Commendation

October 29, 2017

It doesn’t matter how you start. It matters how you end the race. Your team can be ahead in the the first, second, and third quarters of the game, and then lose in the fourth quarter. It’s that score that counts. On the other hand, you can be trailing in the first three quarters, and then win the game in the fourth.

Enoch won his race. He was so impressive in how he lived before God that one day God just snatched him up and took him to heaven without experiencing death. We know very little about Enoch. We’re told in Genesis 5 that his father was Jared. Enoch became a father at age 65 to Methuselah who became the oldest man to ever live. He died at age 969. The Bible doesn’t mention anything impressive he did in all those years. But his Dad, “walked with God.”  This is mentioned a second time, “Enoch walked with God” (Genesis 5:24). Enoch’s singular focus  landed him in the hall of faith found in Hebrews 11: 5-6: “By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death; he could not be found because God had taken him away. For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God.”

Enoch was consumed with one thing for 300 years of his life: being in relationship with God; loving Him, walking with Him, being in His presence. It was enough to make him a winner in God’s eyes. He didn’t build great monuments, perform miracles, or write books of the Bible. His life pleased God. That’s it.

I want the same commendation Enoch got. I think about this often. I can get it if my life is consumed with one goal: pleasing God. I don’t have to be famous, rich, beautiful, write best-selling books, or be the smartest. I just need to consistently make my #1 pursuit: being in an intimate relationship with God, seeking Him with my whole heart, obeying God, and basking in His love for me.

I want that to be my legacy.

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Smoothies and Me

July 30, 2017

I love making and devouring a fruit smoothie. I typically prepare one at least twice a week. At times I’ve taken the smoothie into my bedroom or car. Bad idea. I have wasted smoothies on the carpet and in my car twice. It happened again just this month.  I had just placed the full cup in its proper holder between the front seats. While using my cell phone at a stop light to leave a voicemail message, I quickly moved my right elbow. Immediately there was smoothie in my seat, in between the seat, and on the floor. I thought, “There I go again. What is it with me and smoothies?”

Fortunately I keep plenty of napkins in my car, so at stoplights along the way to my destination, I cleaned as much as I could. I pondered again the question? Why do I keep making the same mistake with smoothies? I may go awhile without an accident, and then another one.

I got the answer. I was not practicing “carefulness” on a consistent basis: to always be on guard, focused, when handling a smoothie given my track record. If I know what I’m prone to do (be careless) then I need to anticipate and be ready for the next occurrence and not assume it won’t happen again.

This requires being truthful about “me,” and being alert and aware of what trips me up. The same principle applies to being truthful about the sins constantly lurking in the heart, waiting to trip me up. The list is different for each person, but there is a list.

Your issue may not be mine, but I have one. That’s why Jesus said, “Watch as well as pray.” Paul wrote, “Be very careful how you walk.” I’ve made a list of what tends to trip me up spiritually and personally.

Daily, my goal is to watch, pray, and walk very carefully. I don’t need another accident, in or out of the car.

Don’t Lose the Awe

April 30, 2017

A dear friend, Michele, will celebrate her tenth wedding anniversary this fall. When she refers to her husband Kyle, she says, “He’s awesome.” I said to her once, “I love the fact that after all these years of marriage, and living with Kyle day in and day out, you still view him as “awesome.” She gave a big smile and said, “Yes.”

I’ve often thought of Michele’s exuberance for her mate when I reflect on what God desperately longs for…that we would always be in awe of Him. Awe is an overwhelming feeling of reverence, admiration. It was there when we encountered God for the first time and gladly received His gift of salvation through His Son Jesus. We were so grateful that He took care of a debt we could never pay. We were overcome with joy. I still remember the Tuesday night I invited Christ into my life. I was a child who desperately needed a Savior. I was overcome with His great love for me.

Since then I’ve said to God many times, “I will never get over your affection for me. I reserve the use of the word awesome only for you. May my love for you only intensify and never grow stale.” A marriage flourishes when a couple makes it a priority to admire and affirm each other daily and not take each other for granted.  It blossoms when they think of each other throughout the day, surprise each other with gifts and cards, and have eyes only for the other.

God Our Creator and Redeemer desires no less. I’ve made an intentional decision to talk “love” talk to Him daily and show my love by His love language: obedience.

“Lord, may I never lose the awe.”

 

Whatever

January 22, 2017

I was excited to finally get braces on my teeth during my sophomore year in college. I told myself I was getting my teeth ready for a career in television. But, I had a concern. Would the braces be off in time for my graduation? I posed that question to my orthodontist Dr. Urban. He told me that if I consistently did whatever he told me to do then, “yes,” my underbite would be corrected and my teeth straight when I received my diploma.

I listened intently when he told me what my regimen should be. I didn’t want to miss anything because I knew it was vital for me to do my part. For the next two years, I diligently followed his instructions. Whatever. It paid off. I had a beautiful smile with straight white teeth two years later, just before graduation. Sure enough, the day came when I smiled  broadly as a broadcast reporter and anchor.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve sought the counsel of the world’s greatest life coach about everything. He never makes a mistake. He knows everything. His track record is only successes. No losses. He tells me in his life manual, the Bible, the best course to take every time. But the caveat is, “Am I willing to do whatever He tells me to do. Whatever.” Even if it doesn’t make sense to me, even if nobody around me is doing it, even if the advice appears outdated, unpopular?

The reality is I win with no regrets when I choose to do whatever the Master Coach tells me to do every time. I lose whenever I don’t. I don’t want anymore losses.

Whatever, Lord. I say “yes.” I’m in.

Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room

December 17, 2016

A guest post by Meredith R. Sheppard

With the holiday season comes the hustle and bustle of busyness that often leads to misplaced priorities. Countless Christmas preparations leave us ill prepared for what matters most: Jesus Christ, the reason for the season!

Whenever I find myself too busy for Bible reading, too rushed to relax in His presence, or too distracted for daily devotions, strains of Isaac Watts’ song help me to refocus: “Let every heart prepare Him room…”

At this time of year two specific passages of Scripture come to mind:

‘For I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me(Matthew 25:35-40 NKJV).

And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn (Luke 2:7 NKJV).

From the time my husband and I married, some 34 years ago, we always kept a guest room in our home. As newlyweds living in a two-bedroom apartment, our first guest room was quite “modest.”  It held a dresser, nightstand, and a mattress and box spring—on the floor. Nevertheless, we entertained overnight guests in that tiny room. Hospitality was more important to us than having finer things all fixed up and prepared to impress. We didn’t allow our “lack” to distract us from opening our hearts and home to grateful guests.

“Joy to the World” is more than a Christmas carol. The lyrics remind us to live looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2), and to make making room for Him a matter of lifestyle.

Time in His presence clears away the clutter, bringing calm in place of all that clamors for our attention.  If your year-end calendar is filling, or is already full to overflowing, and the New Year feels like it’s moments away, whether you find yourself hosting or being a guest, make room in your heart for the Guest of Honor—Jesus Christ. His presence brings peace. His joy is your strength.  He longs to make your heart His home, not just for the holidays but all year long.

 

Directionally Challenged

October 9, 2016

I went with fickle feelings a few Sundays ago. After church service, I decided to take an item to a friend. I had never approached her apartment from this direction. I got off the freeway to get some gas. Afterwards, it “felt” right to turn to the left to get to her place, even though I saw a sign when I exited the freeway pointing me to another community near hers. I even called her to mention the route I was taking and she told me it was correct. After about 20 minutes of driving I had an uneasy feeling and called her back. That’s when she told me I was going the wrong direction. I drove at least 30 minutes out of the way.

The next morning the Lord whispered to me and said, “Cheryl, this is what happens when you ignore my signs (from the Bible) pointing you in one direction and you “feel” like it’s right to go another and you go with your feelings. He told me, “Your feelings don’t change the facts of the signs or the direction to get to your destination. My GPS is always right.”

I found out (once again, the hard way) we can waste precious time going by our feelings to determine the best way to navigate a relationship, a career, or a health choice. God will never steer us wrong. He tells us in Isaiah 48:17: “I am the Lord your God who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.”

Watch those fickle feelings. Ignore them when they don’t line up with the Word of God.

 

Why Ask Why?

August 15, 2016

I recently took a one-day road trip with a friend and her 3-year-old granddaughter. It brought me into the inquisitive world of little children. Every time my friend asked her granddaughter to do something, the toddler asked, “Why?” I heard “why” a lot from the back seat. Finally my friend would respond to the question of “why,” by saying, “Why, ask why?” Then the cutie would start telling her grandmother how to drive: fast, because from her perspective, she wasn’t driving fast enough and she was ready to get to our destination. Mind you, she was resting comfortably in her car seat.

Isn’t the cutie just like us? Always questioning God, asking “Why?” Not wanting to obey His orders until we know the reason behind His directives. Always thinking we know better. Asking Him to answer our prayers faster because we’re tired of being on the same road, dealing with the same drama, the same disappointment, the unfulfilled dreams?

Like the grandmother in the driver’s seat, God is much wiser, can see further, and has a plan guaranteed to get us safely to our destination.

“So do not throw away your confidence: it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised” (Hebrews 10:35-36, NIV).

Why ask Why? Just enjoy the ride.

Preparedness

July 17, 2016

A friend of mine always signs her emails with this verse in Matthew: “Therefore be ye also ready; for in such an hour as ye think not, the Son of man cometh” (Matthew 24:44).

It is a jolt of reality for me, a reminder of what is really important…that I treat each day as if it were the last day, because it could be. If I really thought today was my last day, how would I spend my time? I doubt if I would spend hours perusing Facebook photos or shopping. No, I would spend quality time searching my heart to make sure it is in total alignment with my Savior’s mandates. I would reconcile with anyone I have offended. I would be busy doing the work assigned to me, knowing that it would be inspected and graded really soon. No time for distractions.

I decided after seeing my friend’s email “signature,” to read Matthew 24 slowly. I suggest you do the same. It is like a jolt of potent caffeine. Jesus clearly states the signs that signal His return and the end of the world: constant wars, earthquakes, famines. That’s only the beginning. “But all this will be only the beginning of the horrors to come” (Matthew 24:8, NLT). It gets much worse, beyond the grossest horror flick.

What’s the answer? To be prepared, ready. Some people are ready for a nuclear attack but not ready for the coming of the Lord. Jesus says repeatedly, “So be prepared, because you don’t know what day your Lord is coming. …You also must be ready all the time. For the Son of Man will come when least expected” (Matthew 24:42, 44 NLT).

I’m refocusing, recharging, recalibrating. I’ve got some housecleaning to do. I intend to be ready when the Master shows up unannounced. What about you?

Men Who Stand Tall

June 19, 2016

On this Father’s Day I reflect on a few of the men who’ve made an indelible impression on my life, not by their words, but by their actions. Some I never got the chance to tell that I was watching how they walked and I was not disappointed.

Austin Edwards. A man of quiet strength and godly character. He consistently served faithfully as the Sunday School superintendent at the first church I attended. A man of few words, but when he spoke, only wisdom poured forth. He was not an emotional Christian, but he was solid, dependable, upright, respected, and gentle.

H. W. Falls. A man in a league all his own. My first pastor. A man who took His calling as God’s servant very seriously. A holy man. He loved his congregation and the children. I didn’t hesitate to go to him about what was on my mind or for him to pray for me as I was leaving for college. I believed God answered his prayers and He did. He had an open door policy. He never betrayed my childlike trust.

Carlis Moody Sr. What a privilege to be under his pastorate while I was in college. A student of the Word who lives the Word. A man of humility, known for integrity, and fidelity in his marriage. At 81, he is still going strong in the Lord, never wavering from preaching and living the uncompromising truths of God’s Word.

I could name more. I am so thankful for these godly men of standard. We need more. My constant prayer is that God would raise up a new generation of men who will take God at His Word and wholeheartedly follow Him in the tradition of Caleb, Joshua, Joseph, Daniel, and Apostle Paul. It can be done in the 21st century. Will you be that man?

Distinctly Jeremy

May 12, 2016

Proverbs 20:6 poses the question: “A faithful man who can find?” Today I celebrate the significant birthday of one faithful friend, Jeremy. I applaud you today and your distinction. There is absolutely no one like you! Our paths crossed when I was 18 and while we lost contact periodically, we always resumed the friendship.

Thanks for accepting me as I am. I’ve always been free to be “me” with you. You know my quirks and anticipate them. They have never bothered you. You make allowances for them. You have only encouraged every pursuit, never shooting down a dream. You were one of the first to purchase Distinctly You, read it, and make copious notes. When we last met, you were prepared to give feedback on each chapter. Unfortunately, we only made it through the Introduction.

I rejoiced with you when you found your birth mother and established a relationship. I documented the event by writing an article for my journalism class.

You are a man who keeps his word even if it hurts. I never have to worry if you have made a commitment to me. You will be there on time (ahead of time), no matter what it takes.

You have demonstrated to me the love of Christ, sacrificial love. Of course I think you are too hard on yourself and I worry about you at times, but then I am reminded to continue to entrust you and your future in our Savior’s hands.

God knew that I needed a trustworthy friend like you. You have made a significant difference in my life. I will be forever grateful. Continue to be distinctly you. HAPPY BIRTHDAY!