Matthew Kelly

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Who were the first people who didn’t read the Apple agreement?

Adam and Eve 

A neighbor invited me to a Matthew Kelly conference, and that was one of his opening jokes. I don’t know him well enough to endorse all he says and does, but I want to share a bit of wisdom, gleaned from that conference, with you. (My notes are not perfect, so these quotes are actually paraphrases. The italicized comments are mine.)

“Four signs of a dynamic Christian are prayer, study, generosity, and evangelism.” (Well, that’s enough to work on for a while, don’t you think?)

“Be hungry for best practices.” (So back we go to the Manufacturer’s Handbook to learn how to live.)

“Our lives change when our habits change.”

“Get good at saying no. The only way to say no to anything is to have a deeper yes.”

“God speaks to you daily through three ordinary voices: Your legitimate needs, your talents and abilities, and your deepest desire.”

“Often times God does his greatest work in the midst of our darkness.” (Actually, the credit for that one goes to the conference worship leader, Eliot Morris.)

“If I lived out just one Gospel reading 100%, my life would change radically. We need to work on the gap between that life and the lives we are living now.” (More on this later.)

“There are two ways to live life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” (Matthew was quoting Albert Einstein here. I want to live the second way!)

“Men stumble over the truth from time to time, but most pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing happened.” (That’s from Winston Churchill. Do we live according to the eternal truths we have?)

“When we walk humbly with God, he leads us to exactly who and what we need, to those people, things, and experiences he has designed and intended for us.”

I’d love to hear what you think of Matthew Kelly’s thoughts. Feel free to use the comment box below!

 

Psalm 78

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I love to talk (and write) about trusting the Lord, worshipping him, honoring him. Today, though, my Bible reading covered the other side of the coin, the dark side, so to speak. The verses below, beginning with Psalm 78:40, point out what happens when we ignore the Lord our God:

“How often they rebelled against him in the wilderness and grieved him in the wasteland! Again and again they put God to the test; they vexed the Holy One of Israel.”

I could try to pass these verses off as ancient history, a simple description of the Israelites as they wandered the wilderness, with no implications for my own life. I don’t believe that’s the only reason they are recorded in the book of Joshua, though. I can rebel. I can grieve him. I can vex the Holy One of Israel. How? I suppose there’s more than one way, but look at the very next verse. It’s the one that struck me this morning as an important reminder of what it means to serve the Lord.

“They did not remember his power—the day he redeemed them from the oppressor, the day he displayed his signs in Egypt, his wonders in the region of Zoan…”

The Israelites lost sight of the power of God. Despite all he had done, all the ways he had revealed himself, they abandoned their faith in him. They fell into fear and a frenzy of complaints whenever the going got rough.

God makes it clear throughout the Bible that he does not ever want to be forgotten or ignored. He is to be the center of our lives and of our thoughts every single day. Do we benefit from that kind of faith and trust? Of course, but that’s not the reason we are to keep him as our focus. We are to remember his power because that is what he demands, what he commands us to do. And when we don’t, we have rebelled. We grieve and vex him. We walk in disobedience.

These are hard words, but only if we choose to ignore them. The brighter side of this coin is that the One who created us, who created all things, wants us to be in close, continuous relationship with him. Joshua had that, and so can we.

Signs of Healing

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Crossword puzzles have become a part of my bedtime routine most evenings. I find that they engage my brain just enough to help me tone down all the other thoughts that clamor for attention throughout the day. A few nights ago, though, the very first crossword clue started me thinking about perspective.

The clue for 1 across was “Signs of healing.” The answer was five letters long. Since I had no idea what it might be, I took a look at 1 down. One down was easy and started with an “s.” So: signs of healing, five letters, starting with an S. Have you got it? I didn’t either. The answer turned out to be scars.

What? Scars? I’ve always thought of scars as a sign of injury, not of healing. I have scars on my belly now, three of them, serving as daily reminders that errant cells within my body demanded surgery. But signs of healing? Well, come to think of it, my body has healed. No bleeding or infection runs along those three little lines. And the small bald spot on my husband’s temple where a childhood fall required stitches? It poses no threat and causes no pain. It too has healed. So has the place on my father’s back where melanoma was removed half a century ago.

Perspective is a powerful thing. We all have scars, some of them physical, some emotional. We might look at them and think, “Why did I have to suffer such an injury?” But even if the scar itches or aches now and then, it is no longer a wound. We can choose to let those same scars remind us that, praise God, we have healed. In that choice, much of life changes.

Do we really trust God to carry us through all hardships? Our loving Lord heals our wounds and uses our troubles (often in ways we would not choose and may not understand.) If we can remember his intervention in our lives, then once we bear scars, they are indeed signs of healing.

 

Filtering Our Lives Through Faith*

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Does your faith ever waver? The ninth chapter of Mark tells about a father whose son needed to be healed. After he described the boy’s condition to Jesus, the father said, “If you can do anything, help us.” (Doesn’t that sound like us? “I’m not sure you can, but maybe you can. I’ll cover my bases by at least asking. So, in case you would like to, if you are able …”)

Jesus’ answer to that father is the same as what he says to us, “All things are possible to him who believes” (Mark 9:23 NASB).

How did that father respond? Here’s what Mark 9:24 (AMP) recounts, “At once the father of the boy gave an eager, piercing, inarticulate cry with tears and he said, ‘Lord, I do believe! Help my unbelief.’”

We can make that cry too. “I do believe, help my unbelief!” Jesus healed the man’s son. He will help us too, but we need to increase our faith. How do we do that? We are never, this side of heaven, going to be perfect in our faith, yet there is a way to make it grow.

“Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17 NASB). Faith comes by hearing the word of God. The problem is, of course, that we can hear without paying attention. Remember getting called on in class? I do. Sometimes I heard the teacher’s voice, but had no idea what she had asked. We need to pay attention to God’s word, the kind of attention that comes from wanting to know what he says.

Then we need to let those words sink in. If we don’t “pay it any mind,” as we say in the South, we’re sure to forget it. It’s like telling the preacher, “Good sermon today. It really touched me.” Sometimes, later in the day, when someone asks me, “What was the sermon about today,” I have to answer, “Well, I don’t remember, but it was good.” If we don’t meditate on God’s word, it might sound good, but it won’t do any good until it reaches our hearts and produces faith.

I deedoubledare you to hear God’s word this week. I mean get into it, read it, listen, and meditate. Try starting with Hebrews, Chapter 11 (Yes, the whole chapter.) You’ll see what people who believed God did by faith. You’ll read that, “Without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Hebrews 11:6 ESV).

*For the month of December, each post will be an abridged excerpt from Every Wednesday Morning, written by my mom, Beth Smith. If you want to read all 64 devotional essays in their full length form, you can grab a copy of her book at etsy.com  

 

 

Other Good Words

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I keep a little red moleskin journal in my purse. It helps me remember the names of new friends, the list of calls I need to make or items I need to buy. Best of all, it becomes a depository for inspiring quotes. I’d like to share some of those today, credited where possible.[i] (Next week begins a five week description of an unexpected journey.)

“Don’t make obedience exhausting. You need the help of heaven to understand the things of heaven. Ask God to help you.”

“Be careful. What was miraculous can become mundane.”

“As to forgiveness, St. Stephen did not pick up the stones and hurl them back at his executioners.”

“Do we squander our forgiveness?”

“Letting your sinful nature control you mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace” (Romans 8: 6 NLT).

“Pray the Jesus Prayer (Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me.) throughout the day, and keep Christ at the center of your existence.”

“The pains of this world are temporary.”

“This is the prayer that never fails, ‘Thy will be done.’” (Father Tim in Jan Karon’s Mitford Series)

 

And how about you. Do you have a favorite quote scribbled somewhere? I’d love for you to share it here.

[i] If you can identify the source of an uncredited quote, please let me know!

No More Excuses by Beth Smith

tankI once heard a preacher say, “An excuse is a reason wrapped up in a lie.” Are you as good at finding excuses for your actions, or lack of action, as I am? We are not alone. Let me give you a few examples from the Bible. Even though these people went on to obey, their first reactions were excuses.

In Chapter 6 of Judges, the Israelites were in deep trouble (again). They were being starved to death by the Midianites. God called Gideon to the rescue, addressing him as a mighty man of fearless courage. Gideon answered with an excuse, “Lord, I can’t rescue Israel. I come from the weakest tribe…” We do that, don’t we? We tell God we can’t because we’re just nobodies. We don’t come from a very good background. We’re not well educated. We’re the poorest of the poor. In other words, we tell God he’s not able to use us.

God called Jeremiah to be a prophet to the Israelites, saying to him, “Before you were ever born, I planned on making you my spokesman.” Wow, that would inspire and convince anyone, right? Nope. Jeremiah’s first response was an excuse. “I can’t speak for you. I’m too young.” Does that excuse sound familiar? Sometimes we think we’re too young and inexperienced or (as in my case) too old and worn out. That’s just a flimsy excuse, if we’ve been called by God to do something.

In the book of Exodus, God even spoke from a burning bush, assigning Moses the task of going to Pharaoh and leading the Israelites out of Egypt. Moses immediately offered two excuses: They won’t believe me, and I’m not a good speaker. Do we dare to tell God that we don’t have the talents or skills to do what he wants us to do? In the light of God’s power and God’s grace, we stand without excuse for our disobedience.

How do we break our habit of making excuses? Try starting here. Do the last thing you remember thinking God wanted you to do, but that you didn’t do. Perhaps it’s something that offers a great challenge. Maybe it’s something as simple as writing a letter or making a phone call. We may think we can’t go through with whatever those things are, but God’s Word tells us that:

  • He knows us.
  • He has empowered us with his Holy Spirit.
  • He never leaves us or forsakes us.
  • We can do anything he asks us to do, because he will make us able.

I heard a story about a group of Marines who were using war games for training. Instead of using weapons, the men were told to use verbal cues. For example, when they “fired” their unloaded rifles, they were to say “Bang! Bang!” They said “Boom” when lobbing an imaginary grenade.

A young soldier spotted a member of the enemy team, but all of his shouts of “Bang!” and “Boom!” did nothing. The other soldier simply held his ground. When asked for an explanation, the unmovable Marine simply said, “Rumble, Rumble! I’m a tank!”[1]

With Christ we’re tanks. Next time we’re about to offer excuses for avoiding what we know we should do, we could say to ourselves, “Rumble! Rumble!” Then move forward and do it. Write “Rumble! Rumble!” someplace where you can see it this week. Let those words remind you that we can do anything God wants us to do through Christ who gives us strength.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Inspired by a skit found at http://www.scoutorama.com/skit/sk_display.cfm?sk_id=104 accessed 5/14/15.