Do You Know How to 2 Step?

Shortly after we moved to Texas in 1982, Pam and I discovered that 2-Step is considered dancing in Texas.  To a native, multi-generational Texan, if you can’t 2-Step, don’t waste the dance floor!  We discovered if danced properly, the 2-Step becomes an elegant dance.  Experienced 2-Stepper’s glide gracefully across the dance floor on a single plain. A number of times, I have laughed respectfully observing rough looking, seemingly uneducated cowboys gently holding hands with their “gal” as they approached the dance floor.  These men seamlessly transformed into a different person as their head and shoulders moved up and back, chin lifted up gliding their lady gracefully cross the dance floor.  The good two-stepper knows that timing is crucial. You don’t want to get behind, and you don’t want to get ahead. You want to step at the right time.  To me, the real dancer is the lady who synchronizes with the lead of her man step by step.  I have no idea how my wife, Pam, follows me while being my dance partner, but she does…anticipating my slight nudge or pull one-step-at-a-time.  She makes me look good…maybe “decent” is a better word 😊.

Believe it or not, Galatians 5:25 pictures a beautiful dance.  The Holy Spirit leads out step-by-step, and we synchronously follow. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”  Following the Holy Spirit, timing is crucial. You don’t want to get behind Him, you don’t want to get ahead of Him. You want to be just in step with him.  Oftentimes, we get way out in front or lazily fall behind.  When we do, the dance is no longer full of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control but becomes disjointed and frustrating to all concerned.    

Ephesians 5:18 commands us to “be filled with the Holy Spirit.”  Once we are, the Bible explains in the next couple of verses the joy of wholly following and keeping in step with Him, “speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  There will be praise and thanksgiving in our heart.  

Learn to keep in step with the Spirit wholly following Him. Nehemiah 8:10 encourages God’s people to give Him their full attention, and The joy of the Lord will be their strength”.

Is the Canary Singing?

Well into the 20th century, coal miners brought caged canaries into coal mines as an early-warning signal for toxic gases, primarily carbon monoxide. The birds, being more sensitive to a toxic atmosphere, would become sick before the miners were aware of danger giving the miners time to put on protective respirators and escape.  So, music to a miner’s ear was the canary singing cheerfully meaning there were none to very little toxins in the air. 

This begs a question that we must ask ourselves.  Does my life produce a positive, healthy atmosphere for others, or am I toxic emanating a judgmental, insensitive, self-centered atmosphere?  How would I know?  Is the canary singing?  Are the people around you (especially your wife and children) happy, productive, and growing in their faith and do they enjoy your company?  If the canary is not singing, it’s time for you to humbly ask God and others close to you, why?  It may be time for you to grow and change. 

Ephesians 4:29-32 gives us clear direction how to keep the canary singing: 

  • Verse 29 instructs how to engage others, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”  Engage others with wholesome words, not with crude, rude, hurtful words “according to their needs” not yours.
  • Verse 30 commands us, “do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God.”  To be what God wants us to be and deal with others in a wholesome way, we need the Holy Spirit to be free to work in us and through us.  If not, carnal living ensues causing a mess in our homes and close relationships. 
  • Verse 31 identifies the elements of a toxic environment and tells us to get rid of them, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.”  I am afraid too many of our homes and work environments breathe the air of these unhealthy toxins.  There is no way the canary can sing.
  • Verse 32 describes how to clean up our venomous environments, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”  Each of these characteristics will encourage the canary to sing.  They are full of grace and mercy.  “Kind and compassionate” are always focused on the needs of others and act in a manner that is sensitive, healthy, and edifying to folks who live around us.  “Forgiveness” is the lifeblood to all relationships.  We hold no grudges quickly clearing the air from toxic attitudes.

Can the canary sing when breathing the air of your marriage, relationship with your kids, extended family, friendships, business relationships, and church community?  With the Holy Spirit guiding, get rid of the relational toxins becoming kind, compassionate and always forgiving.  If so, “the canary will sing” beautifully and cheerfully.

Are You on the Construction or Wrecking Crew?

Are your words, especially at home, constructive or destructive…edifying or hurtful…gentle or harsh…truthful or false?  Never forget the power of words and their impact on those close by especially your spouse and children.  Proverbs 16:24 states, Gracious words are like a honeycomb, to the soul and health to the body.  As you walk out life, remember the wisdom of James 1:19, “Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.”  Ephesians 4:15 challenges us to “speak the truth in love.”

The following from Dr. Neil Anderson’s “Daily in Christ” devotional on May 3rd is a really good way for you to start the week:

Ephesians 4:29, Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear.

How do we express our perceptions of people? Primarily by what we say to them. Studies have shown that in the average home, for every positive statement, a child receives 10 negative statements. The school environment is only slightly better; students hear seven negative statements from their teachers for every one positive statement. No wonder so many children are growing up feeling they are losers. Parents and teachers are conveying that perception every day in how they talk to their children.

These studies go on to point out that it takes four positive statements to negate the effect of one negative statement. You probably verify that finding every time you wear a new suit or dress. A number of your friends may say, “Oh, what a good-looking outfit.” But it only takes one comment like “It’s really not you” to send you scurrying back to the store for a refund. We affect others significantly by what we say about them, and what we say is significantly determined by how we perceive them.

If we could memorize just one verse from the New Testament, put it into practice and never violate it, I believe we would resolve half to three-fourths of the problems in our homes and churches. The verse is Ephesians 4:29. Isn’t it amazing that you and I have the power to give grace to others through the proper use of our words? If we said nothing to put others down, and only built others up as Ephesians 4:29 commands, we would be part of God’s construction crew in the church instead of members of Satan’s wrecking crew.

Prayer: Father, I know my tongue is capable of blessing or cursing others. Guard my words today so I may edify others through what I say.

A “Praiser” or a “Grumbler”?

Don’t you love to be around a person who is positive, unselfish, and encouraging to others with thoughtful, personable, praiseful comments?  On the other hand, it is difficult to be around a person who is grouchy, a grumbler…right?! 

God is the same way.  He loves the positive and thoughtful praises of His people.  In fact, Psalm 22:3 is translated as “God is enthroned upon the praises of His people” or simply “God inhabits the praises of His people.”  When we praise God, we sincerely bless Him.  He dwells in the midst of His people who truly praise Him.  

Ephesians 5:18 commands for us as believers to “be filled with His Spirit.”  The word “filled” means that He will “abound or flourish abundantly in, flood or diffuse throughout” that believer.  You are filled with God.  The expression of this is revealed in v. 19, 19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your hearts to the Lord; 20 always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to our God and Father.”  When God is genuinely and comfortably present inside a believer, this person will be praising Him.  God wonderfully enjoys a heart of praise.

On the other hand, God despises grumbling, and He is blunt about it.  ”Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!” (James 5:9) Ouch!  He cannot stand a grumbling heart and mouth.  Why?  Grumbling originates from a heart of unbelief.  A grumbler is running his or her own life and mouth pushing God into the corner.  There is no place for God to impact that life.  He is “grieved.”

Philippians 2:14-16 says, “Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” A grumbler frustrates the Holy Spirit and is not fun for Him as well as anyone else to be around.

Jude 1:14-16 is even more eye-opening, “Enoch prophesied about them: ‘See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones 15 to judge everyone, and to convict all of them of all the ungodly acts they have committed in their ungodliness, and of all the defiant words ungodly sinners have spoken against him.’ These people are grumblers and faultfinders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage.” 

Take heed if you are a grumbler.  After reading scripture, it becomes evident that the Lord despises grumbling.  Humble yourself and trust Him.  Ask God to give you a heart of praise.  “He inhabits the praises of His people.”

Spiritual Free Radicals

What are free radicals and what do they do? Free radicals are organic oxygen containing molecules responsible for aging, tissue damage, and possibly some diseases. These molecules are unstable; therefore, they look to bond with other molecules, destroying their health and further continuing the damaging process (reference – Wise Geek).

Have you ever thought about “spiritual free radicals”?  These toxic falsehoods originate from the flesh or the devil behaving much like physical free radical molecules.  They will “bond” with other parts of your system become increasingly destructive to your spiritual health and your whole being.  These spiritual free radicals are cancerous and must be removed from your system.  Never forget, “The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). The “two-edged sword” is like a surgeon’s scalpel able to clean up any spiritual free radical. Also, the Word of God is full of spiritual antioxidants which kill spiritual free radicals trying to bond.

Below are several prevalent spiritual free radicals with verses from the Word of God with the power and strength to detox them:

Anxieties and worries.  If not cleaned up quickly, they develop devastating paths in our mind negatively impacting our whole being.  Philippians 4:6&7 detoxes anxiety and worry, do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  Verse 8 instructs the Christ-follower for continual health whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise, think on these things.”  Verse 9 states for us to “practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”  You are now detoxed.

Love of the world.  1 John 2, “15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.  Self-gratification, self-interest, and pride of life are spiritual free radicals that are ultra-toxic.  Luke 9:23-25 puts things into God’s perspective, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?”  Don’t love the world and the things thereof.  They are toxic.  Love God.

Bitterness (unforgiveness).  Bitterness is a spiritual free radical that is emotionally cancerous to you and toxic to those around you.  Hebrews 12:15 is clear, See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled.”  Learn to forgive and you as well as others around you will be detox’ed.

What spiritual free radicals are poisonous to you?  They will continue to grow until you are detoxed.  God wants to clean you up thru the power of and truths in His Word.

Keep Your Ax Sharp

This past weekend, while studying for my Life Group lesson, a verse really got my attention, Ecclesiastes 10:10, “If the iron is blunt, and one does not sharpen the edge, he must use more strength, but wisdom helps one to succeed.”   A brief story will make this verse come alive, “A lumberjack man said, ‘I don’t understand. I’m working even harder than before but cutting less timber.’ The supervisor asked the lumberjack how often he sharpened his ax. He replied, “I have too many trees to cut — I don’t have time to sharpen my ax.”  It is essential for a lumberjack to keep his ax sharp.  If not, he can do a whole lot of work expending tons of energy and still be ineffective. Why?  His ax is not sharp.

I believe that the majority of believers daily go out into the world without their ax being sharp.  A Christ follower can work his tail off in the energy of the flesh giving an all-out effort and will still be ineffective.  Why?  Our flesh cannot produce the things of God. 

  • Zechariah 4:6 states clearly, Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.”
  • Ephesians 2:8&9 are clear, For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”     
  • Galatians 2:20, I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

We sharpen our ax when we learn to walk by faith in His grace.  Our life is a continual walk with the Lord being present and active in our lives.  It is “not by our might nor power,” it is the Spirit of the Lord who lives and loves through us. 

In addition, Hebrews 4:12 states that “the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”  The Word of God is so sharp that it divides the soul (mind, emotion, and will) and spirit.  Man without the Spirit is dead.  God’s Word makes the spiritual part of man come alive to the point of helping us understand “the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”  Your ax will be dull until the Word of God comes alive and is allowed to stay active within you.

Keep your Ax sharp!

What’s the Cost of Forgiveness?

Forgiveness is at the core and heart of a Christian.  Matthew 6:14&15 states candidly, “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”  Forgiveness is not an option.  It is essential to our walk with Jesus and living out relationships with others.  The below is an awesome devotional published as “Daily in Christ” and authored by Dr. Neil Anderson.  The “Cost of Forgiveness” seems to be excessive but once offered brings a depth of life to you and others that you never thought possible.  This is not an easy read but worth your time:

Matthew 18:35 NIV, Forgive your brother from your heart.

Forgiveness is agreeing to live with the consequences of another person’s sin. Forgiveness is costly; we pay the price of the evil we forgive. Yet you’re going to live with those consequences whether you want to or not; your only choice is whether you will do so in the bondage of bitterness or the freedom of forgiveness. That’s how Jesus forgave you–He took the consequences of your sin upon Himself. All true forgiveness is substitutional, because no one really forgives without bearing the penalty of the other person’s sin.

Why then do we forgive? Because Christ forgave us. God the Father “made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Where is the justice? The cross makes forgiveness legally and morally right: “For the death that He died, He died to sin, once for all” (Romans 6:10).

How do you forgive from the heart? Initially, you must acknowledge the hurt and the hate. If your forgiveness doesn’t visit the emotional core of your past, it will be incomplete. This is the great evangelical cover-up. Christians feel the pain of interpersonal offenses, but we won’t acknowledge it. Let God bring the pain to the surface so He can deal with it. This is where the healing takes place.

Ask God to bring to your mind those you need to forgive. Make a list of all those who have offended you. Since God has forgiven them by His grace, you can forgive them too. For each person on your list, say: “Lord, I forgive (name) for (offenses).” Keep praying about each individual until you are sure that all the remembered pain has been dealt with. Don’t try to rationalize or explain the offender’s behavior. Forgiveness deals with your pain, not another’s behavior. Remember: Positive feelings will follow in time; freeing yourself from the past is the critical issue.

Prayer: Lord, I desire to be free from the hurt and the hate of offenses in my past. Today I move beyond desiring to forgive and asking Your help to forgive. Lord, I forgive _________ for ___________.

Upside Down Becomes Right Side Up

Wow! Did Peter have some guts to tell Jesus off?!?!  Look at Matthew 16:21-23, “Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, ‘Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.’ But he turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.’”  Jesus began explaining to his disciples that He had to die so that man could live.  Peter would have none of that and told Christ how stupid His logic was.  Jesus sternly replied to Peter that he was thinking like the god of this world, Satan, and that his mindset was “a hindrance” to kingdom thinking.  “You are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” 

1 John 2:16 sums up the logic of this world, For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world.” The “desires of the flesh” are focused on self-gratifications in this world. The “desires of the eyes” appeals to self-interest. The “pride of life” stresses self-promotion and self-exaltation.  The logic of the world is all about me, myself, and I. Jesus forcefully tells Peter that this mindset is worthless, a “hindrance” to God, and to have none of it.   

Matthew 16:24-26 explains the mindset of God, Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?”   Jesus explains to His disciples whoever follows Him and lives in His kingdom must:

  • “deny himself”, no longer living selfishly.
  • “take up his cross”, dead to self and committed wholeheartedly to God.
  • “follow me”, life is no longer living out your agenda but His will.

Then Jesus makes several amazing, eye opening, eternal impacting comments:

  • “Whoever would save his life will lose it.”
  • “Whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
  • What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?”
  • What shall a man give in return for his soul?

Set your mind daily on Jesus not the world, and your life will never be the same.  Upside Down Becomes Right Side Up. 

Next Play Mentality

Asked a question why their team played so well, often, a player will state, “We broke the game down to each play and competed fiercely to win each one of them.”  “Our team had a ‘next play mentality’ forgetting the last play not allowing it to impact our full focus and effort on the following play.”  What would happen if we as believers broke our day down to the next play?   Whether we are successful or not during our last play, each of us develops a “next play mentality.” We move on living out the moments of our lives for the glory of God with the belief that He walks with us each step of the day.

With most of us, our days become a blur living life out without being focused on its moments.  At the end of the day, when asked how it went, often, our answer is, “same ol’ same ol’.”  The implication is that life is boring and monotonous.  If you are like me, “same ol’ same ol” seems to be a slap in God’s face. 

Think about it.  If you meet with God each morning, decide to meditate during the day on verses that stood out to you in your quiet time, and determine to live out the moments in your life with a “next play mentality”, how would that change your day and your witness? Whether you come in contact with multiple people during a day or a single precious child, a “next play mentality” means that we live with purpose during each of the moments of life. 

The “next play mentality” reminds me of several verses:

  • Matthew 6:34 implies a next play mentality, “do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”  Live each moment of T-O-D-A-Y not focused on tomorrow.  If so, each day becomes special and different in its own way.
  • Philippians 3:13-14 teaches us a next play mentality forgetting failure or the giddiness of our successes focusing on our next play, “one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
  • Matthew 6:27 instructs us not to get caught up with the concerns of future moments and stay focused on now, “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”  Keep your eyes off the future and be attentive to the current moments.

One last thought.  Journaling helps ground yourself reminding you of the moments lived out with a focus on your next step.  We let so much of life slide by not lived out with purpose…“same ol’ same ol’”.  You can change that with a next play mentality. 

Please Stop Tooting Your Own Horn

Jesus in Matthew 6:1-8 tells what is valuable to God and what is not.  First, let’s read the passage.  “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

What is worthless to God?

  • Don’t practice your righteousness to be seen!  If you ensure that others see what you have done to receive their praises, these accolades will be remembered only briefly by man and have no value to God.
  • A couple of examples of this, is the way we give and pray.  Don’t “toot your own horn” how much you give.  Praying in a manner that brings attention to yourself is rewarded by man only temporarily but not God.
  • Don’t be a “hypocrite”!  Not being who you say you are or saying one thing and actually doing another grieves God. 
  • Any shenanigans that we do “spiritually” to build up ourselves are worthless to God. 

What things are valuable and are rewarded by God?

  • Giving in secrecy is well received and pleasing to God.  “When you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret.  And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
  • When you pray, do it in secrecy not bringing any attention to others.  When you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret.  And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”   Do you have a private room and special time to get alone with God?
  • Be straight up with God.  He despises “heaping up empty phrases.”  Don’t try to fool God with superfluous words…total waste of time.

Eternal values are always a heart thing between God and you.  Giving God a special time in a private place conversing intimately is why we were created.  Giving financially is an act of worship.  Please stop tooting you own horn.