Missed Opportunities

last-supperRead: Proverbs 9: 1-6
Missed Opportunities

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Proverbs 9: 2 (NLT) She has prepared a great banquet, mixed the wines, and set the table.

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1.    Solomon referred to Wisdom as a woman of character appealing to the mind.  Folly as a prostitute appealing to temporary pleasures.

2.    Jesus’ parable in Luke 14, reminds of God’s declined invitation to the great feast, His convenient with Israel.

3.    Solomon’s dad, David, wrote in Psalms 23 about how God had prepared a table for us in the presence of those who declined His invitation. All we need is Him.

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“For all sad words of tongue and pen. The saddest are these, It might have been.” – John Greenleaf Whittier.  Missed opportunities haunt me, the greatest joys I forfeited are priceless to me now. Like the countless invitations from my Father, to spend time with Him in prayer and in His word.

What would I give now, for my children to run and throw their arms around me? To toss them into the air once more. To hear them laugh, “Do it again daddy”. I will never forget those times my children climbed into my lap with a book. Those unforgettable times cherished so much, yet memory escapes me of what was so important on TV that I declined my son’s request to play ball.  Missed opportunities haunt me.

Missed opportunities that will never come again. There is a certain wisdom evident to me now from Harry Chapin’s song, “Cats In The Cradle”. Like our earthly father, our heavenly Father just wants some time with us.  He asks, never demands.  Typically those years after high school, we become too busy for our Father. Unlike the song, our Father has never been too busy for us, and will always invite us to be with Him. He asks us to work and play with Him, not for the value of our work, but due to the value He places on us.

No sadder words are those “It might have been”.  I look back on my life at the missed opportunities my Father invited me to spend time with Him, and the times I was too busy. Thank God for the times I said yes. God never missed an opportunity to offer me His piece, His contentment, and His unconditional love.

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Loving Father. Yes, I gladly accept Your gracious invitation to Your great feast. Grant me the wisdom Solomon spoke of. Help me hold Your 23rd Psalm in my heart. Help me to hold Your word in my heart forever. I want You, the rest is dust. Lead me to those who need You in me. In Your name I pray, Amen.
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Defining Moments

Read: Genesis 45:1-15
martin-luther-on-forgivenessDefining Moments

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Gen. 45:15 (NLT) Then Joseph kissed each of his brothers and wept over them, and then they began talking freely with him.

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1.    Joseph plead with his brothers not to be angry at themselves for selling him into slavery.

2.    It wasn’t until Joseph showed forgiveness, that their barriers came down and they began talking freely.

3.    Joseph tells them that it was God who made him master over all the land of Egypt, and not what they did.

4.    Joseph had a choice between revenge and forgiveness.  God brought Joseph to this moment to display His mercy and forgiveness. This moment defined Joseph as a man of God.

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Is bitterness really like drinking poison to inflict revenge on those we refuse to forgive? As insane as that sounds, it happens every day. We all have been guilty of it. People divided, and protests to show outrage for another’s actions or words. We want to ensure that there are consequences for our mistakes and crimes.  However, as Christians we should want to forgive, for fear of drinking that poison. God always turns our tragedies, mistakes, and crimes into beauty and life, according to His will.  If it seems impossible to forgive as Christian, imagine how difficult it must be for non-Christians who have never accepted God’s forgiveness.

A person says horrendous things, and people understandably become outraged and express their distain. Through this fog of outrage, it is difficult to remember how we once forgave another person, who was guilty of equally horrendous things.  Perhaps, hope comes from when we remember how capable we are of great forgiveness and love, no matter the circumstances.  God never stopped blessing Joseph, no matter the horrendous things he had to endure.  Joseph remained faithful. His defining moment, was when he forgave his brothers instead of holding on to his distain.

We all have choices to either reflect God’s mercy and love, or our selfish distain which will continue to separate and poison us.  Christians and non-Christians alike understand the necessity of forgiveness and the insanity of division.  I learned through my bitterness, that invariably it always leads to greater suffering and separation.  Hope comes when we remember Christ’s love, forgiveness, and our ability to do the same through Him. Our choices define us in our moments here on earth.

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Loving Father. Heal our communities and keep Your loving guiding hand on us. Help us remember the great forgiveness, love, and mercy You show us each and every day. Please forgive me when I fall short. Use me as You will.  In Your name I pray, Amen.
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What’s in a Name?

Read: Genesis 32:22-32
roseWhat’s in a Name?

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Gen. 32:27 (NLT) “What is your name?” the man asked. He replied, “Jacob”.

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1.      Jacob was on his way to meet his brother Esau, who had cheated him out of his most precious possessions. Jacob now feared Esau.

2.      Jacob sent gifts ahead of him to appease Esau.

3.      Just as Jacob sent all of his possessions across the Jabbok River, leaving him all alone (v.24), Jacob met and wrestled with a “man” with no name.

4.      Jacob was persistent and wrestled this “man” all night, just to receive God’s blessing.

5.      The “man” renamed Jacob, “Israel”.

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Markie, Dad, and Padre are some of the names I have been affectionately called.   Mr. Brewer and Coach are names students have called me, at least in my presence. After 31 years, my wife and I call each other, “My Love”.  However, there are wives who call her husbands “Idiots”, and husbands call their wives, “old ball-n-chains”. Name calling never heals. Names can also be a consequence of our relationships.

Much like what Oz told the Tinsman, “A heart is not judged by how much you love, but by how much you are loved by others.” What I am called by others, is more important to me. Some children call their dads, “Sir”.  My oldest child once said, when referring to me, “He’s not a man, he’s Daddy”. That simple expression, blessed me beyond measure. A man is supposed to provide for his family and fix things, but a Dad is one who listens and loves his children unconditionally.  Our perfect Father listens and loves His children unconditionally. Our Father just wants a relationship, no strings attached. The blessing comes from within having that personal relationship with Him. How shallow it must be, to just need a Father to “fix” and provide us things.

God looks on our hearts, and still calls us His Children. Not by what we can do for Him, but because He is the perfect Father. Yes, names are important because they do identify relationships.  Saul was renamed Paul, because of his new relationship with God. Jacob was renamed Israel. Perhaps the best question for me is, if God was going to rename me, based on my current relationship with Him, what would be my name? What would He call you? What’s in a name?

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Loving Father. Your name is above all other names. Someday every knee will bow at the sound of Your name. Help me to fully understand Your word and have a closer relationship with You. That is why… in Your name I pray, Amen.
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Rules for Rulers

Read: Daniel 4:1-37
mark-twain
Rules for Rulers

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Daniel 4:31 (NLT) “While he was still speaking these words, a voice called down from heaven, ‘O King Nebuchadnezzar, this message is for you! You are no longer ruler of this kingdom”.

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1.    King Neb learned God’s rules to be a good ruler, the hard way.

2.    Twelve months earlier, King Neb called Daniel to interpret a dream which all of his wise men couldn’t.

3.    God spoke to King Neb while he boasted of “his” accomplishments. God made sure he received His message this time.

4.    Daniel gave King Neb the facts. If he didn’t stop sinning, his kingdom would be taken away.

5.    Rule number one: God is sovereign and can make and unmake His leaders.

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 “It is easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled”, Mark Twain. “Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please”, Mark Twain.  Twain’s quotes could be used to describe the events leading up to King Neb’s humbling downfall.   King Neb had been fooled by his own “wisdom” and wisdom of the land.  Daniel gave him the facts that God was sovereign.  Regretfully, these facts failed to convince the King that he had been fooled.

I can’t be too critical of King Neb, I also have been guilty of the sin of pride and not following God’s loving rules.  Convinced of my intelligence, I distorted the facts to fit my “needs”. Wisdom can’t be taught, just learned.  Typically learned after not following the common sense God gave me.

God places people in our lives to fulfill His will.  Doubting God’s decisions, is thinking that we know more than God.  Pride is doubting God’s wisdom of who He placed in leadership and servant roles in our lives too.  Through my mistakes, I have gained wisdom and now can have my own quotes.  “Pride is like a drug, distorting the truth to believe that it couldn’t possibly hurt you.  Living it up ultimately leads to later having to face the consequences of having to live it down”, Mark “Twain” Brewer.

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Loving Father.  You are, and always will be on Your thrown.  You set the universe in motion, You can surely choose our leaders.  Bless and direct our new President.  Live in him so that we can see You hand.  Help us to seek You more, and place our faith in You above all else.  Bless us indeed according to Your will.  Live in me so that others will want more of You.  Do with me however You want.  In Your name I pray, Amen.
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If You Were a Tree

Read: Psalm 1:1-6

Emmaus crossIf You Were a Tree

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Psalm 1:3 (NLT) They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season without fail. Their leaves never wither, and in all they do, they prosper.

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1.    Joy never comes to those who are led by Satan or his followers. We become like those we follow.

2.    Joy only comes to those who want what God wants, and seek Him 24/7.

3.    We are like trees planted along His riverbank. John 4:10, Jesus tells the woman at the well of “living water”, a gift only God can provide us which will satisfy our souls.

4.    Leaves catch the sun light, so that fruit and more leaves can be produced.

5.    Gal 5:22, Paul states the Holy Spirit produces the fruit in our lives, love, joy, piece, patience, kindness, goodness, and faithfulness.

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What type of tree am I for God? Based on where God has planted me, a teacher, would I be an apple tree? Since some students can be squirrely, perhaps an acorn tree.  Many have called me half plum and half nuts.  As a coffee tree, I would help others wake up and get excited about their day. However, too much of me will make people nervous. Everyone has experienced and knows of some lilac trees, those who look and smell good on the outside, but lie like anything. We are known by our fruit.

To continue this scripture’s analogy, I would like to imagine myself as a palm tree. As a child I learned that palm branches where used to celebrate, honor, and prepare the way for Christ.  Perhaps a Christmas tree is what I am for God.  Not so flashy you can’t see the real reason for the season. Just enough lights to let everyone know that I hold Christ in my heart year round. To have His light shine through me, so that others see Him and want Him year round too. All I know is that God planted me along the same riverbank where He called others to be His disciples.  No matter the season, like an evergreen, I will always have leaves to catch the Son of God as I continue to reach for Him.

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Loving Father.  You planted me here for a reason. You blessed me with a special joy and gift which could only come from You.  Make me into the tree, prune me if You must, to bear Your fruit through any season. Shine Your light through me so that others see You more.  Plant me anywhere You want.  In Your name I pray, Amen.
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I’ve Fallen and Can’t Get Up

Read: Psalm 42:1-11
depressionI’ve Fallen and I Can’t Get Up

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Psalm 42:5 (NLT) “Why am I discouraged? Why so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again – my Savior and my God!

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1.    David, a man after God’s own heart, was depressed.  David fled for his life when his son Absolom tried to kill him and take over. David’s wife was assaulted, his daughter raped, children killed, and there was that Bathsheba incident. Then he wrote Psalm 42.

2.    David felt spiritually dried up and thirsted for God.

3.    David couldn’t stop crying, was overwhelmed, and had lingering memories of good days which he felt are gone forever.

4.    He knew of God’s unfailing love but twice mentioned how his enemies mocked him, asking him where his God was.

5.    All David had left, was his hope in God.

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There are only two places that are without hope. Heaven, because you will have fulfillment, and hell where there is eternal separation from God and our loved ones.

How can I lose hope? God has so generously poured His love out on me, yet for months I have felt sad. I have had times when I felt like crying for no reason. I have seen monsters that were not there, and didn’t feel like doing anything. I felt overwhelmed by my enemy’s little skirmishes against me. I lost interest is the one thing which brought me the most joy, studying God’s word and my SOAPs. Finally, I went to the doctor who told me of my depression.

The TV commercial of the lady who fell down and quoted that now famous line, “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up”, I once mocked, now resounded in my head.  Although she had a button to press to get help, I had no button.  Or so I thought.  One morning I pushed the button on my DVR and watch an old broadcast of Adrian Rogers who spoke of depression. He drew my attention back to David. He reminded me of John the Baptist when he, in his depression, doubted if Jesus was the Messiah. I am feeling better now. I have fallen and I don’t have to stay down, as long as I still look up.

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Loving Father.  You love me so much, You can’t take Your eyes off of me. In Jeremiah 29: 11, You told me that You only have good plans for me, not destruction. You gave me a future, a hope, and promise of eternal life with You. I am still Yours, do with me what You want.   In Your name I pray, Amen.
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Skirmishes

Read: Hebrews 10:32-39
spartan-under-attackSkirmishes

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Hebrews 10:35 (NLT) Do not throw away this confident trust in the LORD, no matter what happens. Remember the great reward it brings you!

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1.    The first part of Hebrews, the author(s) emphasized how God was superior to angles, to leaders, to priests, and that Christianity surpasses Judaism due to God’s “upgraded” covenant through the sacrifice of His Son Christ.

2.    Now the author was encouraging the Hebrew Christians in the midst of their terrible sufferings.  They were to accept suffering with joy and to remember what is waiting for them for all eternity.

3.    We are to maintain our confidence in Christ when “storms capsize our lives” or when our enemy’s little battle skirmishes are waged against us.

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Life’s little skirmishes can diminish the confidence I have in myself, as well as in God.  That was satan’s whole idea when he attacked Job, wasn’t it?  Thinking of Job, makes my little skirmishes seem rather petty. Never the less, they are real to me, or at least seem real.  Inevitably, I later discovered the problems which caused my suffering, were not really that big after all.  Many times it turned out to be just a false alarm.

These past few weeks I have endured these little skirmishes from the enemy.  Much like thunders storms with no lightning.  Loud noise, no flash, however, I let them cause a power loss in me.  These little skirmishes were not enough to capsize me, just enough to cause me to reflect on my old battle scars and lose confidence.  I focused on my past, and forgot about the battle scars Christ already suffered for me.

God sent one of His servants to aid me in a skirmish this week.  Not entirely familiar with all my past battle scars; she just encouraged me not to stress, to trust her, and that God was with us.  In my daily scriptures from dailyprayer@christ-fit.org this week, I received on Thursday: Rom. 15:7, Friday: Rom. 5:3-4, and Saturday: Hebrews 10: 35-36.  They all addressed suffering, perseverance, hope, and that God was with me.

It would seem that God has been working with me on my “confidence in Him” lately.  It really doesn’t matter how much I can trust others, as long as I trust Him.  Whether the skirmish is real or an illusion, I am to take everything to Him in prayer and maintain my confidence in the Creator of… everything.

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Loving Father.  You are omniscient, I haven’t a clue. It is obvious that trusting You is all I need to do. Do with me what You want.  In Your name I pray, Amen.
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