Tuesday, July 31, 2012

A view to the Inside

Scripture verses that caught my attention today: John 2:23-25 When he was in Jerusalem during the Passover festival, many believed in his name because they saw the signs that he was doing. 24 But Jesus on his part would not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25 and needed no one to testify about anyone; for he himself knew what was in everyone.

Observation: Jesus recognized the human condition.

Application: We don’t necessarily like to admit it, but as humans we are a pretty fickle lot. We cheer…and then we jeer. We’re on again, off again. We’re up on life and down on life, full of faith and, sometimes, devoid of faith.

Is it any wonder that “Jesus…wound not entrust himself to them?” Of course not. Like the Scripture says, “he knew all people…he himself knew what was in everyone.”

A bigger question is, “do we know what is in everyone or, more precisely, within ourselves?” Are we fully aware of who we are? Do we recognize the gifts that we bring to the table? And the baggage?

And do we recognize that some of the things that we might think are gifts might in reality be baggage? And visa versa?

It occurs to me that the religious leaders in Jesus’ day thought they were doing right in crucifying Jesus. The one time that Jesus did “entrust himself to them” they were revealed for who they really were.

And don’t think for one minute that we would have handled things any different. The ‘condition’ that Jesus recognizes within us is our humanness.

Nevertheless, Jesus himself became human. Humanity might have its share of sickness, but not so much so that Jesus wasn’t willing to take that ailment on himself. In the human flesh of Jesus is, through communion, the very presence of God.

Yes, Jesus knew what was in everyone. But do we know what can be found in him?

Prayer: Lord, thanks for accepting what all that is in us and offering us all that is in you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Scripture readings today included: Isaiah 63-64, Psalm 107, and John 2)

Monday, July 30, 2012

Hotel workout

Exercise Tip: Preparation and Planning is Key

Right now I'm at a Stephen's Ministry training week in Pittsburg, PA. The 44-story hotel naturally has a fitness room, but all fitness rooms are different. So the key for me was to take a few minutes to scope the place out last night so that I could plan my morning workout around what this particular fitness facility had to offer.

In this case they have a great set of dumbells (good) and a number of resistance machines (not so helpful for my routine) and a host of cardio equipment (which I don't need/use for my workouts because in my workouts the cardio is built right in).

Still, I found everything I needed including:

--Space for my warm-up
--a lat pull-down machine to simulate pull-ups
--an exercise ball for some ab work
--a towel to lay on floor for my arm to rest on for side planks
--dumbells for a number of my exercises.

As it turned out, someone else was using the exercise ball when I wanted/needed it, so it's good to know alternative exercises that will accomplish a similar purpose. (In this case I did cross-body mountain climbers instead of Stability-ball Jack-knives.)

the workout was as follows:

Set 1
Lat Pull-downs
Dumbell Squats
One-leg push-ups
rest 30 seconds, repeat set.

Set 2
Bulgarian split squats
Cross-body mountain climbers
rest 30 seconds, repeat set

Set 3
Bent-over dumbell rows
Plank, side-plank and leg raise routine
Overhead dumbell presses.
rest 30 seconds, repeat set.


Heaven's Grand Opening

Scripture Verse that caught my attention today: John 1:51 And [Jesus] said to [Phillip], “Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”

Observation: heaven will be “opened.”

Application: Verses like this are what probably give us the impression that heaven is a ‘place.’ We envision an entrance of some sort, be it pearly gates or some other sort of majestic opening. We may imagine someone stationed at this entrance to check credentials and the like. Wouldn’t want any riff-raft getting in there now, would we?

But who really ‘opens’ heaven? And wouldn’t it be a wonderful sight to see heaven itself open? Wouldn’t it be great to be there when it opens up? Would we stay up all night standing in line like people do for movie premiers or for a chance to be the first to buy Apple’s latest electronic gadget?

I don’t know. Maybe it doesn’t work that way. But Jesus seems to indicate that, whatever the opening of heaven is like, hanging around him is the way to see it.

Prayer: Lord, help us to not only be willing to hang around you, but to truly long to hang around you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Readings today included: Isaiah 60-62 and John 1)

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Something to think about as we start our day

Scripture Verse that Caught my attention today: Isaiah 55:2 Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourselves in rich food.

Observation: God wanted the people of old to spend both their money and their time wisely.

Application: Nutritionally speaking, they are called “empty calories.” These are snacks and other forms of food (using the term loosely) that have little if any nutritional value. They often consist mainly of two kinds of ingredients, namely forms of sugar and a whole bunch of other ingredients that few of us can even pronounce. It’s not really food. It’s not really true nutrition.

Time vampires, to use a direct marketing guru’s phrase, is another culprit. Not in terms of nutrition, but in terms of what we do with our time. Much of it is more or less wasted. I’m not saying that we should be complete production-a-sauruses (my own little term for it). There is deep an abiding value, at times, to just be with someone else or even to be by oneself for quality reflection and the like. But so often we are doing neither of these things, let alone doing something productive. We mindlessly surf TV channels and/or the Internet or get lost in our addiction to gaming or checking e-mail or whatever other time-vampires we allow to take hold of us.

The Lord would point us to another way. Spend (whether money or time) on that which is worthwhile, that which truly satisfies.

Which leads to an interesting question. What truly satisfies you? What really leaves you feeling fulfilled at the end of the day?

What, if you could look back 10 years from now (or even a week from now), would be the kind of endeavor for which you would be deeply grateful for having been engaged? And is what you are doing right now, at this very minute, leading you in that general direction?

“Listen carefully to me” says the Lord through the prophet Isaiah. “Eat what is good and delight yourselves in rich food.”

Somehow I think the Lord is referring to something far greater than just lunch, though a healthy lunch might still be a good start.

Prayer: Lord, help us to take heed to your advice with how we spend all of the resources you have provided at our disposal. They are truly your gifts for us to receive with joy. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Readings today include: Isaiah 53-56 and 2 Peter 2)

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Reason I'm Strange

Today I learned that I am one of only 1.2 percent of American Adults.


According to a recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, only 1.2 Percent of American adults can identify with EACH of the following:

--eat a healthy diet
--have a normal blood pressure
--exercise regularly
--don't smoke
--have a normal blood sugar level
--are at a healthy weight
--have healthy cholesterol levels

Statistically speaking, I guess I'm strange! (Some might say I'm strange even without statistics, but that's another story...)

It's sad that there aren't more people who can claim such strangeness.

The other day I was making a routine hospital call that required walking up a small incline to the main hospital entrance. Another woman arrived at about the same time and so we walked up to the entrance together and eventually even boarded the same elevator.

Once in the elevator the woman quipped, "that hill gets me every time...I guess I'm out of shape."

Her comment really caught me by surprise. I didn't even consider it a "hill," much less a measurement for conditioning. But out of shape she was, as evidenced not just by her comment, but also by her breathing. She's one of the 98.8 percent who cannot relate to everything on the above list.

It doesn't have to be this way.

1.2 percent is not a fixed number. That number can get bigger...and fast!

Be a part of it. Hop on the band wagon. Ride to the beat of a healthy heart moving healthy blood to healthy organs.

Such efforts won't necessarily make you a better person (only God does that!). But they can make for a higher quality of life, one with far less huffing and less puffing.

Praying for your own strangeness,

Preparation for when we're gone.

Scripture Verse that caught my attention today: 2 Peter 1:15 And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things.

Observation: Peter wanted people to still be able to function well in the world after he was gone.

Application: When we’re gone, people carry on. They always do. They have no choice.

Some, however, carry on better than others.

If we’re in a position of leadership and/or influence, one of our roles is to prepare people to carry on well, perhaps even exceptionally well, without us.

From a practical standpoint such preparation may include teaching valuable skills and insights as well as offering some degree of mentoring for some.

From a spiritual standpoint, such preparation includes walking in a humble manor that always points people to the incredible love through which God has claimed us through Christ.

In other words, we want people to know that they will be able to carry on just fine without us, but they will not be able to carry on just fine without Christ.

Sure, we might somewhat selfishly hope people are at least a little sad when we’re gone. But it should be a sadness prompted with the hope that we’ve simply made a positive difference in their lives in some way—as well as reminded them that they can do the same thing…perhaps even more so.

Prayer: Lord, all of us have days that are numbered. Help us to make good and thankful use of whatever number of days we are given. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Scripture Readings today included: Isaiah 50-52, Psalm 92, and 2 Peter 1)

Thursday, July 26, 2012

As You Plan Your Day

Scripture Verses that Caught my attention today:
Isaiah 47:15 You are wearied with your many consultations;
let those who study the heavens
stand up and save you,
those who gaze at the stars,
and at each new moon predict
what shall befall you.

Isaiah 48:17 Thus says the LORD,
your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:
I am the LORD your God,
who teaches you for your own good,
who leads you in the way you should go.
1 Peter 5:2 tend the flock of God that is in your charge, exercising the oversight, not under compulsion but willingly, as God would have you do it—not for sordid gain but eagerly.

Observation: Similar messages from three different areas of Scripture. There is a place for consultation, but at some point one needs to be listening to the direction of the Lord. And each of us has a “flock” of some kind to which we are to exercise oversight.

Application: These days I’ve been a bit of a sponge for information that has the potential to be very helpful for evangelism. I’ve signed up for weekly e-mails, a monthly newsletter and CD and will also be entering into a short-term coaching agreement. It’s very interesting stuff (as well it should be because it’s not particularly cheap!). It’s the kind of thing that was never really taught in seminary (and if seminaries could teach everything a pastor really needed to know, I suspect it would be a 10-year experience rather than 4). Still, as Isaiah put it in chapter 47 in verse 15, one can become “wearied with your many consultations.”

As I read on I ran into verse 17 of chapter 48 which served as a reminder that the Lord is the one who “leads you in the way you should go.” Good point.

And then in 1 Peter I was reminded to simply tend the flock that is in my charge.

The point of all of this is not to avoid consultation. In fact, it is wise to regularly seek consultation. That’s part of being humble—recognizing that others can help us see a fuller picture and the like. But at the end of the day—or maybe closer to the beginning—we are called to respond in our own way to the Lord’s leading. At that point all other consultations need to be put in their place and we move forward according to the faith and insight that we have been given. We exercise oversight for whatever “flock” is in our charge, be it a congregation, a company, a customer, a family, a relationship, a ward of patients, a class of students, maybe even a pet or some other aspect of creation. All of us are in charge of something or someone, not in some dictatorially fashion, but in the sense of tending and caring.

Oh…and one more thing. 1 Peter speaks of disciplining ourselves. So in some respects a key member of our respective ‘flocks’ are ourselves.

This morning I was working on my to-do list for the day. I had scribbled down some of the little things (basically tasks) that needed to be done, but had not yet determined what the major project should be for the day. Instead I decided I would do devotions first and seek some direction in that way before determining the focus of my best time today.

Today’s lessons confirm that, as helpful as all other consultations might in many ways be, listening to the promptings of the Spirit is still the best way to start. Everybody else’s agenda (including my own) will tend to have a self-serving component. God’s Spirit, however, offers a far more holistic view and is most worthy of our attention before we undertake anything important or even determine what really is important.

Prayer: Lord, thanks for these readings today. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Readings today include: Isaiah 46-49 and 1 Peter 5)

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Blindly-But-Faithfully Walking

Note: for the past week I was at the ELCA National Youth Gathering in New Orleans and on break from Fit Under the Collar postings due to spotty internet availability and time. It was a great event, but it's also good to be back home.

Scripture Verse that caught my attention today: Isaiah 42:16 I will lead the blind
by a road they do not know,
by paths they have not known
I will guide them.
I will turn the darkness before them into light,
the rough places into level ground.
These are the things I will do,
and I will not forsake them.

Observation: Isaiah painted a vision requiring total trust.

Recently I read of a contestant in a major beauty pagent who was blind (or partially blind). In order to compete, she had to memorize the staging area, counting how many steps it was from here to there, etc. Someone, I trust, walked her through the routine so that she could memorize the area properly. Once she had done so, I would imagine that the contestant did just fine. The same is probably true for her home surroundings—she probably knows where everthing is and can walk about with relative freedom and easy. It is path she no doubt knows.

This passage, however, reminds the people of Israel that the Lord will lead them (blind as they might be in many ways), by a path they have not known. It will be new to them. They will not be able to walk about with confidence unless they are connected to the faithful one who will lead them through this new territory.

In some ways each day of life is new territory. We can pretend that it’s old hat and that we already know the way, but we do so at our own peril. Better to simply hold on tight to the one who has walked this path before in order that, as the Scriptures say, the darkness before us might become light and the rough places might become level ground.

Prayer: Lord, turning—indeed clinging—to you is the way to encounter every path in life. Help us to consistently do so. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Scripture Readings today included: Isaiah 40-42 and 1 Peter 3)

Monday, July 16, 2012

Surprising Power in the Familiar

Scripture Passage that Caught my attention today: Hebrews 13:20-21 Now may the God of peace, who brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, 21 make you complete in everything good so that you may do his will, working among us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

Observation: This passage is familiar, yet deeper than meets the eye.

Application: I offer these verses periodically to others…at funerals. It’s the blessing at the end of the graveside portion of the funeral service. The words roll off my tongue. I need not look at the book. I know these verses by heart and always feel blessed to deliver them to others.

Still, their meaning is deeper than I sometimes realize. The verses tell us what God is like (peaceful), what God has done (brought Jesus back to life), how God has done it (through the blood of the eternal covenant), what we pray that God will do (make you complete in everything good), and why (so that you may do his will), and where (among us), and how (through Jesus Christ), and a final thanksgiving (to whom be glory) for this long (forever and ever). The passage finishes off with the good ol’ “Amen” which many people may not realize means, “yes, it shall be so.”

Together these are a powerful set of verses nestled in near the end of a rather powerful Biblical book. I should take them to heart more often, even as I share them with others.

Prayer: Lord, help us gain a greater sense of the gifts you offer even in the verses that we claim to know so well. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Readings today included: Isaiah 25-28, Hebrews 13)

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Pleasing God With or Without Faith?

Scripture Verse that caught my attention today: Hebrews 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, for whoever would approach him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

Observation: Are you pleasing God?

I find this verse curious based on my observations and/or knowledge of humanity over the course of time. I know of a lot of people who most certainly believe God exists and who most certainly were trying to please God but who, in the process, performed dastardly acts. I cringe when I consider of the crusades and other well-intentioned but fatally-flawed approaches to pleasing the almighty. They had faith and they were trying to please God, but it’s hard to believe that they actually succeeded. Perhaps I’m simply succumbing to the age-old delusional practice of creating God in our own image, but I’m inclined to think that God weeps more often than rejoices over our purported efforts to please.

If that’s what we often do with faith, I shudder to consider what kind of emotions those without faith stir up in the creator of the universe.

Elsewhere in Scripture there is talk of those who do not know the law still doing instinctively what the law requires (cf. Romans 2:14). Jesus himself even speaks of the merits of an unjust judge who has no fear of God and no respect for anyone (cf. Luke 18:1-8). Maybe it is possible to please God without faith.

Prayer: Lord, with or without faith we are your people. Use us as you will. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Readings today included: Isaiah 19-21, Hebrews 11)

Friday, July 13, 2012

Valuables Insight

Scripture Verse that Caught my attention today: Hebrews 10:34 For you had compassion for those who were in prison, and you cheerfully accepted the plundering of your possessions, knowing that you yourselves possessed something better and more lasting.

Because of Christ, one’s sense of value changes.

Application: Suppose for a moment that you were a victim of a robbery. For today’s purposes, let’s make it a relatively pleasant robbery—you know…the kind where things do indeed get stolen, but nobody gets hurt. Let’s say the robber binds you securely to a chair, but lets you look on while he looks through the house for valuables. You see him rifle through various drawers, check the freezer for—as they say—“cold cash,” and grab your laptop computer. In the cookie jar he stumbles upon a plastic bag with few hundred dollars. On the way out he stuffs some miscellaneous jewelry in his pocket for good measure, tosses you a kitchen knife with which to cut the ropes that bind you (like I said, it’s a pleasant robbery), and then he’s gone as fast as he came.

What he didn’t know was that in the pantry in the bottom of an unsuspecting open box of stale cereal was the biggest treasure of all.

So you cheerfully accepted the plundering of your other possessions, knowing that you yourself possessed something better and more lasting.

I realize that this is a far-fetched and less-than-perfect analogy, but the principle still stands—in Christ our ultimate sense of value changes—and it’s something that no-one can ever really rob from us.

Don’t get me wrong. I like “stuff” too. But there will always be things of much more lasting value. Jesus would have us keep that very much in mind.

Prayer: Lord, thanks for the perspective that we can find only in you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Readings today included: Isaiah 15-18 and Hebrews 10)

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Exercise Tip: Dealing with Seasons of Life

It happens. We have seasons of impressive physical activity and/or diet and then, well, things change. We get out of a routine, life gets especially hectic, and we might fall off the bandwagon for a time. What then?

Here a tip.

If you fall off the proverbial wagon, don't just lay there, at least keep walking.

For example, my exercise activity over the last couple of months has not been very consistent at all.

For a while there was an injury of some sort that I was nursing (I've long since forgotten what was even hurting), then there were a bunch of short nights followed by abnormal morning scheduling and it just seemed like the regular routine was just all messed up.

But rather than doing nothing I at least did something--I'd squeeze in some stretching here and there, a partial workout here and there, and I kept eating relatively healthy. I'd also walk up the lane to do the chores rather than drive. Little things that, when taken together, helped keep me from becoming a physical wreck during that season of life until a more predictable and manageable season finally came along.


Scripture Passage that caught my attention today: Hebrews 7:1-3 This “King Melchizedek of Salem, priest of the Most High God, met Abraham as he was returning from defeating the kings and blessed him”; 2 and to him Abraham apportioned “one-tenth of everything.” His name, in the first place, means “king of righteousness”; next he is also king of Salem, that is, “king of peace.” 3 Without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God, he remains a priest forever.

Observation: “Melchizawho?”

This morning there was a story on CNN’s web page about a mysterious (and presumably attractive) woman pictured next to North Korea’s leader in an official photograph. No one seems to know who she is or, if they do, they aren’t talking. Is she his sister? His wife? His girlfriend? It’s a mystery but there’s no avoiding the fact that she’s there and it fuels all kinds of speculation (incidentally, I’m not sure if we know the identities of any of the many men surrounding the North Korean leader either, but they provoke far less interest!).

Melchizedek is one of those mystery people in the Bible. Little is known about him and what is said about him (mostly in Hebrews) is puzzling if not downright bizarre. He is mentioned but once in Genesis, once in the Psalms, and eight times in Hebrews. That’s it. That’s all we hear of him and all we know of him, but there’s no denying that he’s there.

Perhaps more intriguing to me is the focus that the author of Hebrews puts on him. Why do just about all of the other Biblical writers ignore Melchizedek while the author of Hebrews lifts him up as one of the greatest people ever?

Only God knows. Like the woman pictured next to Kim Jong Un, we may never learn who Melchizedek really is, but there’s no denying that he’s there.

Prayer: Lord, some of the mysteries in the Bible are very quite intriguing. But they remain mysteries…at least until that day when we finally meet you face-to-face. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Readings today included: Micah 5-7 and Hebrews 7)

Friday, July 6, 2012

Exercise While You Water Your Shrubs

The other day I was personally lamenting that it takes quite a bit of time to water our shrubs and flowers out front, our tomatoes along the side of the house, and the small garden out back. You know the drill...put hose on plant, wait a few minutes, then move on to next plant. Rinse and repeat.

But this morning I multi-tasked. I put the hose on a plant, did an exercise, then moved to the next plant and did another exercise or two. It allowed for the perfect amount of rest between exercises and/or sets and allowed me (with no offense intended to animal lovers) to kill two birds with one stone.

Incidentally, I even used some stones from the landscaping to mimic dumbbells for a couple of the exercises. I also used the frame of the hammock in the tree for inverted rows.

Be creative--replenish your plants and your body at the same time!

Holy Partners in a Heavenly Calling

Scripture passage that caught my attention today: Hebrews 3:1-3 Therefore, brothers and sisters, holy partners in a heavenly calling, consider that Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession, 2 was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses also “was faithful in all God’s house.” 3 Yet Jesus is worthy of more glory than Moses, just as the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself.

Observation: we are “holy partners in a heavenly calling.”

Application: What is it that we—who claim to be Christian—are doing when we go about our work, service, and play?

The writer of Hebrews claims that we are “holy partners in a heavenly calling.”

I must admit, that sounds like a pretty grand vision. It’s more than usually comes to mind as I prepare for another meeting, water shrubs, or do something personably enjoyable like cruise a farm equipment lot (I know…what’s fun for me is not exactly everyone else’s idea of a good time!).

Are we really “holy partners in a heavenly calling” when we do such things?

Strangely enough, I think the answer to that question can be “yes.”

As we go about our lives we carry with us the image of Jesus. To put it in military terms, sometimes it’s like we are on active duty and sometimes it’s like we are in the reserves. But either way we are partners to be sure.

What makes us holy partners is, of course, Jesus. And what makes it a heavenly calling is also, of course, Jesus.

The author’s reminder that we are partners serves as witness that we are not alone. And since the calling comes from heaven…well…that’s big, very big.

Prayer: Lord, thanks for the calling and the partnership. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Readings today included: Hosea 5-9 and Hebrews 3)

Thursday, July 5, 2012


Scripture Passage that Caught my attention today: Hebrews 2:1 Therefore we must pay greater attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it.

Observation: Times of stress are times when even greater attention to the work of Christ is necessary.

Whenever we are in times of stress it’s easy to get sucked into the view that now we must really ‘perform.’ We think that now we’ve got to somehow rise to the occasion, prove our point, conquer the given situation and the like. In times of stress we feel or place the pressure on US.

Sure, we might pray to God for help, asking God to help us make it through. But even that view has a subtle flaw—it neglects to take fully into account what God through Christ has already done!

The writer of Hebrews puts it bluntly and emphatically: “we MUST pay Greater attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it.”

What have we heard?

Paul said, “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2).

Jesus said, “before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58) as well as, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid” (John 14:27).

I could go on and on with such a list for Scripture is full of examples of the kinds of things to which, according to Hebrews, we are to pay greater attention—especially, it seems, in times of stress when we are prone to become rather self-absorbed.

Prayer: Lord, in the end, as in the beginning, there is you and only you to whom we can cling, depend, and live. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Reading today included: Hosea 2-5 and Hebrews 2)

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

What/Who Sustains You?

Scripture Verse that Caught my Attention today: Hebrews 1:3 He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,

Observation: God, through Jesus, sustains all things.

Application: There is a lot of talk these days about sustainability—enduring for the long haul. It’s mentioned in regard to health-care, agriculture, energy, the environment, etc. Some of us as individuals need sustainability too. Sometimes we take on too much, work at a much too frantic pace, deprive our bodies and/or minds of needed nutrition, exercise, recuperation, and sleep.

The denomination of which I am a part utilizes a “whole-ness wheel” as a means of taking stock of our over-all health. Wheel looks like a pie chart with equal-sized pieces representing such things as physical, emotional, spiritual, social, and financial health, among other things. The idea is that we need a certain amount of health in all of the areas represented on the wheel in order for our lives to, well, ‘roll’ along properly. It’s a sustainability model.

However, as the author to Hebrews makes clear, real sustainability goes even deeper than the wholeness wheel or any other methods to encourage and monitor wholeness. Christ is the true sustainer of all. Christ is the one who has offered himself once and for all, even as in other ways he continues to offer himself for us.

Try as we might, we are not really able to sustain ourselves. It questionable at best as to whether we are even able to get ourselves going to begin with. God through Christ is both our initial inertia and our sustaining presence—the one who is able to keep us going in the midst of every bump in the road.

Prayer: Lord, we all face challenges at times, whether from without or self-inflicted. Let your sustaining presence be our guide to and through all that life has to offer. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Readings today included: 2 Kings 15-16, Hosea 1, Hebrews 1)

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Sometimes Perception is Reality

Scripture Verse that Caught my Attention today: Philemon 1:6 I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective when you perceive all the good that we may do for Christ.

Observation: Effectiveness begins, in some respects, when we appreciate the value of what we have to offer.

I have a friend that I’ve never met. He barely knows my name, but I know his name well. He’s an online marketer who began his work in the fitness industry. I’ve followed his work over the past several years and have greatly appreciated his influence. At one point, in an attempt to encourage some of his online followers to get off their duffs to actually start their respective businesses, he pointed out that somewhere in the world there are people who are craving the very things that these people can—but have yet—to offer. He basically says that people who have a product or a service or specific information that other people want or need are being selfish if they don’t find a way to share it.

In some ways Paul is saying the same thing in the passage above. Once we “perceive all the good that we may do for Christ” it only makes sense that we would/should become effective in sharing this faith. People need and want it. Surely we would want to effectively share it!

This is not to say that it’s always easy. Developing sustainable strategies and systems for the sharing of faith requires effort. But it’s a worthy effort. A fulfilling effort. A deeply meaningful effort…once we perceive all the good that can come from it.

Prayer: Lord, thanks for the reminder once again of what you offer through us and what we are able to offer through you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Readings today included: Isaiah 6-7, 2 Chronicles 26-27, and Philemon)

Monday, July 2, 2012

A Time to Count Your Blessings

Scripture Verse that Caught my Attention today: Psalm 116:12 What shall I return to the LORD
for all his bounty to me?

Observation: A Time for Counting Blessings.

Application: At the heart of the Christian life is one simple attitude: Thanksgiving. This thanksgiving, when authentic, runs deep.

A lot of people say that Christianity is about love. But love still takes second place the thankfulness. “We love” the bible tells us, “because [God] first loved us.” (1 John 4:19) So when the Bible also speaks of love being able to bear all things, believe all things, hope all things and endure all things (from the famous ‘love’ chapter--1 Cor. 13), well, that love is still rooted in thanksgiving. In fact, chapter 12 of 1 Corinthians speaks of spiritual gifts which, of course, are GIFTS from God. So love is the expression of thanksgiving.

The Psalmist has it right. In light of what God has already done, how might we best express our thanksgiving. Actually, the Psalmist gets more personal than that, using the terms “I” and “Me.” What shall “I” do for all that God had done to/for “ME?”

In some ways that might be the best question of the morning every morning. Start the day being thankful and then spend the rest of the day acting out the part. Start the day with a question and the rest of the day expressing the answer.

Prayer: Lord, thanks for such a wonderful question with which to start this beautiful day. Help me to answer it in a very thankful way. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Readings today included: Isaiah 4-5, Psalm 115-116, and Jude)