What You Must Have Before You’ll Have Success

Jesus spoke words of encouragement for moments just like these.

Most of us Christians have experienced those incredible moments of intimacy with God when we have no yearning for any earthly success, much less for sin. Christ becomes our entire desire.

What You Must Have Before You'll Have Success

(Photo courtesy of Unsplash.com)

In those times, we make impassioned commitments of absolute dedication. We really believe we have turned a corner in our spiritual lives.

But for some reason . . . it doesn’t last.

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Good News about the Bad News You Hear

Nahum’s words offer encouragement and an invitation.

It seems the news isn’t news unless it’s bad news. You know, apart from a context of truth, the daily news feels like a wet blanket on our flame. But remember, the news chases ratings and clicks—not the whole truth.

Good News about the Bad News We Hear

(Photo by Photodune)

As I read the news each day, I have to remember it isn’t reporting the progress of God’s kingdom. In fact, headlines tend to hide the other half of the truth and focus only on the negative.

The prophet Nahum pulls back the curtain and shows us what God is doing in a world where it seems like the wheels have fallen off.

In the midst of the bad news you’ll hear today, there’s also some good news you need to hear.

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Ash Wednesday—Applied Every Day

If you’re unfamiliar with it, Ash Wednesday seems an odd tradition. Ashes of burned crosses from the previous year’s Palm Sunday are rubbed on the forehead in the shape of a cross.

Ash Wednesday . . . Every Day

(Photo: By Oxh973, Jennifer Balaska. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

So what’s the point of wearing ashes on Ash Wednesday? The cinder residue is reminiscent of the biblical act of repenting “in dust and ashes” (Job 42:6). (Speaking of ashes, the holiday also represents “National No Smoking Day” in Ireland.)

Many Christians have no connection with Ash Wednesday’s tradition.

But we all have need of what it represents. Every day.

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Choosing God’s Mercy Instead of Justice

I have a friend named Brad who made the front page of the paper, because he almost drowned. His rescue was extraordinary. He set out with a small raft and his bike, intending to make his way to a nearby lake. As he walked through the woods toward the lake, there was nowhere to walk except through sludge. He eventually abandoned his bike and boat.

And when it got dark, Brad got lost.

Choosing God’s Mercy Instead of Justice

(Photo by Photodune)

He slogged through the darkness only to find himself eventually floating in the middle of Lake Lewisville. Being as skinny as a rail with zero body fat (what’s that like?), he was soon on the brink of hypothermia.

Brad told me he had always been one never to ask for help. And yet, in this crisis, he screamed at the top of his lungs: “Oh my God! Please help me!”

You know how he was he rescued?

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Pain in the Body—A Lesson for Your Soul

Not long ago, my body gave me a little gift. I awoke suddenly one night with a smarting pain in the body. No matter how I fidgeted and adjusted, the hurt in my lower back only intensified.

Pain in the Body—A Lesson for Your Soul

(Photo by Photodune)

The best way I can describe the discomfort compares to having a doctor insert a three-inch hypodermic needle just to the left of the spine, exactly where the kidney sits. Occasionally, just for fun, the doc then twists the needle in a slow, clockwise motion.

The pain literally nauseated me.

Never before had I experienced such an inescapable ache.

The most frightful part was I had no idea what was happening.

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Pools of Bethesda—God’s Kindness and Our Repentance

Very few people are drawn to God by intimidation.

Instead, the Lord urges us to come to Him by revealing the kindness of His mercy.

Pools of Bethesda—God’s Kindness and Our Repentance

(Photo: Pools of Bethesda and Crusader chapel, courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Once we comprehend the depth of our imperfections, and the futility of our own efforts to remove them, we are in a position to respond to God’s kindness.

Jesus revealed this simple truth one day in Jerusalem with an act of mercy at the Pools of Bethesda.

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Your Priorities—Do You Recognize the Warning Signs?

I’ll never forget the day the air conditioner went out in my car. Although summer wouldn’t officially begin for another two weeks, for me, it officially began that day.

Sunset over Joppa, where Jonah boarded a ship to flee from God.

(Photo: Sunset over Joppa, where Jonah boarded a ship to flee from God.)

The blistering Texas highway winds reminded me of Jonah, the pouting prophet who sulked in the sun with a scorching wind on his head.

There’s nothing like losing your creature comforts to put a little perspective on our priorities.

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How to Ponder Scripture Every Time You Stop

Not long ago I stopped at a stop sign so intriguing that I doubled back to take its picture. Here it is.

Stop and Ponder Scripture

(Picture I took: Stop and Ponder Scripture)

What a great sign! After snapping the picture, I pulled to the side of the road and watched the next five cars that pulled up to the stop sign. Only one stopped. The rest rolled on through.

Later, I got to thinking about the intersection. “STOP—Ponder Scripture.” The command is there—and at a crossroads many stop at every day. Yet the surrounding neighborhood seems unaffected. They see the stop sign—but not the street sign.

I confess that, at times, I do too.

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Avoiding Spiritual Roadkill

I commute to work in the dark hours of the morning. Navigating the twisting country roads on my way to the highway, my headlights are the only illumination. But I always have to watch out for critters that get frightened by my lights. I see lots of roadkill. (Unlike some, I don’t pray over them.)

(Photo: www.flickr.com/photos/proimos, via Creative Commons)

More than once I have slowed to a stop for deer to scramble over adjacent fences, or a family of raccoons to cross single file, or numerous rabbits, skunks, squirrels, cats, and dogs. (I never slow down for snakes.) One morning, a buck with a multi-pointed rack just stood still and stared me down as I inched by. No movement. No fear. Amazing.

And then there are possums. Oh, dear.

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Serving in the Lip Service [Podcast]

Mark 7:1-23
Jesus reminds us that a person’s appearance and even behavior can be misleading. There were people in Jesus’ day who looked impressive, but their hearts were far from God. They drew near to God with their lips—their words—but that’s it.

Let’s look beyond our starched shirts and beautiful blouses to the heart that lies beneath them. Evaluate the product of your heart. Do you strive for purity inside as well as out?