Sunday, September 30, 2012

How to remove guilt from your sinful choices ...

It was my first meeting with the couple seated on the couch in my office. They were not members of the local church where I served, but lived in the neighborhood and had been recommended to call on me for counseling.

Both the husband and wife took turns adding to the telling of their story, which really was a simple one: after 12 years of marriage, they were divorcing. Neither had cheated on the other, they were just tired of being married to one another and wanted a different life. One that didn't include the other person.

So why did they come to see me?

They wanted counseling for their post-divorce experience. They wanted to be able to walk away from their marriage without feeling bad about doing so. As far as they were concerned, they were on the cusp of a grand new adventure and wanted some guidance in developing a different life.

They came to the wrong guy.

The reason is I wouldn't help them with what they were asking for. I couldn't participate in contributing to their view that marriage is whatever you want it to be, and if you tired of it, you could close it like a chapter in a book and begin a new one.

It wasn't just their view of marriage that was key here, it was their view of life. They knew about God but had chosen not to have anything to do with Him. They were living life on their terms and wanted assistance in feeling good about it and succeeding with it.

Life doesn't work that way.

I spent some time sharing with them about who we are spiritually, what we believe about God, and who He is to us is the greatest reality of our lives. Without addressing life from a foundation of truth, a person would have to make up false realities for themselves, only to experience the inevitable failure of those creations. I did encourage them it was possible for them to build a fulfilling, joy-filled life together if they were willing to investigate anew what God had to offer them.

They weren't willing, so our time ended cordially, with an open invitation to help them any way I could that would both honor God and, from that position, benefit them.

That meeting was not an uncommon one, and not just among unbelievers. I've had many similar meetings with people professing to be followers of Christ who found their lives suffering from sin. Their request was to help them find a way to maintain their choices for sin and still keep their lives together ... and not "get in trouble" with God.

What these people didn't seem to understand is that you cannot have both sin and God's blessing.

It's not surprising so many professing Christians tend to think they can have their sin and God's blessing, too, when you consider how today we preach an easy gospel. Just say a prayer and you will satisfy God and tap into a bunch of good stuff He has waiting for you.

That's not the Gospel we read about in scripture.

Instead, as just one example, we see the Apostle Peter stand before thousands of people who were not followers of Christ and boldly instruct them to repent. Today, there are too few who have the courage to call professing Christians to repentance even when their sin is blatant and unapologetic. If we do not have the courage to call Christians to repentance, it is no wonder we do not have the courage to call unbelievers to repentance.

Yet, there is an unfailing, unfading truth: you cannot follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ and simultaneously choose to practice sin. John gave us simple, clear insight about this:

"7 Dear children, don’t let anyone deceive you about this: When people do what is right, it shows that they are righteous, even as Christ is righteous. But when people keep on sinning, it shows that they belong to the devil, who has been sinning since the beginning. But the Son of God came to destroy the works of the devil. Those who have been born into God’s family do not make a practice of sinning, because God’s life is in them. So they can’t keep on sinning, because they are children of God. 10 So now we can tell who are children of God and who are children of the devil. Anyone who does not live righteously and does not love other believers does not belong to God," 1 John 3:7-10.

There are many counselors out there who are willing to try to help individuals and couples remove guilt from sinful choices. They all fail.

If you want to remove guilt from sinful choices, there's a simple remedy: repent.

Have you repented of sin and turned fully to God? Or are you trying to hold on to sin and demand others accept the sin you've chosen? Are you trying to find a way to make life work with sin in it, or have you repented in preference to building a holy life empowered by the Spirit and blessed by God?


Are you marking time, or at peace?

Psychologist William Marston once interviewed 3,000 people, asking each person this question: "What have you to live for?"

Ninety-four percent of those interviewed stated they were enduring today while hoping for something better in the future.

Digging a little deeper into their answer, we see the vast majority of the respondents lived restless lives instead of experiencing peace.

What so many seemed to be missing is that being at peace isn't something to just be hoped for, or something that perhaps may come their way some time later in life.

Peace is a gift:

"I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid," John 14:27.

When we live in and for Christ, Jesus gives us His peace as a gift that grows and deepens as we experience the Holy Spirit working in and transforming our lives (Galatians 5:22).

What have you to live for?


Friday, September 28, 2012

The secret to "success"?

Preachers, motivational speakers, life coaches, and a varied assortment of gurus will tell you, "If you want to be successful, you have to learn to say no!"

The great weakness of this advice is that it focuses on telling others no, rather than ourselves. Yet, if we want to really have a "successful" life --- the life Jesus Christ calls us to --- it is imperative we learn to tell ourselves no.

"Then Jesus said to his disciples, 'If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me'," Matthew 16:24.

To deny ourselves ("... turn from your selfish ways ...") is to say "no" to what we want in preference to God's will.

Jesus Christ will never become the Lord of our lives until we learn how to say a heartfelt "No!" to self and "Yes!" to Him.

Have you learned to say no?


Thursday, September 27, 2012

What you have to be asked for speaks volumes ...

Have you ever offered an opinion, only to be rebuffed with the reply, "No one asked you!"?

Occasionally we may attempt something loving, something kind, something in the best interest of others that is rejected by those we offer it to.

But more often than not, in order to get something of such a significant nature out of us, we have to be asked.

Think about it: how many times do we offer unconditional love and truly sacrificial service to others without first having to be asked for it?

The preacher spends his ministry career pleading with the congregation to give, to serve, to do something. In most churches, about ten percent respond and the other 90 percent watch.

Jesus didn't have to be asked.

He offered EVERYTHING of Himself for us. His whole purpose for walking this earth was to spend Himself on us!

That sounds nice. But it's supposed to be more than a pleasant thought:

"You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had," Philippians 2:5.

Th attitude Jesus had was to make His entire life an offering for us. Now, scripture implores us to have the same attitude by making the entirety of our lives an offering for Him.

What we have to be asked for, and what we don't have to be asked for, are twin reflections of where we really stand in Christ.

Is unrestrained love and service to others the attitude and actions you share with Christ? Or is your attitude one of wait to be asked, and then perhaps you'll respond to some degree? How would your life change, and how would other lives be impacted, if you made this scriptural directive the new reality of your life?


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

So, tell me what you really think ...

Having read a few thousand books, you might say I like to read.

I also review a lot of books, more than 40 of which are posted on this blog.

But it's not often anymore that I have friends or close acquaintances ask me to review or edit a manuscript for them.

When someone I know asks me to review or edit something they've written, I first offer a warning. My reviews or editing projects are completely independent efforts. I do not write reviews to help publishers --- or writers --- sell books or articles. My reviews are written as honest assessments provided for my readers rather than a promotion for a writer or publishing house. That's why a lot of people check out my reviews, they know they will get an independent opinion.

That's also why people who know me don't often ask for my review. Friends might say they want an independent opinion, but what they often really want is an unconditional endorsement.

I recently edited a manuscript for a Christian psychologist I know. He was excited about his finished project and was already putting the wheels in motion for self-publishing his work. He asked me to edit his writing, I provided my warning, and after his assurances that he wanted me to honestly edit his work, I finally accepted his request.

When the manuscript sat drowning in red ink, I placed a call to my friend to tell him we needed to talk about my review.

I never heard back from him.

It wasn't an honest edit he wanted, it was a blind endorsement he was fishing for.

It's a trendy thing in today's church to talk about having someone "speak truth into your life," but there are few who really want that kind of friend. The Apostle Paul described such people like this:

"3 For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. They will reject the truth and chase after myths," 2 Timothy 4:3-4.

Are you looking for someone who will speak the truth to you, or someone who will tell you what you want to hear?


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Your myth about change ...

You may have a legitimate claim to "hating change" if ...

... the primary means of reception for your television is the set of "rabbit ears" on top of your cabinet-style TV set ...

... you still walk to the television and manually change channels instead of using a remote control ...

... you get excited at a yard sale when you discover an eight-track cassette you haven't yet listened to ...

... every meal you eat at home is cooked on the stove top or in the oven since you don't own a microwave ...

... your coffee is brewed slowly in a coffee perculator ...

... the only Apple in your home is in a fruit bowl ...

... you have to start your car and let it warm up at least five or ten minutes on cold mornings before heading out ...

... you have to sharpen the blades on your push mower before mowing the lawn ...

... your foot gets tired pumping the peddle of your sewing machine while making your own clothes ...

... you like watching the rotary spin when dialing phone numbers ...

... you enjoy the clicking sound of the abacus you use when balancing your checkbook ...

A glance around your home likely would reveal you've been keeping some pace with change over the years, at least with things that make your life a little easier, a little more convenient, a little more comfortable.

It's when change gets personal that we balk. It's when it comes to changing our thinking, our desires, our wants, our ways to align with God's that we argue for remaining a relic, something old from our sinful, broken past.

There are no relics in the kingdom of God!

The world is in a constant state of change, something God wants from us as well as we are changing more and more into the likeness of His Son.

"So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image," 2 Corinthians 3:18.


Monday, September 24, 2012

When times get tough, blow some bubbles ...

Residents of the Dallas/Ft. Worth area complain about how bad the traffic is around here. At times, it can be a challenge getting around the metroplex, but when it comes to traffic, I've seen better and worse.

Worse would be trying to get around the San Francisco bay area. Although that city is barely over 800,000 people, it is the most densely populated city after New York City. With all of the commuters coming into the city for business, the population swells to more than a million during the daytime. All that in a city that has more cars than legal parking spaces.

I used to live a 25-30 minute drive from San Francisco, that is, when traffic was especially light. But during rush hour, the same trip would take two hours or more.

The problem with traffic in the bay area isn't the limited umber of freeways for amount of traffic, but rather, the limited number of surface streets running parallel to the freeways. In many cases, you don't have the option of exiting a freeway and traveling surface streets to get to your destination. Sometimes you must stay on a freeway, at least to a certain point in your journey, before you can exit and have side streets that can get you to where you want to go.

So when the traffic gets bad and grinds to a halt on the freeways, commuters settle in to inch their way across bridges into the city.

Phoenix, on the other hand has much better traffic even though it's a much larger city. Phoenix goes back and fourth with Houston for being rated as the fourth largest city in America. Even with a population of more than 4.1 million people, the city is designed on a grid, so when traffic gets heavy on freeways, drivers have multiple options to exit the congestion and take surface roads paralleling the freeways to their final destination.

Now here's the odd thing: although San Francisco has a greater traffic problem than Phoenix, you're more likely to experience road rage from other drivers in the Phoenix area than you are in the bay area!

The reason is that drivers in the Valley of the Sun have not had to endure the level of commuting hardships that drivers in the bay area routinely face.

People living in the bay area build in blocks of time for travel. If they live 20 minutes from their job site, they add an hour or two for the commute. It's not uncommon for bay area drivers to spend four hours or more each day just driving to and from work!

One woman told the story of how she has learned to endure her daily commute in the bay area. She takes a bottle of bubbles with her. When traffic gets bad and grinds to a halt, she rolls down her window and blows bubbles. The woman said she observed other drivers seeing the bubbles rise from the mass of vehicles. At first, others looked at her like she was crazy ... then they began to laugh. Instead of sitting there fuming at the guy in front of her, she learned to lighten the mood and share a laugh with others.

She discovered a way to endure her challenge that, in turn, strengthened her character.

Whether driving, or traveling life, we don't like road blocks, bumps in the road, or things that slow us down. We prefer the wide, smoothly paved freeways at full speed limit. But life, like commutes, doesn't often work that way.

Life has bumps and things that slow us down, all of which can be used to make us better people. The Apostle Paul tells us how:

"3 We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love," Romans 5:3-5.

Why are the drivers in the bay area usually more patient than those prone to road rage in the Phoenix area? They have had to endure more commuter hardships. Likewise, those who face "... problems and trials ..." in life have the opportunity to build their character by learning to endure.

When tough times come your way, do you routinely blow your stack? Or have you learned to relax and blow some bubbles?


Would someone please turn that off?!

I was enjoying a cup of coffee and getting some writing done at the local Starbucks when I noticed the police officer in line, waiting to place her order.

Suddenly, a car alarm went off ...

... I continued to write, and the police officer remained in line, patiently waiting to order her cup of coffee.

When car alarms first came out, the reaction to hearing them was very different! Everyone would run to the nearest window to check on their car, for fear someone was breaking into their vehicle.

Today, car alarms are more often responded to as loud annoyances.

Kind of like the words of warning from the Word of God.

We've reduced God's revelation to us through His Word to a collection of interesting stories, but have taken out of them the prodding to urgent and real response. They've become so familiar they are no longer startling to us. For example, we read this:

"2 For you know quite well that the day of the Lord’s return will come unexpectedly, like a thief in the night. When people are saying, 'Everything is peaceful and secure,' then disaster will fall on them as suddenly as a pregnant woman’s labor pains begin. And there will be no escape," 1 Thessalonians 5:2-3.

These words from the Apostle Paul, given by inspiration from the Holy Spirit, drip with urgency and warning. But we've heard it before, haven't we? Yet, today keeps turning into tomorrow, which turns into next month. We'll get around to "God stuff" soon enough, we say to ourselves.

But we don't.

So we settle into sermons that have turned into stories that no longer demand urgent, immediate response. We call for contemplation rather than conversion, for relevance instead of repentance, for dialogues rather than decisions.

We fail to understand that a life of contemplation alone is a life of inaction.

It is not enough to simply contemplate the things of God, we are called to respond to them. Now! Today! With a sense of urgency!

Because your life with regard to Christ is an urgent matter. Satan is a real enemy to you, a thief who is attempting to break into your life and do what he has always done ...

"The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy ..." John 10:10a

The alarm Jesus sounds isn't just an annoying sound, it is for the safety of your soul.

"The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life," John 10:10.

The alarm is sounding. Are you responding, or waiting on your coffee?


Sunday, September 23, 2012

What Would Jesus Do, Part II?

A few days ago I overheard someone say, "Maybe we should get back to asking, 'What would Jesus do?'"

The statement conjured up images of "WWJD" bracelets and other paraphernalia popularized when WWJD was at its trendy heights in the 90's.

There was real benefit by some people and churches to asking what would Jesus do in the same situation. But here's the weakness that's always been attached to the WWJD concept: without a reasonable familiarity with scripture, the answer a person provides to the WWJD question is nothing more than a guess. And a guess is a fairly weak source from which to make life-altering decisions.

However, a lack of Bible knowledge often doesn't get in the way of many in deciding what Jesus would do ...

Like the many sexually active couples living together who have said to me, "Oh, we don't think Jesus would want us to be unhappy ..."

Like the many couples looking to justify divorce telling me, "I don't think Jesus would want me to put up with that ..."

Like the many who explain away their rejection of Christ's church by saying, " I don't think Jesus would want me to be a hypocrite ..."

Like those who defend not financially supporting the church by saying, "I don't think Jesus would want me to miss making my payments just to give something to the church ..."

Or like those who even validated their drunken weekends by saying, "If Jesus would make wine for a wedding party I don't think He would mind me having a few beers on the weekend ..."

"What would Jesus do?" in the same situation could be a good, even powerful question to ask if the answer provided comes from biblical truth. But it can also be used to customize just one more excuse to continue wallowing in sin when the answer is just a guess.

WWJD was often used to try to escape the disciple's responsibility of actually becoming a student of Christ (the meaning of the term "disciple") so that he or she could know how Jesus would respond in similar situations because they had studied what He has taught, what He has actually said, and who He really is.

Perhaps, instead of returning to some spiritual schtick, maybe we would be better off by just getting more serious about discipleship. That way, we won't have to guess about Jesus and we won't have a convenient cover for justifying living in a such a way Jesus really wouldn't.


A powerless faith ...

You've read the Bible and believe it.

You've heard more sermons than you can count, and say "amen" after each one.

You lift your hands during worship service and sing with gusto.

You've been taught the great doctrines of the Bible, and equipped with a biblical theology.

Yet the faith you profess appears to be powerless.

How can that be?

Because you've acquiesced to God, rather than embraced Him with genuine love.

God does not want our acquiescence. Entering into a relationship with God is not about entering an octagon of life and surrendering to Him because He's bigger and stronger than you. This is not an MMA "ultimate fight" between you and God where you finally "tap out" because God is tougher than you.

So if God doesn't want our acquiescence, what does He want from us? Jesus tells us bluntly in Matthew 22:37 ...

Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment."

God wants you to love Him!

More than anyone else, or anything else.

With all your heart, all your soul, all your mind.

It is impossible to be strong-armed into such a complete and passionate love; instead, it requires a free will offering of the heart.

When we choose to love God with all priority, and receive His love for us, we have a faith that is real. And powerful.

Are you acquiescing to God, or loving Him?


Saturday, September 22, 2012

Cheating: now there's an app for that ...

A key to "successfully" cheating on your spouse or "significant other" is effectively maintaining secrecy of the affair.

Now, there's an app for that.

CATE is an application for smartphones that serves as a call and text eraser (more about CATE here, keeping your contacts containing the details of your trists hidden from any suspicious person sneaking a peek at the contents of your phone. This app makes your smartphone a tool of privacy, enabling you to maintain communications with secrecy.

Yes, there really are people out there creating technological tools specifically designed to equip others in carrying out the sinful desires of their hearts.

And our hearts are sinful.

Just look at how Jeremiah describes what the human heart is really like:

"The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?" Jeremiah 17:9.

Even with this insight, you'll see scores of Christians encourage others to, "Just follow your heart!" Do that, and you'll pursue sin.

Instead, God commands us not to try to enable ourselves to "succeed" at sin, but rather to turn from it. God's application for the human heart is repentance:

"God overlooked people’s ignorance about these things in earlier times, but now he commands everyone everywhere to repent of their sins and turn to him," Acts 17:30.

The problem with us humans is that we have followed our hearts, and it has led us straight to sin. Now, God directs us to turn our hearts to Him instead.

"19 Now repent of your sins and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped away. 20 Then times of refreshment will come from the presence of the Lord, and he will again send you Jesus, your appointed Messiah," Acts 3:19-20.

Have you discarded your tools and efforts to try to hide your sins? Have you repented from sin, turning your heart fully to God?


But ...

On more than one occasion I've heard speakers tell their audiences not to use the word "but," saying when someone uses the word it's what follows that is what the person really means or what's more important to them.

At first blush, this sounds true. Just think of some of the times you may have experienced someone using the word "but" ...

When the boss says, "You did a good job with that project, but ..."

When a co-worker says, "I appreciate your trying to help, but ..."

When a friend says, "Your opinion is interesting, but ..."

When the doctor says, "Everything looks okay, but ..."

When that girl or guy you're infatuated with says, "I really like you, but ..."

What follows that simple, three-letter word can have a great impact!

Especially when God says it:

"For the wages of sin is death, BUT the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord," Romans 6:23.

Everyone has sinned. The wages of sin is death. BUT, God has an answer. Have you responded to God with a simple, "Yes, Lord!" Or, "Yes, Lord, but ..."


Friday, September 21, 2012

Time to upgrade ...

The iPhone 5 is out today, which means there are long lines of people who have been camped outside Apple stores for days now.

People get excited about the next version of an iPhone, to the point they set aside funds for the upgrade, and rearrange their schedules to ride out the lines to be the first to get the latest gadget upgrade.

How phenomenal it would be if people were as excited to get into the church to hear God's Word as they are about getting an upgrade.

Could you imagine seeing lines of people just to get inside a church service?

If you think about the fact the Word of God is far more transformative to your life and this world than technology will ever be, it doesn't seem so far-fetched.

And when you look at the growth of the early church, it even sounds possible.

People were flocking to the early church by whole households. We read of thousands joining the church after a single sermon. Not because they could buy something, but because they could get something for free. Something their Christian friends were so excited about, something their Christian friends demonstrated with such love and abandon, the others just had to be a part of it.

These people wanted the upgrade to their lives their friends had: from sinner to saint, from enslaved to free, from lost to saved, from enemy to adopted as God's own child.

That's an upgrade to be excited about!

Is that the upgrade you share with your friends? Is that the kind of upgrade that gets you so excited you share the news with unleashed enthusiasm?

Or do you get more excited about the next iPhone than you do about being saved?


Where is everyone?

It was the one night almost no one showed up at the church building.

During my first ministry as an Associate Pastor with a Free Will Baptist Church in California, that local church was evangelistic in an old school way: we had "visitation" every Monday night.

What sounds like a supernatural drop-in from a celestial being was actually the pastoral staff encouraging faithful church members to gather at the church building every Monday night to team up and then go visit people from the community who had visited during church services the previous day.

On Monday nights, you could hear crickets in the parking lot.

Rarely did anyone other than the pastors and a couple deacons show up on Monday nights. Often, it would be just myself and the senior pastor. Everyone else had an excuse as to why they couldn't call on visitors, especially if there were known opportunities for sharing the Gospel.

It was much easier to get signups for the church softball league. It was easier to recruit Sunday School teachers. It was easier to get people to be greeters or ushers or volunteer for serving food at the local mission. It was easier to get women to join in a girls night out, or round up guys to mow the lawn around the church property.

Almost no one wanted to get anywhere near an opportunity to share the Gospel with strangers from the community who didn't know Christ.

Fortunately, that lack of interest changed over the next couple years as we took discipleship more seriously and began equipping the saints for works of service (Eph. 4:11-12). As Christians began to risk sharing Jesus Christ with others, that local church tripled its Sunday attendance. As church members deepened their personal relationships with Jesus, they couldn't hold back from sharing the love they had for Christ. The result was a need to keep the baptistry filled and heated because a lot of people were having their old selves buried there as they responded to the Gospel message.

That local church was already known in the community for it's private school, it's competitive softball team, and some other activities. But it didn't begin to make a real impact on that community until its members started sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ. Suddenly, lives were being changed, and whole households being dramatically impacted.

Suddenly, what had been more like a spiritually-oriented club became the body of Christ serving, growing, thriving.

That's what happens when the local church rediscovers its purpose, and then pursues its mission of actually making disciples.

That's the responsibility of every person who calls himself or herself a child of God. Churches today may not be as "old school" as still having "Visitation Night," but the need to share the Gospel with the lost in the community remains the same.

The call goes out to all Christians to respond.

Are you hearing crickets? Or are you dusting off your Bible and making yourself available?


Thursday, September 20, 2012

When no one sees ...

Tom Watson is an enduring name in the world of professional golf.

In the 1970's and '80's, Watson was one of the leading players in the world, winning eight major championships. He was considered the number one player in the world according to McCormack's World Golf Rankings from 1978 to 1982. And, sporting an artificial hip at the age of 60, some 26 years after his last major championship victory, he led much of the 2009 Open Championship before eventually losing in a four-hole playoff.

But one of the most memorable aspects of this legendary player goes back to the first tournament he ever played in.

Watson was making a run for the lead. His game was on! Then, when preparing for a putt, he laid his putter down behind the ball.

Too close to the ball.

The ball moved!

No one noticed. None of the players or officials or fans saw the ball move. If he told anyone, a stroke would be added to his play of the hole, and it could be the difference in winning or losing. He could continue playing and no one would know.

But he would know, he thought to himself.

With little hesitation, Watson approached one of the officials and said, "I moved my ball."

A stroke was added and Watson lost that hole.

But he rallied and came back to win the tournament.

Watson's biggest win that day wasn't taking the trophy for the tournament. It was keeping his integrity in tact.

When you blow it, but no one sees, what do you do?

The answer to that question is part of the measure of your integrity.


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Don't you care?

The one time people who don't care start to care is when they are in need of care.

By then, it may be too late.

It was for a certain rich man ...

19 Jesus said, "There was a certain rich man who was splendidly clothed in purple and fine linen and who lived each day in luxury. 20At his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus who was covered with sores. 21As Lazarus lay there longing for scraps from the rich man’s table, the dogs would come and lick his open sores. 22 Finally, the poor man died and was carried by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried, 23 and his soul went to the place of the dead. There, in torment, he saw Abraham in the far distance with Lazarus at his side. 24 The rich man shouted, 'Father Abraham, have some pity! Send Lazarus over here to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue. I am in anguish in these flames.' 25 But Abraham said to him, ‘Son, remember that during your lifetime you had everything you wanted, and Lazarus had nothing. So now he is here being comforted, and you are in anguish. 26And besides, there is a great chasm separating us. No one can cross over to you from here, and no one can cross over to us from there.’ 27Then the rich man said, ‘Please, Father Abraham, at least send him to my father’s home. 28 For I have five brothers, and I want him to warn them so they don’t end up in this place of torment.’ 29But Abraham said, ‘Moses and the prophets have warned them. Your brothers can read what they wrote.’ 30 The rich man replied, ‘No, Father Abraham! But if someone is sent to them from the dead, then they will repent of their sins and turn to God.’ 31But Abraham said, ‘If they won’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they won’t listen even if someone rises from the dead,’” Luke 16:19-31.

What do you care about today? Who do you care about today? How do you demonstrate a Christlike character of caring?


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Like a bunch of hens around a rotisserie ...

A Facebook friend recently posted the above image. While I thought there was something oddly funny about the cartoon, it made me wonder what it is about us that makes us want to look upon the horrific and tragic.

Why is it that we find ourselves curious about the tangled metal of a car accident, slowing down and straining to look, yet we need to be prodded and poked to seek out the holy, the pure, the beautiful, the beneficial?

It shouldn't be that way for God's children.

The Apostle Paul gives clear direction regarding the things Christians should set their gaze (and their minds) upon:

"And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise," Philippians 4:8.

Is this your practice? If not, why not? It can be.

Will it be?


Monday, September 17, 2012

How real prayer always works ...

We hear a lot about people waiting on God, wondering if He will answer their prayers the way they would like Him to ... or at all!

Here's how prayer can work 100 percent of the time, every time:

1. Pray.


Prayer worked!


To pray is to converse with God. When you do that, prayer has worked!
"Come close to God, and God will come close to you ..." James 4:8a.

Now, if you gauge prayer as having "worked" or not by whether God either does something, or does what you may have asked of Him, then your idea of prayer isn't about conversing and communing with God; rather, it's about you making demands of God, and God responding in a manner acceptable to you.

It isn't God alone that we treat this way. We often approach others with the intent of sharing something, with a pre-determined response expected from those we communicate with.

That kind of communication isn't acting in relationship, whether it's with other people or with God. It's you having your mind set on what you want from others, and being disappointed with anything less.

That is a one-way interaction, not a relationship.

Prayer always works simply by bringing us into connection with God. In fact, just the humbling of ourselves to come before our Creator can have a refining affect on us. The need to come to God in prayer reminds us of who He is, and sharpens our reliance on Him. The desire to come to God deepens our affection for Him and heightens our praise of Him.

Prayer works by connecting you to God. What flows from that connection is the outcome of you and God being in relationship with each other.


BOOK REVIEW: A good niche book that pretends to be more ...

With 1,500 ministers resigning from the ministry each month, most of us have known or heard of a pastor who was burned out, fed up, and exhausted enough to quit.

That's the unique niche "Mondays With My Old Pastor," by Jose Luis Navajo (published by Thomas Nelson) targets with a good book that pretends to be better than it is.

Many of those ministers who throw in the towel on ministry could possibly be refreshed and renewed if they had someone to come alongside them and provide them with encouragement and wise counsel. Imagine a younger minister feeling the challenges of ministry having the opportunity to gain insights, advice, and ideas from an older, wiser, more experienced pastor.

That, in a nutshell,  is the story of "Mondays With My Old Pastor."

The problem with this book is the quality of writing doesn't fully pull off the concept of the book. The story is about a younger minister who is so burned out on ministry he's ready to quit. Before taking that step, his wife encourages him to visit with his old pastor, a man now in the twilight of his life who had served as a pastor for decades.

Taking his wife's advice, the younger minister calls on his old pastor on a Monday, and winds up visiting with him each Monday thereafter.

The core of the book is about an older, wiser pastor giving encouragement and counsel to a younger minister who is feeling defeated in ministry. That advice from the older pastor is often dished out in the telling of stories, some of which are profound, insightful and moving.

But all too consistently, the content isn't as deep and powerful as the author portends. When a story is quite deep and rich, the author sometimes doesn't have the writing skill to let the story move the reader in a powerful way. Instead, you have lines from the younger minister telling the reader, "I was amazed at how profound his story was!"

When you have to tell the reader what they should have experienced by their own reading, you know the quality and depth of your writing is suffering.

Added to that, the ending is vastly overplayed. When the drama of the story reaches a good crescendo, I found myself thinking, "End the story here!' But the author went on and on with a rambling ending that becomes confusing, silly, and useless.

In spite of lacking in some of the writing, the reader (especially if you serve or have served in a vocational ministry position) can easily imagine the setting of younger and older ministers sharing together the trials and triumphs that make up ministry. Some of the stories offered by the older pastor are so good I found myself tweeting about them or posting snippets on Facebook.

"Mondays With My Old Pastor" is a good book for the specific audience it targets, even if it pretends to be better than it is.


I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Love doesn't cancel justice ...

The famous American actress, dancer, and singer of last century, Ginger Rogers, once said, "I don't care what the critics say. My fabulous mom will give me a good review if nobody else does."

Moms do that.

Regardless of how we may mess things up, or the trouble we may get ourselves into, moms will come through for us.

We often try to attach that kind of behavior to God.

He loves us no matter what, so He'll give us a good review, no matter what. Right?

Not quite.

True, God loves us. Period. But give us a good review just because He loves us? No.

God's character is not comprised of love alone. There are different facets to His character, including the fact that He is a just God:

"7 And God will provide rest for you who are being persecuted and also for us when the Lord Jesus appears from heaven. He will come with his mighty angels, in flaming fire, bringing judgment on those who don’t know God and on those who refuse to obey the Good News of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with eternal destruction, forever separated from the Lord and from his glorious power," 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9.

God does not cancel His justice simply because He loves us. Because He loves us, He has given His only Son as a ransom for our sin. Now, all those who call on the name of Jesus Christ are justified by Christ's sacrifice.

"Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory," Romans 5:1-2.

By faith, we receive the good review God gives His Son.

Have you been justified by faith in Jesus Christ? Or are you hoping that just because God loves you He'll forget your sins against Him?


Friday, September 14, 2012

Very sure of God ...

You may have heard the story of a remote village that was experiencing the onset of a drought.

Not waiting for the situation to become critical, the village leaders set a time for the entire village to gather to pray for rain.

When the time for prayer came, all the villagers gathered at the pre-determined location.

Of all the people gathering, one person stood out: the young boy who arrived carrying an umbrella.

Now that is confidence!

Is that the kind of confidence you have in God when you come before Him with your prayers?


Thursday, September 13, 2012

A commandment from Jesus ...

“Daft old woman” he cursed at the graveside, “squandering all that money on a stupid dog, instead of leaving it to her loved ones who could’ve used it.”

He left quickly when the rain fell.

The dog stayed by her grave until weak with hunger, pining for his lost mistress.

What do people who cannot do anything for you mean to you?

If you could have the blessing of friendship and love of another without additional worldly reward, would it matter to you?

Loving without strings attached is an alien thing for some. Many can't fathom the entanglement of relationship and fellowship without additional personal benefit. But that's exactly what Jesus commands from us:

"So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other," John 13:34.


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Do you expect too much from God?

Do you expect too much from God?

That sounds like an odd question. After all, God is both all-knowing and all-powerful; He understands everything perfectly, and has limitless power to do as He wishes.

So we can expect a lot from Him.

And we do.

Perhaps too much.

Today I read part of a quote that stated, "Hurt puts holes in our faith ..." The sentence is similar to how many people respond to God; it seems to justify the shrinking of our faith if God allows us to hurt. If God doesn't perform the way I want, I will punish Him with a reduction of faith. If God allows for things to happen in my life that I don't like or that hurt, I will trust Him less and like Him little.

We have developed in our own minds a performance standard for God, and dangle our faith as a carrot before the Lord; we'll maintain our faith if He performs as we expect. When He fails our expectations, we punish Him by reducing our faith. 

But Jesus Christ did not come to this world to soften every circumstance, to bail us out of every bad decision, to provide for our comfort, or even to heal every wound.

Why did He come?

"For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost," Luke 19:10.

Oh, there is a bigger picture. There is coming a time when everything broken and set askew by sin will be made right. There is coming a day when Christ will reign and every knee shall bow to Him. There is coming a day when there will be no more tears, no more night, no more fears, no more pain, or hunger, or poverty, or loneliness, or hate, or strife, or sickness. No more sin!

But that isn't today.

Mercifully --- even graciously! --- God is moving every day in the lives of those who are suffering such things (often in a far greater way than we could hope or imagine!). But such things will be with us until Christ returns.

Our problem is wanting them gone today so badly that we sometimes allow ourselves to think less of God for not doing what we think He should do, the way we think He should do it, when we think He should.

In spite of such a mindset, here's a dose of truth: God's plan is better. It's bigger. And it's perfect.

We would eliminate a great deal of self-created frustration in our lives if we would align our lives --- our minds, hearts, desires --- to God's plan and God's way. To fail to do so is to often harbor resentment against the God we claim to love and be in submission to.

You cannot resent God and be fully submitted to Him at the same time.

Do you expect too much from God? Where do your expectations of God come from? How does God's "performance" affect your faith?


Be a little considerate ...

My stint as a newspaper reporter and editor helped me develop an appreciation for good editing. It taught me that more often than not, you can more effectively communicate your message with fewer well-chosen words than by unleashing your thoughts and letting them fly.

As you and I know all too well, there are some who don't quite understand that concept!

Instead, they boast that anyone who knows (or is near!) them will know what they think. For some reason, they take pride in letting their opinions splash wherever they land.

Such people haven't learned the Apostle Paul's admonition to edit ourselves:

"We who are strong must be considerate of those who are sensitive about things like this. We must not just please ourselves," Romans 15:1.

This statement isn't directly about editing our words --- written or otherwise -- but about something even greater: editing ourselves. Just because you're "strong enough" to bellow your beliefs doesn't mean doing so brashly is a wise thing to do.

Or considerate.

And it's consideration of others that Paul is pointing to. Some people are more sensitive than you or me. While there is a time and place to speak boldly, there are many times and places where it's wiser to consider the sensitivities of others, and then determine a more effective way of sharing what's on your mind than simply letting loose with unconsidered words.

Those who soak others in their opinions often argue they are free to speak their mind. Paul argues freedom to do so isn't always the most beneficial thing, for yourself or others. In fact, the apostle argues what is beneficial for others needs to hold a primary place in what we say and do:

"23 You say, 'I am allowed to do anything'—but not everything is good for you. You say, 'I am allowed to do anything'—but not everything is beneficial. 24 Don’t be concerned for your own good but for the good of others," 1 Corinthians 10:23-24.

Proverbs 13:3 provides additional insight, "Those who control their tongue will have a long life; opening your mouth can ruin everything."

So how do we determine how to wisely edit ourselves? Here's a great passage of scripture that gives some direction in how to edit ourselves ...

"May the words of my mouth
    and the meditation of my heart
be pleasing to you,
    O Lord, my rock and my redeemer."
Psalm 19:14

 We know we're getting our motivation, methods, and message right when it is pleasing to the Lord.

 Are you considerate of others? Does your boldness glorify God? Or is it more often brashness unbecoming of a child of God?


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

You are where?!

Step a few yards into Any Mall USA and you will find yourself facing a diagram of the place with an arrow pointing to a big red sticker and the words, "YOU ARE HERE."

It seems funny such effort is given to point out your current location until you come across one of those diagrams with the sticker and words missing. Then you find yourself scrambling to figure out where you are so you can determine how to get to where you want to go.

We experience the same thing in life.

You can't really get to where you want to go until you first understand where you are.

That's why so many never arrive at their desired destination. They fail to understand --- or be honest about --- where they currently are. They like to think of themselves as being somewhere else, then discover they cannot get to where they want to go from the direction they're currently facing. They have to correct their current course in order to go where they really want to be.

For example, you cannot reach that place of peace with a practice of worry.

You cannot experience the positive promises of God from a place void of faith.

You cannot find yourself up to your neck in blessings when you're wading knee-deep in disobedience.

To get to a better place, you have to begin by being honest about where you are at right now, then adjust your course accordingly.

Do you know where you want to be? Do you know where you are now? What will it take to go from where you are to where you want to be?


Monday, September 10, 2012

How to mislead your friends, family, and thousands of others ...

"Don't wait. The time will never be just right," is what the tweet stated. I've seen the same statement posted on Facebook, on calendars, and even as bumper stickers.

The problem is, that platitude shared as wisdom can be as wrong as it sometimes is right.

Sometimes, the wise thing to do is to wait because "the time" isn't right. Often, God Himself has us wait.

My disdain for platitudes that preach untruths or half truths is multiplied by our social media culture. If a few people plastered a well-intentioned bumper sticker on their car, the misleading of others likely wouldn't be too great.

That's not how it is today.

Now, a platitude that teaches something that is biblically incorrect can be communicated to thousands, tens of thousands, or more as fast as it takes to click a "send" or "post" button. So the person who thought something sounded good, but didn't take any time to examine the biblical veracity of the platitude, can wind up sharing (and, therefore, teaching) biblically incorrect ideas or concepts as if they were true and beneficial.

Compounding that ugly truth are a couple more ugly issues. First, the average Christian never reads his or her Bible outside of a church service. The simple fact is, they tend to be so biblically illiterate they don't know a biblically untrue platitude from pretty sounding prose that teaches the opposite of what the Word of God actually says. Add to that Christians read and share more platitudes than scripture and you have a proliferation of false teaching.

A biblically inaccurate platitude doesn't sound so dangerous. It's just a sentence, shared with good intention, how much damage could it do?

Satan didn't use very many sentences with Eve, and some sounded close to what God had actually said.

Just with a twist.

Just enough twist to redirect Eve.

And we know how much trouble that caused!


The means to maximizing your life ...

Have you ever noticed how it's the verbose preacher who preaches about controlling your tongue?

Or the obese doctor who warns you need to lose weight?

Or the editor who rambles on in his own lengthy editorials, or the hair stylist who needs one?

Have you ever noticed how the mechanic often has his own car on blocks in his front yard for far too long, or the boss who scolds you for being late never starts a meeting on time?

Or how we talk about loving one another but rarely ever host each other in our own homes? Or how we could put another missionary in the field for what is spent on production design for sermon series?

This Andy Rooney-ish list can go on ad nauseum, but the items all have something in common: a failure of self-discipline.

When we fail to edit our words, restrain our appetites, or practice what we preach, we fail to apply the most basic level of self-discipline.

God has enabled us to discipline ourselves in order to do our part in achieving all we're capable of. Yet, we routinely fall short of that. Not because of any lack on God's part, but because we're simply too lazy to discipline ourselves.

Self-discipline isn't a dirty word, or an old school idea. It is our means of maximizing our own contribution to the life God has given us.

"For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline," 2 Timothy 1:7.

So how could your life improve if you applied some (or greater) self-discipline to what comes out of your mouth? To your appetite? To your fitness? To your career? To your relationships? And, especially, to your faith?


The great untapped mission field ...

“What shall we do on holiday?” Charlie asked Marge. “Trekking with Sherpas? Camping with the Berbers?”
“Kayaking with Inuits?” suggested Marge.

Charlie and Marge loved cultural adventure; meeting strangers, making friends.

“The house will be empty. Better tell the next door neighbor,” warned Charlie. “I wonder what his name is?”

For many, walking next door to meet the neighbor doesn't bring adventure or interest. For the Church, it's the great untapped mission field.

The next time you drive out of the church parking lot, remind yourself you're entering your mission field. Make an adventure of it!


Sunday, September 9, 2012

It takes just a little ...

A story is told (reportedly true) of a man and a teenage boy who checked in to a hotel and were shown to their room. The two receptionists noted the quiet manner of the guests, and the pale appearance of the boy.

Later the man and boy ate dinner in the hotel restaurant. The staff again noticed the two guests were very quiet, and that the boy seemed disinterested in his food. After eating, the boy returned to his room and the man went to the reception desk and asked to see the manager. The receptionist initially asked if there was a problem with the service or the room, and offered to fix things, but the man replied there was no problem of that sort, and repeated his request. The manager was called and duly appeared. The man asked to speak privately and was taken into the manager's office.

The man explained he was spending the night in the hotel with his fourteen-year-old son, who was seriously ill, probably terminally so. The boy was soon to undergo therapy, which would cause him to lose his hair. They had come to the hotel to have a break together, and also because the boy planned to shave his head, that night, rather than feel the illness was beating him. The father said he would be shaving his own head also, in support of his son. He asked the staff be respectful when the two of them came to breakfast with their shaved heads. The manager assured the father that he would inform all staff and they would behave appropriately.

The following morning the father and son entered the restaurant for breakfast. There they saw the four male restaurant staff attending to their duties normally ... all with shaved heads.

Sometimes we want to do more than we can possibly do. But sometimes a simple bold action can impact a life in more ways than we can measure. It takes just a little caring, a little love, and a little courage with a measure of action.


Saturday, September 8, 2012

There are people, and there are distractions ...

There was a certain amount of study and writing I intended to do this evening. With my coffee perched on the small, round table beside me, I was making good progress, clicking away on my laptop keyboard ... until Jenny walked in.

Her smile and warm greeting was a refreshing reminder of an important life lesson: People are not distractions.

I met Jenny at this same Starbucks a couple years ago when I returned to Texas. Jenny isn't the average "local"; she stumbled upon Murphy, Texas when she relocated here to attend UT Dallas ... from Shanghai, China.

A few pleasantries exchanged has turned into a form of friendship. We're always happy to see one another when the other shows up at the coffee shop. We catch up on what's going on in our lives, then turn to our computers to do what we came to the coffee shop to do.

As time has gone by, our conversations have gotten a little longer, a little deeper. Mostly, we've encouraged each other.

That's how God works.

He connects a guy from the west coast of the USA with a girl from the vast metropolis of Shanghai in a coffee shop in Texas for mutual encouragement.

He reminds us the people He brings into our lives are not distractions.


If you knew what I knew about me ...

Have you heard the story of the three preachers who spent a Monday on the golf course together?

As they golfed, they talked about their lives. The longer they talked, the more personal the conversation became.

After finishing the ninth hole, one preacher said to the others, "I really struggle with honesty. It's just too easy for me to say what sounds good rather than what's really true," he admitted.

"I can understand your struggle," one of the other preachers responded. "I have a real weakness for lust, and it seems there's just so many beautiful women in my church."

The first two preachers just shook their heads, then looked to the one preacher who had yet to confess anything and still remained quiet.

Finally the first preacher said to his quiet companion, "What about you brother, what do you struggle with?"

"Gossip," replied the last preacher.

After a story like that, we're tempted to think the moral of the story is to be careful about choosing who you share certain information with.

That's not really a good moral for this story.

Such a moral feeds our natural inclination to attempt to hide our sins rather than to confess them and repent of them. By hiding them, we think we can keep them while exhibiting an external portrayal of integrity.

Here's a better one: live your life in such a way you wouldn't be fearful to sell your parrot to the town gossip.

"People with integrity walk safely, but those who follow crooked paths will slip and fall," Proverbs 10:9.


Friday, September 7, 2012

What's left?

Have you ever met a successful "ideas man"?

Some of them are quite remarkable.

They think up fascinating businesses, organizations, programs and projects and pass the ideas for others to launch into reality.

Has the church become another "ideas man"?

Considering the church outsources church planting to agencies ...

Considering the church outsources missions to agencies ...

Considering some churches outsource evangelism to ministry specialists ...

Considering the church outsources preparing people for ministry to educational entities ...

Considering the church outsources caring for the orphan, the poor, the sick, and the homeless to governments, agencies, and organizations ...

Considering the church outsources counseling to organizations, and governmental agencies and programs ...

Considering many churches outsource the teaching of stewardship to organizations ...

Considering some churches outsource church administration and some leadership planning to church consultants ...

Considering some churches outsource a lot of spiritual development to books, videos, publishing houses, camps and conference organizations ...

... just what has the church left for itself to be and to do?

It is possible to outsource so much responsibility that you lose your purpose for existing, water down your mission, and blur your identity.

That's not a good idea.


Thursday, September 6, 2012

Living like a tourist ...

Jose Luis Navajo shares the following fable in his book, "Mondays With My Old Pastor":

"A tourist who was visiting a small village approached the house of a well-known wise man, and he was surprised to see that he lived in a small, humble room filled with books. The only pieces of furniture were a bed, a table, and a chair."

"Where is the rest of your furniture?" the tourist asked?

"And where is yours?" the wise man answered back.

"Mine?" responded the tourist, surprised. "I'm only here for a short time."

"Me too," said the wise man.

 That story reminds me of the words of an old hymn:

"This world is not my home, I'm just passing through,
my treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue.
The angels beckon me from heaven's open door,
and I can't feel at home in this world anymore."

Some people do feel at home in this world ... far too much. They make their comfort here a primary concern, as if they were settling in forever.

None of us are.

James describes our life on earth this way, "How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone," James 4:14.
So then, how should we live?

Paul gives us a hint in Philippians 3:20, "But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior."

What would a life eagerly awaiting the return of Jesus Christ look like?



Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The vegetable rebellion ...

Check out this short commercial ...


This commerical provides a fun visual to that rebellious, stubborn streak we've seen in others.

Or in ourselves.

And often over something more substantive than vegetables. Things like actually obeying God.

Is there anything you're trying to out-wait God on? Something you're being stubborn about and refusing to give in on?

Trying to wait out God is one of the ugliest wastes of life a person can pursue. You can never out wait God. And in the end, He will still be right, and your opposing position will still be wrong.

Unlike the ugliness of our prideful rebellion or stiff-necked stubbornness, God doesn't wrestle with us, trying to get us to "tap out." Instead, He graciously invites us to something better than we can desire or imagine: His will for our lives. Complete with the enabling to achieve it.

Isn't it time to eat your vegetables?


Just a bunch of noise ...

As a young child, I was terrified of thunder. I didn't know what it was, and was only mildly pacified later when I learned thunder is the result of lightning.

Scientific American provides this simple explanation for thunder:

"Thunder is caused by lightning, which is essentially a stream of electrons flowing between or within clouds, or between a cloud and the ground. The air surrounding the electron stream is heated to as hot as 50,000 degrees Farhenheit, which is three times hotter than the surface of the sun. As the superheated air cools it produces a resonating tube of partial vacuum surrounding the lightning's path. The nearby air rapidly expands and contracts. This causes the column to vibrate like a tubular drum head and produces a tremendous crack. As the vibrations gradually die out, the sound echoes and reverberates, generating the rumbling we call thunder. We can hear the thundering booms 10 miles or more distant from the lightning that caused it."

So it's actually the remarkable work of lightning that causes the loud noise we know as thunder.

That's unlike what we often experience. We're used to a lot of loud noise without anything remarkable at it's core.

We preach loudly, but fail to disciple.

We criticize loudly, but fail to contribute anything constructive.

We  complain loudly, but fail to be grateful.

We condemn loudly, but fail to forgive.

We worry loudly, but fail to have faith.

We get loud, but often achieve nothing of positive consequence from it.

We just roar and boom and rumble.

Kind of like Pharaoh Neco of Egypt during the days of Jeremiah the prophet. In his message about King Nebuchadnezzar's plans to attack Egypt, we read this statement from the prophet:

"There they will say, ‘Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, is a loudmouth who missed his opportunity!’" Jeremiah 46:17.

Pharaoh boasted loudly, but there was little substance behind the noise. Neco was a lot of thunder, without anything remarkable behind the noise. He talked a big game, but missed his opportunity with God.

How about your life: is there real substance behind the talk? Or do you generate more noise than anything substantive? Is God the remarkable core for what makes you loud, or are you missing your opportunity with Him?