Humility produces perspective. Perspective perceives the fading nature of humanity and our great need to be connected to the Eternal One.
When I am full of myself, I, in essence, leave little room for the Divine. My self-sufficiency becomes my driving mode of operation. There is nothing that I cannot do, nothing that can stop me––until I face the impossible. Sooner or later, I am humbled by sickness, physical limitation, lack of time, limited information, fragile relationships, or just mean, evil people who get in my way. What a lousy place to be!
However, when I empty my pride and arrogance, I make room for the companionship of God. When I invite Him in, God sets up shop in my heart and together we do amazing things. Nothing is impossible through Him. Nothing created can stand in the way of the Creator. I hop along for the ride. I witness the impossible from the shotgun position. What a great place to be!
Punishment is not what it used to be. Most of the time, it is politically incorrect. Spanking is discouraged in the educational process (it’s just my luck that someone didn’t ban it when I was in Jr. High). Convicts are given rights that go beyond the bounds of protection. Powerful attorneys preserve the freedom of the criminal by prosecuting the police. In this present day climate, we sure don’t want to hear about a God who believes in justice . . .
However, the same God of grace is also a God of justice. We tend to reap what we sow. God is forced to watch the ramifications of our human wisdom. When you plant havoc, you do not reap peace. When you cultivate depravity, you do not reap righteousness.
Much of the “punishments and chastisements” we currently inherit are a result of the careless years of unrestrained choice. The future will always pay the price for a deficit of morality. Not only are we left holding the balance from our parents, but we probably ought to evaluate our desire to extend this legacy to our children.
The tendency is to look around and realize how much we don’t have. Our lack of funds disqualifies us from owning a superior luxury car, buying a larger house, having a sweeter vacation. We aren’t able to pay cash at the mall. We may even have half a closet full of last year’s fashions. We are forced to use credit to keep up with the neighborhood.
And we forget. We lose sight of the fact that we live better than almost seven billion other humans. With only five percent of the world’s population, we enjoy over half of the wealth. If you have a job that affords you to live in Orange County, you will live better than ninety percent of the people on earth.
Somehow, in our contorted thinking, we take credit for our abundance. The blessing of God becomes misconstrued for human accomplishment. We glory in our trophies and believe in our invincibility.
We govern from popular opinion, decide within the constraints of yesterday’s Gallup poll and legislate according to our vested interest. God’s influence is only called upon in times of crisis. His words are used on the stump but rarely followed in the office. We have discovered a way to trust Him only in principle, not in reality. After years of practicing self-sufficiency, we struggle to say thanks.
On the other side of all the blessings is a God who will gladly receive your family’s thanks. Today, as you empty your plates, may you empty your pride. As you fill your stomachs, may you fill your life with Him. When you take your first bite of dessert, be grateful for the land in which you live. Look around the table and see the real treasures––the ones seated in the chairs. Take a moment to consider the Source . . .
. . . and don’t forget to give thanks.by Pastor Doug
I got carried away and did it.
In a fit of overestimated carpentry-smugness, I tore out three interior doors––doors, jams, molding, everything! Where there once was privacy there are now three gaping holes.
It’s amazing how much we rely upon doors. Doors are a big part of life in America. We love to close them, lock them and secure them.
Then again, we also love to open them. Door number one? Door number two? Or door number three? We love to look inside. We love to open doors––especially the invisible doors of opportunity.
These doors denote choices. People of faith perpetually look for ways to understand them. Places of decision always include doors––some are closed while some are open. In both instances, we pray for God’s “will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
Trying to make a decision? Wondering how you should proceed? When you stand at the threshold of opportunity, consider praying and asking God to help you know when to go through and when to turn around.
Ask for the right door. Jesus said, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.
We do not ask that all doors be opened. God’s doors already are. Instead, we ask for our eyes to be opened. When they are, God can do his work in our lives––accomplishing his will.
Ask for “good” not just the goods. Instead of asking for money, consider asking God for faithfulness, stewardship and thrift. Instead of praying for a spouse or a friend, ask God for kindness, love, humor, insight and warmth. Instead of asking God for rescue during the pop quiz, ask him to give you discipline and diligence.
Always remember, as you pray, that goods are temporary while good is never-ending. Pray eternally.
Ask and then act as if it will happen. The Bible calls this faith. Faith is acting upon situations that remain unseen. It’s taking steps as if it’s going to happen––even before it does. Why pray if you don’t believe that what you’re praying for is ever going to take place?
Mother Teresa, who felt called to reach the unloved children of India, said, “I have three pennies and a dream from God to build an orphanage.”
A skeptical listener responded, “You cannot build an orphanage with three pennies. With three pennies you cannot do anything.”
In faith, she replied, “Normally, what you say is true, but I believe that with God and three pennies I can do anything.”
Ask God for the impossible. Work hard for the attainable. There is a Russian proverb that says, “Pray to God but row for shore.” It is important that you understand the balance that comes in prayer. Pray for the open door but recognize that the threshold of an open door still needs to be crossed.
Recognize the difference between the impossible and the do-able. Trust God for miracles while faithfully obeying what you know he has called you to do. Set goals that stretch you, allowing God to be your strength. Don’t, however, turn faith into a license for laziness.
God gave you abilities and talents. Thus, in a way, he has already answered your prayers by giving you the resources to bring about change. Use what you’ve got to make a difference in the world. Through his strength, do what you can do. Trust him for what you cannot.
You encounter doors––every day you encounter them. You pray. You listen. You look. You obey.
God knows. God hears. God guides.by Pastor Doug
It’s always great to know the person in charge.
My junior year in college found me intrigued by a beautiful blonde who was known as one of the brightest music majors on campus. My musical skills were limited (like most of my skills), but I happened to be personal friends of the best high school music teacher in town.
I heard that she was hoping to do her student teaching with my friend, the music teacher. I also heard that she was having trouble making the arrangements to do so.
I seized the opportunity. Out of a concoction of goodness of heart, moral obligation and a pragmatic opportunity, I made provisions for the two parties to meet.
Needless to say, the lovely musician got the assignment. Out of gratitude, I got the date. Eighteen months later, we got married.
It is always nice to go right to the person in charge.
Wouldn’t it be great to know the person who can help your friend save her marriage? Wouldn’t it be nice to turn over your children’s problems to someone who could solve them? Wouldn’t it be nice to always have a lifeline to the one who could make things happen?
When tragedy strikes or pain rules, you can use all of your influence on someone else’s behalf. You can go directly to the Source of all things––God. Through prayer, you go there. What you cannot do for someone else in a thousand years, God can accomplish in a moment. This type of prayer is called intercession.
When you intercede for someone else, you step up to the throne of God and commit their needs to his care. You concede your own abilities, realizing that you are powerless to change someone else’s situation in life. Through prayer, you come to terms with your own humanity. Through prayer, you allow God to be God.
It’s much like a page from our past––the community barn raising. In the days gone by, when the Smith family barn fell victim to fire, the community showed up with hammers and saws, ready to rebuild. Likewise, when the Smith family falls victim to any tragic event, the community of God shows up with a commitment to pray, ready to witness God at his best.
Sometimes we pray for a known need. We intercede for others who are experiencing pain, battling disease or being treated with injustice. We pray for governing officials. We pray for missionaries, churches and ministries around the world. We pray for our children, requesting safety and righteous influence. We pray for the obvious and the known. God hears these prayers.
Sometimes, however, we pray for things unknown. Many times––sometimes in the middle of the night––I’ve had a face brought to mind. I don’t always know why but I stop and begin praying for that person. Many times, after the fact, I find out how, at that very moment, that very person was in great need.
Sometimes we pray intelligently, knowing all the details and understanding all the consequences. Other times, we pray knowing that God will make sense of all the unknown factors.
It is like the little girl who was overheard saying her alphabet reverently. Her mother asked her what in the world she was doing.
The little girl replied, “I’m saying my prayers but I can’t think of exactly the right words tonight, so I’m just saying all the letters. God will put them together for me because he knows what I’m thinking.”
It is great to know the one in charge. It is great to know he can help us. It is great to know that he eagerly awaits our appeal.
How about calling on him today?by Pastor Doug
I inspect lots of things.
Before I read a single page, I go through my new magazine methodically and remove all those cardstock postcards stapled within the pages. They bother me. They disrupt the feel of turning the pages. They go directly into the trashcan.
Before a cantaloupe gently rests in my grocery cart, I make sure it has no soft and mushy spots. I squeeze it scrupulously. It cannot be as hard as concrete nor as soft as oatmeal. It should feel just right––ripe and ready for consumption.
Before I bite into a piece of chicken, I make sure that it has been thoroughly cooked. I am not hoping to find anything red in my white meat. On the other hand, I am not wanting to find the meat drier than Blythe. I like it thorough yet juicy.
Before I buy a two-by-four, I make sure that it is straight and true. I hold the board up to my eye and look down each edge. If it appears to go to the left or to the right, I put it back on the pile. I want a board that will not require special treatment. I want a board that is ready for duty.
I inspect lots of things.
I inspect my hamburger, making sure the condiments have been proportionally spread. I inspect my path through the backyard, making sure I steer clear of dog droppings. I inspect a room full of strangers, making sure I understand my environment.
I inspect my clothing purchases. I inspect my teeth in the mirror. I inspect the condition of my tires. I inspect insignificant things. I inspect important things. I inspect lots of things.
Before I listen to somebody, I make sure that they have reason to be talking. I seek their credentials––whether practical or theoretical. I listen closely at first, knowing soon enough if what they have to say is worth hearing. I long to hear wisdom. I desire improvement.
Before we leave our children in the care of another, we make sure that he or she knows that they are about to experience the most extraordinary kids in the universe. Our kids are to be protected at all costs and diligently treated with dignity. They are not to be a secondary priority. They are the best we’ve got. They are our most valuable earthly treasure.
Before I trust somebody, I make sure that my life will be honored in their care. I do not give myself to anybody. I carefully select the ones who will revere my name––that precious piece of my identity. I am careful to not distribute personal portions of myself to those who plan to treat me as a disposable commodity.
Before I decide to act selfishly, I hope I inspect the implications of my insensitivity. Before I say what is in my mind, I hope I inspect the long-lasting impact those words will cause. Before I decide to cheat on my wife, I hope I inspect the impact on my family’s personal life. Before I decide to turn my back on God, I hope I inspect the eternal ramifications of that decision.
Inspection. I hope I treat my heart, soul, mind and strength with more value than my magazine, cantaloupe and two-by-four. I hope I continue to develop the gift of handling the eternal with as much diligence as the temporal.
Sinking my teeth into something that has the potential to destroy my soul is an action in which I hope I never downplay. Purchasing an ethic at the cost of my integrity does not make sense, no matter how good it feels temporarily. Casting my heart into the slime bucket of sin is like dragging my wife’s wedding dress through the sewer.
I want to know the wisdom of sound judgment and thorough inspection, especially when it involves the core of who I am.
Jesus said, “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces.”
I pray, for the sake of all in whom I have been entrusted, that I practice wise judgment. After all, God intended for us to inspect the animals, not live like them.by Pastor Doug