Let Gratitude Be The Attitude

Here’s a quick thought for you today: Our attitude is the gatekeeper of life, impacting how we choose to see it. If the gate stays closed, then you and I will, too. But if we trust God and allow him to grow us and add new things to us, then we can become all he intended us to be. Today I encourage you to choose to be thankful, grateful and open to God’s best, even if that means letting him change your plans along the way.

Each one of you is part of the body of Christ, and you were chosen to live together in peace. So let the peace that comes from Christ control your thoughts. And be grateful.
–Colossians 3:15 (CEV)


Order in the Court!

When I was younger, I couldn’t wait to be out and living on my own, in total freedom! Then eventually one day it happened, and I was living in my own place, away from family, starting school in a different state. The sudden freedom was overwhelming, but in a good way. I did pretty much whatever I wanted to do, whenever I wanted to do it. I sang at the table if I felt like it. I stayed up all night if I wanted. I even ran with scissors! But eventually I realized that too much freedom has its own issues, and that the freedom we really crave is the kind that comes from having God’s order in our lives. Notice I didn’t say anything about being smothered, quenched or denied. I’m simply saying that you and I tend to have more success when we decide to have the right kind of order in our lives.

Some boundaries in life are good, and are actually helpful. By eliminating certain unnecessary items, I'm free to focus on the ones I'm called to look after and be involved in. There’s a distinct difference between “I can” and “I should” in this life, and wisdom dictates that I learn that difference sooner than later. Just because I can eat ice cream every day, that doesn’t mean I should. And just because I can pursue my own, selfish motives in life, again, it doesn’t mean I should. God’s boundaries for us were never about dulling down life. They’ve always been about freeing us to focus on our relationships with him and with others. I encourage you today to allow God’s fences to become your fences, because there’s no greater freedom in life than the kind that comes from allowing God to set your house in order.

The Lord and the Spirit are one and the same, and the Lord’s Spirit sets us free.
–2 Corinthians 3:17 (CEV)


Do My Words Really Matter?

I’ve been around long enough now to have spent time with a variety of Christians, from various backgrounds and perspectives. Some circles and groups have things in common, while some find things to disagree about. In these times of disagreement I find myself going back to God’s Word in order to find as definitive an answer as I can, so that I can settle any possible question. One of these questions has been the importance of the words you and I say (or don’t say) as Christians. Some people say that our words are extremely vital, while others shrug off this concept and say it’s not that big of a deal. But as I’ve spent time with this, I’ve come up with at least two times in my journey where my own words completely changed my life! Let me explain.

The greatest day of my life was the day that I personally asked Jesus to be my Lord and Savior. Maybe some lift a hand in a service, and maybe some quietly nod when their turn comes. But I spoke out loud and invited him in. In the blink of an eye my future was instantly changed, and for the better! Another great day was the day of my wedding. When the pastor asked if I was ready to take Christy as my wife, I said, “I do.” To my knowledge, there’s no such thing as a matrimonial shrug. If I had responded to the big question by looking down, shoving my hands into my pockets and giving my shoulders a quick shrug, I doubt there would have been a honeymoon! But I said the right thing that day. And I’ve come to realize that my words have allowed me to change my future. My former trajectory of miserable bachelorhood, headed toward an eternity without God, has been set straight!

I think you can see my points here. Maybe to you words haven’t meant much, and I was that way earlier on. But put into these contexts, I hope you can see how quickly things can change, all by the mere speaking out of what’s in our hearts. It may take some practice, but it’s worth it when we decide to say what we mean, and mean what we say. My encouragement to you for the day: Whenever possible, let it be God’s words, available to us in the Bible, to be the next thing you say.

Your words show what is in your heart.
–Luke 6:45 (CEV)


A Blessing or a Curse?

My friend Jermaine shared a picture on the web recently. He had just finished a great meal of Chinese food and posted a shot of the message he found in his fortune cookie. Now I'm not suggesting that Chrisitans get life wisdom or direction from fortune cookies, but the cookie’s message he shared is worth repeating: “Do not mistake temptation for opportunity.” Wow, so this means that every door that opens to me isn’t God’s best? This means that every option isn’t intended to be a blessing? This means that I could miss God’s best by taking something that he didn’t send? How can I tell the difference between a potential blessing or a potential curse?

I love to share this with young leaders when I get the opportunity: Knowledge has to do with what I know I can do. But wisdom has to do with knowing what I should do. Can vs. should. That’s a huge part of our lives and the directions we choose to take. And while we have scriptural principles to guide our lives, sometimes we’re presented with options that aren’t so clearcut. In some cases I could have a good option or I could have an even better option. Sure, it’s always easier to look back and know later what the right decision would have been. That’s part of learning and growing in life. But what if I could know some things ahead of time, so that my percentage of right choices could be even higher? The good news is that God hasn’t abandoned us in this life. He’s walking it with us, and always at the ready to share his wisdom and direction. I encourage you today to spend time with him in the process of life’s decisions. He always knows more than we do, and he always wants the best option for us.

I am now giving you the choice between life and death, between God's blessing and God's curse, and I call heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Choose life.
–Deuteronomy 30:19 (GNT)


Extravagant Whispers

As you start your day today, there’s a very kind and loving note awaiting you. But this isn’t just any note. No, this one has been left for you especially, and it’s been written by someone very special. In fact, this note was written with passion and with care, and was penned by your First Love. Maybe you’ve seen this note before. Maybe its pages are well-worn and show the signs of repeated reading, and yet, it’s new this morning. Sure, some simply refer to it as The Bible, but when you see it, your pulse quickens, your breathing changes, and your eyes moisten. This is no dry book for you. This testament is part of you, and it was written by the Author and Finisher of your faith.

Today your First Love is calling to you in that still, small voice. Don’t let the busyness of this day keep you away. Put down the cell phone. Put down the laptop or tablet. Get away from the distractions and find that quiet place. His gentle hands and spirit are reaching out to you, ready to embrace you like no one else can. Don’t let this day pass by before letting him whisper your name in the secret place. He knows your heart, your thoughts and your dreams and hurts. No one can reach the depths of your being like your Savior, and he’s waiting right now for time with you. Take time to be with him, and take time to hear those extravagant whispers.

He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress; my God, in Him I will trust.”
–Psalm 91:1-2 (NKJV)


Psalm 9:10

Here’s a followup verse to Tuesday’s post, talking about letting God have the whole package in our lives:

And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.
–Psalm 9:10 (ESV)


The Whole Package

"But I'm good at this!" "But God made me this way, so I have no choice." "But this is how I've made a name for myself." Any of these sound familiar? I've said some of these things myself before, and I've also gotten into heated debates over some of these statements. So they're not new to me. Maybe you've never said these exact phrases before, but maybe you've had thoughts that are similar. At any rate, it all comes down to where we place things in life. Sure, we say God is our Father and that he comes first. But I've been guilty of allowing my musical gifts and career to eclipse his importance in my life. And when I've gotten into disagreements with others about lifestyle and orientation, the most heated moments have had to do with where God fits into things. But please understand. I'm not judging anyone today. I'm simply asking a few questions only you can answer for yourself.

If I say God is most important in my life, then my words and actions should reflect that, right? But I need reminders now and then, so that my passions and pursuits don't take God's place on top. And if I agree with scriptures that say I am identified with Christ, then he must rule and reign over every part of my life, including things I'm drawn to, good or bad. I hope you're seeing that I really do care when I remind us all that every part of our lives belongs to him, and must submit to his Lordship in our hearts. This means my dreams and ambitions, along with my habits and tendencies. And it includes my victories and mistakes.

I'll finish with a friendly encouragement today. Maybe you've heard that God loves us just the way we are, but that he also cares too much to leave us that way. God isn't just wanting to have the parts of us we think are worthy. He wants every part of us. Just as the young boy saw a miracle when he released his basket of fish and bread to Jesus, I ask you today to let God have your whole package, and watch what he will do.

Anyone who is joined to Christ is a new being; the old is gone, the new has come.

–2 Corinthians 5:17 (GNT)

For this God is our God for ever and ever; he will be our guide even to the end.
–Psalm 48:14 (NIV)


A New Day

It was the Spring of 1988. After a couple of years of trying, I had finally succeeded in being accepted into graduate school at the University of Georgia.  And I was now living away from home and on my own, there in my first place in Athens. Having just moved in, I had almost no furniture. There was nothing on the walls or windows. But I was the first one to live in that new duplex, and it seemed so fresh. Soon after I got settled in I began to go to my classes. The chilly Winter air was giving way to the new breezes of Spring. I can still remember so vividly those mornings, waking up on the temporary cot I slept on in that bedroom. The warm sunlight would quietly greet me, lighting up the whole room. Some would have felt sorry for me, seeing me start out with so little in that place. But I didn't feel sorry for me, I was excited! It was a new season in a new place, with new possibilities.

I've shared all that to say this: No one knows how to give you a fresh start like God does. Just like that sun-filled room lit up my days in that new season, God's mercies are new every morning for you too. I encourage you to enjoy this new season God has created for you, and to go make the most of it.

The Lord's unfailing love and mercy still continue, fresh as the morning, as sure as the sunrise.
–Lamentations 3:22-23 (GNT)