Diagnostics

Like most cars today, mine has an on board computer. When I go out to start the engine, the computer runs a diagnostic on all the parts of the vehicle. A few months back I was in a hurry, and did not really look at the car before I jumped in and wanted to get going. But the computer revealed that I had low tire pressure on a tire away from my view. I was not happy to see that I had a problem that needed fixed, but I was grateful that the tire wasn't going to be ruined by a nail, either.

I read Psalm 19 this morning, as part of my devotional time. It can be viewed as a "diagnostic" tool as well. Are we willing to spend time with God and let Him see if they is "low tire pressure" in our lives, which may cause us to "go flat" soon without getting help?

Have you appreciated the wonder of our Sun lately? The poetic language of Psalm 19 in regards to the sun is awesome. Have you pondered the wonders of His Creation for a while? How much did you contribute toward the making of Today?

Do you blunder into Mondays without first running a "diagnostic" on your heart? Would you consider reading Psalm 19 today and like verse 14, putting your words and thoughts before Him to be acceptable?

Don't skip your "diagnostic" with Jesus today!

Pain so deep

Where is God in the deepest days of pain? If you read Jeremiah 15:18 you get a sense of how deep pain can be. Not all of life is physical suffering. Emotional pain from life events can be just as devastating. Yet Christians can try to be overly spiritual in their understanding of pain. And by doing so, they are denying Jesus a chance to come and heal deep bruises of the mind.

Prayer and Bible Study are always helpful. They help the psyche understand that God is indeed with us, as Job did in his suffering. But in emotional pain we need to FEEL the comfort of Jesus. To know in a deeper sense His understanding and comfort in a way that only the soul understands. That the intellect cannot grasp. Because THAT is when we need Jesus the most, in the depths of hopelessness and despair.

The Gospels record the pain and agony of the Garden of Gethsemane that Jesus went through. Blood like sweat, tears, and agony of a soul being torn apart. Through His Spirit today, He comes to us and says: " I get you!" I KNOW how horrible that Depression and Anxiety feels!"

And at times like that all we can do is whisper "Yes Jesus". And that is enough. So do not play a superhero if this is you today. It is ok to be a superzero in His Care, when the pain is so deep.

The Plan

2800 years ago a prophet named Jeremiah looked around him in chapter 12 and asked God a question: "Why do you let the bad guys continually get all the good stuff?" Why do they thrive and good people suffer?"

2 Peter is full of the images of what God is eventually going to do about evil. He has plans to burn up this current earth, and start fresh with a new heaven and earth, filled with people who have crossed The Bridge into Eternity. Yes the scoffers still just laugh, and say that nothing has changed, so where is this 2nd coming of Christ we believe in? They think we are idiots and fools, to believe that Jesus is coming again in bodily form, to take us to this wonderful place that He has ready for those who believe Him.

Every generation since Adam and Eve has struggles with evil. But God does not seem to be in a hurry to deal with it, at least to our minds. Peter teaches us that a thousand years and a day are the same to Him. He has his Plan, and is patient to let everyone have their choice to accept or reject that Plan. For He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, per Ezekial in the Old Testament.

I get weary of the daily news, too. Murder, rape, robbery, selfish behaviors all over the globe. For Ecclesiastes is correct in this: there is nothing new under the sun, when it comes to evil.

God is incapable of lying, it is not in His nature. So when He says we will see a New Heaven and New Earth in the days ahead, with no pain or suffering, I choose to believe Him. I may wish fervently that today was that day, but by faith I wait patiently. Although I admit, some days in the patience area are better then others!

Jeremiah was frustrated with what he saw in his day. We get frustrated with our days too. "Trust in the Lord with all of your heart, and don't lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths." Proverbs 3:5-6. Keep going today with these words! The Plan is in place.

Practices

Did you know that the people of Israel practiced child sacrifices to foreign gods to appease them? The image is graphic, of screaming children being burned alive by their parents. And then the parents would troop into the church on the Sabbath day, to make sure they were fulfilling their spiritual check list, and so the true God would not be mad at them. Appalling, right? Does it make your stomach churn inside? 

It sure made God's anger burn! In Jeremiah he thunders to stop it! That the practice of child sacrifice would never even enter His mind. But did the people stop it? Nope.

But wait for a moment: While we in righteous indignation point our fingers in disgust at such a horrible practice, what "practices" do we do that has God upset? You know, the routine sin or chronic behaviors we hope he does not see, or just winks at? That has  become such a part of our lifestyle that we do not even think about it anymore as being a big deal.

The people of Israel became so hardened to their practices that they no longer knew right from wrong. Even prophets like Jeremiah could not shake their sin harnesses. Has that sin in your life become the same for you? God will allow you to reap what you sow. And He will allow pain to get your attention, and try to get you to stop that behavior or thought process that is wrong.

So clean up, get up, and live uprightly as He desires. Go to Psalm 15 and see what that looks like, to those who would desire to please Him.

Practices matter!

Predators

2 Peter is full of instruction about predators. These people love to teach half truths and distort teachings for greed. Psalm 14:1 states that the fool has said in his heart there is no God. 

I read yesterday about a woman who claims she channels archangels, who has over a million followers on social media. The news article was a glowing report of a day in her life. She appeals to the part of us that fights to "be like God". Ever since Adam and Eve eating the forbidden fruit in the Garden, we have as a human race desired this to be true.

As Believers, we must stay rooted in the Scriptures. They teach us daily about how to live lives that keep our minds bound to Truth. Scripture says that "Your Word is Truth". The Spirit of God "quickens" our minds to show us what He wants us to remember or focus on during the readings. I find this to be true as I ask Him for what He wants me to say for this blog. My mind will be drawn to something He wants me to speak of. It must line up with other teachings in the Scripture, and not be torn out of context.

Friends, beware of the siren song of Predators! They claim great knowledge and secret ways of understanding. They can be mediums, false pastors, those who know how to lure the unstable, the disgruntled, those who see the church as "hypocrites".  They want your money and your allegiance. And to claim you as a follower. Seek the truth of the Spirit as He leads, don't be a gullible "fool" of Psalm 14.

How Long?

"How long O Lord"? is found in Psalm 13. All of us who have called out to Him for help have uttered those words. Are your days long and winding? Is there a boulder in your narrow path that seems unmovable? Does your heart ache after repeated attempts to deal with that frustrating issue?

Jesus in His humanity uttered a "How long must I put up with you" at one point. He gets the frustration of this world keenly. So it is ok to groan and lament a difficult situation. God allows "how long" quite a bit in the book of Psalms. He gets us because as He told Jeremiah in the Old Testament: "I knew you before I was born". 

So be real with God, owning your emotions. Tell Him what you feel inside. Ask Him plainly for help in your troubled times. But Psalm 13 ends in a verse of trust as well. Don't miss that. "He has dealt bountifully with me." He is not the parent who runs away from a fire, He is the Firefighter who runs toward it, and you.

"How long" is real to ask. But ask expectantly. Have the faith of a child who believes His Poppa will save the day. Be comforted today with this Hope!

The Valley of the Shadow of Death

Recently I read a commentary on Psalm 23. In the geography of Israel it is largely a semi desert environment, with big cracks in the earth called wadis. These wadis are dark and hold heat, even in the early morning. At times on the trails leading in and out, the light is almost non existent. During heavy rains the wadis carry the water from the nearby mountains in a flash flood, with torrents of water cascading down, overwhelming all including people or animals who could be in the bottom. 

Sheep are still driven by modern day shepherds through these wadis today, because good grazing is hard to find in the desert like land. Sheep can be stuck in the mud of the bottoms where pools of water from the rains remain. The sheep is desperate for water in the heat and will disregard the mud to get at the pool, becoming trapped. It is then the shepherd who has to come and get the sheep out. Basically, these wadis are dark, hot and scary places. Wild animals lurk to pick off strays and wandering sheep. Death is a real possibility if the shepherd doesn't know what he is doing. They cannot be avoided because they have to reach better grazing land. But the sheep learn and trust the voice of the shepherd, and he guides them by known paths to safety, if they listen to him.

Jesus told his followers that His sheep know the sound of His voice, and that not one shall come loose from His grasp. What an amazing analogy! Are you stuck in a "wadi" this morning? In the mud of life, trapped by your desire to get what you thought you needed? And now it's hot and dark, and you don't know what to do?

The Shepherd is calling out to rescue you with his "rod and staff" from that sinking mud you are stuck in. That's how the ancient shepherds got the sheep out of the wadis. Listen and respond to the voice of Jesus, He said he would leave the 99 safely and go back for the One. His Rod and Staff will get you out of the muck if you let Him by answering Him.

I have been in some dark and scary places lately battling depression and anxiety. Yet I choose to call out to Jesus to get me out of the dark and hot places. Will you join me in trusting His voice? Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for He is with me! His rod and staff comfort me. What say you?

The Value of your Name

When I was born my German grandfather wanted to put a rich German heritage with my surname: Gerhardt Adolph. My father was not about to have that hung on me, so they settled for Gary Allen. For which I am grateful!

Psalm 9:10 addresses the same issue, that value of the Name:It states that those who know the name of God put their trust in Him, for He does not forsake those who seek Him. His name is trustworthy, and worthy of respect and honor. What He says, He does.

It is my hope that most of the people I know hold my name in respect, and know that I care about them. When I die, they will say my name in joy and reflect fondly of what I tried to do, Honor His Name with my name.

Matthew 5:16 states that we should let our light so shine, that men see our good works and glorify our Father who is in heaven. And our good works will have our names associated with it. So remember the power of your Name today, and what is associated with it. 

As I heard it said in the South growing up, when a man was asked why followed his leader: "Because what he say he do..... He do!!  Value your Name!

Guaranteed

In my insurance business my customers always like to ask about guaranteed returns. In some instances I can show them that: a certain death benefit, or money pay outs for investments. But the best financial returns lie in the market, and so I give them the choice of what they think best.

The Book of Ecclesiastes also is about choices, and guarantees. The Teacher of the book tells us that this life is a "vapor, or smoke". If we chase after the desires of this world: wealth, pleasures, sex, then we chase the wind in terms of permanence. Instead, he advocates for enjoying the simple things: a good meal, time with family, proper rest. 

Oh, and he also advocates for something else too: Serving God with reverence and respect. For he knows that we all die as the great equalizer, and then we will stand before God and give an account for what we have done.

But here is a Guarantee that you can take to the bank! Jesus told His followers: "you trust in God, trust also in Me. In my Father's house are many rooms, and I go to prepare a place for YOU. That where I am, YOU will be also." Friends, now that is a Guarantee that you can live...... and die with! 

Broken Jewelry

Proverbs 31:10-11 extols the virtues of an excellent wife, that she is more valuable than jewels, and that her husband values her highly. With my wife's recently being spared from serious harm in a car accident, I really can identify with those verses.

But what about those of you who hurt over a divorce today? Or are going through one at the moment? Those verses are like salt in an open wound. They mock you and say in effect, "You really are a screw up, then!" 

Please understand that God does not see you that way! He understands that in this fallen world, sin and deception can cause the institution of marriage to crumble. Even with both parties committed to Christ, the strains of a successful marriage can be difficult. And then the guilt and shame come rushing in like a flood, with Satan quick to accuse you on being an idiot or worse. Divorce does leave a dirty, festering wound.

But God is in the redemption business! He takes broken pieces of pottery and turns them into something new and beautiful. He knows you ache and cry and want to pull the blankets over your head at times. Divorce hurts!! But rather than isolate yourself, and become bitter at life, let Him take those shattered pieces of your life and restore you. Cry out to Him, and seek out trusted friends who will listen and not judge you. There is hope for the future! Broken jewelry can become beautiful again. The raw materials are still there to be made new. Choose to see this as He does.

In your face

Proverbs 27:5-6 says " better is open rebuke than hidden love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend, profuse are the kisses of an enemy". 

When was the last time a friend cared enough about you to confront wrong behavior on your part? Or do you have friends who care enough to do the confronting? If all your friends do is complement and praise you, how deep a friendship do you really have?

Confronting in love is not easy. The heart needs to be examined carefully to make sure the friend is not trying to take advantage of you, or considers himself superior. But instead he/she humbly cares enough to see that you are about a make a train wreck of your life if you do not stop a behavior.

As an example, do you consider flirting with someone harmless entertainment? If you are married or in serious relationship it is not! It is a pathway to deep trouble for that relationship you are in. Your friend should call you out and say, "What are you doing?"

So take the rebuke the right way! Don't turn on that friend and tell them to get lost. Listen, evaluate, and see if truth resides in what your friend says. Stay away from the "kisses" of an enemy, especially if they are good looking and want to use you selfishly. Let your friend "get in your face";  do the right thing and listen.

Sudden Change

As my wife was on her way home from work, she was struck by a car that pulled out suddenly from a side street. She is sore, but avoided traumatic injury. It was so sudden she had difficulty realizing what was happening. The bad news is the car is likely totaled. But I would trade that anytime to have my wife safe.

But this symbolizes how quickly life can change in an broken and unpredictable world. But we take so much for granted! We assume all will be fine when he get up and go about our day. And then when something goes wrong, we are quick to blame God for it.

God sends his rain on the just and the unjust, per Ezekial in the Old Testament. And He also takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked. He is quick to show mercy and love. Be grateful for that today, friends. In a broken world, He is still our anchor when Life Changes!

The Eye Test

It is so hard to see beyond the veil of today. We become so wrapped in health issues, job stresses, family dysfunction, bill payments and general daily life that we often miss the bigger issues. 

Did you know that outside the horizon of your eyes your name is spoken of in hallowed terms in Heaven? That as a Christ follower the unique identity that you are is revered in Eternity? He made you, uniquely, wonderfully, in the way that brought Him pleasure and joy. Before you were born He knew you. And loved you!

Oh, the crush of this life, the betrayals, the sniping comments made about you that can devastate your psyche. Your own sense of worthiness can easily spin out of control in a negative way. And in the spiritual world the Enemy Satan and his hordes do all they can to hasten those negative thoughts.

The Apostle Paul was allowed to be taken up into that glorious Heaven that awaits us. He saw inexpressible things, things can blew his mind. And that was in minimal exposure that he could not even talk about, except to say they happened to him.

So is this a "can't see the forest for the trees" day for you? If so, take heart! This painstaking, at times hopeless life is not all there is. God has plans for your life that are breathtaking if you allow them to happen in His timing. And then the blessing of an eternity with no pain, tears, or agony for your faithful service to Jesus. There is much more going on here than meets the eyes today, dear friends. Pass the Eye Test!

In a Dry and Weary Land

When I was first married I wanted to be a caring husband to my wife so much. She worked late at her job, so one evening I made dinner, using a unique recipe. It was so bad that even the cat would not eat it! What a mess!

King Solomon knew about messes in the Old Testament too. He was a brilliant thinker who composed many of the writings of the Book of Proverbs. Compare and Contrast statement about rich and poor, righteous and evil, industrious and slothful. But in his later years he threw it all away in selfish living and the pursuit of pleasure at all costs.

The Book of Ecclesiastes is also written by Solomon. It is a bitter lament about the meaningless daily rituals of life, and how they amount to nothing and have no value. He is a Grumpy Old Man who has wasted his life on temporary pleasures. Until the very end, when he states clearly that the only good purpose on this earth is to serve God.

If you struggle with depression and anxiety routinely, you know that hopeless and helpless feeling, that life has no purpose, and life will end with nobody caring. But in the hands of God that is not true! He takes every deed that we give to Him: the daily struggle, the glass of water given to someone, the smile to the waitress that brings the food. IT MATTERS! Give yourself the truth in a dry and weary land! YOU MATTER!

Crushed

It is late. The phone rings. Instinctively I know it is not good news. Shortly after that I know it is true: the sobs, the aching voice. This broken world has produced another crushed spirit. Proverbs 18:14 speaks to this fact.

Who can handle a crushed spirit? Do we go about acting like we have it all together in public? What do we do with the numbness, the "flat" spirit, the sense of futility in life?

Seek out a person of Character. Someone who has experienced life in all its nasty aspects, that run the gamut of emotions. That person who has seen pain and ache, and has persevered through it, with a firm commitment to Jesus. They don't hide the scars, nor do they call attention to them. This person simply has learned that Christ weeps with them, He comforts them with His Word, and uses other people as His agents to provide profound comfort..... sometimes actually using words to do so.

Don't run from your scars, they take time to heal. Our culture tells us to "buck up" when we hurt. But Pain is real, it is the body's way of telling us something is wrong. And that includes emotional pain. If the wound is deep enough a Christian counselor who understands our brain may be needed for processing the hurt. 

Are you "crushed in spirit" today? Don't isolate and stagnate. Get help for that spirit soon. Seek out help, from people of Character. Healing starts for you if you will.

Simplicity

When I sat down with several of the agents at the home office on Monday in Chicago, a common theme emerged:fear. They were afraid to work with a new product, because the home office had been determined to provide some many details that it overwhelmed them. Yet the product in its simple design really helps people!

In Jesus' day, the religious leaders of Israel had made a hash out of the man made rules to follow God. Jesus confronted this head on, and showed them that it was much more simple than they portrayed it to be: "Follow me!" And it really helped people to see how loving their God was.

I have the privilege of preaching at our church the next two Sundays. And I struggle with fear and uncertainty, because the Bible is so vast in it's scope and potential for teaching. But then I realize that He made me for these days, and has showed me what He wants, in Simple Faith when I stop and hold his Hand like a child.

We live in a culture of data and decisions based on multiple data input. It overwhelms us at times, and we freeze because of fear of making the wrong choice. Hear the words of Jesus: "I got you, trust Me. Don't let fear rule your heart. I will guide your steps today. Keep your mind focused on that trust." Simplicity is of great value, friends, when our core beliefs are where they need be. 

Street Credibility

Yesterday in Chicago my boss asked me to give a presentation to a group of agents. It was extremely well received, and the boss pulled me into his office afterwards and offered effusive praise, telling me that I had "Street Credibility" which caused them to be highly interested. Afterwards several sought me out for private counsel, which I was honored to do. 

All this got me thinking about the Street Credibility we possess as Christ Followers. Our pastors teach us on Sundays from the Scriptures, but as my boss put it yesterday, they listened to me because I "spoke their language" of everyday shared struggle. Part of my talk was on "slowing down" and not trying to understand everything in a product during a presentation. Go with what you know, not tied in knots over what you don't.

That same principle applies to being a daily follower of Jesus. We get so fearful that we don't know enough about the Word, so that we don't speak at all. Slow down, friends. Remember that you have earned Street Credibility by your actions and character. You have earned the right to be heard by those around you, because your character has been on display.

As Peter put it, be ready to give a gentle answer for why you live for Jesus. Don't freeze because you don't know enough. Speak of what you know, of what Jesus has done in changing your life. Use your "street cred!"

The Hustle

Ah the grind and grit of a business morning in Chicago. The hustle and bustle of people trying to wrap their brain around another workweek.

I read Psalm 150 this morning. About praising God in all kinds of ways. I am trying to model that this morning, even the the grind of business. Will you join me in the effort today? Whether I get the business deal or not, God is pleased with me as I try to become more like Him in my personality. Hang onto that fact in the Hustle of your life.

Core Issues

I read this week in a news article that scientists have made two amazing discoveries recently. First, they have found that there are diamonds buried in the core of the earth worth trillions of dollars. But because they are 200 miles down in the core below the surface, we don't have the technology to reach them.

Secondly, they also now realize that there are "springs of the deep" of water in the core of the Earth as well. This has to do with where water originates from. But the scientists are clueless how they operate.

The term "springs of the deep" caught my attention. Because in Genesis that phrase is used to describe how God covered the earth in water, during the time of Noah and the Flood. Yes, it did rain hard too. But water came up from the deep as well.

As a people, we can so much be like braying donkeys when we speak with arrogance over all we know, or even take for granted each day. God still controls the deep of the earth, it's core and the riches buried therein. God asked Job: "So where were you when I did all these things?"

Yet the Book of Proverbs states that deep respect and awe for the works of God are the beginning of wisdom. Can you join with me in praise of a God who is so worthy of it? Diamonds and the Deep in the Core belong to Him. By His mercy we exist today. That is praiseworthy!

Jagged, Ragged Faith

In Psalm 147 it states that God binds up the wounds of the brokenhearted. That is a serious claim. Sometimes we can't even begin to understand how deep the wound is, or where it comes from. We just know we hurt.

On a very basic level, do you believe he WANTS to heal your brokenness? It is a huge question, because the character of God is at stake. If he can lie about this, then He cannot be trusted with other parts of life, either. Is God a liar?

This is not about the HOW of healing. It is about the truthfulness that He WANTS  to heal your broken spirit. Be careful now, because your head and heart may disagree on the answer to that. Trusting God with the darkest recesses of your soul is one of the biggest leaps of faith you can ever take. But He can't keep His word and bring healing, unless you of your free will give Him access to your torn, ragged edges of brokenness.

The Bible states it is impossible to please God without faith. Your head may be quick to say "YES!" to that. But your heart, your essence, your deep wounds may say " NOT so fast!". Are you willing to do that leap or faith today?