5 things to start the new year

As school is getting back into the full swing, I wanted to share five things to help us all look at the school year afresh. Even though I have students in mind, these things can apply to anyone, anywhere.

1) Start with God. I know it seems like a given but there’s no doubt that as time, busyness and complacency set in, starting each day with God may become a challenge. It’s important to not only be disciplined in having time with God but also to be directed. What does that mean? It means having a plan. Decide when and what you are going to read and study. Make it part of your homework routine. Use the Youversion Bible app for reading plans and then use a journal to record your thoughts and prayers. You’ll be amazed at how different your days will be!

2) Start praying for your classmates and friends. Inevitably there are people in your classes and friends on your bus…people that you work with who need your prayers. You don’t have to blatantly ask for prayer requests…just listen for needs that you overhear and pray silently about what God wants you to do. He may want you to speak up to help meet the need or He may simply want you to seek Him in prayer over a period of time. Praying for the people around you is a great way to see and be part of what God is doing.

3) Start seeing yourself as an agent of change. Regardless of where you are or how much you like being there, God can and does want to use you to bring about godly and lasting change. He can use you to demonstrate His mercy, grace, kindness, and love if you are willing to be that vessel for Him to pour it through. God isn’t limited by our inabilities but our unavailability. Will you be available to Him to bring lasting and effective change?

4) Start looking for ways you can be involved. As a servant of Jesus, you have to take a position of service. In what way can you help another? How can you serve your school or job better? How about the community? How can you give back? One of the greatest ways God uses us is by being involved in acts of service to those around us. Look for a way to be involved today.

5) Start giving your best. No matter what, you can always give your best to the situation. Remember you are not responsible for what someone else does but you are responsible for you. You can always rise above the gossip, crude jokes, meaningless banter and give the best version of yourself to others and to the Lord. Don’t withhold the good that is in you for fear of standing out. Be all that you can and were created to be and that will bring God glory. Use your brain, your gifts, your talents and your time wisely and give all you have to achieve the greatest good you can. Don’t compare your best with someone else. You’re not in a competition. You only have to answer for you and you and God know what your best is. So start giving your best to everything you do and you will most certainly bring the change God desires and the glory God deserves.

Advertisements

Observations Of A Prodigal #6

Prodigal

 “But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. 23 And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, 24 for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began. Luke 15:22-24

Father Says.

The father said to the servants. I like this because he doesn’t tell the son to go get cleaned up. Immediately, the father restores the son and treats him like a son. Isn’t that wonderful? Sometimes, we feel like we’ve got to go through some restoration process with God but that’s not the case, He always welcomes us home as sons and treats us like one immediately.

Hurry up! There’s no more time to waste. Enough time’s been wasted already! Get the clothes, ring, sandals, and food, quick!! Chop, chop! I love the thought that this father is in such a hurry to receive his son back. He wants the son to be aware of the extreme amount of love he has and the excitement that he has for his return. The father does some very important and symbolic things for his son.

“Heir-aspotle”.

First he says bring the clothes. Get those rags off my boy! He’s going to wear the finest. It’s time to go from rags to riches. He wanted to immediately restore the boy’s image. The boy had been low in self-esteem and this was a way to immediately impact him: make him look different. I don’t care what anyone says, I always feel better when I’m dressed nicer. Clothing has a lot to do with image and how we feel about ourselves. The father knew this and had the servants bring the very best. Isn’t it awesome to know we’ve been clothed in the righteousness of Christ?

Lord Of The Ring.

Secondly, the father puts a ring on his finger. This was to signify his identity with the family. It was probably like a signet ring. He was back home where he belonged. He was still part of the family; a son, nonetheless! A ring symbolizes we belong to someone and typically, such items are passed down from generation to generation. This ring was given to remind the son to whom he belonged. It was given to show such a restoration that the father wanted it passed along. The ring would be a reminder of the love and acceptance, the empowerment that comes from being a son.

All-Stars.

Thirdly, the father puts sandals on his feet. This was to represent the father’s answer to the son’s desire to be a servant and not a son. Slaves during this time did not wear shoes. The father would have none of that! This was his son and yes, sons serve but he would not be treated as a mere servant or slave. How could he be treated that way when he’s a son? The father did not want the boy to lose sight of the complete unconditional love the father had for him. The boy probably sold his shoes trying to get food. Now he would have a new pair and dine in royalty.

What Beef?

Fourthly, the fatted calf was killed. This meal would be a great celebration. Only the best food, the best meat would be served; and plenty for all. The father wanted everyone to know, to join in the celebration because something of incredible significance had happened: his child had come home! Isn’t it simply amazing to think that God would make any big deal out of you or me and yet the fact remains: He does!

EVERYTHING YOU'VE EVER WANTED IS ON THE (2)

Are you ever in a hurry for anything? Do those things matter? Is there something that you should be in a greater hurry for than what you are?

Is there someone in your life that needs to be restored? What can you do to assist the healing process?

How does the way you dress communicate the way you feel? Have you ever tried a completely new style, trying to find a new you? Did it work? Have you ever been given something that was “just not you”? How about something that was you “perfectly”?

Do you have some old rags you can get rid of? Go through your closet and get rid of some things. Go out and get a new outfit. Splurge a little?

Have you ever been given an heirloom? What was it? What kind of value does it have to you and why?

What piece of jewelry means the most to you? Why?

Have you ever given a piece of jewelry to someone significant? What was it and why?

How important are your shoes? What do they communicate about you? How important are they in our society? What do they communicate in our world?

What’s your favorite meal? What’s the most you’ve ever spent on a meal? Was it worth it?

Why not take someone to dinner and just let them know how much they mean to you. Communicate God’s love through a meal together.

Observations Of A Prodigal #4

Prodigal

“When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, ‘At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger! 18 I will go home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, 19 and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.”’ Luke 15:17-19

Centless And Senseless.

When he came to his senses. Why is it that sometimes it takes losing a whole lot of dollars to bring us to our senses? And not just dollars but opportunities, relationships, and friendships? It’s not surprising that the boy came to his senses, I mean they should have all been working well: the sounds of pigs squealing, the smell of manure, the feel of mud in-between his toes, the sight of a pig pen, the taste of humble pie. Sometimes the only way God gets our attention is when we begin to pay attention to our surroundings. It’s been said often, either change your environment or your environment will change you.  We must muster the courage to really look and admit that we are not where we want to be, need to be or were created to be!

This boy was the heir of a wealthy man. He was not made for this. And neither are we! We are heirs to the King of Kings, yet often we live like pigs. We live for so much less than what we were created for. It’s time to quit the nonsense! Maybe that’s it, you have no sense: no sense of direction, purpose, meaning in life. Maybe the joy, the pleasure of the Father’s house is a distant memory. What has to change?

At Last Will.

Well, his will was where he started. He asked for the father’s last will and testament but now it was his. He had to “die”. He had to lay aside all the earthliness and become one with the earth: a servant. He was willing to identify with the meekest, humblest, of His father’s employees, just to be back in his father’s care. How much more for us? It’s easy for me to think that I can or will only serve God in certain ways. But this is not the case. One who is a servant has no say in what, when, how, where, things get done. They just simply follow the wishes of the Master.

Back To The Beginning.

He went back to where he started. There are times when this is impossible but when it is possible, I think it’s very important! Go back to where you started off wrong. Figure out why you went down that path and make the necessary adjustments so you don’t do it again! Backtracking can be a great tool to keep us from backsliding! I’m sure as the boy traveled back home, he remembered certain parties, women, “friends” that helped lead him astray. The trip home was a lesson in remembering how much he lost. He grew from this time traveling back home. He became wiser, more mature, and turned his loss into gain.

Don’t Pay Out Without A Payoff!

I must admit that I have wasted invaluable lessons by not taking time to learn the necessary lessons God had for me. Let me encourage you that in each difficult time you pass through, make note of the mistakes; no sense in paying twice! You wouldn’t do it at the store, why do it in life? Turn your pain into gain. He came to his senses and made his mistakes pay off!

EVERYTHING YOU'VE EVER WANTED IS ON THE (2)

Can you think of a time when you made a serious mistake? Do you remember how you felt? What you ate that day? What you were wearing? What you were listening to? What you were watching?

How about now? In a place you don’t like? What senses is God using to reveal that to you? What senses is God using to reveal Himself to you?

Does anything make sense to you right now? How much nonsense do you have in your life?

Where do you want to be? Need to be? Where are you created to be? Has God’s sense revealed that to you? If so, why have you not obeyed?

How much of your will is still alive? Why not let your last will and testament be to please God in everything?

Have you ever died to your flesh and sinfulness? How do you die daily? Are you more dead than alive?

How have you changed your environment for Christ? Has your environment adversely affected you? How does your environment reflect your current standing with God? Do you think it does reflect your standing with God?

If you could go back to the future, where would that be? What mistakes would you fix? What do you need to take a mental journey back and take note of? What lessons can you pass onto someone else?

Is there any way that you are paying twice or three times for something? Why not end the trend now? How can you make your mistakes pay off? What will you do with it?

Observations Of A Prodigal #2

Prodigal And not many days later, the younger son gathered everything together…Luke 15:13

Making plans?

So how was it knowing that he would be the one leaving the household?  It would take his dad a little while to collect the money because things are usually sold after one dies, not before, to distribute the inheritance. I’m wondering what life was like for the son while he was at home waiting for all this to wrap up? He’s probably making all kinds of great plans, with grandiose dreams of how great life is gonna be once he gets out of the old man’s house. It’s gonna be great to be free, at least that what he thinks.

It’s gonna be great somewhere else!

How many times I’ve thought these same kind of thoughts? Wouldn’t it be great to be somewhere else, doing something, maybe anything else but this? What about the rules or legislation or politics that I have to endure? Is this really the life? It really is quite easy to give in to those dreams of “what if” or “what about” or “wouldn’t it be great”? I have found though, that the grass isn’t really that much greener “over there” wherever “there” is. It’s easy to fall into that trap when you don’t take some time and reflect upon what you do have. Satan is a master at diverting our attention. He’s always waving a carrot out in front of us. We must not take our eyes off the prize in Christ Jesus! When we fail to look around and be thankful, we become embittered because we feel like we’re being cheated. One way or another, we feel like we’re missing out on something. But be sure of this, Satan is NOT showing you the whole, big picture!

Normal routine?

I guess life sort of continued as “normal” for the young man. Not really a lot mentioned here, except that after a few days, the boy gathered all he had and left. What seemed like a graduation day for the son seemed like a funeral for the father. But then life went on, right? Sure the grass got cut, the cattle were fed,  and the “normal” routine continued. But life was anything but normal! Life was listless. I’m sure the father mustered up enough energy to get up in the mornings, only to spend most of his day praying, watching and waiting.

Praying. Watching. Waiting.

Is this not what God does for us? Not that He sleeps but He watches, waits and Jesus prays for us. He longs for us to be where He is. Don’t get me wrong, God is a seeker, the Ultimate Seeker, but there are times when He waits. He doesn’t move because He is waiting for us to move. We’re the ones that leave; we’re the ones that need to return. There have been countless times when God has sought me; we can all attest to that truth in our lives. Sometimes God just waits.

The problem?

What is the problem? The party is going, the lights are flashing, the music is blaring, but there’s only emptiness. There is no joy where there is no life. There can be a multitude of other things but you cannot have joy where there is death. But the party’s just begun! It’ll pass; this feeling of emptiness, it’ll pass. Fill it with any number of pleasures. The only thing is that the pleasures just numb.

Numb-er 1

Numb. That’s’ where all this leads. Numbness. Perhaps that’s where it all began? Numb to the ones that love you, numb to the God who gives you life, numb to the world around you? Why? Because you had to be number 1. You had to have it all, now! You had to push other people aside and not care about their feelings or even their life. It became all about you. It’s kind of funny that when we’re focused on the wrong number 1 it always leaves a 0 (hole). If God’s not number 1, we will be the 1 whose “numb-er”.

EVERYTHING YOU'VE EVER WANTED IS ON THE (2)

What kind of plans have you made outside of asking God? What things have you dreamt in your heart that have grown and developed that are not blessed by the Father?

Do you feel free or bound right now? In what ways are you acting as a slave of the world instead of a Son of The King?

If you could be anywhere else, doing anything else, what and where would it be? Do you believe you are doing what God desires for you to do? Why do you want something different?

Has Satan been trying to distract you from your purpose in life? How and what does he use to do this? How can you better defend against such thoughts, schemes, and plans from him?

In what ways have you not been thankful for what you have? In what ways have you taken advantage of the from God?

How does it feel to know God’s watching, waiting and praying for you? Is there someone God wants you to do this for?

Do you feel empty inside? With what are trying to fill the void? How focused are you on you? Are you number 1 in your life?

What words come to your mind when you think of describing the younger son? How about the Father? What colors come to mind?

If you were filming this movie, where it would be taking place? Who would star in the lead roles?

Observations Of A Prodigal #1

ProdigalThe younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the estate that falls to me.’ Luke 15:12

Many of us would never think to just go to our dads and demand from them our share of the inheritance. I mean, inheritance is simply an after death issue. When I read the story of the prodigal, I see a couple of things that just blow me away!

First is the audacity of the youngest son. Come on, dude! How selfish can you be? How arrogant, insensitive, careless, can you be? It’s like he’s basically saying to his dad: “You’re as good as dead to me already.” Wow, can you believe that? He’s all about himself. It’s not that his home life is bad, it’s just that he thinks there more to life than what he has. He somewhat feels like he’s missing out on something. And he doesn’t have time to wait for the old man to kick the bucket to get his share of the stash.

If this was my kid, I’d have to fight a response out of anger and certainly I’d be heartbroken. I doubt seriously that I would make arrangements for him to take anything. What had this father done to deserve this kind of treatment? What was that was so bad about the father’s house? Nothing. The issue is not the father’s house, supply, care or anything like that. The issue was son’s heart. The son simply did not love the father the way he should. He had no respect, no care, no love. If it’s one thing I’m learning it’s that you can never make someone love you. It will never work. Love is a choice. We choose and are chosen in love.

This brings me to the second thing that just blows me away. It’s the father’s response. The father goes out and begins to sell off his stuff to meet the sons’ request. And not only the youngest son’s share but the oldest too! The father gives both boys their inheritance now. It’s like the father died. He sacrificed not because he was obliged to but because he loved his kids. The father could have had the boy taken out and stoned for being a rebellious child. That was the law of their culture. But Jesus pulls a fast one here. He shows a Father who doesn’t demand we love Him but is willing to give us the option to love Him back. The father puts no stipulations on the money, no terms for the boy, just gives it to him and allows him to choose his own way. This is a love that simply astounds! One that would never let me go but allow me to leave if I so chose.

I find that it’s quite easy to live the prodigal life. It’s easy for me to demand of others, to try and make them love me. It’s easy to demand of God and for me to not love Him back. It’s easy to forget what the Father has provided for me. It’s easy to think life would somehow be better somewhere else. However, it’s just not true. The prodigal life is not one demanding so much of an inheritance for me as much as it is not desiring to remain with the father. There are far too many times when I just feel like rushing out into the world and doing my own thing. Far too many times I feel that I’m somehow missing out on something. But time after time, I hear God simply say; “it’s your choice. I love you but I can’t and won’t make you stay. I just want you to choose to love me back. I’m your Father and this is where I will be.” And thankfully, His kindness is enough to lead me to repentance!
EVERYTHING YOU'VE EVER WANTED IS ON THE (2)
If you were making this a movie, what city would this be filmed in and why?

What is it about the grass on the other side that makes it look so much greener for you?

What lies have you bought that make you believe life would be better elsewhere, doing otherwise?

What Truth do you know to fight and dissolve those lies?

How would you respond if your child demanded their inheritance now? Would you give it to them…or really give it to them?

What characteristics or character qualities do you see displayed in just the first couple verses alone?

How would you say you’ve been like the younger son?

What does the father’s response reveal to us about how God treats us and how He wants us to treat others, especially in a family situation?

What character flaw do you think the younger son had that led him to the prodigal life?

What character flaw do you have that could lead you down the same path?

The father’s response was nothing short of gracious and certainly full of grace. How can you better respond to those around you who are demanding and selfish? To those in your family? To those in your church family?

November: A Month To Remember

fall leavesThis is a list from a previous post a couple of years ago. I have adjusted it to reflect the month this year:

Nov. 1 (All Saints Day) : Express your gratitude in a note, phone call, text or email to a person(s) whose ministry in daily life nurtures your faith. Thank God for this saint. Consider how you may be used as a “saint” to others and be thankful!

Nov. 2: Take time to enjoy something you own but have failed to appreciate or use lately. Employ or admire it with thankfulness today. Ask God to show you how you other things you take for granted and be thankful today!

Nov. 3: Take a thankful journey through the rooms in your house, giving thanks for all the wonderful memories, laughs and times together with loved ones. Give thanks for a roof over your head and for the places you have shared life with others.

Nov. 4: While you are eating a meal, take time to consider the aroma, the colors and the taste. Remember those who do not have food tonight and be thankful for God’s provision for you. Pray for those who are hungry. Give thanks for your senses that allow you to enjoy such wonderful food.

Nov. 5: Find something you use every day. Give God thanks for allowing you to have something you use like this everyday in work or pleasure.

Nov. 6: Be thankful for our government officials and elected officers. Acknowledge God’s control over everything and give thanks for His sovereign power to rule and reign.

Nov. 7: Be thankful for God’s creation. Spend some time outside soaking in the colors of nature, the smells and the noise of creatures small and great. Be creative and gather some items for a centerpiece in your room or office.

Nov. 8: Be thankful for your body and it’s members. Treat yourself to a massage, hot shower, or relaxing evening with feet propped up. Rest and be thankful!

Nov. 9: Be thankful for something small today. Give thanks for your coffee, cookie, or even toothbrush! Take in the smaller things in life and be thankful!

Nov. 10: Pass along something that is simply taking up space in your life. Show gratitude for your surplus and pass along something that’s not being used.

Nov. 11 ( Veteran’s Day observed): Give thanks for peace, and the peacemakers in your life. If you see a soldier today, tell them “thanks” for their service!

Nov. 12: Take some time to reflect upon people who have been influential in your life through their sermons, websites, books, music or podcasts. Write them a comment on their websites to encourage them and show your thankfulness.

Nov. 13: Take some time and think about a movie, song or book that has impacted you lately. Say a prayer of thanks for the people who made it happen. Give thanks for others using their gifts to inspire and impact you. Pray that you will do the same!

Nov. 14: Give thanks for members of your family. Maybe send one a special letter of how and why they are so important to your family unit.

Nov. 15: Give thanks for the businesses in your area. Wherever you go today to shop or eat, be thankful for the people serving and running the business. Show appreciation to the clerks and managers.

Nov. 16: Be thankful for the schools and churches in your area. Pray for the pastors, teachers and volunteers. Send a note to your local pastor, principal or child’s teacher giving thanks for their role in the community.

Nov. 17: Pray for a charitable organization or two today, giving thanks for the efforts they are making around the world. Give thanks for organizations that help others in need. Make plans to join one in service soon as an act of thanksgiving.

Nov. 18: Do a kind deed for a neighbor as an act of thanksgiving for people in your community.

Nov. 19: Show a good friend your gratitude by making sending them a song, playlist, or video of something that reminds you of them. Be thankful for good friends!

Nov. 20: Give thanks today for Jesus Christ and His ultimate sacrifice for sin. Pause and spend a few moments in silence reflecting upon the gift God has given. Let Thanksgiving flow from your heart in words and song.

Nov. 21: Thank God today for big things in your life. The huge life-changing moments that have shaped you. For Birthdays, Graduations, Promotions, Weddings, Births, Deaths, Pains, Heartaches, and the like. Thank God for using each event to shape you and make you.

Nov. 22: Find a person you work with and compliment them on a job well done. Give thanks for hard working people!

Nov. 23: Take a few minutes today and simply be quiet, reflecting on your community of faith. Give thanks for others that share your faith, encourage you and challenge you to grow and become all God wants.

Nov. 24: Give thanks for your job, your opportunities, your paycheck, your retirement, your financial situation. Even with the smallest of funds, be thankful and give some to God as a Thanksgiving offering above what you normally give.

Nov. 25: Think about each person you will share Thanksgiving with and create a small card or token that reminds you of them to set at their seat at Thanksgiving dinner.

Nov. 26: As you prepare for Thanksgiving, share stories of things you are thankful for from this year.

Nov. 27: (Thanksgiving) Take a few minutes and share two or three word phrases that explain your heart of thanksgiving this year. Say a prayer and include these things in the prayer.

Nov. 28: Consider your car, phone and computer today. Give God thanks for such tools to stay connected with people you know and love. Use these things today to make a special connection or serve God as an offering of thanksgiving.

Nov. 29: Give thanks freedom and the privileges we have in our country. Exercise your freedoms wisely and use them to benefit God’s kingdom work.

Nov. 30: Wrap up this month by making a simple journal entry of how living a life of thanks this month has affected you and those around you.