Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Love does not envy...

1 Corinthians 13:4
….Love does not envy…

One of the most misunderstood sins is envy. Many people confuse it with having a dream for a better life. A dream is a gift of motivation from God for reaching a goal that can give you satisfaction in life. Envy is a desire to have something that someone else has. The term for this is greed.

Envy will always grow to become an obsession. It’s inevitable. Envy seems small at first, and relatively harmless, but before you know you are making excuses and coming up with justification for why you have to have something. At this point, something you never had any use for in the past becomes a need and all because someone you admire has one.

Advertisers use envy to get you to buy their product. A perfect example of this is digital cameras. At the store I work for, I have customers ask if they should upgrade to a higher mega pixel because they saw an advertisement for the latest generation Nikon. What I tell them is that if they aren’t going to make any prints bigger than a 16x20 then they don’t need any more than six mega pixels. To upgrade would be an incredible waste of money.

The point of this is that just because an advertiser tells you it’s a need, or a celebrity uses the product, that doesn’t mean you should have to have it.

It is nothing more than a selfish desire to obtain someone else’s status. I truly believe envy is at the apex of selfishness. When you envy, you are telling yourself that what you want is more important than someone else’s need.

Mr. Jones has a brand new, cherry red, Corvette, and you are stuck with a 1981 Ford Mustang, that you inherited from your family. No one in your family took care of it, so you worked on it, fixing each problem as it came up, and you have it running properly. Next to Mr. Jones’ Corvette, your car looks like a piece of junk, (or so you think) so you want his car, not because it will get you where you’re going any better, but you think it will because, after all, it is a Corvette. This thought process will eventually lead you to covet the car, and eventually hate Mr. Jones, even though he didn’t do anything wrong but buy a new car.

The point of this is that Mr. Jones worked hard to buy a new car, and maybe his car broke down, you don’t know, but in the end you feel your desire for his car is more important than his need.

When you envy what someone else has, you believe what God gave you is inadequate. When God made us, he gave each one of us different strengths, and weaknesses. God tells us that he will always take care of our needs, but envy tells us to forget our needs because what we desire is more important. Having food, and shelter is by far more important than a brand new Corvette, but envy will twist your priorities, and say, “But aren’t you more important than Mr. Jones?”

Envy doesn’t think about needs, yours, or someone else’s, it just concerns itself with your wants and how to obtain the object of its desire. The only way to overcome this most undesirable trait is to continue putting others before yourself, and trust that God knows what you need before you ask him.


Sunday, September 20, 2009

love is kind

1 Corinthians 13:4
…Love is kind…

When was the last time you heard someone say, “I don’t accept charity.” Charity has been misinterpreted to mean, “hand outs” or “welfare”; something negative to those with strong wills and good work ethics, but the truth is, charity and kindness are basically the same word.

Accepting charity is not a sign of weakness as some may think, but a realization that we can’t solve every problem in our lives without some help. One of the biggest problems I’ve always had involves asking for help, especially from relatives. When my wife and I moved to Maine, we didn’t even tell them we were going for fear of them either begging us not to go, or worse, wanting to help. After four years of living in a one room hotel room my dad came for a visit and gave us the money to get into an apartment.

The best part of this is that I didn’t even realize that I needed the help, but he knew better. True kindness is not always about what we want; it’s about making sure we have what we need. Kindness is about putting the needs of someone else first, and if you’re trying to help someone who is as stubborn as I am, you may need to drag them, kicking and screaming. I will always appreciate what my father, and his wife, for what they did, even though I didn’t ask for it.

In a relationship, kindness is not only necessary, but it also goes two directions. There is an old Ecuadoran saying, “When one is helping another, both gain in strength.” I’m not saying that you should act kind to get something in return; that is not an act of kindness. Kindness will yield its own rewards, such as acceptance, and the satisfaction of seeing a smile on the face of the ones you love. The greatest reward of kindness, as the saying suggests, it opens you up to the strength that comes from helping others.

Whether you’re the one providing the kindness, or the one receiving it, an act of kindness is the greatest way to express love in any relationship.

Something to think about: There are more than 1 million children, 3.5 million people in all, who have no home. These people count on the kindness of others for their daily meals, in shelters and soup kitchens. Most of those who work in these places are just people who give some of their free time just to help those in need. There is no thought of compensation, except the look on the recipients face when they realize someone actually cares about them.


Friday, September 4, 2009

Love is patient

It’s been a while since my last post, but I had to recharge my batteries a little. I realized that when I started writing my two blogs, I was doing it to share inspiration, and to reflect on what I was learning, but in my own excitement I started to concentrate more on how often I could put out a blog than what I was trying to accomplish. I was becoming frustrated by not being able to put out a blog on time. In the end, I was losing patience with myself.

I have now gone back to the beginning with daily writing exercises.

This last part of the “Love” series, will take a look at the attributes of love as listed in 1 Corinthians 13. Instead of tackling it all at once, I felt that each attribute deserved its own

1 Corinthians 13:4
Love is patient…

“Everything happens in its own time.” There are thousands of sayings about patience, and most have been used to the point of cliché. To me, this is one of the best sayings about patience in a relationship.

God is always testing our patience, not to wear us down, but to make us stronger. The greatest story about patience is that of Job. God allowed Satan to take everything from him, except his health and faith. Through it all, Job never turned his back on God, because God would never turn his back on Job. It took a lot of patience for Job to endure what he did, and in the end he was rewarded for his patience and faith.

When we pray, we expect an answer immediately, and we expect to get what we want. It’s the whole name it and claim it attitude. If we don’t see immediate results, we think that God either doesn’t care, but just because we want something doesn’t mean it’s in our best interest to have it.

God gives us one of three answers to our prayers; either yes, no, or wait for the right time. The third answer doesn’t always sit well with today’s mindset. The common attitude today is “I want what I want, when I want it.” With the internet, and the overuse of credit cards, people find it easy to get what they want, and they are unwilling to wait, even on dating.

Internet dating sites are increasing in number, and membership is rising at an alarming rate. I’m not for, or against the idea. There have been a lot of good relationships started on the internet, but there are just as many relationships that have failed. The thing that the second group failed to take into consideration is that relationships take time, and work. They are looking for a shortcut to a meaningful relationship, and this inevitable result is a brick wall.

There are many types of relationships, but if you try to rush the natural process of any relationship, not only will it break the relationship apart, but it can also ruin your chance for future relationships. On the other hand, if you have the patience to allow the relationship to progress naturally, it can strengthen this and future relationships.

Patience is a key ingredient to a strong, healthy relationship. I realize that it’s not always easy to be patient, but if you want to base your relationships on true love, it is something you are going to have to work on. I know I still have to work on it.

Something to think about: When was the last time you lost a relationship over a shortcut, that could have been saved by being patient?


Monday, July 27, 2009

The ultimate sacrifice

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.

One of the hardest concepts for humans to understand about God is the level that God loves us. I believe the reason it’s so hard to comprehend is that we have no basis of comparison, next to the love of God, our own ability to love pales. Many people imagine God as a supreme being sitting on a throne, watching over the universe, and unconcerned with the individual lives of us mere mortals.

Along with this feeling is the feeling that God changed once Christ died on the cross, and he stopped talking to men like in the Old Testament. The fact is, God didn’t change, and he still talks to people, just like in the Old Testament, we just have to learn to listen.

When he sent Christ to become the ultimate sacrifice, he did it to save us. Verse 17 says, “For God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” God sacrificed his own son, not to widen the distance between him and man, but to make himself more accessible to man.

At the moment of Christ’s death, the temple curtain was torn in half (Matthew 27:51) ending the time when people had to go to priests for forgiveness. God paid the ultimate price, the life of his son, so that we no longer have to fear going directly to him to ask for forgiveness. We will never be perfect. We will still make mistakes, and fall short, BUT because of Christ’s sacrifice, can still be acceptable to God.

God sees us for who we are, every flaw, every sin, and yet all he asks of us is that we accept his son, and ask for forgiveness. It’s not an easy concept to grasp, but Christ gave us a story to make it a little easier. The story is the parable of the prodigal son, it is found in Luke 15:11-32. The message is, there is no love greater than a father to his children, and even if you go astray, he will be ready to take you back, and forgive unconditionally.

Challenge: Ask for forgiveness, and have faith that he has.


Saturday, July 18, 2009

Looking for a little acceptance

Romans 15:7
Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.

My friend and I were walking home from work, having one of our philosophical discussions. I’m coming from the position of a Christian, and he is coming from an agnostic viewpoint. He doesn’t deny the truth of the bible, or that Christ is who he says he is, but for him there are still too many unanswered questions. This particular morning his question was geared toward why Christ chose the 12 disciples in his circle of friends. Instead of church leaders, and people of great influence, he chose fishermen and men of “questionable character.”

Christ accepted the disciples for who they were, not for the prestige they could bring him and his message. He knew that Peter would deny his involvement with Christ, and he knew Judas would betray him out of greed, and yet he still accepted them. It’s easy to accept a person just like yourself, but what about someone totally opposite?

True relationships come from accepting a person for who they are, regardless of their strengths and weaknesses. Of course, if we only accept those like ourselves, we would never grow, or learn to see things in a different way. The narrow-minded view of non-acceptance often results in cliques, racism, segregation, and has even led to hate crimes. I know those seem a little drastic, but they are all consequences of a lack of acceptance.

Christ accepted people for who they were. He knew that people were more than just a job title, or fancy clothes. He could see past the external shell to the heart, where the true character of a person is. If Christ accepted his followers for who they were, then we should follow his example, and accept others for who they are, without prejudice, or judgement.

Challenge: Don’t try to mold someone else to what you feel they should be. Learn from the example of Christ, and accept them for what they are.


Saturday, July 11, 2009

Share the love

1 John 1:7
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his son, purifies us from all sin.

According to the book “The 7 Habits for Highly Effective People”, there are three stages of maturity; the dependent stage, the independent stage, and the interdependent stage.

In the dependent stage, we rely on everyone else to give us what we need and want. The idea is I win at the expense of another person’s time, money, and energy.

The independent stage is where we do everything for our selves and we just don’t need anyone else. The thought behind the independent stage is I win on my own. I don’t ask anyone to give me anything so it costs them nothing.

The problem with both of these stages is they are very self-serving. No one benefits from your win but you. In interdependence, we have matured to the level that everything is about us. We can work together for a common goal. In other words, when I win, you win.

When we walk in the light with God, we have reached the level of maturity where we are no longer the center of our universe. We realize that our actions have an impact on the lives of others, and we start to look for the option where everyone wins.

According to the “American Heritage Dictionary”, the word fellowship is defined as “The sharing of the same interests, ideals, or experiences.” Fellowship is at the highest level of interdependence, and is required if we are to love as Christ loves.

Many people describe a good solid relationship as “give and take” but fellowship is way beyond that. Give and take are both words that denote ownership. “I own this and I GIVE it to you.” “You own that and you have offered it, so I will TAKE it.” When we fellowship we SHARE what we have without ownership.

The best example I can give of this is my writing. When I write I get great pleasure out of it, and often I say that it’s the only pleasure I can afford myself, but I don’t write something for my eyes only. The truth is, I don’t own that ability; I received the ability from God to share with others. If I keep it to myself, I lose the ability to help someone who might benefit from the perspective I can offer. I know there are others who have helped me through their own unique perspective, and in this way, I can pass the favor along.

If we are to have the type of fellowship God meant for us to have, we must “love one another as Christ loved us.”

Challenge: Choose to use your gifts to benefit others, and enjoy the fellowship.


Monday, June 29, 2009

The most important elements

Matthew 5:23-24
Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.

When we offer our gifts to God, whether it’s money or abilities, we are to give them to him whole-heartedly, but how can we put our whole heart into it when it’s burdened with anger and guilt. Both of these emotions, if left to grow, will destroy any relationship. Eventually, they will begin to grow to an obsession that can fill our heart and mind, pushing out any positive emotion. Ephesians 4:26 says, “In your anger do not sin; do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.”

Christ, in Matthew 5:23-24, talks about reconciliation. According to the “American Heritage Dictionary” the word “reconcile” means to reestablish a relationship. It also means to settle or resolve. If we are to love God with all our heart, we can’t allow it to be dominated by anger; we must settle any argument with our loved ones before they grow, and reestablish our relationship with them.

We know that we have to release our anger, but reestablishing the relationship completely is not so easy. There are two elements required to give a relationship its strength. The first element, forgiveness, will help you settle your anger, whether you forgive, or ask for forgiveness. Either way, forgiveness must be present in order to keep anger and guilt from being consuming.

The second element is more important in keeping the relationship from falling apart completely, and that is trust. Even after you have forgiven each other, and the anger has been settled, trust may take some time before it can fully be restored. If we are to restore trust, strengthen our relationship, and keep anger from dominating our heart, we must give full priority to our relationship to God first, then to each other.

Don’t let the sun go down on your anger, and give priority to your relationships, for this is the only way to give your gifts to God with all your heart.

Challenge: If you have a relationship that has fallen apart from anger, forgive each other, then make restoring trust a priority. This will reestablish the relationship, and give it strength. Then you can give your whole heart to God.


Friday, June 19, 2009

Even Jesus had tears

John 11:35
Jesus wept.

One of the sayings I came up with several years ago, and still fully stand behind is, “A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a few well chosen words can describe a lifetime.” These two words say more to me about Christ’s love and relationship with mankind, than so much else in the Bible.

This is the shortest verse in the Bible, and there is a reason for it being singled out. Christ wept because he was moved by the weeping of Mary, and those who came with her, over the death of Lazarus. He knew that he was going to raise Lazarus from the dead so that didn’t bother him, but seeing Mary so unhappy moved him. As we all know, the end is happier, and if you don’t read through verse 44.

Many people think of Christ as distant, and unfeeling, that he was above the pettiness of human emotions. We know that Christ is never petty, and from this verse, that he wasn’t above expressing emotions. I think the only emotion he never felt was regret. He felt sadness, anger, happiness, joy, peace, frustration, and even apprehension when he prayed to let the cup pass from him, but never regret. So why was this small verse so important?

When Christ was in the upper room giving his disciples the new command, he said, “As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” Loving as he loved means expressing your feelings honestly, and without pettiness. In other words, learn to control your emotions, don’t let them control you. There is a time for anger, and a time for sadness. There is a time for every emotion.

Knowing the right time for expressing emotions can mean so much to your relationship. If Jesus had laughed at Mary because he knew what was about to happen, it would have meant that she might not have trusted him to understand. Instead, Christ showed perfect compassion and understanding when she needed it, and he shed genuine tears because of his love.

This little verse also shows me that not only did Christ come to save us, but that he truly understands what we are going through. The fact that he put himself in such a position, when he could have given up and destroyed us, is the ultimate expression of love.

Another thing that it shows me is that Christ relates to us on a very personal level. He created us, and he sees every part of us down to our strengths, and weaknesses. No offense to Bette Midler, but God wouldn’t know every little detail of our lives if he was watching us from a distance. He knows what’s in our hearts, and even how many hairs are on our heads.

I love that poem, “Footprints.” It always reminds me that Christ is always by my side ready to carry me through the difficulties of life.

This is what “Jesus wept” means to me

Challenge: Print out the poem “Footprints”, and keep it as a reminder of Christ’s love when things get difficult.


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

For your eyes only

John 13:34,35
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.

Christ spoke openly about the fulfillment of the laws, which are based on love. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength; and love your neighbor as yourself.” These two laws appear throughout his teaching, and in the Old Testament.

The laws are all about our relationship to God, and man. Now, in the final moments of the Last Supper, after Judas ran off to betray Christ, he gives one more command to his disciples, in private. “Love one another.” He says this two more times. This left me with two questions. Why was the command given in private? Why did Christ say it three times?

Loving God completely, and loving your neighbor as yourself, were given to more than just the Israelites. These two laws were given to everyone as an important part of a relationship with God, and the central point of all the laws of God. Christ gave this new law, or command, in private to his disciples as the one thing that would separate his disciples from everyone else.

Christ started by simply by giving them the command. “Love one another.” This is the same thing as telling someone new to do a job, but not telling them how.

In the second part he tells them how to love one another. “As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” In this, Christ becomes their model, and in turn becomes our model for the perfect love.

Finally, Christ gives them the consequence of this command, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” This command is not for everyone, it was meant only for his disciples.

This message, and command, is meant for us if we truly wish to be his disciples. It doesn’t matter what denomination we belong to, or even if we go to church. If we worship God as disciples, then we must also express our love to other disciples in the same way Christ loved us.

I think it would be a good idea to end one of the most confusing thing I’ve heard in churches today. Just because you go to church, and worship God, it doesn’t make you a disciple. A disciple is anyone who has taken on the discipline of learning, and sharing God’s word. In essence, you become a student of Christ for life. This is not an easy road, but it is very rewarding.

Challenge: Take Christ’s command to heart, and love one another as Christ loves us.


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The opportunity to love

One of the lessons to be learned from the Good Samaritan is that while we are taught to love our neighbor as ourselves, being human, we can’t express love to the whole world at once. We are limited by an imperfect body and spirit, and the only way we can express a consistent love is to do so one opportunity at a time.

In the case of the Good Samaritan, he saw the man on the side of the road, beaten and robbed, and left to die. Instead of seeing the man as “just one of those Jews”, an enemy of his people, and someone to be ignored, he saw the man as another human being who needed help, and compassion. He took the man, put him on his own donkey, and brought him to an inn to be cared for until his return.

He took the opportunity to express love and compassion to a human being in need. Christ never said where the Samaritan was going, or if he missed something important, because in the end, that wasn’t important. The point was the Samaritan didn’t say to himself, “I’ll think about helping him,” or pass by on the other side of the road like the others. There was no hesitation in his actions. He saw the opportunity, and rushed in to help out of love for his neighbor. He put the needs of another person above his own, and isn’t this what love is all about?

Another thing people fail to see about love is that it is neither easy, nor casual. If you don’t take a rest once in a while, it will drain you both physically, and emotionally. One of the things the book pointed out was that Christ retreated every day to a quiet place, and he is the model for the perfect love.

God gives us the opportunities to express love, it’s up to us to open our hearts so we can see the opportunities and accept them. Once it comes to the expression of love we must never hesitate to accept or we might miss the chance. If the Samaritan had hesitated the man’s injuries might have killed him. If you devote your life to love as Christ taught, don’t forget to give yourself time to rest, or you will wear yourself down.

Challenge: Trust God to give you the strength to love as you should, and find a quiet place to rest and recharge.


Friday, June 5, 2009

Love, the equal opportunity emotion

Luke 10:25-37
25On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?"

26"What is written in the Law?" he replied. "How do you read it?"

27He answered: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'"

28"You have answered correctly," Jesus replied. "Do this and you will live."

29But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"

30In reply Jesus said: "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. 35The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. 'Look after him,' he said, 'and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.'

36"Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?"

37The expert in the law replied, "The one who had mercy on him."
Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise."

This is another passage where the same two Old Testament laws were brought up. “Love the Lord your God…” is in Deuteronomy 6:5, and “Love your neighbor…” is in Leviticus 19:18

Keep in mind that Christ was talking to Jews, and to them the Samaritans were bitter enemies. The first two people were of the same faith, maybe even the same congregation, and yet they went out of their way to avoid helping this person who was beaten and left for dead. The person who ended up helping was a sworn enemy, and yet he went beyond just bandaging the man up, he also took care of his shelter needs.

The message here is very clear. You must love everyone, even those you once considered an enemy. The thing to remember is that God created us all equal, different, but equal. That means that no one is any better or worse than anyone else. If we were to put this in terms of a business, the president is no better than the janitor. As long as they both do their part the company can flourish.

In this world, there are thousands of religions, and cultures. In the various religions, there are different philosophies, but just because someone doesn’t believe the same way as you do, does that mean that you should love them any less? Of course not; right or wrong, we can disagree with a person’s beliefs, but it is not our job to judge them. Only God has that right. Our job is to extend love to that person, and live life by our beliefs. If we are true to our beliefs, we can lead more people to Christ by example than by force.

I once went to a church that had a sermon that day on loving unconditionally. The one thing I noticed is the dirty looks I got for wearing Jeans instead of slacks, and even though there were different races in the church they still segregated themselves from each other. Unconditional love is a colorblind emotion. It doesn’t segregate, or judge another person’s differences.

The most basic way to put this is, if God created everyone equally, and loves us for who we are, then we should follow his example and love everyone equally.

Challenge: see beyond the exterior appearance of a person to find the good, and love them, as you would have them love you.


Monday, June 1, 2009

The mind of strength

Mark 12:30
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.

Your mind is like a super-computer without an off switch. The saying, “garbage in, garbage out” applies to both computers and the human mind. Whatever we allow to dominate our mind will eventually show up in our actions.

In the book, Tom Holladay says, “Before you can do the right thing, you have to think the right thing.” This phrase makes a lot of sense. Philippians 4:8 talks about what we should think about. “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy- think about such things”

Every day our minds are hit by a barrage of negative influences, and there is no way to avoid them. God gave us the freedom to choose what we allow to dominate our minds, and whatever dominates, will become how we act. This is why it’s important to meditate on God’s word daily. Starting your day with a devotional can give you something to think about throughout the day, and writing down what you learn can keep it fresh in your mind. No matter what influences you come across, you can still allow yourself to focus on what you learned that morning.

Once we have trained our mind to meditate on God’s word, we can turn it into actions. In any relationship you have to give it all you have. This is where the real work begins, and it will require strength of character, and conviction. Do we, as humans, have the strength to do the work on our own? No.

Let me explain. When we try to do something on our own, we are easily distracted with our everyday lives; with paying bills, going to work, raising kids, going to school (and the list continues). If we are to give a loving relationship with God the attention it deserves, we can only do it with the kind of strength that God can give.

We were created by God to have a relationship with him, and he has done everything to prove to us that he is worthy of that love. He even sent his only son to die for that relationship, and we owe it to him to give it everything we have. He is the source of life, love, and strength. Without him we wouldn’t exist, so it goes without saying that if we trust God for our strength, our relationship with him will be healthy, productive, and the greatest source of joy in our lives.

Putting it all together, to have a loving relationship with God, we must first feel it in our hearts. Then we must decide to love him with our soul. After that we must think it with our minds. Finally, we must trust God to give us the strength to put it into action. God wants our relationship with him to succeed, and he is willing to give us the strength we need to make it work. All we have to do is accept it.

Challenge: Learn to meditate on God’s word, and accept his offer of strength, so that you can put him first in both thought and action.


Monday, May 25, 2009

The freedom to choose

Mark 12:30
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.

The first part of this verse, “Love the lord your God with all your heart” gives us the first step in how to love God. Our heart is our feelings, which means that our relationship must be entered into emotionally. Love is first and foremost emotion based. While we feel love emotionally, the decision to follow through with it comes from our soul, not our heart.

As described in the book, “your soul is your God given personality”. All humans have the same basic emotions, but we decide how to handle them in our own ways. Each one of us has a different personality, which means that no two people will handle a situation in exactly the same way, and God didn’t make us the same as anyone else.

Have you ever wondered why no where in the Bible does it say, “you must go to church every Sunday to worship me”? God also didn’t make us to worship in the same way. Some worship in church, while someone else worships by working in a soup kitchen. I suppose the same would be true of rest. Many churches say, you must not do any work on the Sabbath day, but who are they to determine what you consider rest. How we worship and rest is part of our relationship with God, and is up to us, not the church.

Another important part of our soul is our talent. God gave us our talent to serve him and others; it shouldn’t be hidden. God speaks to our heart what he wants, and if we are listening, we make the decision to do his will without hesitation. This is what is meant by “all your soul.” When God asks you to do something, you decide to do it automatically, not because you have to, but because you want to. This is what love is all about, doing by choice, not force.

God calls us to certain tasks of service to him, and to others, but he also gave us the freedom to choose; to choose a relationship with him, to choose to do his will, and to choose the needs of God and man over ourselves.

Challenge: Listen to what God is telling your heart, and decide to do his will. The choice is yours.


Monday, May 18, 2009

The heart of Love

Mark 12:30
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.

Day three of the book takes this verse from the first day, and begins to explain it in greater detail. Tom Holladay brings up a very interesting point. “God’s principals don’t change our lives, our FAITH in God’s principals changes our lives.”

This chapter is devoted to “All your heart” and when you connect this statement to loving God with all your heart, putting God first means that you have to have faith in him. Faith comes from our emotions, and our emotions come from the heart.

Mark 12:30 placed the order of how you need to love God with a definite purpose. Before you can put God as a priority you must first have faith in him. Faith in his existence, faith in his promises, that he will do what he says he will do, and faith that God will never turn his back on us.

With the people we come in contact with, misunderstandings can occur, and they can turn on us, ruining our faith in that person. They can eventually return, and we will forgive them because they are our friends. As a result of their betrayal we are a little more cautious when reentering the relationship. God will never leave us or forsake us, and he is deserving of “all your heart.”

It is important to remember that before we were born, God chose us to have a relationship with him, and this is engrained deep within all of our hearts, but it will ultimately depend on us, whether or not we accept his offer. We must decide to put God first, and this is what day four will be about.

Challenge: search your feelings to find the faith in God’s love.


Friday, May 15, 2009

Prioritize love, and trust God

Matthew 6:24-33
No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, What you will eat of drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?
And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?”, or “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we wear?” For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

There’s no doubt about it, God places the highest priority on our love for him. In day two of the book he goes into the priority of our relationships. Verse 33 of Matthew 6 says “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” If we give God the priority in our lives, we will have what we need.

In this world, with the economy in an uproar, and unemployment at very high level, it’s very easy to place a high importance on getting a job so you can make money for food, clothes, and shelter. This is important, but God knows what we need and, if we make him our priority, we will have what we need. That doesn’t mean we go to sleep, and wake up with our daily needs waiting at our feet. By placing him first, he will send us opportunities that will give us the money we need. We just have to listen to him.

We need to think in the long term. When we worry about money, food, clothes, and shelter, that worry can turn into panic, and that panic can change our priority from God to money. The saying, “Give a man a fish, feed him for a meal; teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime.” Is very true. By worrying, people are looking for the fastest way to get something. They expect the government to give them handouts, but they don’t think that they are tapping into a limited resource. They will never accept the responsibility for their own future, and when the government stops giving them what they want, they will end up with nothing.

What God offers is long term. All we have to do is love him first and trust that he will supply us with what we need. He will show us job opportunities that may not be fortune 500, but they will give us what we need.

Tom Holladay mentioned a quote, “God does not demand of me that I accomplish great things. He does demand of me that I strive for excellence in my relationships.” What you do in your life is not important. What is important is that you love God first, and trust him to know what’s best for your life.

Your definition of success will determine your life’s priorities. There are three priorities, and depending on where each one falls will give you how much success you will have. The three priorities are God, man, myself.

I will go into these later. For now, I want to leave you with this thought. “Your definition of success will determine your life’s priorities.”

Challenge: Write down the quote that Tom Holladay mentioned, “God does not demand of me that I accomplish great things. He does demand of me that I strive for excellence in my relationships.” Put it in a highly visible place.


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The greatest commandment

I know I wanted to go through the book of Proverbs, but the church I’m going to has started going through the program called, “The 40 days of love” and I felt it would be worth writing about the observations I make as I go through this wonderful program.

The Bible is more than just a book about knowledge and wisdom. Even more than that it is a book about the greatest love, and the relationship between God and man. The Ten Commandments are all about love. Mark 12: 28-31 says: One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, "O“ all the commandments, which is the most important?" ”
”The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, o Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.

The Ten Commandments all have to do with how we relate to God, and others. There are many people who give to charities, go to church, and pray loud, and long in public places. They do this so that everyone will know how great they are. They do all this in the name of Christ, but none of it matters if the only reason they do it is so that everyone will notice them. Doing things with a reward in mind is putting yourself first, and others second.

Many religions believe that you have to convert people, or give something up, or do charities to get to heaven, but that is thinking about the reward and not God or others. The commandments are all about putting others first. People will watch what we do, and call us great, and tell us things that build up our ego, but God sees what’s in our heart, and he knows our motivation. If we do something for recognition and people call us great, then we will have what we want. If we do something out of love, we do it regardless of the recognition, and what people tell us won’t make one bit of difference.

When we leave the world, and stand before God, he will judge us by our love of him and others, not by our actions.

Challenge: If you want to follow along with the program, the name of the book is, “The Relationship Principles of Jesus” by Tom Holladay.


Monday, May 11, 2009

Emerge victorious

Proverbs 2:7-8
He holds victory in store for the upright,
He is a shield to those whose walk is blameless,
For he guards the course of the just
And protects the way of his faithful ones.

One of the things I love about the Bible is the connections you can make. In the story of Job, God allowed Satan to take away his family, friends, money, and his home, yet through it all, Job never turned his back on God. Through everything God protected Job, and when it was all over, Job got back all he lost with interest.

In our journey through life, there will be many traps and pitfalls, set by Satan to tempt us away from God. If we listen, and trust wisdom, without turning our backs on him, he will shield us from Satan’s attacks. On that note, let me warn you that Satan is an opportunist. He knows our weaknesses and will use any advantage to wear down our defenses, but Christ promised “victory for the upright,” “to shield those whose walk is blameless,” “to guard the course of the just,” “and protect the way of his faithful ones.”

Our faith is going to be tested our entire lives, and the greater our faith, the harder the trials. Satan will throw every temptation at us to stray, based on our weakness. With wisdom, and discipline, we can overcome those temptations. If you think it’s easy, it’s not. Even Solomon had a weakness with women. He fell at times, but the one thing that remained was his determination to follow wisdom and God forgave him and continued to protect him.

We will give in to temptation from time to time, but God is always willing to show mercy and forgive us as long as we don’t turn our backs on him. He will continue to protect us and lead us to victory.

Challenge: Even if you stumble, don’t allow Satan to turn you away from God and his wisdom. Emerge from this life victorious in Christ.


Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Don't hide your head in the church

Proverbs 2:6
For the Lord gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.

One of the things that humans have never been able to understand about God, besides the part where he had no beginning, is how he can have three separate parts and yet, be one God. Many people think of Christ as beginning with Mary, but his spirit was always there. John 1:1-3 describes Christ as the word of God. What does this mean? Proverbs 2:6 is actually talking about Christ as both knowledge and understanding. This is where wisdom comes from.

Christ is the beginning of all life, and the universe, so it is through him that we get our spirits. When we hear the call of wisdom, it is actually Christ trying to help us through life’s problems, and keep us safe.

I once had a conversation with a girl I worked with about “evolution vs. creation”. It was a civil conversation, but every argument she came up with, I had a rebuttal. Her final argument was, “You’re just close minded.” This is how a lot of arguments against Christianity end up.

With wisdom, knowledge, and understanding being from Christ, we are very open minded. If anything, the more I learn, the more the knowledge that comes from Christ can stand up to the lies of society.

The biggest myth I’ve heard about Christian teachings is that the church is trying to hide us from the truth by banning books and regulating what we learn. Christ doesn’t try to keep us from the truth; he gives us the knowledge and wisdom to open our eyes to the truth about evil so that we will know it when we see it. We can’t hide behind the doors of the church forever. He gives us the knowledge to go out and inform the world of his love.

We can’t protect our kids, or ourselves from the effects of the world; it is our job to share the truth so that our kids can make informed decisions on what they believe. If we do our part in sharing the gospel, we can trust that Christ can lead all of us closer to him.

Challenge: Trust that Christ will give us the knowledge, understanding, and wisdom, to take us safely through this world.


Monday, May 4, 2009

Selective hearing

Proverbs 2:1-5
My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you; turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding; and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding; and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.

My wife is always telling me that I don’t listen to her. This happens mostly when I forget something at the store, or I forget to take out the trash, and quite honestly, I don’t always hear her. If you put me around a lake with my camera, I’ve been known to hear a half-inch frog jumping on an oak leaf, from 20 feet away. The word for this is selective hearing.

We are not born with selective hearing; it comes on gradually. When our body and mind are subjected to the same things all the time, they become immune to their effects, and that includes the senses. When we get to a point of complacency, we have to retrain our minds to look and listen for the things we take for granted.

One of the things people take for granted is wisdom. It’s not always easy to hear wisdom because we grew up with it always present. Proverbs 2:1-5 says we can “understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.” If we accept his words, and store up his commands within us, but before we can do that we have to hear what he has to say. We have to retrain our minds to hear what wisdom is saying and we can only do that by eagerly searching for it. We need to replace the complacency with a firm desire to gain knowledge. As verse 4 says, “look for it as silver, and search for it as for hidden treasure,”

Once we start to hear wisdom, we can take its teachings into our hearts.

Challenge: Retrain your heart and mind to listen for wisdom. You might be surprised what you might learn.


Friday, May 1, 2009

consequences of rejecting wisdom

Proverbs 1:22-33
22 "How long will you simple ones love your simple ways?
How long will mockers delight in mockery
and fools hate knowledge?
23 If you had responded to my rebuke,
I would have poured out my heart to you
and made my thoughts known to you.
24 But since you rejected me when I called
and no one gave heed when I stretched out my hand,
25 since you ignored all my advice
and would not accept my rebuke,
26 I in turn will laugh at your disaster;
I will mock when calamity overtakes you-
27 when calamity overtakes you like a storm,
when disaster sweeps over you like a whirlwind,
when distress and trouble overwhelm you.
28 "Then they will call to me but I will not answer;
they will look for me but will not find me.
29 Since they hated knowledge
and did not choose to fear the LORD,
30 since they would not accept my advice
and spurned my rebuke,
31 they will eat the fruit of their ways
and be filled with the fruit of their schemes.
32 For the waywardness of the simple will kill them,
and the complacency of fools will destroy them;
33 but whoever listens to me will live in safety
and be at ease, without fear of harm."

When I read these verses, I wondered why people reject wisdom. After reading this chapter, I realized that the other word for wisdom is conscience. Therefore, every time we hear our conscience trying to stop us before we fall, it is really the call of wisdom. Therefore, the reasons I came up with are the way we respond to our conscience.

One of the reasons people use to reject wisdom is that wisdom tells us what we don’t want to hear. When we are in high school, and get invited to a party with drinking, and drugs, wisdom reminds us of the consequences of drinking, and drugs, but we tell ourselves, it’s an opportunity to socialize, and fit in with our friends. Many of us will turn it down, but others tell themselves they can handle it, and there’s no reason to worry.

Another reason wisdom is rejected is that people don’t trust easy answers. The reason so many people procrastinate is the fear that something will be harder than it really is. Wisdom tells us to do something now, and it isn’t as hard as we imagine. What we do is put it off until the problem gets worse, and the consequence is that it will take more time, and more money to fix.

We are afraid that if we listen to wisdom, and do things correctly before the deadline, people will start to expect it all the time. When some people go to work, they don’t perform to their full potential because if the boss expects it all the time and we fail at any point, we think the boss will yell, or even fire us. This fear is usually unfounded, and when they apply themselves to their work, they find they can handle their job. The consequence of not listening to wisdom is smaller raises, no promotions, and getting fired in some cases.

The biggest reason people reject wisdom is that wisdom makes us responsible for our own actions. Before the sixties, most people felt responsible for what they did, but since then, society placed the responsibility on our parents, or our environment, or the school system, but very rarely on ourselves. In doing so, society has created a generation of kids who don’t feel they have to think for themselves. They feel the government should take care of them, and that wisdom is outdated. The consequence of this is that people have become slaves to society, and its rules.

By rejecting wisdom, people may think their getting something better, and in the short term it sounds like a fun life, but continuing to ignore wisdom’s call will have some long term consequences that may be hard to break free.

Challenge: If you hear wisdom warning you not to do something, listen to it, and think about the consequences if you don’t.


Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Wisdom is a public speaker

Proverbs 1:20, 21
Wisdom calls aloud in the street, she raises her voice in the public squares; at the head of the noisy streets she cries out, in the gateways of the city she makes her speech:

On the first day of school, a high school speech teacher stood up behind his podium, cleared his throat, and in a clear loud voice he startled the students with, “You can gave the most eloquent, purposeful, speech in the privacy of your living room, but who’s going to hear the message.” All forms of communication are to express an idea, belief, or purpose to others. Why would you try to teach yourself something you already believe? There was a lot of wisdom in the teacher’s words.

Many people think that wisdom is elusive. They think they have to travel around the world to temples, mountains where old men live, and even schools, to seek some hidden wisdom on the meaning of life. There is an old saying, “Some day my ship will come in, and with my luck I’ll be at the airport.” The reason there are men spending years on mountains, seeking wisdom, is that they rejected it when it was screaming at them from public markets, and street corners.

Wisdom is not silent, or in some far off land, it’s right in front of us trying to get our attention. It screams, it yells, it holds up its hand in front of us saying, “Ooh, ooh, mister Kotter, pick me.” Wisdom makes it easy to hear what it wants to say, we just have to accept its message.

Challenge: Learn to listen to the message of wisdom, and when you hear its call, don’t look for a second opinion.


Monday, April 27, 2009

Beware of the bad leader

Proverbs 1:10-19
10 My son, if sinners entice you,
do not give in to them.
11 If they say, "Come along with us;
let's lie in wait for someone's blood,
let's waylay some harmless soul;
12 let's swallow them alive, like the grave,
and whole, like those who go down to the pit;
13 we will get all sorts of valuable things
and fill our houses with plunder;
14 throw in your lot with us,
and we will share a common purse"-
15 my son, do not go along with them,
do not set foot on their paths;
16 for their feet rush into sin,
they are swift to shed blood.
17 How useless to spread a net
in full view of all the birds!
18 These men lie in wait for their own blood;
they waylay only themselves!
19 Such is the end of all who go after ill-gotten gain;
It takes away the lives of those who get it.

I remember in high school how fitting in meant so much to so many people. The cliques would usually have a leader, and the rest would be followers. The leader’s role was to tell the followers what to do, and how to do it; how to dress, talk, or what they were going to do after school. The only reason that people belonged to such a clique was, that was where they felt they belonged, and the leader would be so welcoming.

These cliques, though seemingly harmless, had a big problem. The leaders made all the decisions, which left the followers without the need to think for themselves. Any decision the leader made was acted on without question. If the leader said, “let’s ditch.” all the followers did it. Without the leader, the followers lost their identity.

Bad leaders will entice a follower with promises of money, popularity, or a place where they’re always welcome. The followers of these leaders have very little initiative to get what they want on their own. They’re usually lazy, and in some cases greedy. The enticement by the leader is money with half the work, and twice the speed. These followers are the first ones in line for the get rich quick schemes. They will usually do what ever the leader says no matter what the cost, even if it takes someone else’s freedom, or life.

The greedy man’s golden rule, “He who has the gold, makes the rules.” is a prime example of someone preying on another person’s envy and greed to force that person to follow them. These leaders think that just because they have money, or a quick way to get it, that it gives them the right to be in charge. They constantly make empty promises to their followers. They will use the promises to string the followers along without any genuine concern for the safety or happiness of the follower. If they ever get caught for theft, or for any crime, they will try to make their followers the scapegoat.

According to Proverbs 1:10-19, you should never follow these types of leaders. Not only will they pay for their crimes, but by association, their followers will as well.

Challenge: Learn the difference between a good, and bad leader, then learn how to avoid the bad leader. Following the good leader will lead to a successful life. You won’t ever be caught for a crime you didn’t commit.


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The accessories of the garment of salvation

Proverbs 1:8, 9
Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. They will be a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck.

In the fashion world, accessories are just as important as the clothes you put on your back. We have all heard the saying, “Accessories make the outfit.” This is true in the fashion world, and the same can be said in the Christian world as well. The bible mentions clothes numerous times. Isaiah 61:10 says I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. Is it any wonder that the garments of salvation would have accessories?

During the first several years of our lives, our parents teach us, and shape our character through their teaching. They just want what’s best for us, so they will try to point us in the right direction. As teenagers, we realize that they weren’t always right, they are only human after all, but that doesn’t mean we should turn our backs to what they said.

Most of us will grow out of the phase when we get embarrassed by our parents, and realize, “They may not always be right, but a lot of what they said was true, and we are the better for it.” Therefore, we go through life happy, healthy, and productive. Others will turn their backs entirely on what their parents taught them and they will spend their lives searching for a happy, productive life, but they will never find it, because they didn’t give their parents the chance they deserve.

God can use the lessons of our parents as the foundation of a happy, healthy, and productive life for him.

Challenge: Remember the instructions of your parents and be grateful for their influence, for they are the reason you are what you have become.


Monday, April 20, 2009

The beginning of knowledge

Proverbs 1:7
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.

When I first heard this verse, I didn’t know the word fear has three distinct meanings. I would always imagine a person cowering before God, or he would face death by lightning bolt. Of course, I no longer have that vision. I now see God as a loving creator who sent a part of himself to suffer and die on the cross so that we can have life.

If you’re still confused on the distinction, here’s a brief description of each. One kind is an emotional response to a real or implied threat. This fear may not paralyze you, but it can stop you from accomplishing something. You could have a fear of going outside because you think pollution will kill you.

The second type is a fear induced by something or someone. This is where you get your phobias. Mine was always spiders. This type of fear will have a paralyzing effect on you if you allow it to persist.

Both of these are negative fears that can rip our emotional core to shreds. The good news is they can be pulled out of, by research, and facing them. That is what I did to get over my fear of spiders. I turned it into a research project, and I took close-up photos of them. Over time, I started respecting them and appreciating what they do for the world.

The last type of fear means awe, reverence, and veneration. This type of fear always has a positive outcome. Because of this fear, you are motivated to learn everything you can about God, and understand what he wants for your life. You are never paralyzed, and your self-esteem is strengthened.

The more you learn about God, the more you realize that he will always be with you, and you don’t have to cower before him. God wants you to revere him, and love him. He doesn’t want you dread him, or live in terror.

The way I learned to see it; reverence leads to learning (instruction); learning leads to knowledge; knowledge leads to discipline; and discipline leads to wisdom; and wisdom leads to God.

Foolish people always hate discipline. They feel like education is a joke, and that people who try to teach them are intruding on their good time. They always think about the short term. Live in the moment, never plan for the future, education does nothing for them.

The worst part of this philosophy is that they will search for meaning in their lives, but they’ll never find it. Their entire life becomes a seduction to emptiness. Their lives seem exciting, and full of intrigue, but that kind of life will eventually fade, and they will be left with nothing to show for it.

If you want to avoid a meaningless life, arm yourself with wisdom, discipline, and knowledge. This way leads to God, and a real life.

Challenge: Start a discipleship journal. It will help you keep track of what you learn, and your spiritual growth.


Friday, April 17, 2009

Our one, true freedom

Proverbs 4:13
Hold on to instruction, do not let it go; guard it well, for it is your life.

When I was younger, I was told by a good friend that when reading the Bible that I should start with Proverbs. As a whole, the entire Bible is important. Every verse serves a purpose, but Proverbs provides you with a basis for learning and wisdom that can carry your learning of the Bible to a higher level.

I am reminded of the analogy of building a home. I know, it’s a little cliché, but it is still true. In order to build a home that will withstand the elements, you first have to build a strong foundation. If you start from the roof, the home will collapse in the first wind.

The book of Proverbs, as a collection, is a perfect foundation for knowledge and wisdom, on which to build your understanding of the Bible.

Another thing my friend said was Proverbs 4:13 is a great place to start. You can always go back to the beginning, but this verse gives you a purpose for knowledge, and therefore motivates you to keep learning.

A wise man once said, “Knowledge is power.” How right he was. With knowledge, ordinary men have become rulers. They have shot through technological barriers to create new technology. Knowledge has given us medical breakthroughs, without which people are defenseless against physical threats.

Without knowledge, we would not exist. It’s no wonder Solomon added this in the proverbs. We must hold on to instruction because instruction leads to knowledge, and knowledge is power. Therefore, we mustn’t let go of it. Instruction can come from anywhere, even from life itself. Try to learn something from everything around you. Learning is just a matter of paying attention to the details.

I hear a lot of people panicking because the government is “Taking away our freedoms.” The government has been doing that for nearly one hundred years. This is something we, as individuals, have no control over. It’s not wise to worry about things you have no control over. The thing we do have control over is what we learn, and how we use it. This is why it is important to guard our knowledge. It’s one thing no one can take away from you, even if they take all your freedom and put you in prison for your beliefs, you will still have your knowledge.

In the story of Job, God allowed Satan to take everything from Job, money, family, health, but he was not allowed to take his faith and knowledge. This left Job to make the observation, “The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away.” God gave Job the freedom of knowledge and how to use it, and this is the only true freedom we have today. So hold on to it, guard it, don’t let anyone else take it from you, for if you lose this, you lose your freedom completely.

Challenge: Write this verse down and put it where you will always see it, and use it to motivate you to learn.


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Don't hide your talent.

Matthew 25: 14-30

Due to the length of this passage, I decided to put a link to the verses.

When we speak of talents, we are talking about a person’s ability. When Christ told the parable of the talents, it referred to a unit of money totaling over 1000 dollars. It was this parable that gave us our current meaning. It went from meaning money, to something of great value, to something special, and then to a special ability given to a person for use and improvement.

In this parable, a man goes on a journey. Before he leaves, he gave talents to each of his three servants based on their abilities. I believe that when Christ told this parable, he was preparing them for the day he was going to leave them to “prepare a place” in his father’s kingdom.

God only gives us the abilities we can handle, and he gave them to us for a reason. The only way for those gifts to increase, and become more productive for him, is by using them. This is what the first two servants did. The first servant was given five talents; he went out and got five more. The second servant received two talents; he went out and got two more. When the master returned, (the second coming of Christ) the first two servants proved they were worthy of his calling.

The third servant knew what his master had called him to do, but fearing failure and his master’s wrath, decided to hide his one talent. When he tried to give the talent back, the master took the talent, gave it to the first servant, then told the third servant he was wicked and lazy, and threw him out in the darkness.

When we hide our talents, they become dormant, and don’t produce anything. They don’t disappear, but by the same token, they don’t grow either. Since our talents and abilities give us a purpose, when we hide them, we live without purpose.

The good news is since we never really lost our talent, we can get it back. We need to acknowledge that we have a talent, figure out what it is, start to practice. If we follow these steps, our talent may come back slowly, but it will soon grow until it goes beyond anything we thought we could handle.

By bringing our talents out in the open, and living our lives with purpose, others will start to see the change, and become encouraged to do the same.

Challenge: Use your talent as often as possible, so that others can follow your example.


Sunday, April 12, 2009

Different gifts, one purpose

Romans 12:3-8

3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. 4 Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. 7 If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; 8 if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.

I admit it, there were times in my past when I used to feel superior to so many people I worked with, because of my creativity, and ability to learn fast. As time went on, I started looking at those people, as people, and I didn’t feel so superior. Yes, I had a lot of book learning, and I could come up with creative solutions to problems on the spur of the moment, but they had other abilities. I worked with one person that, no matter how hard I tried, he was much faster at the job than I was while maintaining a decent level of quality. The more I looked the more I realized that everyone is a genius at something, which is why no one is any better or worse than anyone else.

God has given each one of us a different set of gifts to serve him, and others, in different ways. Like the verses Romans 12:4-5 says, we are all part of one body, but we each serve a different purpose. Not everyone was given my level of creativity just as I wasn’t given someone else’s physical agility, and while I was given the ability to learn quickly, there are others who can learn much quicker.

Our differences make us so valuable to each other, and give us individual focus towards one purpose in God. I am always amazed at work when the night crew complains about the day crew, and the day crew complains about the night crew. This is not an isolated incident; it’s the same with every company I’ve worked for, where there are three shifts. The night crew has no idea what the day crew does, and the day crew doesn’t know all the different things the night crew has to put up with to get the store ready.

The point of this is, instead of complaining about others to make themselves feel better about themselves, maybe they should look at the other person’s strengths and weaknesses to see where they can work together for a common goal.

Challenge: Look closer at the person you’ve been criticizing lately and see them for their individual strengths, how can you work with them, instead of against them.


Friday, April 10, 2009

The quality of life

2 Peter 1:5-11

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith, goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to your knowledge, self control; and to self control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.
Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure, for if you do these things you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our lord and savior Jesus Christ.

Living the Christian life is not always easy. Sure, when things are going great, and life is wonderful, it may seem easy, but our everyday lives are filled with schedules, deadlines, bills, stressful jobs, and families to take care of. This chaos can be both stressful, as well as distracting, it is no wonder that some people stray a little.

2 Peter 1:5-11 talks about the qualities that make up the Christian life; Faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love. These qualities are not actions, or things that you DO, they are lifestyle choices that we need in order to live productive and effective lives for Christ.

Many people try to compartmentalize each quality, and prioritize them, but we can’t. Each one is just as important as the other, and if we are missing even one quality, we will become blind to it. If it continues, it won’t be long before we lose sight of the other qualities.

By following these qualities, you will stand strong in the knowledge of Christ and the sacrifice he made to cleanse us from our sins. We will also make ourselves open to hear what God has called each of us for. If we strive to nurture and cultivate these qualities in our lives, we will never fall, and Christ will welcome us into his kingdom with open arms. If we keep these qualities in our heart, we will still have the sources of chaos, but they will no longer be a cause of stress or distraction.

Challenge: Keep these qualities close to your heart, and share them often.


Wednesday, April 8, 2009

A dream of fish

I don’t always subscribe to the belief that there are hidden meanings in dreams, but I do believe that dreams are our minds ways of working through life’s problems, and making sense of our questions. I believe if we pay close attention to them we will see the meanings clearly. There is an old proverb that says, “Only the most foolish of mice would hide in a cat’s ear, but only the wisest of cats would think to look there.” In other words, don’t overlook the obvious. The meaning is there, we just have to be willing to listen.

I remember, when I was 15 I had a dream that ended up teaching me a lesson. I was walking down the street, next to some businesses, when Christ came out of one of the doors and started walking with me. We were having a great conversation, when I asked if he had a fish tank. He stopped and pointed behind me. “Look behind you.” he said.

I looked behind me and within seconds we were surrounded by fish floating in the air. He informed me that each fish represented the spirit of every person on the Earth. “Which one is mine?” I asked admiring the different shapes and sizes of the fish.

He pointed at a brightly colored fish, with yellow and red stripes. I reached my hand out, and the fish floated into it. When I closed my hand, I could feel the fish shrinking, so I opened my hand and saw that the fish had disappeared. The longer I left my hand open the fish started to grow and eventually floated back up to join the other fish.

About two years after having that dream, the meaning became clear, when I ended up turning to Christ to solve a problem.

The meaning is this. The fish represent us, and as long as we give control of our lives to Christ, he will take care of us, and we will stay healthy and strong. When we try to take control of our own lives we lose our strength and kill our spirit. Only when we give the control back our spirit can regain its former strength.

That is what it means to me.

Challenge: Take a look at some of your past dreams and see if there might be a meaning in it.


Monday, April 6, 2009

The door of Love

2 Thessalonians 1:11-12
With this in mind, we constantly pray for you that our god may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith. We pray this so that the name of our lord Jesus may be glorified in you and you in him, according to the grace of God and the lord Jesus Christ.

I remember when in elementary school gym class how we would always do sports that required two people picking their teammates. Of course, with flat feet and pronation, I was always one of the last ones called to be on a team. This process never really bothered me though because I had a mental strength that helped me to learn fast, and a creativity that wouldn’t quit. As I grew older, I realized that I was called before I was born to a purpose that only God knew.

God has given each one of us different gifts at different levels of ability. Some he has given creativity, some he’s given logic, just to name two. What he wants from us is to be worthy of his calling.

How can we be worthy? We can only be worthy through our faith in him, and it’s through our faith in him that he can show us the potential of our gifts. Faith is an act of free will. According to Revelation 3:20 Here I am, I stand at the door and knock, If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.

God will never force us to let him into our lives; it is only through the strength and courage of faith that we are able to open the door to him. Once we open the door of love by our faith, Christ can bring fulfillment to our purposes and acts of faith so that he can be glorified in us and us in him.

Challenge: Open your heart to Christ and listen for his calling.


Sunday, April 5, 2009


My name is Allen Bradford. Since before I can remember, I have gone with my family to church, and learned the stories of the Bible. It wasn't until much later that I started taking in the meaning. Having a curious, but somewhat sceptical mind, and an unquenchable thirst for the truth, I dove head first into my studies of the bible and all that entails.
There is one other part of my spirit that is equally prominent, and that is my desire to share what I learn. That is what this blog is about. My hope is that you will enjoy this blog, and come away with a new and helpful insight into what the Bible has to offer.