Friday, February 26, 2010

What makes us dirty?

Good morning. Today’s scripture comes from Mark 7:20-23 (New Living Translation): And then (Jesus) added, “It is what comes from inside that defiles you. For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you.”

The Hebrews had hundreds of Mosaic Laws to follow, but over time, the Jews added many just as many traditions to be kept, too, thus making it extremely difficult to live a righteous life. The Pharisees, in Mark 7, again were trying to trap Jesus into preaching blasphemy, but he outsmarted them – again. They were questioning why his disciples ate with “unclean hands,” meaning they didn’t rinse their hands before eating, as prescribed by the Law.

Jesus went off on them, telling them that what they ate wasn’t what defiles a person; it’s what comes from the heart. Some of the terms used for defiled are “unclean” or to make “dirty” in the Greek. Dictionary.com defines defiled as tainted or polluted. In terms of sexuality, it means to “violate the chastity,” which could be anything from sex outside marriage to rape. Anything from the Sports Illustrated swim suit issue to the Victoria’s Secrets lingerie catalogs are off-limits to us, because they set our minds racing toward lustful thoughts.

Jesus was after more than just the appearance of godliness, as the Pharisees were prone to; he wanted right hearts. Every evil action begins with a single thought. Lust, envy, hatred or revenge all begin in our hearts. Paul advised the Philippians to, instead, focus on whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely and admirable (Phil. 4:8). Paul, too, knew the battle was in our minds and our hearts. Right thoughts lead to right actions.

Satan knows the battle is for our minds, so he tries to fill them with garbage. Think about what’s out there these days in magazines, books, the Internet, movies and TV. Not much of it is pure and lovely; it’s all about greed and sex. It’s even harder to live a righteous life today because of the many obstacles we face. In my house, we don’t watch R movies that have sexual content. When we go through the video store looking for something to view, the first thing we check is to see what it’s rated and why. It’s really hard to find a good movie that isn’t rated R any more. People must think we’re crazy looking at a DVD, then quickly turning them back over and move on, but it’s worth it to keep the trash out of our home. As single parents, we need a clean house for our kids' sake.

How does this apply to my life?

Today’s prayer: Lord, help me to keep my mind on you and not on those things that defile my heart. Help me to think of the lovely things you’ve given me in my life and to focus on them. Amen

Monday, February 22, 2010

It’s more than just “don’t worry, be happy”

Good morning. Today’s scripture comes from Proverbs 8:32, 9:11-12 (New Living Translation): So my children, listen to me, for all who follow my ways are joyful. … Wisdom will multiply your days and add years to your life. If you become wise you will be the one to benefit. If you scorn wisdom, you will be the one to suffer.

In 1988, Bobby McFerrin became semi-famous for singing “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” a reggae a cappella ditty with the whistler in the background that the world immediately took to. The title came from a famous quote from Indian mystic and sage Meher Baba, “don’t worry, be happy.” The song goes on, “In every life we have some trouble, when you worry you make it double don't worry, be happy.”

McFerrin got it partly right, that we will, indeed, have trouble in this life and that worrying will only make it worse. So be happy! Happiness and joy are something everyone wants to attain, and there are plenty of self-help programs on the airwaves and the Internet to help you find your way. But much of what the secular world throws at us is all about “me.” Naturally, we live in the “me” generation. The world is slowly figuring out that all this emphasis on “me” doesn’t really help one to be happy.

We shouldn’t be focusing on me, we should be focusing on God. Whereas Solomon does not address happiness directly in the wisdom chapters of Proverbs (7-9), he does tell us that the way to find joy is by seeking God in all we do. King Solomon goes so far as to say that being joyful is the way to add years to our lives. If you seek wisdom from God, you will “benefit,” whereas if you “scorn” wisdom, you will be the one who “suffers.” Happiness is based on our external surroundings, whereas Joy comes from the heart.

The happiest people I know are Christians who have weathered life’s troubles by putting God first in their lives. That search for God led to more integrity and honesty, better decision making and healthier relationships in marriage, parenting and friendships, and to growing a heart to serve others. Those kind of people laugh more and live a healthy lifestyle. A right relationship with God leads to … less worry. That’s what we’re all after. Single adults who want to find wisdom should follow Solomon’s advice and seek wisdom (God) in all you do. If you remain single you’re happy and content, and if you marry, you’ll be better prepared to choose the right mate and be happy in remarriage and blended family life, which has its own troubles.

How does this apply to my life?

Today’s prayer: Lord, help me to seek you today in making decisions today. Help me to have wisdom in all my relationships. Amen

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

God is like a guide dog for the blind

Good morning. Today’s scripture comes from Psalm 32:8, 10 (New Living Translation): The Lord says, “I will guide you
along the best pathway
For your life.
I will advise you and watch
over you.

… But unfailing love surrounds
those who trust the Lord.”

Guide dogs are the eyes for the blind, assisting them in their everyday lives. When they reach a street corner, they know when to stop and when to go, so that the blind do not walk into oncoming traffic. The dogs come to know the way to the supermarket or to the post office by going left or right. They learn where danger is and protect their masters. Before a dog can become a guide dog, he must go through rigorous training as a puppy to prepare him.

God is like a guide dog for the blind – except he doesn’t need any training. He is omniscient and all-knowing, so he knows what is best for each of our lives. He knows what is coming up in our lives, so he tries to guide us “along the best pathway.” Dictionary.com gives several definitions for the verb to guide: a) to assist (a person) to travel through, or reach a destination in, an unfamiliar area; b) to force (a person, object, or animal) to move in a certain path; and c) to supply (a person) with advice or counsel as in practical or spiritual affairs.

God is like the examples in a and c, but not b. He gives us assistance and advice, but he doesn’t force us to do what he suggests because he gives us free will. Following God’s path does not mean an easy life. On the contrary, scripture says that following Christ will mean difficulty. When we stray from God’s direction, we get off the path he has chosen for us and the consequences mount. Sometimes, we see the error of our ways and we scurry back to God’s chosen path for our lives because we see how bad the wrong pathway is for us. God is always there to take us back, although there still may be a rebuke. He takes us back because he is graceful. God’s unfailing love is there for those who choose his path. His love gives us the peace and confidence in our lives that we can face any trial and survive and even thrive.

Back to our guide dog analogy: What if the blind person didn’t trust his dog, and he fought the dog’s guidance? Chaos would ensue, and the blind person may end up lost. Trust builds over time between the blind and his guide dog. A bond develops between the two when, day after day, the dog leads the blind safely to his destination and back home again. With trust comes love and assurance of future safety. So it is with God. Each time we choose the right path, our trust in God builds. The hard part is coming to that place where our faith in God is tested. Our faith grows when we say “I don’t know where we’re going, Lord, but I trust you are leading me down the right path. I know you’re with me to guide me. Here we go.”

How does this apply to my life?

Today’s prayer: Lord, help me to turn to you today for guidance and direction. Help me to trust you with where you send me. Amen

Friday, February 12, 2010

Attaining wisdom in a world fraught with recklessness

Good morning. Today’s scripture comes from Proverbs 8:12, 13 (New Living Translation): “I, Wisdom, live together with good judgment. I know where to discover knowledge and discernment. All who fear the LORD will hate evil. Therefore, I hate pride and arrogance, corruption and perverse speech.

The book of Proverbs is filled with verses about wisdom, which is why it’s often called the book of wisdom. Much of it is written by Solomon, called the wisest man on earth at the time. Solomon constantly challenges us to seek wisdom. This passage clearly states that the author of wisdom is God himself: “I, Wisdom, live together with good judgment.” When scripture capitalizes a term like LORD, it’s referring to God. In this case, Wisdom is capitalized. Hence, God is Wisdom.

Solomon tells us how to discover wisdom, through “knowledge and discernment.” The two go together. Wisdom is not just book smarts. We attain those traits through a relationship with God. Seeking God makes us more like him. Talking to God every day and seeking to please him helps us to think more like him. The New Testament is all about following Jesus Christ, God’s one and only son, and acting more like him. Part of that desire to have a personal relationship with God is to think like him. How we make decisions sets us apart from the ungodly. Those who love God will “hate evil” and love justice and mercy.

Solomon gives us a brief synopsis of how we should act: We should “hate pride and arrogance, corruption and perverse speech.” Think about that for a minute. So much of society today is filled with pride and arrogance. Politicians, Hollywood moguls, athletes and entertainers, and big business leaders fill out news stories with corruption, sexual misconduct and bribery. You can’t watch a movie today without hearing an onslaught of F-bombs and God’s name being taken in vain. Who is next up on the infidelity headlines?

Solomon calls those acts “folly,” the opposite of wisdom. The New International version uses the word “prudence” instead of good judgment. Dictionary.com says the opposite of prudence is recklessness. When I went to my Thesaurus to look for synonyms to prudence, the list included calculation, care, circumspection, concern, deliberation, diligence, discretion, foresight, frugality, judgment, precaution, vigilance. Those are all traits we need to be seeking in our own lives, through our relationship with God, so that we can pass them on to our children. Setting a godly example is the best way to teach wisdom to our young people. Let them see wisdom in our lives by our actions and speech.

How does this apply to my life?

Today’s prayer: Lord, help me to set a godly example for my sons and my wife. I pray that others might see wisdom in my lifestyle. I ask for wisdom today in everything I do. Amen

This week’s reading plan can be found at

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Avoiding foolish ways

Good morning. This is a devotional for single adults from Parenting Solo, but the message also applies to single adults without children who may one day marry a single parent and be a step-parent. Feel Free to forward it to a friend. If you wish to be removed from this e-mail list, simply hit reply and write REMOVE in the subject line.

Good morning. Today’s scripture comes from Proverbs 7:6 (New Living Translation): While I was at the window of my house, looking through the curtain, I saw some na├»ve young men, and one in particular who lacked common sense.

You may already know where this story is going. If not, read the whole Proverb. Here's the Cliff Notes version: An immoral woman is bored and seduces the young man because he is easy prey – he lacks common sense. As parents, one of our main jobs is to help our chidren develop common sense. A little common sense would have kept the young man from being by the seductress, who, day after day, looks for easy prey while her husband is away on business. Proverbs uses the term “folly,” meaning, “the fool.”

So just how do we give our children common sense? The Bible equates common sense to wisdom, and we gain wisdom through a relationship with God. We develop our relationship with God through time spent with him, reading and studying the Bible (alone and with others), praying, spending time with other believers, listening to a sermon on Sunday morning, and serving others. Let's take one of those areas, serving, and see how God uses it to teach us wisdom and common sense.

Take your child with you to feed the homeless. While the two of you are working, ask your child, “What do you think happened to that person that they reached this stage of life?” Maybe you ask the question on the job or in the car on the drive home. Then let them think about it, and keep asking questions when they respond. Sometimes, people are in their predicament because of poor choices. As you pull into the driveway, stop and say a prayer. “Lord, show my son how to be a person of good character, how to care for others who are less fortunate, and give him the wisdom to avoid being where these people were today. And help my son to always feel compassion for the poor and the needy.”

As you're walking up to the house, remind your son or daughter that life is difficult sometimes. Often, we get in such predicaments because we have strayed from God's ways and a relationship with him. God is never far from us, but we sometimes choose to keep him at a distance. We want to make our own decisions to prove we can be independent. That's a normal emotion for a teenager. Remind them that being independent from our parents does not mean we should be independent of God. We always need him; it's part of a life lived with wisdom.

In the Proverb, the difference between the fool and the wise person is the fool can only see the immediate gratification of his action, whereas the wise person sees the consequences of his choices. That's a trait we want our children to have.

How does this apply to my life?

Today's prayer: Lord, help me to raise my children with common sense and wisdom so that they can see the folly of life. Help me to raise them with you as their focus every day. Amen

Monday, February 08, 2010

All life is precious

Good morning. Today’s scripture comes from John 10:10 (New Living Translation): The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.

Yesterday, my wife and I watched the Super Bowl, hooping to catch the Tim Tebow ad sponsored by Focus on the Family, on the right to life. Before the game, some sports fans and pro abortionists spoke out against CBS' decision to run the ad because it was such a “controversial subject.” Somehow, we missed the ad during the game, so this morning we got up and looked for the ad online. The ad could not have been less controversial. In fact, it was downright cute. (See links below.) If you didn't know about the ad beforehand, you might not guess that it was a pro life statement.

We watched the 30-second ad on Hulu.com, and then went to Focus on the Family's Web site, which I think was the point of the ad. There, we could open a link to the real Tim Tebow story, with Bob and Pam Tebow being interviewed. The Tebows were missionaries in the Philippines when Pam got pregnant with Timmy (as she calls him in the ad). Doctors told the Tebows that there were complications, that the baby would probably born with birth defects, and that they should consider abortion. After praying, the Tebows, who already had four healthy children, decided to keep the baby and to trust God with whatever lay ahead of them.

Well, you know the rest of the story. Tim Tebow was born healthy and full-sized. He grew up to be a 6-foot-4, 245-pound quarterback who won the Heisman Trophy two years ago and has led the University of Florida to two national championships. He's also a would-be evangelist in his own right, going into prisons and going on summer mission trips to the Philippines to share the gospel, just as his mom and dad raised him to do. When Timmy was born, Bob promised the Lord he would raise him up to be a preacher. His full-time preaching days may have to wait awhile, as the younger Tebow has a budding professional football career ahead of him.

As my wife and I watched the real story of Tim Tebow on www.focusonthefamily.com, I listened intently to what the Tebows said. They raised their children to have goals beyond everyday life. They sent their children on mission trips when they were 15, so that they could learn about life in third-world countries and to have eternal values. They grew up with a heart for other people and other countries. Tim Tebow was able to see people in real-life struggles and gain real perspective. He learned the power of the gospel, which is powerful, transforms lives and gives hope. The Tebows focused their efforts on eternal values, not worldly values; they gave their children a strong work ethic and what scripture says is important,not what society labels as important.

We can all learn valuable lessons from the Tebow's story. What kind of message would we have learned had Pam Tebow chosen to abort her child 22 years ago?

How does this apply to my life?

Today's prayer: Lord, thank you for the boldness of the Tebows, and I pray a blessing upon their family. I pray that you bless their message today, and that thousands of girls and women choose to have their babies because of their story. Amen





Friday, February 05, 2010

Remaining faithful still the standard

Good morning. Today’s scripture comes from Exodus 15:25b-26 (New Living Translation): It was there at Marah that the Lord set before them the following decree as a standard to test their faithfulness to him. He said, “If you will listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in his sight, obeying his commands and keeping all his decrees, then I will not make you suffer any of the diseases I sent on the Egyptians; for I am the Lord who heals you.”

Sometimes, God’s commands see difficult to comprehend, or we aren’t sure of the direction God is leading us. Yet, at other times, God’s decrees are incredibly simple and basic. The message Moses relayed to the Israelites was as easy as it gets: Listen carefully to God’s voice, and obey his commands. That’s it.

If we always accomplished that objective, we wouldn’t be facing the troubles we face day after day. Many people would argue that it’s hard to distinguish God’s voice at times, and that it isn’t always black and white when it comes to doing the right thing. Imagine how the Israelites felt; Moses hadn’t yet brought down the 10 Commandments from his mountaintop experience. Just what were his decrees?

Ah, but we cannot make the same complaint the Israelites made. We have the wisdom of the Bible to fall back on. We know what the 10 Commandments say, and we know that Jesus whittled that down even more, to two basic rules: Love God first with all your heart, mind and soul, then love your neighbor as yourself. That’s still the standard of faithfulness that God gives us.

The next day, God would rain down quail and bread for the people to let them know that he is the God who provides. Some still complained, or they didn’t trust that the food would come every day, so they hoarded away extra food. That’s what we do; we don’t really trust God to meet our needs, so we take matters into our own hands. We keep watching God tap a rock and watching water flow out of it, then a few days later, we forget, whine some more and wail some more, then we ask for another miracle. Instead, when trials come along, we should take a deep breath and remember the manna that God always provides in our lives. God is always there for us; we just have to remain faithful.

How does this apply to my life?

Today’s prayer: Lord, I admit that sometimes I struggle to hear your voice. Help me to be faithful and to remember your provision in difficult times. Help me to remember that you are the God who provides. Amen

This week’s reading plan can be found at http:/www.oneyearbibleonline.com/february.asp?version=51

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

The land of ‘Milk and honey’ is approaching

Good morning. Today’s scripture comes from Exodus 13:5 (New Living Translation): When the LORD brings you into the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Hivites and Jebusites—the land he swore to your forefathers to give you, a land flowing with milk and honey—you are to observe this ceremony in this month:

Let me see if I have this right. The Israelites are slaves in Egypt, being forced to work back-breaking labor from sun-up to sun-down and they despise their masters. Moses comes along and promises them freedom from said slavery. So to prove God’s power to Pharaoh, Moses sends plague after plague that devastates the land for years to come. When that doesn’t work, he tells the Israelites to slaughter a lamb, grab a hyssop branch and smear blood over their doorposts so the angel of death will “pass over” their house when killing all the first-borns, people and livestock alike, in every household in Egypt. Finally, Pharaoh tells Moses to take the Israelites and get out of town! NOW!

The Israelites take up a collection of silver and gold from the Egyptians on the road out of town. God warns Moses that the Israelites would likely bitch and moan about the life they were leaving behind. After all, they had it pretty good, making bricks all day long with no straw – “but keep up your production boys, or there will be hell to pay!” Today, that would be akin to giving someone a laptop with no battery left and no power cord – but keep up your work load – or else! It didn’t take long for the complaining to start.

“A land flowing with milk and honey” is a poetic word picture that Moses used to describe the land of Canaan. He doesn’t use the term in stereotypical used-car salesman fashion, trying to sell the Israelites on a vacation to visit London Bridge in the middle of the desert. He first uses the term in Exodus 3:17 after God speaks to him from the burning bush.

Canaan was not literally “flowing with milk and honey.” Moses was using a metaphor to describe the land they would be traveling to would be beautiful and productive. In other words, “We’ll have everything we need, fellas, to survive in the wilderness.” Moses wanted to give the people a visualization of what the place would look like. Every time the grumbling started, I imagine Moses just shouted out the words, “Milk and honey, people. Milk and honey. Let’s keep moving.” That metaphor is also a reminder of what our life with Christ is like after we leave behind our slavery to sin. You may be going through a divorce or unemployment right now, but the cow isn’t always gong to be dry. We need to remind ourselves that “milk and honey” is coming. Sweet!

How does this apply to my life?

Today’s prayer: Lord, help me to not turn back and think of my past with honesty. Help me not to deceive myself that life was so grand in my past sinful life. Help me to remember that my life with you truly is “milk and honey.” Amen



This week’s reading plan can be found at

Monday, February 01, 2010

Gordon Ramsay, eat your heart out

Good morning. Today’s scripture comes from Exodus 4:11-12 (New Living Translation): Then the Lord asked Moses, “Who makes a person’s mouth? Who decides whether people speak or do not speak, hear or do not hear, see or do not see? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go! I will be with you as you speak, and I will instruct you in what to say.”

My wife and I spent the weekend with the singles group from our church at Pebble Beach in a palatial house (a gift) for a leadership retreat. My role was to combine my ministry resources with my culinary acumen and blend it into an interactive team-building exercise in the kitchen. Thirteen single adults were given cash to spend and a 4 ½-hour time limit to plan, shop and work together in the kitchen to prepare a meal. The emphasis for the day was to build camaraderie amongst the leaders.

Before sending them off, I had prepared to show them an episode from “Hell’s Kitchen,” in which the star of the show, Gordon Ramsay, lays into one of the young chefs on the show for making a blunder, but just as I was ready to hit play … my computer battery died. I gave them the Cliff Notes version, telling them there would be no yelling or screaming on my part when one of my would-be chefs blew it on a kitchen task. Maybe we’ll call my version “Heaven’s Kitchen,” in which only friendly tones and encouragement are offered by this kitchen coach.

For the next 20 minutes, I witnessed utter chaos. My role for the day was not to cook the meal, but to simply instruct here and there and give my advice on cooking techniques. I nudged one of the leaders I knew well. “You guys need to pray, or this is going to be a disaster,” I suggested. Sure enough, after the group prayed for direction, peace and calm reigned. Cooperative planning and good decision-making suddenly replaced the bedlam. For the next four hours, the exercise went fairly smoothly, much to the delight of all.

After the meal was prepared, everyone sat down to a wonderful meal on beautifully decorated tables. This was their celebration, and together, we gave thanks for what we had produced. Friendly conversation and laughter filled both tables, as participants shared their learning experiences – good and bad. After we finished eating, we waddled over to the living room to debrief. I reminded the group about the importance of prayer when serving the king. When we pray, we are asking the Holy Spirit to bless our efforts and to guide us to the work that God needs done. He gives us special powers to accomplish things we never dreamed we could do. Prayer removes fear and limitations and empowers us to be creative with humility and great strength.

(FYI, the team-building exercise I designed is called Feast With the King for the church, and Kitchen Coach for the corporate world. I’ll share more about my ideas later. God bless)

How does this apply to my life?

Today’s prayer: Lord, thank you for the empowerment you give us when we turn to you for strength and guidance. Truly, I can do all things through Christ Jesus, who strengthens me. Amen

This week’s reading plan can be found at