One-a-Day Thursday, 8/7/14

number 1My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. (James 1:9-20).

People bug me.

I may have mentioned that before.  It’s still true.

People bug me because (present company excepted) they can be so idiotic, and they say things that are foolish and untrue and just plain dumb and I feel honor bound to point out their idiocy and so I speak out and set them straight and then sometimes I find out that what I thought they were saying isn’t what they were trying to say at all and I never let them finish their thought I just jumped to conclusions and blew up and made the whole situation awful and then I have to apologize and that bugs me.

James seems to think that the above scenario does not bring about righteousness.

James is probably correct.

I had a choir director once who instructed us to, “Listen louder than you sing.”  His point was that, if you can’t hear what’s going on around you, you can’t blend, you can’t make music, you can only create dissonance.  The same appears to be true about life.

It’s Thursday, Beloved.

Listen loud.

One-a-Day Wednesday, 8/6/14

number 1Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (James 1:17).

He wants good things for you.

He has given good things to you.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret, Beloved.

Sometimes I doubt God.

Oh, I don’t doubt that he’s there, or that he’s Almighty God.  I don’t doubt the truth of the Resurrection or that he’s coming back for us one day.

It’s just that, after so many years of following him, there are still moments when, in the secret places of my heart, I doubt that he loves me.

I mean, why would he?

Now, I know that you’re way past all that nonsense, and your faith is unshakeable.  But, just for kicks, let me tell you what I do when moods of doubt take hold of me.

I count my blessings.

Yes, it sounds trite, but I’m telling you it works.  Stay with me here. This verse tells us that every good gift is from God, right?  And people give gifts to those they love, right?  And God is not fickle, loving one minute and hating the next—if he loves, he loves, right?

So, as I count the good things in my life, I can take each one as tangible proof of his love.

And there really are so many good things.

When I start counting, I invariably come around to counting the people I love.  That’s when I stop.  See, when I consider all the hearts I hold in mine, and I think that each of them is a sign of God’s love for me, my doubts stutter and go silent.

Anyway, that’s probably just me.  But, as you go through your day, take a moment or two or twenty and think about the great gifts that are yours.

Then think about the great Giver.

And know that you are loved.

Happy Wednesday, Beloved.

One-a-Day Tuesday, 8/5/14

number 1…the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, because he will pass away like a wild flower (James 1:10).

Who do you think you are?

Wealth, power, worldly position—they mean nothing before the cross of Christ.

And that’s OK.

Actually, it’s better than OK.

When I recognize how small and insignificant I really am it drives me back to the Cross.

Which is right where I need to be.

Go back and read verse 9 alongside verse 10 and you get the big picture.  Of yourself you have nothing, you are nothing, no matter what the world sees.

In him…everything.  No matter what the world sees.

And that, Beloved, is the beauty of it.

You are his.  Walk in pride today.

One-a-Day Monday 8/4/14

number 1The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position (James 1:9).

Who do you think you are?

Do you think you’re kind of a nuthinburger, with a dead-end job, an empty bank account, a lonely heart, and little to offer the world?

Interesting.  I know that feeling.  May I even suggest that, in the eyes of the world, it may be fairly accurate?

In the eyes of the world.

But, since when do we care about the eyes of the world, Beloved?

Let me remind you of something.  If you belong to Christ, then you are a child of the Lord of Everything.  You are royalty of the highest order.

Your job? King’s Ambassador.

Your wealth?  The riches of Heaven.

Your heart? Loved to distraction by the Author of Love, the one who thought up the very idea of you, the one who knows everything there is to know about you, the one who died so that you can be together forever.

Your gift to the world?  The message of that love.

Who do you think you are?

Who do you know you are?

Stand tall, Beloved.

One-a-Day Friday, 8/1/14

number 1But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, driven and tossed about by the wind.  That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does (James 1:6-8). 

Is he God, or isn’t he?

Is Jesus Lord of your life, or is he not?

If he is, then why do you hesitate?

From time to time, people ask me for advice.  When they do, I bathe their situation in prayer, line it up against Scripture, apply good old common sense, and give them an answer that I believe comes from wisdom.

Sometimes they follow that advice…great.

Sometimes they thank me, verbally embrace the soundness of my advice, and go off and do the opposite…and their situation falls apart.

Drives me crazy.

Now, I’m just Michael, and my wisdom is pretty limited.  I can’t even imagine what it must be like for God, who has given us Scripture, and experience, and the Holy Spirit, when we receive his wisdom and respond, “Gee, I don’t know…”

I know some situations are complicated, and there doesn’t seem to be a clear answer.  God knows that too, and I don’t think he faults us for times of genuine confusion.

But.

More often than not, the answer is simple enough; it just isn’t the answer we want.  So our emotions come charging in to cloud the issue, and everything becomes more convoluted and complicated than it needs to be.

Have you asked for wisdom, Beloved?  Have you gone to Scripture, gone to prayer, gone to godly mentors?

Have you received an answer?

Well, then…?

It’s Friday, Beloved.  Walk in wisdom this weekend.

One-a-Day Thursday, 7/31/14

number 1If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him (James 1:5).

What does wisdom look like?

This is a dangerous passage, because many people read it and think that God is going to give them some sort of tingly feeling, an ooh-aah-oh-aha! moment, and suddenly they will know what they need to do.

And God can do that.

On occasion, he does.

More often than not, however, wisdom is the result of less mystical things, like study of the Scripture, or listening to the advice of those who have demonstrated wisdom in their own lives, or learning from our mistakes.

Sometimes God uses those trials we’ve been talking about to build wisdom.

Wisdom is a gift, but unlike your salvation, wisdom is a gift you earn.  If you’re waiting for that mystical flash from Heaven, you may find yourself waiting for a long time.  Worse, you may be tempted to absolute foolishness because it feels like God is telling you something.

I have a friend who wanted to write a worship song.  He decided to let God give him the song, by letting his Bible fall open and writing about whatever verse was first on the page.  His bible fell open to Leviticus.

And he gave the world that immortal song And the Eunuch Shall Not Enter the Temple.

I’m not saying that God doesn’t speak through feelings sometimes.  What I am saying is that, if that feeling of yours doesn’t match up with Scripture…it ain’t from God.

You need wisdom.  Ask for it.  But then don’t just sit back, close your eyes, and wait for it.  Work for it.  Dig for it—in Scripture, in experience, in your brothers and sisters in Christ.  It’s there, and it’s for you.

Just put your gloves on and get to work.

Happy Thursday, Beloved

One-a-Day Wednesday, 7/30/14

number 1Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:4).

Sticktoitiveness.

That’s what my grandma used to call it.  James calls it perseverance, a term that works almost as well.  It’s that quality of taking one more step, trying one more time, going one more mile.

You know what I think is really interesting?  James names perseverance as the character trait that will make us mature and complete.

Not strength.

Not wisdom.

Not intelligence.

Perseverance.

Why that quality, apart from the others?  It’s not very exciting, not very romantic.  There’s really nothing very heroic about it at all.

Which, I think, is precisely why God calls us to it.

When I was in high school, I ran for the cross country team.  Cross country was a fall sport, but it wasn’t the fall sport.  That, of course, was football.  Football was played by the physical elite, big muscly dudes who went toe-to-toe under the bright lights in a stadium full of people.

And cheerleaders.

Cross country…not so much.  We rarely drew crowds, and I never saw a cheerleader.  We were the leftovers, guys who weren’t big enough to play football, but still wanted that sweaty locker room experience.  There was really only one lesson to learn in order to succeed at cross country.

Don’t stop running.

You see, the races were so stinking long.  No matter how big or how fast you were, it ultimately came down to who refused to quit.  It was not unusual to see a sprinter-type jump out to an early lead, only to falter after half a mile or so.  The winners were often skinny little guys who, in the end, just kept putting one foot in front of the other.

I think that’s what God is looking for in us.  Sure, he wants us to be strong and wise and smart.  What he’s really looking for, however, is the one who will run the race, day or night, hot or cold, rain or shine, when no crowds are there to cheer them on.

Are you that one?  Are you willing to run the race that most people never see?  Are you willing to keep putting one foot in front of the other, long past the point where you want to give up?

Cause it’s a long race.

If you’re in trials today, Beloved, know that God is using them to teach you good old sticktoitiveness.  Hold tight to his hand, and keep putting one foot in front of the other.  You’re in training, and you are going to make it.

By his grace.

For his glory.

Keep running, Beloved.

One-a-Day Tuesday, 7/29/14

number 1In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps (Proverbs 16:9).

I told you yesterday that writing about trials was dangerous.  God has this way of providing object lessons, whether I think I need them or not.

After I posted yesterday’s One-a-Day, I went to the doctor for a very routine, very superficial surgery.  I had a benign but annoying lump on my back that had been my companion for many years, but to which I was now ready to say goodbye.  No surgeon, no hospital required.  No knocking me out.  Just a quick slice-and-stitch in the doctor’s office.  I had extensive plans for the remainder of my day, which included yard work and cleaning out the garage.

Except God, who is much wiser than I, decided that this was a great time to drive home yesterday’s Scripture—and throw in today’s as a bonus.

I’ll protect you from gruesome details first thing in the morning.  Let’s just say that the lump was kinda like an iceberg; the vast bulk of it was down where you can’t see.  By the time my doctor was finished spelunking, I was short on blood and long on pain.  I spent the bulk of the rest of my day in the company of doctors, and got no yard work done.  The garage also remains a minefield.

In light of yesterday’s verse, I tried to be a good example for you and count it all joy.

I was only marginally successful.  I hope that was enough to avoid a secondary lesson.

So do us both a favor, Beloved.  Read today’s verse.  Pray through it.  Acknowledge the truth of it before God, and hold lightly to your plans for today.  Let’s not give him any reason to decide that we need another object lesson, hmm?

My plan for today is simply to sit in my chair, eat, read, and try not to bleed.

But, hey, I’m open to whatever.  No problem, Lord.

Happy Tuesday, Beloved.

One-a-Day Monday 7/28/14

number 1Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. (James 1:2-3).

Well, this is a dangerous passage.

I start talking about the benefits of difficult times, and God decides to illustrate the point in your life, and…Uh Oh.

But here it is, so here we go.

I am not the man James would have me be.  Sorry, James.  No matter how hard I try, I can’t seem to muster up joy when, “Trials of many kinds” hit.  A grudging acceptance?  Maybe.  But joy?  Not even the impure kind, I’m afraid.  Frankly, I would like this particular verse better if James had said, “Consider it a horrific nightmare…but grit your teeth and endure it anyway.”

I ran cross country in high school, and my coach had a fairly wide sadistic streak in him.  He used to send running through places like Death Hill and Bloody Ridge and The Plains of Endless Discomfort.  We ran mile after nasty mile in heat, in cold, in rain, in pain.

I didn’t like those runs.

But I liked the results.

By the end of the season, I was more than I had been at the beginning.

In that, there was joy.

I hope you don’t encounter trials today, Beloved.  I kinda like you, and I’d just as soon not see you in pain.  But it’s not my call, and God has long since proven that he knows more than Michael.

So when the trials come—James never said “If”—embrace them as a gift designed to make you stronger.

I’m sorry it hurts.

So is God.

But hold tightly to him, know that he loves you, and let him take you through.

Not around…through.

See you on the other side, Beloved.

One-a-Day Friday, 7/25/14

number 1…and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!”  Immediately, Jesus reached out his hand and caught him.  “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14: 30-31). 

Peter was in over his head—literally.  He had taken his eyes off Jesus, focused on his worldly circumstances, and panicked.  His grand venture of faith was falling apart rather quickly.

So he cried out to God.

Good move, Pete.

There are two things that really hit me in this passage.  The first is Peter’s faith.

Yes, I realize that this story highlights his doubt—Jesus points this out himself.  But I think that his doubt is not so much in God’s ability to work as it is in God’s willingness to work in Peter.  It’s a feeling I know all too well.  I know that God can do anything he wants; I just can’t imagine that he wants to do it through me.  It’s a weird mixture of pride and self-doubt that we all fall victim to.

Except you, Beloved.  I know—you’ve got it all together.

But Peter’s faith in God is rock-solid—no pun intended.  After all, to whom does he cry out in his fear?

To whom do you cry out?

The other thing that strikes me in this passage is the Lord’s reaction to Peter.  “Immediately, Jesus reached forth his hand and caught Peter.”  Jesus did not let Peter founder and flop and flail in the water.  He was there, waiting, at the moment his child needed him.

Then he spoke to Peter.  Now I can’t be sure in what tone of voice he said, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”  Perhaps he was frustrated; maybe he was genuinely curious.  My gut tells me, though, that there was a smile in his eyes, and that small shake of the head that a parent uses when his child has goofed.  I haven’t found it in any translation of this passage, but I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if Jesus had followed up this statement with, “You knucklehead.”

Maybe that’s just me.

The more I think about it, the more I am convinced that Jesus was pleased rather than frustrated with Peter.  I think he truly enjoyed seeing Peter take these few faltering steps of faith, just like I loved seeing my kids learn to walk.  Sure they fell, and I chuckled when they did, because I knew that ultimately I would keep them safe.

I don’t know what God is calling you to today.  Could be adventure; could be trial.  But I do know this—he’s calling you out on the water.  He has a challenge for you.  He wants to show you what he can do in and through you.  Sure you might fall—and he stands ready to catch you.  Sure you might fail—and he stands ready to pick you up and let you try again.  Don’t be afraid of letting him down.  Every step you take in him makes him proud as can be.  Don’t be deceived into thinking that God wouldn’t work through you.  Trust me, he’s worked through a lot worse than you.

He’s worked through me.

Just look to the One who loves you, Beloved.

Step out.