My oldest daughter and I were driving past the house where we lived until she was eight years old and I asked her, "Do you remember living in that house?"
She said she did. So naturally I asked, "What do you remember?"
Her reply struck me as odd, yet somehow profound. She said, "I remember my third birthday party in the backyard and you had a clown come and we all cried, because the clown scared us."
What scared my daughter and her friends was the fact that they could not tell who was behind the mask.
Many of us wear masks every day. Depending on the occasion or circumstance we throw on a mask to fit our need.
We have become afraid of letting people see the real us. We are afraid of letting someone see our shortcomings out of the fear that they will not like or love us.
At work we may throw on a mask of authority and power in order to seem in control.
At home we may throw on a mask of contentment, a mask of everything is okay, out of fear our spouse may not love someone with problems.
In social situations we may throw on a mask of self-righteousness and pride, a mask of "I have my life together, so don't ask me how I am doing. I don't need any help; I don't want any fellowship with you people that are down and out. I am okay."
Maybe we even have a mask of rationalization that we put on in compromising situations, a mask that tries to show others, "I am really just like you. Please accept me."
On and on we go, shuffling our masks on and off from situation to situation, until one day our masks fail us. No matter how good we are at this game, eventually cracks develop from all the wear and tear of changing masks.
As the cracks develop people start seeing the real us in-between the cracks. Some may even reach out to help, but that mask of pride, which has now become a prison of pride, will not allow anyone inside.
All the masks will become prisons of guilt, resentment, self-centeredness and on and on. The prisons can become solitary confinement.
We find ourselves in isolation built in our mind, built by our actions, built by losing the real us somewhere behind these masks.
It takes a long time to build these prisons out of masks, so remember it will take time to tear them down.
Often, the most complex part of a solution is saying the simple word, "help."
Lost Your Glove?
Ecclesiastes 2:24-26 (NIV) A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment? To the man who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.
Lately nothing has been more fun to me than practicing baseball with my seven-year-old son, Bobby, after work. We practice catching, throwing and batting. It energizes me just thinking about going home and playing. A few nights ago I dreamed that Bobby and I were going out in the yard to play, but we could not find our baseball gloves. We frantically searched the yard and house, high and low, for them. The dream ended with us frustrated and disappointed.
Have you lost your glove? What is your "happy factor?" Honestly ask yourself this question: On a scale of 1-10, where do you rank your happiness in life? I don't know what has happened to our society, but somewhere along the way we became a group of unhappy people. I used to think, "if I have just a faster computer, better programs and better technology, then I can get my work done faster and have more time for fun stuff." You know what happened? I get more work done faster, but people just want more of it and they want it back faster. It's a never-ending cycle.
Perhaps your happy factor is low due to trying to get that new car, that new house, that new something that Madison Avenue has led us to believe will make us all happy. Or even worse, maybe we are just trying to make more money so we can buy things that we don't need, to impress people that don't even care. Are you so wrapped up in your work that you have forgotten who you really are? Have you forgotten the real you, the fun you, the happy you?
Solomon, when he wrote today's verse, got it right. He figured it out. Anything done apart from God, anything done apart from bringing glory to God, anything done not to please God but only to please us, is meaningless. It's chasing after the wind. You come up empty-handed and empty hearted. Just like when we run the rat race, win or lose you are still a rat. Worst of all, you lose your effectiveness as a mother, father, wife, husband, brother, sister, etc. You lose your effectiveness as a Christ-follower. You lose the ability to show others that life in Christ brings joy. Lost your glove?
Father, help some of us to regain the happiness we find in You. Help some us to find that happiness for the first time. Help us to fix our eyes on You. Help us to regain our identity as Your children, and to not lose that identity to our work or circumstances. We pray this in Christ's name. Amen.
Negative attitudes are self-fulfilling prophecies. They can also be contagious. If we have a negative attitude, it will not only keep us down; it will also bring down the people around us.
Think negatively and the world around us seems negative. I call negative people drainers, because they drain the life out of others.
Conversely a positive, cheerful and grateful attitude will make everything seem right. They fill us up.
We all walk around life with two imaginary buckets. One is filled with fuel, the other with water.
We have a choice when we are ambushed by a negative conversation. We can either throw our bucket of fuel on it, igniting the negativism, or we can douse it with our water bucket.
Most negative people do not realize how negative their demeanors have become. But simply saying, "Gee Joe, you are so negative. You drain the life out of me", is not going to work. That will only throw the bucket of fuel on the situation.
When a negative attitude is displayed, try to take what is said, and make a positive statement back to the person.
Watch these examples. Negative person says, "That customer is such a pain. He drives me crazy with his demands." We could answer, "Yes he is very demanding, but that is why we have our jobs, to satisfy customers' demands." The negative person says, "This is not how we have always done this." A good response: "Glad you noticed we are making changes around here to improve our services."
One encounter like this will not change a negative person's attitude overnight. It takes time and patience, but after a while, it may click in their mind, "Hmm, no use in complaining around them or others. "
Ideally, they will start coming to you thinking, "Help me see the good in this."
Do you want to throw your bucket of fuel on the fire, or your bucket of water? The choice is ours.
Satan's pride was his downfall, and it is ours. God hates sin and God hates pride the root of all sins.
In Genesis we read what Satan says to Eve:
Genesis 3:1 He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?
Satan casted doubt upon Eve and then in verse 4 & 5 he adds the pride piece.
Genesis 3:4-5:You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.
Then in Isaiah we have Satan's five "I will" statements.
Isaiah14:13-14 You said in your heart,
“I will ascend to heaven;
I will raise my throne above the stars of God;
I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly,
on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain.
I will ascend above the tops of the clouds;
I will make myself like the Most High."
Pretty boastful, eh? But don't we do the same thing? When we finally made a decision to accept Christ as our Savior, didn't we humble ourselves and say "Lord, I can't save myself, I need you Lord, take residence inside me Lord, I am nothing without You Lord."
But so often after we have been saved by His grace, we tend to say, "Ok God, thanks for saving me, I can take it from here." We are stating the "I wills."
When God creates something, what does He start with? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. We must become nothing, so He can use us, and we must continue in Him, abiding in His Word, and His truth. I am nothing apart from God. I have nothing to offer God. All that I have, all that I do, is from Him.
In contrast to Satan's 5 "I wills" we have Jesus' 5 "I ams." I don't know about you folks.. but I am betting my life on Jesus' "I ams."
John 6:35 Then Jesus declared, I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.
John 8:12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.
John 10:9 I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture.
John 10:11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
John 11:25 Jesus said to her, I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies;
John 14:6 Jesus answered, I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
John 15:5 I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. And finally Paul's sums it all up in 2 Corithians, saying he is nothing. When we come to that realization that we are nothing apart from Christ, there is no room for pride in our lives.
2 Co 12:11 I have made a fool of myself, but you drove me to it. I ought to have been commended by you, for I am not in the least inferior to the "super-apostles," even though I am nothing"
Father, humble us. Bring us back to nothing, so You can create in us all that You want us to be. Help us to resist the "I wills" in our lives, and keep remembering the only "I am." Father we ask you to forgive us for our prideful ways, as we repent from them. Humble us Lord, in Jesus' name, Amen.
Bounded By Strands
Greetings my friends.
Once again I want to take a very familiar passage and try to gain new insight by applying the passage to our lives today. Isn't it awesome that the bible was written thousands of years ago, yet remains so relevant for us today!
Heb 13:8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Amen.
Lets look at the story of the rich young ruler from the perspective of both Christ calling for acceptance of Him as our Savior and mostly Christ calling us to full devotion to Him.
Mark 10:17 17 As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. "Good teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?"
Notice the attitude of the rich young ruler. He ran to Jesus. The ruler did not with arrogance call Jesus to him. Then the man fell on his knees. This is a clear sign of reverence for Christ. The title "Good" refers to God, as only God is good. Lastly the man who had all the wealth anyone could possibly want acknowledges that he is lacking the most important wealth. That wealth is the security of eternal life in heaven. He was sincerely seeking Christ. But, as you know, Christ demands full devotion. Tells the man to sell all and follow Him. Christ knew that the man's wealth was interfering with full devotion to Christ. Sadly the man chose his earthly wealth over eternal wealth.
Mark 10:25 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. I want to take the liberty here of stretching the Greek translation of camel to the word cable. I do this only to illustrate a point and certainly not to re-write the Bible. ; )
Picture in your mind a cable or rope. Notice how the cable is strands of small cords tightly bound together. Each overlapping the other to form a large cable. A single simple strand could pass through the eye of a needle if all the excess ones were removed.
My question to you is this. What is binding you today? What is keeping you from becoming a more fully devoted follower of Christ? What excess cords do you need to remove? Is your life like a cable with strands of past sins? Past hurts? Past broken relationships? Past sorrows or regrets? How about present worldly desires? Are these strands binding you? Are they strangling you to the point of not being able to pass through the eye of the needle to full devotion to Christ?
Join me today and start unraveling the bondage of the past as well as present worldly desires. Pull away each piece and lay them at the cross. Let God take it. What an wonderful thought, giving it all to God. Who can better handle it than Him?
Dear Father, we place the strangling strands of the past at the cross. We know you want to take all of these strands away from us. We must relinquish them to you. Lord help us to let go. Forgive us for clinging to both past and present desires that are not in Your will. Help us to pass through the eye to being a fully devoted follower of Christ. We praise you and thank you Father. In the name of Jesus, Amen.
Devotional - Handmade
Let's look at some very familiar verses concerning the creation of man and woman.
Genesis 1:26 26 Then God said, ``Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground." (As a side note, notice the word "us", this is clear indication of the trinity)
Genesis 1:27 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
Genesis 2:7-8 LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. 8 Now the LORD God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed.
Genesis 2:18,22 18 The LORD God said, ``It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him." 22 Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.
God created, formed, and made man and women. He "hand" made us. He spoke all other creation into being. I visualize a very loving God taking the dust in His hands, molding, forming and smiling when the finish product was done. I can see His hands forming the woman. I can see HIM breathing the first breath into mankind. What an awesome thought. Little old me... Hand made by our God!
Now.. knowing this, don't you think people matter to God? Sure you do. But, why do we go on hurting people, why do we feel superior to some and inferior to others? Why do we place labels on certain groups of people? Why is someone different from us somehow better or worst?
Remember this, you have NEVER locked eyes with someone who does not matter to God and that was not "Handmade" by God. Therefore, people should matter to us. All people, short and tall, big and small, regardless of "status", regardless of age, heritage, etc.
Dear Lord thank you for revealing these truths to us. Lord forgive me and humble me when I feel superior to others, Lord forgive me and lift me up when I feel inferior. Lord, cleanse me of the labels I have placed on certain groups, cleanse the prejudices out of my heart. Lord, help me to accept who I am, the person YOU Handmade in YOUR image! Lord we praise you and love you. Most of all Lord thank you for your SON Jesus, who scorned all shame, dying on the cross for us. In HIS name we pray, Amen.
Sitting on the front porch.
Listening to the silence.
Watching the horses move slowly back and forth.
My mind drifting away from any violence.
Their tails switching a slow rhythmic beat.
While my entire body and soul drifts off into a peaceful sleep.
So start listening to the silence when you can.
It's natures way of calming man.
I love walking down this old mountain road.
It matters not which side I go.
No one is rushing up here, they just stop and say hello.
We talk about nothing important up here.
People just like to bend a stranger’s ear.
One stopped and asked if I knew the time.
I shook my head and said, sorry, but no.
Isn’t that great he exclaimed!
That’s the way we like it here, just nice and slow.
As his truck rattled away, I thought this is my day.
Kicking a rock here and there and wondering only what to say.
I learned that faster is not always the way to go.
I love walking back up this old mountain road.
Trees with their heads held high.
Their leaves thinking, "we'll never die."
But when the big storm comes along.
They no longer look so strong.
Slumped and sagging in the rain.
They bend down as they strain.
Just when they think they must be failing.
The sun comes out to stop their wailing.
Bent but not broke.
They no longer carry the heavy yoke.
Standing upright and mighty again.
The trees are stronger now than
when the storm began.
I could hear the waterfall but I could not see it. I could smell the spray but I could not feel it.
As I walked farther down the path and kept my head low I wondered if I would really ever know.
Thinking I’ll never apperceive only to look up to see that the waterfall had come to me.
David Massey 2013