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There’s Grace For That!

I catch myself saying that quite a bit these days. I say it because it’s true. And it doesn’t matter what the situation or circumstances are….it’s always true….without fail. We had one of our young couples recently who miscarried. It’s a devastating event;  A little life so looked forward to and anticipated and planned for, little brothers and sisters who are excited about their new sibling;  Grandparents, aunts, and uncles who’ve already been shopping for the new little one….then all of a sudden…the stunning, paralyzing, news. I hurt deeply for the young couple because I know all too well the pain and heartbreak that just naturally ensues. That grief that comes is not proof that something’s wrong with us…..No!  Much to the contrary…..it’s proof that something’s ‘right’ with us! We’ve been there….done that and somehow lived through it. And the reason we lived…..there’s grace for that!

I just talked to a couple of brothers last night who had just, unexpectedly, lost their dad. He was in the hospital, serious but improving, then all of a sudden….he’s gone. I don’t have anything to compare to it. I just know that it’s one of those things that has the potential to hit the heart in the deepest place. I can’t help but be broken for my friends…..but they’ll be OK. They’ll be OK ’cause there’s grace for that too!

A young guy was in my office today. His wife had just informed him that she doesn’t love him anymore. He’s devastated; he has no answers….and his heart is broken in two. Then there are the kids…what’s going to happen with the kids? How can he explain this nightmare to them? I don’t know…..there’s so much I don’t know these days, but what I do know is….there’s grace for that too! ……and somehow the Father, and the grace that He freely gives will see them all through!

It doesn’t have to be a tragedy for grace to appear; whenever, however…..and for whatever grace is needed for……it’s always there….and there’s always enough of it. The Father knows what you need and He won’t keep you waiting!

Whatever you’re going through right now…..and whatever you need right now…….There’s Grace For That!

You might like this one too! (Click on the highlighted link to read)

It Ain’t Grace’s Fault!

 

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You Can Live in the Past if You Want To…..But There Is a ‘Downside’

II’s not rare to see people who are living in the past, in fact it’s pretty common by my experience. By ‘living in the past‘ I mean that most of a person’s entire focus is directed on what’s happened before. There are those who live in the regrets and failures of the past…but then there are also those I see from time to time who live in the victories and triumphs of the past. Obviously focusing on victories and triumphs would be a more pleasant thing than focusing on failures…..but either way……..there’s a downside.

I was talking to a friend recently who talked a lot about the ‘bad things’ (his own words) he’d done in the past. He was constantly saying about himself things like….“I don’t deserve for God to bless me”, “I know I’m not good enough”, “I’ve done a lot of bad things”. You don’t have to look far to find those that are hung up on their past. And then on the other hand I often hear those who, for instance, had a successful career in sports and much of their talk is about how good they were. In most cases it was probably true but I’m pretty sure to be focused, even on the glory days, has a downside.

I’ve had my own issues and temptations to ‘live in the past’. And for me it seems mostly centered around mistakes I’ve made and regrets of  not doing things different than I could/should have. It can be a recurring thing for me so I have to discipline myself to ‘not stay’ in the past for very long periods of time or it becomes extremely counter-productive….to say the least.

But the most tragic thing I see of people living in the past is that if your focus is ‘back there‘, so to speak, you are missing out on something today! Our joy and contentment can never be fully experienced if we’re focused on the past. And even more serious is the reality that if you’re missing out on something today….your future is severely impaired.

Most everyone would agree that God has a plan for their life, and for those living in the past…….if something doesn’t happen to cause them to re-focus they’ll surely miss their destiny. We need to learn to live in the ‘now’! It might be profitable to glance back every now and then and learn from our mistakes but we should get our focus back where it needs to be as quick as possible…….and that is on the Lord….and His plan for our lives!

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I Hardly Ever Ask the Lord for Patience!

It’s the truth! I’ve learned my lesson and learned it well. Definitely not asking the Lord for patience! And, don’t get me wrong….I do need a good dose of patience. I’m doing so much better than in the past but still have a long ways to go. But years ago, I’d say about thirty to be more specific, I did ask the Lord for patience…….but not anymore!

There was this person who came into my life; a friend, although I didn’t know him well. *(but got to know him very well!) He was going through an extremely rough spot in his life with finances, family, health….and you name it, he had it going on. I wanted to help and did a pretty decent job for a good while. But he was relentless. He’d show up at our place mid-morning and be there all day….and sometimes on into the evening hours….and occasionally way into the night. When he wasn’t there he’d be calling me on the phone. It became apparent that he was putting all his trust in me….and not the Lord. I know better now but in those early days walking with the Lord I didn’t know much of how to point someone to Him. And in my strong desire to help, I often found myself in these kinds of situations.

After months of this, non-stop, daily, almost continual barrage of hearing this person’s problems I was complaining to a close friend. His reply to my whining went pretty much like this, “Well, Andy I remember you praying for patience.” Whoa! The light bulb finally came on in my mind. He was right….months before, and more than once, I had prayed for patience. I needed it….and I was sincere when I prayed!

My experience is that when we pray for patience, God doesn’t just hand it over to us. Nope, much to the contrary; he allows us to be in, and go through, situations where we’ll learn patience. I mean, it’s OJT (On the Job Training) at it’s best. I think, for me, the Lord knew what I’d be doing later (a life of ministry), and how much I would need patience. He never makes any mistakes that way!

I’m still a long ways from perfection where patience is concerned and for most all the years since I first asked for it, I’ve been in some kind of situation where I could learn it to a deeper level. And, to each his own…..but, as for me, I ain’t asking the Lord for patience any more!

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Loyalty – A Forgotten Virtue

It’s not totally forgotten but you’ve gotta look pretty hard these days to find it. I’ve seen, in my fairly short time on the planet, loyalty wane by quite a bit. It used to be pretty common, but not anymore. It doesn’t really matter where you look. A lot of the old-timers are still pretty loyal to either their Ford, or Chevrolet pickups. When it comes time to buy, they go with what’s served ’em well for years. But the younger generation is not nearly as loyal. But that’s just one simple example.

I think one of the root causes of this lack of loyalty is due to the fact that, as people, (and especially Americans) we’ve been spoiled. We want what we want, we want it now, and if we’re not getting it, and the quality is not ‘up to par’ of what we expect…..we go elsewhere. It seems to be true whether we’re talking about your brand of peanut butter, a restaurant, a relationship you’re involved in……or the church.

As a leader, and I think I’m speaking for most of that group, you learn to appreciate loyalty whenever, …..and wherever you find it. For us loyalty, and having people that you know you can trust to ‘stick it out’ with you no matter what,…..means just about everything! The lack of it can be ‘crippling’, to say the least. Real, genuine leadership is a very lonely place to be at times and knowing you have even a few who are loyal to the ’cause’, makes a ton of difference.

Jesus had to deal with the whole loyalty issue Himself. After once saying something that not everyone agreed with there was an exodus of people who didn’t like what He said. He looked at the Twelve and said, (paraphrased) “Are you guys gonna leave too?”. Their answer, at least this time, was a good one; “Where would we go, Lord……for it is You Who have the words of life.” His disciples didn’t always get it right…but they did this time. For those guys, to ‘jump ship’ now would be to miss their destiny and the reason they were on the planet in the first place!

It’s one thing to change brands of orange juice if you continue to be disappointed in the quality…..but to bail on your church when the going gets tough is an entirely different issue. God has a ‘place’ for you. There’ll be plenty of mountains and valleys; plenty of mistakes made by leaders; plenty of times you’ll wonder if you’re on track or not. But if He’s placed you there you need to ‘stay hooked’ until you absolutely know otherwise. Don’t miss your destiny,….and the reason you’re on the planet to begin with, because of your disloyalty!

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Character Matters!

 

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A “Disposable” Relationship

That’s what I’d call my relationship with the Lord between 1974 to 1984. I didn’t grow up going to church. In fact, by the time I was thirty I hadn’t even been in a church much. I got saved in 1974. It was in an area-wide crusade in Wheeler, Texas about thirty miles from where I grew up. It was on the first night and I was by myself sitting on the very back row. When it came ‘invitation time’ I knew, somehow, that the Lord was dealing with me. I got up and took the long walk all the way to the front of the High School Auditorium and gave my life to the Lord. Some people gathered me up, took me to an adjoining room with several others who had made similar decisions and there they prayed with me.

It was legit. I mean it really ‘took’. I can still remember the days following that night. When I’d have a thought or say something that was out of the character of Jesus, I’d immediately know it. I now know that it’s just how the Holy Spirit works. Julie had a little paperback Living Bible (before we were married) that she gave me. I just started reading on page 1. I got over into the book of Leviticus and got bogged down in all those ‘begats’ and put it down and didn’t pick it back up. I was rodeoing at the time and didn’t have any Christian friends and drifted away from any real, ongoing, relationship with he Lord. Nobody’s fault but my own.

So for the next ten years or so my relationship with the Lord went pretty much like this. When I’d be in a jam of some kind in my life, I’d run to Him for help. But as soon as that dilemma was over I was back to ‘my own way’. So, in that sense, I had a disposable relationship with the Lord. I treated Him as some kind of ‘possession’ that I’d use whenever I needed and just ignore Him the rest of the time.

Looking back….the incredible part is that even though I really had no sincere devotion to the Lord…..He’d help me anyway! Pretty amazing, huh?! Maybe you find yourself in such a place. Don’t allow your relationship with Him to be ‘disposable’. Life can be so much better….but don’t take my word for it. Taste and see for yourself how good the Father is!

The words to one of my favorite songs goes like this; “One day every tongue shall confess you are God, one day every knee shall bow. Still the greatest treasure remains for those who gladly choose You now”!

You just can’t go wrong!

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‘Betrayal’ – Nothing Easy About It!

Here’s Wikipedia’s definition: Betrayal is the breaking or violation of a presumptive contract, trust, or confidence that produces moral and psychological conflict within a relationship amongst individuals, between organizations or between individuals and organizations. It’s a pretty conclusive and clear definition but it doesn’t even come close to describing the pain, emotional conflict and relationship devastation that nearly always ensues.

There’s no doubt about it…betrayal is one of the hardest things to endure in the human experience. And what can be even more discouraging is the reality that most of us, in the course of our lives, will find ourselves in that place…..that of the one who’s been betrayed. Where the relationships have been deep and strong the devastation is also deep and strong. Not much that I’ve experienced in my life compares to the pain of outright betrayal. It strikes at the very heart of ‘who’ we are and leaves us in a very weakened and vulnerable spot. That spot can be permanent if we don’t tend to our own hearts and walk our way out of it.

It’s a proven fact that ‘hurt people’…..’hurt people’! *People who are deeply hurt, if it’s not ‘fixed’, hurt others too. They end up living their entire existence out of the pain of betrayal. It’s a sad situation….but it happens a lot.  It can, and most often does, take years to fully recover. But it’s do-able, with the Lord’s help, and we should set our hearts to try.

The ‘real test’ actually comes after the incident of betrayal. The most vital question is not whether or not we can recover from our being betrayed…but can we recover to the degree that we can lay our whole heart out there again to trust….and love again? 

There’s no easy way to recover; at best it takes a long, long time. I do know that to run to the Lord is the right thing. His grace will help to lighten the load, after all, He knows all about betrayal……He overcame it….and so can you!

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“If You Ain’t Lovin’, You Ain’t Livin'”

I’m always on the lookout for quotes or phrases that I think’ll make a good blog title. I find good things everywhere but music offers an endless supply of great phrases. I have a great admiration for songwriters, especially the good ones. And if you’ve been reading my blogs up ’til now you know I’m way partial to Classic Country. I grew up on it….and whether you like it or not you gotta admit that the songwriters of that era had it goin’ on!

“If You Ain’t Lovin’, You Ain’t Livin'” was written by Tommy Collins and sang by Faron Young. (one of my very faves! *click to watch!) The song went to #3 on the Country Charts in 1954. George Strait (another fave! *click to listen) recorded it in ’88 and it went to #1…..like most everything else of his! But the song title, like a lot of others I notice, has some really profound spiritual truth if you just think about it.

It’s an eternal truth; Love is what makes the world go round. It never fails, at least that’s what the Book says. “Of these three abide faith, hope and love….but the greatest of them is love”. I could go on and on but the fact of the matter is that, whether he knew it or not, Tommy Collins nailed it right on the head.

Love is the essence of what our lives are all about…or at least what they ‘should’ be about. Starting with the Father’s love for each of us; It’s pretty incredible! He doesn’t love us because we’re good….He loves us because He’s good! And when we experience His love, firsthand, it changes us forever. And then along the way we begin the process of learning to love like He does…..unconditionally!

In a nutshell…we’re created to love…..and to be loved. There’ll be no lack of good excuses as to why we’re not loving others……but in light of God’s love toward us……none of them are valid. “If You Ain’t Lovin’, You Ain’t Livin'” The song simply says that you can have everything else that money can buy….but if you’re not lovin’, you’re missing out on what life is all about!

We should thank Tommy Collins, Faron Young and George Strait……they had it right!

If you liked this one…..Check these out:

*(Click on highlighted link)

God Loves You And There’s Nothing You Can Do About  It

Love  Gives

What’s Love Got  To  Do With It?

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Virtual Reality

We only started hearing that term around ten years ago. Now we hear it fairly often. “Virtual Reality” is a term given for ‘an artificial environment experienced through sights and sounds generated by a computer that mimics an actual experience’. The technology has come a long way in a short time and is advancing at warp speed. You can, with the computers help, fly a plane or a helicopter without ever leaving the ground, or even take a visual trip through the human body. Pretty amazing stuff, huh?!

But as amazing as the technology is……when I hear the term, ‘virtual reality’, it makes me want to give my own definition. My definition is simply this: “Almost real”.It appears real. It feels real. It can cause the same emotions and reactions as the real thing……but it’s just not real!

We should be careful these days to make sure that the church is not just a church of “virtual reality”! Most everyone wants their church experience to be without problems, snags and negative happenings of any kind. That’d be great with me too……but it ain’t reality!! The truth of the matter is that there’s all kinds of problems in any church. As people…..we’re pretty flawed (sorry if that hurts your feelings!), and in our process of being ‘renewed’ we make all kinds of mistakes and blunders. And when we come together on Sunday, there’s a whole house full of messed up people. 

We could try to fake it (…and most do!!) and act like we don’t have a problem one,……but that would be “Virtual Reality”, almost real. Or…..we could see it, and live it out, as it really is. You can always look around the room (in church) and find somebody more ‘messed up’ than you. Although most of the time when I do that….I can’t seem to find anyone that fits the bill! But you know what?? It’s REALITY!! 

Next time you go to church (hopefully that’ll be soon) and look around and everything appears wonderful, meticulous with everything just ‘oozing’ perfection, “Heads up!!” …….you’re experiencing “Virtual Reality”. If, on the other hand, everyone is obviously far from perfect and both you and them have problems that look like they’re too big to overcome……

Congratulations!! You have found the “REAL THING’!!

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Some of It’s ‘Taught’……But Most of It’s ‘Caught’!

After observing for over half a century, and looking even closer the past 20 years or so it just seems to be a fact. We can spend a good deal of our time teaching or being taught…..and I’m definitely for that. I’ve committed myself to be a ‘learner’ up until my last day on the planet. And so far it seems to be working. It’s easy to be a learner if you want to be one. And, if you are really serious about being a learner it’s wise to understand that you can learn a little something from just about anyone.

Learning comes in a lot of different packages. (Experience is a great teacher. I’ll write about that later.) Some of our learning came in the classroom. Especially, early on, we learned from teachers (or our parents) how to read, how to write and basic things like that. So, obviously, a lot of what we have learned in our lives has been taught. But as I look at myself and my life it’s clear that much, maybe even most, of what I know, and what I’m actually living out….I’ve ‘caught’ from others along the way.

When I look at how I think and reason, how I behave and how I react to different situations it becomes pretty clear that I picked a lot of that up from my folks growing up and then being around them as an adult. I admire them to a great degree. I see them at least a few times a week (they’re in their 80’s) and I’m still ‘catching’ things from them. We have a tendency to ‘catch‘ things in life from those that at are ‘over’ us; parents, teachers, coaches, church leaders, etc.  It’s especially true when those people have been ones that we trust or admire.We can even ‘catch’ things from our friends who are on an even level with us. I think that ‘s a good thing. Even Paul in the Bible said, “Imitate me, as I imitate Christ.” 

So, from here on out, I think we should commit ourselves to both….what we’re ‘taught’..….and what can be ‘caught’. As I write this I kinda wonder what people might say they ‘caught’ from me.

I really hope some of it’s good.

If you liked this one….I think you might like these too:

*Click on highlighted link to read.

There’s Just So Much of This Stuff in Life We’re Gonna Have to Learn the ‘Hard Way’!

Listen More …….. Learn More!

There’s Something To Be Said For Not Knowing Anything!

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God Moves Through ‘Influence’ ……. Not ‘Control’!

He’s ‘omnipotent’,  ‘all powerful’; He can do anything He wants to do…anytime He wants to do it. By His own words the Universe maintains perfect balance. He speaks and the mountains quake, the tides ebb and flow and all of nature, itself, responds to His voice. No army can stand against Him; He’s invincible…..I mean….He IS God and this stuff is easy for Him!

But as powerful as God is…..He doesn’t seek to control us. Don’t get me wrong…..He could, He just won’t. It’s just not His style. It goes against His nature as a Father. If He did it that way there would be no need for faith. It wouldn’t be the same. And you know what the Book says, ‘It’s impossible to please God without faith.” The good news is that we have an incredible quality of faith. It’s a faith that He wants to see come to full fruition. 

Now, when it comes to influence…..I think He’s all about that! In fact He’s ‘so much’ about it that He’s given us His Spirit to show us what to do every single step of the way. Think about it this way, if you’re a parent it makes sense to use a measure of ‘control’ with your kids while they’re infants. In fact it’s vital. Even through our adolescent years, some control is necessary. After all, we are growing up but not ready to take on the world yet. It could be disastrous. But God….the consummate ‘Parent’ knows just exactly when to begin to release us into a free-er state of responsibility and maturity, It doesn’t at all mean that we’re independent of Him. Much to the contrary, those who are growing to a deeper level of maturity find themselves being more dependent on Him….and His Spirit for direction and guidance. If we’re sensitive to His Spirit in us….we’ll know what to do in every situation….but He won’t make us do it. It’s our call as to how we live it out.

He wants us to come into the ‘full’ revelation of our ‘sonship’ and then begin to live our lives from that point. In all reality, we’re ‘partnering up’ with the Creator of the Universe. Our lives will then begin to take on the extreme value that He’s placed upon us. It’s all about influence….not control!

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