How about joining me for a cup each morning?

Membership open through June 30

Hey, Friends! During the month of June, I am opening membership in my private Facebook group, Dr. G’s Morning Cup of Encouragement. I post a brief and encouraging devotional each Monday – Thursday morning (most of the time). No whining or politics; just encouragement drawn from my own time with the Lord each morning. I’d love to have you join me at https://www.facebook.com/groups/DrG.cupofencouragement/

So you think you’re having a bad day …

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When was the last really bad day you had?  I mean the Alexander kind (the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day).

 

Do you have that day in mind?

 

Ok, now a little perspective:  did you happen to be up to your neck in seaweed and stomach acid?  Were you the cause of a bad case of indigestion for a big ol’ fish?

 

I didn’t think so.  So, let’s agree that none of us has really had a day that compares with Jonah.  And he had three of them.  And just in case we are still not sure that he wins the “bad day” competition, let’s also remember how his belly time-out ended:

 

Then the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah up onto the dry land. (Jonah 2:10, New American Standard Bible)

 

Did you catch that?  VOM-I-TED! But I want you to notice something that Jonah said while he was in the belly of the fish.

 

As my life was slipping away, I remembered the Lord. And my earnest prayer went out to you in your holy Temple … I will offer sacrifices to you with songs of praise, and I will fulfil all my vows. For my salvation comes from the Lord alone. (Jonah 2:7,9, New Living Translation)

 

In reality, it’s not a competition.  Bad days are bad days and it doesn’t really help us to realize that someone else’s day has been worse.  We don’t need a better perspective on suffering nearly as much as we need a better perspective on where to take our suffering.  Jonah turned to God in prayer, in commitment, and in worship.  We can, too.

 

Perspective on suffering is not as important as perspective on where to take our suffering. Click To Tweet

 

 

Question: How will refocus your bad days?

We aren’t special

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“Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18, New Living Translation)

One of the books I am using for my morning devotional time this year is Hearing God through the Year” by Dallas Willard.  The devotional I read this morning so touched me that I want to share it here with you.

When God speaks to us it does not prove that we are right or even that we are good. In fact we may have misunderstood what God said.  The infallibility of God the speaker does not guarantee our infallible reception. However, phrases such as “God told me” or “the Lord led me” are commonly used to prove that “I am right,” “My ideas are right” or “you should follow me.” No such claim is automatically justified.

So if a conversational walk with God does not guarantee my always being right, what is the use of it?  Why should we attempt to hear God if it won’t ensure that we’re on the right track? God’s purposes in speaking to us are not to support our roles or to make sure that we are right.  God speaks to us to give us opportunities to be and to do good and responsibilities to care for and guide others.

We aren’t special because God has spoken to us.  We are special because God formed us in our mothers’ wombs to bear His image.  We are special because Jesus died for our sins.  We share that sense of “special” with every person who has ever lived, because God is able to simultaneously concentrate on each of us individually. (Being God does have its perks).

His speaking to us doesn’t prove that we are special, nor does it make us more special, except in the sense that we are especially responsible to follow His leading and fulfill His purpose in us. 

Question: How will you humbly make the most of every opportunity to which God directs you today?

How will you humbly make the most of every opportunity to which God directs you today? Click To Tweet

Leave a comment.  I’d love to hear your perspective.

Your Eternal Life NOW

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And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” (John 17:3, English Standard Version)

“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16, New Living Translation)

The second of those verses is probably one of the first verses that many of us learned in Sunday School or Vacation Bible School.  It is probably the most well-known, most memorized, most repeated of the 31,102 verses in the Bible.  (I did not count them.  I found that on Wikipedia, so it must be right.) 

And rightfully so.  There is no greater promise.  There is no greater love. But what does it really mean?  Is it about living forever in heaven in the sweet by and by?

Yes.  And no.

Eternal life will continue in the future, but we are not waiting until we die to experience it.  In the prayer that Jesus prayed in John 17, He said that eternal life is knowing God and Jesus whom God sent.  In other words, once you know God personally through faith in Jesus, you are no longer waiting for eternal life.  You have it!

Eternal life will absolutely get better the longer it lasts.  That’s why you really can’t have your best life now.  But the life you have NOW in Jesus is as eternal as it gets.

The life you have NOW in Jesus is as eternal as it gets. Click To Tweet

Wouldn’t it be cool to see a sign at a sporting event that said, “John 17:3?”  Sometimes I just want to mess with people.

Question: How deeply are you experiencing eternal life NOW?

Leave a comment.  I’d love to hear your perspective.

True Love Waits

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We have been hearing those words together for decades, sometimes as a component of abstinence-based sex education and sometimes a purity challenge for church youth groups. In fact, True Love Waits is an official product resource line from Lifeway Christian Resources and includes a variety of supporting resources such as Bible studies, videos, books, jewelry, and apparel. Over the past 20 plus years, hundreds of thousands of young people have been impacted by this movement. And I am grateful for that.

Today, however, I want to share an example of True Love Waits (TLW) that has nothing to do with sexuality.  I would even suggest that the TLW approach to sexuality is drawn from an even deeper concept as demonstrated in this example from the life of Jesus.

A man named Lazarus was sick. He lived in Bethany with his sisters, Mary and Martha. This is the Mary who later poured the expensive perfume on the Lord’s feet and wiped them with her hair. Her brother, Lazarus, was sick. So the two sisters sent a message to Jesus telling him, “Lord, your dear friend is very sick.” But when Jesus heard about it he said, “Lazarus’s sickness will not end in death. No, it happened for the glory of God so that the Son of God will receive glory from this.” So although Jesus loved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, he stayed where he was for the next two days. (John 11:1-6, New Living Translation)

Wait a minute!  Did you see that? He loved them, but He didn’t go?  What kind of love is that?

Some might call that love fickle, conditional, or convenient.  Remember it is Jesus we’re talking about here.  The One who proved His love by dying for us while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8).  The One who took all our sins on Himself so that we might be right with God (2 Corinthians 5:20).

I’m going to suggest that the heart of TLW may be seen in this passage.  Jesus not only had, but was true love personified.  And He waited.  Why?  For a greater purpose of revealing God’s glory.  True love maintains a God-focus, that is, a determined focus on God’s purpose and glory.

Why should we encourage sexual abstinence until marriage?  Because it is safer?  Because it is good for us?  Because it shows our faith or our perseverance?  Deeper than all that is the reality of connection to God’s purpose and glory.  The same is true of any delayed gratification of our God-given urges and passions.  God is glorified when we find fulfillment (physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, relationally) in concert with His glory and purpose.

God is glorified when we find fulfillment in concert with His glory and purpose. Click To Tweet

Question: How can that concept of True Love Waits encourage you in a season of waiting?

Leave a comment.  I’d love to hear your perspective.

Strong Hands

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“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 

 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me,  for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else.  No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand.  The Father and I are one.” (John 10:27-30, New Living Translation)

I can still see the pastor explaining these verses to the preadolescent boy at summer camp as I sat to one side and watched, praying for God to speak and confirm His work.  When he got to the phrase that says, “No one can snatch them out of my hand,” he place his right index finger in the palm of His left hand and wrapped his fingers tightly tightly around it so that his left hand made a strong fist surrounding his right finger.  He told that young man that God would hold onto him and never let him go.

That was almost 30 years ago.  I hope that grown man remembers that personal experience as powerfully as I do.  I hope that, in times when his faith has faltered and he has struggled to hold onto Jesus, that he has remembered that he doesn’t have to be strong enough to hold onto Jesus because Jesus has him firmly in His grip. I hope he has shared that camp story with other boys and girls, maybe including his own.

I’m thinking right now about the words of the great song from Rich Mullins: “Hold me, Jesus, ‘cause I’m shaking like a leaf.  You have been King of my glory.  Won’t you be my Prince of peace?” (click here for Youtube video of the whole song)

Question: How are you resting securely in the hand of Jesus today?

How are you resting securely in the hand of Jesus today? Click To Tweet

Leave a comment.  I’d love to hear your perspective.

Always a Groomsman

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John the Baptist:  Apart from the gifts that come from heaven, no one can receive anything at all. I have said it many times, and you have heard me—I am not the Anointed One; I am the one who comes before Him. If you are confused, consider this: the groom is the one with the bride. The best man takes his place close by and listens for him. When he hears the voice of the groom, he is swept up in the joy of the moment. So hear me. My joy could not be more complete. He, the groom, must take center stage; and I, the best man, must step to His side. (John 3:27-30, The Voice)

I have officiated a lot of weddings over the past 30 or so years. I usually make a joke that the best man at each wedding is really the second-best man, because I am the BEST man. I even said that at my own wedding (my brother was my best man, so that reminder was particularly necessary). To be clear: I really am not that full of myself and I always make sure they understand I’m being silly and keeping the mood lighthearted (another necessity in dealing with brides and mothers).

In this passage from John Chapter 3, John the Baptizer (occupation, not denomination) was approached by some of his followers who were concerned that Jesus was gaining more of a following than John.  He used the wedding metaphor to give them some perspective.  A more familiar translation of verse 30 says, “He must increase and I must decrease.”

Nobody comes to a wedding to look at a groomsman (not even the groomsman’s mama).  In fact, the attendants are not even necessary to have a wedding.  The whole purpose of attendants, on either side, are to serve and help focus attention on the couple that are getting married.

Those of us who engage in public ministry must be sure that Jesus is always the main attraction and center of attention. Those who are not the “up front” people must be sure that our attention is focused on Jesus and not the attendants.

Those of us who engage in public ministry must be sure that Jesus is always the main attraction… Click To Tweet

The Bride (the church; the people of God) only has one Groom (Jesus).  Let us rejoice that we are always just attendants serving and supporting.

Question: How will you focus your attention on the Groom and his Bride today?

Leave a comment.  I’d love to hear your perspective.

His sheep know His voice

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“Big Grandpa” calling “his” lambs

He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he gets them all out, he leads them and they follow because they are familiar with his voice. They won’t follow a stranger’s voice but will scatter because they aren’t used to the sound of it.” (John 10:4-5, The Message)

My nephew is an amazing young man.  Actually all my nieces and nephews are amazing, but I’m only referencing one of them today.  He has had tremendous success in raising show lambs.  He’s a hard worker and his sheep business has really taken off.  He also is a student at Texas A&M University and his flock lives 200 miles away, so he needs some really good help.

He’s got that help from his dad (my baby brother) and his grandpa (our dad).  The flock lives on Grandpa’s ranch, so his is the voice they hear most often. They may be officially nephew’s lambs, but if they have a shepherd, it’s Grandpa (or Big Grandpa as he is now known to his great-granddaughter … my granddaughter … I had to throw that in).

I am useless in helping with the sheep when I am there because they don’t know my voice.  The only way I can help is by standing in a gap where they should not go.  They are afraid of me, even though I’m a good guy and have no plans to harm them.

I could go on with the story, but here’s the point: our Shepherd knows us and calls us by name.  If we belong to Him, and if we are being still enough to listen (see yesterday’s post), we will recognize His voice above all others and He will lead us where He wants us to go and to the places that are best for us. (See Psalm 23)

Our Shepherd knows us and calls us by name. Click To Tweet

Question: What ways have you learned to recognize the voice of the Shepherd?

Leave a comment.  I’d love to learn from your perspective.

When God’s Silence is Deafening

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“The time is surely coming,” says the Sovereign Lord, “when I will send a famine on the land—not a famine of bread or water but of hearing the words of the Lord. People will stagger from sea to sea and wander from border to border searching for the word of the Lord, but they will not find it.” (Amos 8:11-12, New Living Translation)

How deafening is the awful silence of God.  How awful is the deafening silence of God.  No, I did not punctuate those sentences incorrectly (even though the little green line showed up on my word processor).  I specifically phrased them that way for emphasis.

How is this possible in a world in which there are hundreds of English translations of the Bible, in which at least some portion of the Bible has been translated into almost 2300 languages, in which there are physical, electronic, audio, and visual versions available?

How can a God who can be found everywhere (see yesterday’s post: Where is God?) not be heard with all these resources available.

Could it be that we are not taking the time to listen?

Psalm 130:5-6 (New International Version) – I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.

How many times in your life have you had the feeling that your words were being ignored?  Unless you live alone and isolated, you have had that experience.  Even if you live alone and isolated, you have probably ignored yourself at some point!

 Sometimes the noise in our lives drowns out the voice of God.  Is it possible that He is waiting for us to be still, because He is not inclined to try to shout above the noise?

Question: What can you do today to quiet the noise and wait for the Lord, hoping in His word?

Leave a comment.  I’d love to hear your perspective.

When life is the pits

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I called on your name, O Lord, from the depths of the pit; you heard my plea, ‘Do not close your ear to my cry for help!’ You came near when I called on you; you said, ‘Do not fear!’ You have taken up my cause, O Lord; you have redeemed my life. (Lamentations 3:55-58, English Standard Version)

We’ve all been there, right?  In the pits?  Maybe your pit didn’t look like my pit.  Maybe yours was deeper.  Maybe mine smelled worse.  But, when you’re in the pit, you’re really not thinking about comparisons AND you really don’t want to hear about someone else’s pit. “Well, if you think that was bad, let me tell you about …”

Seriously, a rousing game of “I can top that” doesn’t help anyone in the pits.  And anyone who tells you that hearing about someone else’s problems will make you feel better about yours is … well … as Granny used to say, “full of prunes.”

There is a lesson in these verses from Lamentations, both for those who are in the pits, and for those who know someone in the pits.

If you are in the pits, call on the Lord.  That is not a quick easy answer that just says, “Oh, pray about it and it will all be fine.”  You may have to go to the doctor.  You may need counseling, medication, and lifestyle changes.  You may need a better support system. God may choose to work through any or all of those processes.  But starting with Him is an acknowledgement that He truly is your Source and that there are things that only He can do.

There was a time for me, not so long ago, that all I could pray was this phrase based on one verse of Psalm 23, “Lord, please restore my soul.” That was my starting place in a lengthy climb out of the pits.

If you know someone in the pits, call on the Lord on their behalf.  Give them the gift of your supportive presence and prayers before you offer any words of wisdom or sympathy.  And for heaven’s sake, don’t tell them: (1) It could be worse, or (2) Just pray more and you will get better, or (3) Everything happens for a reason.  All of those have a kernel of truth, but none of them is helpful.

The best words you can say are, “I love you and I’m praying for you.” And then really do it.

Question: Who do you know that needs this truth today?