Monday, October 12, 2015

Living The Unique Lives To Which God Has Called Us

It is an indisputable fact that there are aspects of every single human being which make us completely unique. In other words, even though this can come off sounding trite it is, nevertheless, true that you are one-of-a-kind.

For instance, no has had the exact same experiences you have had.
No one has the same background as you.
No one else has your personality.
No one has interacted with the same mixture of people in the same way as you.
No one else has the same combination of skills and aptitudes.
No one else has the same way of viewing life as you.

So, we don’t have to do what everyone else does. We don’t have to be what everyone else tries to be.

Since God went ahead and made us in this tremendously unique way it would seem to follow He has a unique calling and purpose for our lives. Our objective is to understand what God has for us to do and be obedient to Him. If we are engaged in the unique life God has called us to then we will be doing the right thing.

“For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” Ephesians 2:10

Saturday, October 10, 2015

The Iced Tea Tastes Better

Last January I had an episode with kidney stones. You may have heard that kidney stones are very painful. I can confirm these reports are true.

During the kidney stone adventure an emergency room doctor told me various foods I should avoid because they increase the chances of developing kidney stones again. The easiest way for me to explain the correct diet for avoiding kidney stones is to tell you the foods that are allowed.

If you want to avoid kidney stones here is a list of the healthy foods to eat: 1) Celery.

That’s it. That’s the whole list. You can eat celery. So live it up with all the celery you want. Whoo hoo! Go nuts with the celery! Occasionally, if you really want to get crazy and spice it up a bit you can throw in a little bit of lettuce.

(I’m kidding. Sort of. But not much.)

At one point in this conversation the ER doctor said to me, “Do you like iced tea?”

I said, “I love iced tea. I drink it every day.”

He said, “No more iced tea. Only drink water. Lots of water.”

I said, “I hate drinking water.”

He said, “Of course you do. That’s why it’s important to drink it.”

With sadness in my heart I had to stop drinking my beloved iced tea.

But several months after this conversation with the ER doc I was telling this story to one of my friends, a person who has been a nurse for many years, and she said, “If you had an iced tea once in a while it would be alright. Don’t drink it every day. Have some occasionally. Moderation is the key.”

So, that’s what I have been doing. About once a week, or sometimes even less frequently, I will have an iced tea.

And you know what I’ve noticed? Now, when I do have an iced tea I have a greater awareness and sensitivity to the flavor of it. Seriously. There really is a difference. When I was drinking two or three large iced teas every day (I know, that’s a lot. Don’t point your fingers at me and shake your head disapprovingly.) I think I, unintentionally, desensitized my palate to the taste.

I had an iced tea tonight—I haven’t had one in about a week—and the flavor was delicious. It is as though my sense of taste has been heightened because I’m not drinking it as often.

What’s the point? The point is there is actually a silver lining in the cloud. I was sad that I couldn’t drink iced tea all the time because of the possibility of kidney stones. But now when I do drink iced tea—the occasions are rarer—but the taste is better.

Okay, time to go. I have a mouth-watering celery ensemble waiting for me.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

His Recommendation That Others Stop Being Judgmental Involved A Judgment On His Part

I saw a post a few months ago in which it was pointed out that a certain group of people is far too quick to judge others. The person who wrote the post was fed up with their behavior and suggested this group of people [the entire group] needs to be more humble and stop with their unfair judgments. After all, judging others is not good. Right?

As I read the post I wondered if the person who wrote it realized that what he wrote about this group of judging people and their grievous shortcoming of being too judgmental involved... get ready… here it comes… that’s right, it involved a judgment on his part.

It’s actually sort of amusing, isn’t it?

“…[F]irst take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye.” Jesus – Matthew 7:5

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Jesus Means To Enlarge Life Not Diminish It

A number of people who reject Jesus do so because they believe being a follower of Christ will result in a life which is boring, bland, small, intellectually diminished, guilt-ridden and confined.

This sets up an interesting irony because Jesus, speaking of His followers, said this: “…I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” John 10:10

Bible expositors will, of course, debate the nuances of this verse but for sure it means Jesus is offering His followers a life which is full, challenging, interesting, meaningful, exciting, good and virtuous.

The mission of Jesus is not to decrease life but to enlarge it.

“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” 2 Corinthians 5:17

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

For Whom Are We Doing Our Acts of Kindness?

When we perform acts of kindness toward others for whom are we doing the act of kindness? What are we expecting to happen as a result of our act of kindness?

I ask these questions because we may find our acts of kindness are not received with a level of enthusiasm and appreciation we were expecting. This can be disappointing, especially if we were looking for the enthusiastic joy and gratitude of the recipient as a subtle form of reward for our kind action.

Many of us who have a bit of life experience under our belts have discovered there may be times when genuine acts of kindness are met with actual indifference or perhaps even scorn. Believe it or not this can happen. It is a strange and surprising response the first few times it is encountered. It can be very disappointing.

And it may cause us to think, “Well, that’s it! Forget it! I’m not helping anyone or being kind to anyone again! I do these nice things and no one even appreciates it. Phooey on everyone! You are all on your own from now on you ungrateful punks!!!”
[This is usually said while shaking a fist in the air.]

It is helpful for us to understand our acts of kindness to be a loving response to God’s goodness toward us. Let the kindness be an act of worship and service that honors God, doing it for His sake. Allow the obedience to God to be its own reward.

“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Jesus – Matthew 6:1-4

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Six Surefire Ways To Know Whether Someone Is Lying To You

It’s not always easy to determine if someone is telling the truth, or not. These carefully tested clues can help.

You can be reasonably certain a person is lying to you if…

1)    During a 5 minute conversation he says the phrase, “I’m not going to lie to you...” more than 7 times.

2)    She tries to assure you several times saying, “Don’t worry, what you’ve told me is going to stay between you and me.” But she can never complete the phrase because she is laughing too hard.

3)    He says, “During my 40 years in politics…”

4)    For some unexplainable reason his pants actually catch fire while he’s talking.

5)    She says, “If you don’t believe me just ask so-and-so.” But when you say, “Maybe I will double-check that with so-and-so. Do you have her number?” She excuses herself to go to the restroom and then sneaks out the window.

6)    When you say, “Wow, that’s hard to believe.” He gets a surprised expression on his face and points behind you saying, “Oh my goodness. Look!!!” You turn to look but don’t see anything. When you turn back around again, he is gone.

Dan Marler
Oak Lawn, IL

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Young Guy Couldn't Hear My Thoughts

Recently, I saw a young man on television who seemed to be a bit embarrassed by the simple, quaint connections to God that were part of his life. On the TV program the young man was with some very hip, very cool people—heavy hitters in the entertainment industry—and I think, perhaps, his association with God may have made him feel un-hip and un-cool in his current rarefied setting.

It’s interesting that beings who are completely dependent on God for their very existence could consider Him to be slightly embarrassing, isn’t it?

As I watched the program I found myself trying to encourage the young man, in my mind.

“Don’t be embarrassed,” I was directing these thoughts to the young man. “There is nothing these people have, nothing they think, nothing they can do and nothing they can offer you that is more important than God or more important than knowing Him.”

You might be thinking, “Dan, he couldn’t hear your thoughts.”

I know. But come on, do you really have to rub it in?

"What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing  worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord..." Philippians 3:8

Sunday, September 27, 2015

When The Church Gathers Together Gladly, Joyfully and Willingly

When the church gathers together it is not with a heavy sigh and a strong determination we are going to do things that, frankly, we don’t really want to do. However, just watch us, we are going to prove to God we love Him by fulfilling this burdensome obligation.

When the church gathers, we do so as God’s people. And we come together gladly, joyfully, willingly to praise and honor Him. He deserves it! Also, we come together to lift each other up and encourage one another.

When the church is functioning properly it does not involve gathering together because we have to. It involves gathering together because—in recognition of who He is and what He has done—we want to.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Glory To God Rather Than Stroking The Ego

Whenever a person steps onto a platform in church, in front of a congregation, there is a temptation to allow ego and pride to get in the way of giving glory to God.

These kinds of thoughts can prevail: “I wonder what they think of me?” Or, “I hope they notice and appreciate my skill and talent.” Rather than thoughts along these lines: “To God be the glory.”

It is helpful for anyone who stands in front of others communicating about God to be a private worshiper of God. Focusing on God rather than self must be a regular part of a person’s life, not just something we try to do in the moments we walk onto the platform.

P.S. You’ve just read another one of the many posts in which I am primarily challenging myself because of my own tendencies before attempting to instruct others.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Facebook Is Down

Rachel frantically yelled, “Dad, something is wrong with Facebook.”

I attempted to log on and sure enough Facebook appeared to be down. So, I thought, “I’ll check Twitter.”

One of the top trending hashtags on Twitter was #FacebookDown.

Rachel called out from the other room, “What am I supposed to do without Facebook?”

I thought to myself, “That’s an excellent question. Without Facebook it might just be that life as we know it will devolve into a meaningless attempt to carry on without posting our thoughts or pictures. It will be a sad and joyless existence something like the pitiful lives of people in ancient times like the 80s and 90s.

A tear rolled down my cheek. Who could have ever guessed it would come to this?

Then I heard a shout, basically a shout for joy, come from the other room.

“Is Facebook back up?” I asked.

“Yes,” came Rachel’s reply.

A terrible crisis has been averted. We carry on with a whole new appreciation for life.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

You Have Not Been Picked

On The Voice (TV show) they will sometimes do a profile of a contestant and we get a glimpse into the person’s life. And of course, we discover that the person’s greatest dream is to make it as a team member of one of the coaches and be a regular contestant on the show.

(During the profile, we may also discover during a tearful moment that the person’s grandfather, on his deathbed, hoped he/she would win The Voice.)

Then, occasionally, one of these profiled persons performs his/her audition and none of the coaches turn around. In other words, the person is not picked to be on the show.

Then the coaches must face the performer and express a few thoughts for this person whose dreams have been dashed. They must tell the person he/she is really special, talented and beloved by each and every coach even though none of them actually picked the person.

I often have to turn the channel when that happens because for me, no kidding, it is one of the most uncomfortable moments on television.

Getting The Basics Right Rather Than Chasing The Latest Trendy Approach

It’s very possible that most of the people who read this do not realize how much advice is now available from “experts” to people who serve as professionals in church ministry. There is a constant and seemingly endless flow of books, articles, conferences and research which purports to help those in ministry do their work more effectively.

Ironically, some of the helpful advice is contradictory. (Which makes it decidedly less helpful.)

If the advice of the experts is contradictory then what are we supposed to do?

(That’s a rhetorical question. I’m not expecting an answer. It’s pretty typical for me to ask myself questions which go unanswered all throughout the day.)

I’m not opposed to getting advice from experts and learning from others—in fact, this type of information has been helpful to me over the years—but as I get older I find I’m less interested in discovering the latest trendy approach to ministry and more interested in trying to be obedient to God regarding the basic fundamentals of being a church.