to school and back because he just won’t give up on his son.

Stories like these inspire me and make me say “way to go” to people like Mrs. Bauchman and the dad from China. These folks are making a big difference in the lives of others…even if it is only one person.

Should it surprise us that positive news gives us a lift and negative news makes us depressed? I don’t think so. Let me take you to Philippians 4:8 that says this:

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

God knew all along that filling our minds with trash would harm us and He gave us clear instructions on what to think about. Next time you sense trash going into your head, grab your TV remote control and turn it off. Take control of your computer and look at something else. Do what God has commanded and…think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. It will make a huge difference in your life.

 

 

 

Are You Scared? Try This.

If today I asked you what you fear, how would you answer? What are those things in your life that really scare you? I’m not talking about spiders or the dark, I’m talking about fears that you face as a part of who you are. Deep inside, what really scares you? Death, sickness, a ruined career, financial devastation…what is your secret fear?

During civil war battles, General Stonewall Jackson always had the habit of riding his horse right on the lines where the shooting took place. Bullets hit all around him. His aides were frequently trying to get Jackson to move to the back and direct the fighting from there. Yet, General Jackson would never move to the back of the line. He was always right out in front encouraging the troops and giving directions. Finally, one of Jackson’s aides again urged General Jackson to move to the rear and here is Jackson’s response.

Captain, my religious belief teaches me to feel as safe in battle as in bed. God has fixed the time for my death. I do not concern myself about that, but to be always ready, no matter when it may overtake me. Captain, that is the way all men should live, and then all would be equally brave.1

Maybe General Jackson was on to something. Maybe we fear because we are trying to take control when we should be turning the control of our lives over to God. Perhaps deep down inside we all know that we can’t control much of anything that has real eternal significance. We need God in our lives. We need to acknowledge that it is God who has ultimate control and not us.

I suspect that as we release control of our lives to God, we also hand over our fear. Those fears that nag at us will start to disappear. I am reminded of Philippians chapter 4 that says this:

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand.

Are you looking for relief from your fears and the chance to experience God’s peace? Be like General Stonewall Jackson and turn your fear over to God. Then you can truly focus on the exciting life God has planned for you instead of spending each day of your life in fear and worry.

 

 

1 Speaking to Captain John D. Imboden (24 July 1861), as quoted in Stonewall Jackson As Military Commander (2000) by John Selby.

 

 

So You Goofed? Here Are Three Ways To Move On.

When is the last time you made a really big mistake?  A week ago?  Maybe this morning? When you first realized what you did what was your first reaction?  Did you try to cover it up or maybe blame someone else?  Very few people really goof in a big way and say, you know what?  I did that.  Well, here are a few ways to recover from your next big mistake (by the way…it’s coming) and get on the right track again after making a mess of something.

Say “I’m Sorry”: If you messed up just admit it.  Don’t make excuses and don’t blame someone else.  You did it.  Take responsibility and say two simple words to others you may have involved in the mess.  What are the words?  How about “I’m sorry”.  Those two words have tremendous power because they show you take the responsibility for what happened.

Learn From Your Mistake: Dr. John Maxwell, a well-known author on leadership issues, wrote an interesting book called Failing Forward. In his book Maxwell says that when you make a big mistake that knocks you to the floor, spend some time down there.  In other words, think about the lessons from this mistake and learn not to do it again. Clean up any mess you made while you’re knocked to the floor and then get up. So you cleaned up the mess what next?

Get Over It: OK…so you goofed.  We all do.  Don’t hang onto a big mistake and become discouraged or lose your confidence.  Don’t create great drama around this situation that engulfs your friends.  You will only further alienate yourself.  Get moving and keep moving.  There are other jobs God has for you to accomplish.  Living and dwelling in the past is a lonely life.

So…say I’m sorry, learn from your mistake, and get over it.  I would much rather live for the exciting plan God has in store for me than dwell over any big mistake that is simply a part of being human.

Have You Ever Been Stung Like This?

Let me tell you an old story about a scorpion and a frog.  The frog was getting ready to cross the river and the scorpion begged the frog to allow the scorpion to ride on the frog’s back as he crossed.  Of course the frog wasn’t very cooperative.  He was afraid the scorpion was going to sting him as they were crossing.  The scorpion convinced the frog to take him along saying that if he stung him they would both die crossing the river so the frog didn’t need to worry about being stung.

Part way across the river the scorpion stung the frog.  Just before both of them drowned, the frog asked the scorpion why he had stung him.  What was the scorpion’s response?  I just had to.  It’s my nature. You see, stinging is what scorpions do.  They can’t help it.

When I think of this story, I also think about our nature as followers of Christ.  By definition, we should be modeling the behavior of Christ and following His teachings?

On my blog you can see a video of a young boy without any winter coat sitting on a bench in the cold.  Some people walk by him and do nothing.  Others stop and talk with him.  Still others give him their own coats and keep him warm.  What behavior would you model?

When people want to gossip and include you, as a follower of Christ, what is your natural response?  When someone does something to hurt you, as a follower of Christ, what is your natural response?  In other words, by your behaviors, how does anyone even know that you are a follower of Christ? What actions show that by following Christ your very nature has changed and that you are a new creation?

2 Corinthians 5:17 reminds us of this, Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

So, may I encourage you not to be the scorpion that stings because that is his nature.  Rather, be the new creation in Christ and model what it means to be a follower of Christ.  Make the Godly characteristics taught in scripture your new nature.

What Do People Do More Than Read Their Bible? They Do This.

In 2006, CBS News conducted an interesting poll.  They found that about 40 million people in the United States and Canada read the Bible every day.  However, the poll also found that 143 million people in the United States and Canada are doing something else.  What is it?  They are actively using Facebook.

Let’s fast forward to 2014.  Facebook just celebrated their ten-year anniversary and reported that they now have 757 million daily active users.  I realize that this figure includes folks from around the world but I wonder what the world would be like today if 757 million people read the Bible every day.

The Associated Press recently reported that about 400 billion photos have been shared on Facebook.  If you printed out the pictures four to a page on regular-sized sheets of paper and put the paper end to end, it would stretch for about 17 million miles. That’s enough paper to reach to the moon and back 34 times.

Based upon some of these survey numbers it is highly probable that many followers of Christ today reach for Facebook before they reach for their Bible.

Now before you tell me that Facebook and social media are wonderful tools for reaching people for Christ, let me say I understand that.  I like social media and am an active part of this myself.  However, I really like what Jennifer LeClair wrote in an article for Charisma News. She said this:

Somehow, even if Facebook were a part of mainstream Galilean culture, I don’t think Jesus would give up fellowship with the Father to check Facebook. It’s become a near addiction for some people.

Have you sacrificed fellowship with God to play Candy Crush or look at pictures on Facebook? Have you been neglecting Bible reading and now wonder why you don’t hear God speaking to you anymore?

Maybe it’s time for all of us to get our priorities straight.  Next time you reach for Facebook ask yourself if you have had your time in the Bible yet that day.  If you haven’t, put Facebook away and pick up your Bible.  It’s probably time for you and God to exchange some status updates.

You Won’t Believe What These College Students Want To Do To Gun Owners!

Sometimes I just wonder about people.  Today was one of those days.  I was watching a video by Mark Dice.  I really enjoy his videos because he has a unique way of documenting folks who have just given up on common sense. Folks that operate like robots and do whatever they are told…often with chilling results.

Recently Mark went to a college campus and pretended to be getting signatures on a petition to remove the second amendment.  The purpose of my discussion with you today is not to argue for or against the second amendment but rather to talk with you about some college students who need to develop some critical thinking skills.

In this video Mark stops students on campus and attempts to get them to sign his fake petition. As Mark is talking with students he says things like this to them as they consider signing (the words in italics are quotes):

  • We need to disarm the citizens.
  • We can trust the government to be the only ones with guns.
  • These peasants don’t need guns.
  • We will be terminating and executing all the gun owners.
  • Let’s shoot them (the gun owners) and feed them some of their own lead.

With all of these wild statements, these college students just sign their name to the petition rarely asking any questions…happy to sign their name to a petition to kill those who own guns.

What are we teaching students today? I’m afraid many colleges aren’t teaching nearly enough critical thinking skills.  We are preparing a generation of followers, not leaders.  We are preparing a generation of students who have amassed facts but developed no wisdom.  We are declaring common sense dead and allowing it to rest in peace.

All colleges are not created equal.  Thoroughly evaluate any college before you decide to invest your time and finances.  Life isn’t just about gaining knowledge.  Life is not simply about academics.  Life is also about gaining wisdom to properly evaluate alternatives in life.

Don’t let anyone you know attend any college that doesn’t value critical thinking and the development of wisdom. Choose your college wisely.

Developing Godly Character: A Story of Thankfulness

Much of what I usually choose to write and speak about centers around some aspect of Godly character. Today is no different. Today I want to talk with you about a character trait I believe is critical to the development of Godly character.  Today let’s talk about thankfulness.

So many people today feel entitled rather than thankful.  In fact, in the December 12, 2013 edition of USA today there appears an interesting story. A sixteen-year-old boy was arrested and accused of killing four pedestrians while he was driving drunk.  His defense? Affluence.  Here is how Dr. Gary Buffone, a psychologist, describes this term. This term is used to describe a condition in which children — generally from richer families — have a sense of entitlement, are irresponsible, [and] make excuses for poor behavior…  This young man was hoping to receive a lighter punishment because he was so accustomed to doing whatever he pleased that he should not be held accountable for making a poor choice.

Let me contrast this story with that of the life of Abigail Smith.  Abigail was a twenty-four year old young woman who, in 2012, was diagnosed with a very rare form of cancer.  When her doctor gave her the news, he said this, Everyone is dealt a deck of cards. We don’t get to choose the cards, but we do get to choose how we play them. We can either be bitter or thankful. Abby chose thankfulness. She underwent surgery and thirty-seven radiation treatments. Eventually, there was nothing else that could medically stop the cancer from spreading. Abigail was going to die.

You might think that Abigail became bitter or lived hoping for a miracle but here is what Abigail said, Miracles are a temporary fix. They are only a shadow of things to come. I don’t need a miracle to know that God loves me. In a video that documents Abigail’s story, she said, Live one day at a time and live each day to the fullest. Then she said thank you to those who were involved in her life. Abigail chose to be thankful despite living through a year of pain and suffering.  Abigail died in December of 2013 still thankful for a remarkable life, for family, friends, and a God who loved her.

So we have a choice.  Live suffering from affluence or live joyfully with thanksgiving.  I hope you choose thankfulness.

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