Wasted Time & Energy

Last week I used a sharp knife to cut an apple. I rinsed the knife in hot water. I used  a paper towel to firmly wipe the blade. One of my fingertips got a little too close to the blade and it nicked the surface of my skin. I felt it immediately. The cut was so shallow, it took a full minute before a drop of blood oozed to the surface.

First, it amazed me the sharp edge sliced the paper towel and my skin so quickly and easily. It startled me.

Second, I felt pretty stupid for such a silly mistake since I grew up in a meat market handling sharp knives, especially with a Dad who constantly reminded me of the proper handling of a knife.

My Dad always impressed me that he could sharpen a knife so efficiently.  He would carefully draw the knife back and forth on a whetstone at just the right angle alternating each side of the blade.

Then he used a “steel” or honing rod. With a few quick flicks of the wrist he could put a fine edge on it in seconds. (Click HERE to see photo.)

Testing the sharpness came next. He stuck out his left arm. With the knife in his right hand, he carefully placed the blade on his left arm and made a brief shaving motion. If a couple of hairs flicked off effortlessly, then it was sharp!

The few minutes it took to sharpen the blade saved many minutes in work time later, not to mention the physical energy wasted and slowed work pace if he had continued to use a dull blade. (Click HERE to learn how to sharpen a knife properly.)

Living life without regularly reading, meditating on, studying, applying, and memorizing God’s word will waste a lot of time, energy, money, and life itself.

  • Are you using the sharp knife of God’s insightful word or the dull knife of this world’s wisdom?
  • Are you allowing the sharp sword of God’s word to pierce deeply into your heart, mind, and soul?
  • Are you permitting God’s word to affect your motives, emotions, regrets, worries, and intentions?
For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. Hebrews 4:12 NLT

Are you willing and ready to have your innermost thoughts and desires surgically examined by your Creator? He already knows what they are! Are you courageous enough to see them for what they are too?

Our Father, thank-you for your sharp, holy, inspired word in the Bible. We commit today to read, study, and apply it to our lives.

 

My First Time

Behind ole Doc Jones’ office building it happened for the first time.  I don’t know how old I was, but I was a bicycle-riding kid old enough for my parents to give me permission to go to a movie that night with two friends.

The two brothers, one and two years older than me, introduced me to it. I would not have dreamed of doing this on my own. You know how peer pressure goes and how a kid looks up to those who are older.

I met them at their house. We began our walk to town to see the movie. On the way they suggested we not go to the movie. Instead we hid behind Doc Jones’ office. They produced the contraband which they had smuggled out of their house.

They each took one and handed me one. I smoked my first cigarette. In one fell swoop, I succumbed to peer pressure, my words about going to a movie became a lie, and I indulged in something strictly forbidden in my family.

Because we have these promises, dear friends, let us cleanse ourselves from everything that can defile our body or spirit. And let us work toward complete holiness because we fear God. 2 Corinthians 7:1 NLT

The context of this verse is important, read chapter six. There you will find Paul’s warning not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers. This could apply to marriage, friendships, or business partners. These partnerships can throw us off track spiritually in a heartbeat!

Then the apostle Paul introduces us to “these promises” in last verses of chapter six.

I will live in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they will be my people. Therefore, come out from among unbelievers, and separate yourselves from them, says the LORD. Don’t touch filthy things, and I will welcome you. And I will be your Father, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the LORD Almighty.”

Paul references Lev. 26:12, Ezek. 37:27, Isa. 52:11, Ezek. 20:34, and 2 Sam. 7:14.

I would not have smoked that cigarette if my Dad watched.  I would not have given in to peer pressure to break my word about going to a movie if my Dad stood there!

Here’s the promise: God is standing there!  More than that, He is living in us!

No, we don’t live a holy life because the bogeyman will get us if we don’t. We live a holy life because a loving Father made the costly sacrifice to have a special relationship with us and IT WILL BREAK HIS HEART if we don’t.

And let us work toward complete holiness because we fear God.

Why? So we can be saved? NO! Because we ARE saved! Be sure not to get those backwards. We work because He saved us by grace, it is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8-9). We work toward holiness because we respect a holy God who LOVES us!

Our Father, thank-you for the promise to live in us and walk among us. Your grace gift of salvation motivates us to live lives pleasing in your presence. Thank-you for Jesus, the Immanuel, for in Him You are WITH US!

Read the Directions!

“If all else fails, read the directions.” How many times that has been my modus operandi!

Well to be honest, I had to look that up modus operandi . I just used that phrase to impress you. I’ve heard others use it. I thought I knew what it meant in practice but couldn’t give you a definition!

So, what in the world is a modus operandi? It is Latin for ‘way of operating.’ It means: a particular way or method of doing something, especially one that is characteristic or well-established. I Googled it!

Anyway, so much for my Latin lesson for the day. Back to what I was saying.

I bought one of those gadgets recently that finds studs in the wall of your home so I could know where to drive a nail to hang a heavy mirror. I opened the package and removed the gadget.  I removed the screw on the back to insert the batteries. Uh-oh! The gadget’s insides spilled out!

If I had read the instructions, I would have known that there’s a little slide-out on the back that makes it very easy to insert batteries. Yes, I did get the gadget put back together and re-inserted the screw.  Lesson learned! Well for a little while, until the next time I do something without reading the directions.

Ignoring instructions and despising reproof can have much greater consequences! In fact, it can mean life or death! I prefer life. I prefer wisdom. I value myself pretty highly and would rather not despise myself.

So here’s some really wise words from the writer of Proverbs:

The ear that listens to life-giving reproof will dwell among the wise. Whoever ignores instruction despises himself. Proverbs 15:31-32 ESV

Our Father, thank-you for the life-giving reproof of your Holy Bible and your Holy Spirit. Make us sensitive today to accept your reproof and to pay close attention to your instruction to be wise.

T – R – O – U – B – L – E

Billie Sue’s grandfather, Lex Smith, loved to do word puzzles in his retirement years. He would sit for hours filling in the squares with letters.

In the those last days, he would spell the same word out loud over and over again. I can still hear him saying the letters again and again.

“T – R – O – U – B – L – E.”  “T – R – O – U – B – L – E.” “T – R – O – U – B – L – E.”

I’m not sure why he got stuck on that one word. But he did.

Jesus talked about “trouble” too.

Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:34 HCSB

We can get stuck on tomorrow’s trouble too.  Jesus knows our tendencies. How easy it is for us to get focused on something that might or might not happen tomorrow. In doing so, we miss living today to the fullest!

Yes, tomorrow will come with its trouble, but why live it today in our minds before it actually happens? Plus, we don’t know what will happen tomorrow. We could end up worrying about things that will never happen anyway!

I’m just as guilty as the rest of you. Worry sneaks into my thoughts when I don’t stay focused on the truth of God’s Word and His Son Jesus.

So, how do we do that?!

Remember the verse just before verse 34? Verse 34 begins with “Therefore.” So what is it “there for”? The solution and a very familiar verse:

But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. Matthew 6:33 HCSB

All those “things” we worry about God provides for us if we seek His kingdom and righteousness first.  First? Yes, instead of first worrying about things, we seek God’s kingship and righteousness first.

Someone observed, “Today is the Tomorrow you worried about Yesterday.”

Worry is all about putting “things” first instead of God’s will. Remember Jesus’ instructions on how to pray:

Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Matthew 6:10 HCSB

How do we “seek first the kingdom of God?” We seek to do His will on earth today! That’s an all-encompassing focus that takes up all our attention today. When we focus on doing His kingdom work today, we are not focused on the “things” that will “trouble” us tomorrow.

Jesus is in the life-changing business!

Our Father, we confess our sins of worry and ask your forgiveness. Thank-you that we don’t need to worry. The “things” of this world are temporary.  Your word and kingdom will last forever! We ask for your ever-present Spirit to teach to live by faith, not by worry.

What If?

  • What if you knew you could make a difference, would you do it?
  • If you could be certain a particular act of ministry or kindness would be effective, would you act?
  • Would you work differently for the Lord if you were assured God would use it to make an impact in someone’s life?

“Of course I would!” you might say, “but I don’t know what to do.”

Did God create you? “Of course,” you respond.

Did He put IN you a unique set of gifts, likes, abilities, personality, and experiences? “Well, yes He did,” you conclude.

THEN TAKE WHAT YOU LIKE TO DO AND DO IT! Its really that simple. God has already qualified you to work in His kingdom for a specialized task that you can do as well or better than anyone else.

A principle which has permeated by soul is the “cup of cold water in Jesus’s name” principle. It only has two simple parts:

  • Whatever it is I’m capable of doing can be used by God, even if its handing someone a cup of water.
  • Whatever I do, do it in “Jesus’ name,” do for Him and literally SPEAK his name in the process of doing it.

For God loves a griping giver, right? Nope! God loves a CHEERFUL giver. So as you give yourself away in Jesus’ name in cups of kindness and service, ATTITUDE makes all the difference in the world.  Be enthusiastic!

Well, brother Paul said it better than I did anyway. Read this verse and see if you get the same thing I did!

So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless. 1 Cor. 15:58 NLT

Our Father, we praise you that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. You created each of us with a unique set of capabilities. Thank-you for the opportunities you put right in front of us each day to serve you by serving people. Thank-you for the assurance that what we do for the “least of these” we do for your Son Jesus. What a joy to serve you with assurance that nothing we do for You is ever useless!

Take an Umbrella when it Rains

If you want to build rapport with others and win their trust, do not make them the butt of your jokes, make fun of yourself.

Don’t ever take yourself seriously, but always take God seriously.

Do not expect to get stuff from others because of your position or relationship with them, but always expect to give.

Take an umbrella when it rains.

These are some great words of advice I have received over the years. These tidbits are golden when I listen and take them to heart! I benefited from these encounters when my heart was soft, my ears were open, and I acted upon them.

I thank God for strategically placing in my life at just the right decision-making corners, the right person with the right word of advice.

The book of Proverbs is a book of God’s advice to us.

Here’s some advice: read a chapter of Proverbs each day.  With thirty-one chapters, we could read through Proverbs each month.

“Listen to advice and accept instruction,

that you may gain wisdom in the future.

Many are the plans in the mind of a man,

but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.

Proverbs 19:20-21 (ESV)

1. We have to listen to the advice God gives us through Scripture or through people in our lives.

2. We must accept the instruction for it to benefit us.

3. Often the wisdom is for a future event and not for the moment, so patiently hold on to it.

4. We devise many plans in our heads but we must discover God’s purpose for our lives.

5. In a hundred years, only what’s done in God’s purpose will still be left standing.

Thank-you Father for bringing wise people and wise proverbs into our lives just when we need them. Please give us discernment to know when and how to use this counsel. Your Word is a light to our path and a lamp for our feet. May your Word shine brightly so that we may live in the center of Your purpose.

 

Have You Seen a Good Movie Lately?

Guy movies and even chic flics often have vengeance as a theme.  Its a good feeling.  Someone does someone wrong. The smart, manipulative girl finds the perfect way to make sure the other girl gets her “come-uppin’s.”  Or Sylvester Stallone gets his over-the-hill commandos together and exacts severe punishment on the bad guys.

Its a gut-level thing. Its what we think we would like to do if we could. Oh, come on, you’ve felt too. Right? 

Some take it to the next level. They learn martial arts or handling of a weapon.  Some even go looking for an opportunity to use it.

Our friends’ daughter recently married. She and her new husband exited a major league baseball game.  Four inebriated guys made lewd comments toward the young bride.  Her husband told them to back-off.  Their beating put him in ICU.

Now, that’s sad and extreme.  But we often take offense at the slightest turn of phrase and hold a grudge for long time. Little things can do it.

But as I read my Bible, holding on to bitterness, unforgiveness, and grudges is very harmful spiritually, physically, and psychologically. 

Boy, Jesus could turn a phrase couldn’t he! He hit the nail on the head. When seemingly trapped by a hard question, “What’s the greatest commandment, Jesus?” 

“Ha Ha, we’ve got him now!” they might have thought. “We’ve been debating this one forever and with all the thousands of choices and opinions, he will surely offend someone!”

That gives me pause. Think about it, they tried to trap GOD!? Yeah, right!  Anyway, He said that to “Love God” is the first command.  But then He surprised them further and gave the second also, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Wow, genius!  How did He pull THAT our of thin air.  He didn’t.  He had already said it centuries prior.

The context of this command is very interesting to me.  It was given in the context of getting revenge and holding a grudge. Check it out …

“You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord.”  Leviticus 19:18 ESV

Father, we deserve your greatest revenge possible for our sin against You.  Thank-you for your forgiveness. Thank-you for sending Jesus, Your one-of-a-kind Son, to be our perfect sacrifice. We worship You. Please give us your divine ability to forgive those who trespass against us so that we may be forgiven in the same way we forgive others.