Tag Archives: Action

Simple Contrast; Simple Choice


I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will not welcome us…he even refuses to welcome other believers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church.

Demetrius is well spoken of by everyone—and even by the truth itself. We also speak well of him, and you know that our testimony is true.
2 John 1:9, 10b, 12

When I was a kid and my mother had to take me to the Doctor’s office, there was always a Highlights magazine to peruse in the lobby. One of the regular features inside Highlights was a comic called Goofus and Gallant which simply contrasted the behaviors of good and bad behavior. Goofus always behaved improperly and Gallant always did the proper thing.

I thought of the two characters from my childhood as I read today’s chapter. In his letter to his friend Gaius, Paul calls out two specific men. First he calls out Diotrephes the self-seeker who is unwelcoming and mean spirited. Next, he compliments Demetrius who has a positive reputation among all the believers.

Today, I’m thinking about simple contrasts. Goofus and Gallant. Diotrephes and Demetrius. Sometimes life boils down to very simple questions:

  • What do I want my actions to say about me?
  • Who is it I really desire to be?
  • What do I need to change?

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Oh, Mercy

Forbearance (Photo credit: LendingMemo)

Have mercy on us, Lord, have mercy on us….
Psalm 123:3a (NIV)

Mercy (mur-see) n. 1. compassionate or kindly forbearance shown toward an offender, an enemy, or other person in one’s power; compassion, pity, or benevolence. 2. the discretionary power of a judge to pardon someone or to mitigate punishment, especially to send to prison rather than invoke the death penalty. 3. something that gives evidence of divine favor; blessing.

Sometimes we lose sight of what words really mean. Throughout God’s Message I read cries for mercy and calls for mercy. I regularly plead for God’s mercy. But, do I ever really stop to consider what that really means? I read the three definitions pasted above and find in each of them a slightly different but wholly apt nuance of the word.

I need God’s compassionate and kindly forbearance because despite my best efforts I keep testing God’s patience with my repeated offenses, my moral faults and my personal shortcomings.

I need God’s discretionary power to pardon and mitigate just punishment for my condemnable thoughts, words, acts and omissions.

I desire daily evidence of divine favor and blessing.

At the same instance, I am reminded this morning of Jesus’ words, “blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”

I need to show compassion and kindly forbearance towards those who have offended me.

I need to pardon those who have perpetrated hurtful thoughts, words, and actions towards me.

I need to give tangible favor and blessing to others who do not deserve it.

This morning I prepare for the day mindful of the truth that it is totally improper of me to pray for God’s mercy if I am unwilling to show mercy to others.

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Putting Our Gifts to Work


"It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child."
“It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.”

Give your complete attention to these matters. Throw yourself into your tasks so that everyone will see your progress. 1 Timothy 4:15 (NLT)

It has be an interesting week of reading deprivation which was part of the assignment for a creativity class I’m teaching. The idea of the assignment is to break out of normal routines, to do other things with your time, to be less distracted in order to focus on pursuing new paths of action. For me the lesson was in how much of a routine Wendy and I have in certain parts of our day, especially mornings, and how disruptive it can be to disturb those routines.

The class last night discussed the fact that we all feel called to be creative in our own pursuits whether it’s writing, music, artwork, crafts, and etc. We talk about the idea of being creative, but the actual creative work seems never to start. The canvas remains blank and sitting in the corner. The piano gathers dust. The play does not get revised as needed. For this we have a million excuses:

  • Too busy this week.
  • Can’t think of anything to write/draw/play.
  • I’ll get to it tomorrow.
  • I’m waiting for inspiration.

Yesterday, in preparation for class, I was investigating Pablo Picasso who was notorious for cranking out artwork in steady, flowing streams of creativity. He was constantly painting, sculpting, crafting, and drawing. An art professor of mine once commented that the vast majority of the work Picasso created was “crap” but he made so much of it that his work was constantly evolving and once in a while he would have a breakthrough of pure genius. But, he never would have had the breakthrough of genius if he hadn’t been willing to produce all the crap.

“Inspiration exists,” Picasso once said, “but it has to find us working.”

I thought of my classmates and of Picasso this morning when I read Paul’s encouragement to his protégé, Timothy. Give attention to your calling, your talents, and your gifts. Throw yourself into the action of pursuing and developing them. Only then will you make progress.

“Give me a museum, and I will fill it,” Picasso said.

Now there’s someone putting his gift to work.

Chapter-a-Day Colossians 3

from ricoslounge via Flickr

So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Colossians 3:5a (NLT)

This morning I woke in my own bed. I’m happy to be home but tired and worn out from a long week of business travel. It is probably the weariness, but as I read through today’s chapter I felt the burden of how much further I have to go. Some mornings you look back on the road behind and feel like you’ve made little progress, then glance ahead and feel the burden of how far the road stretches out before you.

Consider, for example, the command to put to death the evil and dark things lurking in my soul. Some things are more easily eradicated than others and are long gone. Some things have died a slow, lingering death over time and distance. Then there are tenaciously proud, greedy, and selfish appetites of my soul with which I seem to endlessly struggle. Is struggle the right word? It’s easy to say that they are simply difficult to exterminate and impervious to my every attempt to deal with them. I’m afraid that the truth of the matter is that I lack the willingness. We tend to settle in to comfortable patterns with our appetites. Denial, avoidance, and distraction are easier than confession, confrontation and action.

Today, I’m feeling humbled and sobered by the road ahead and how far I have to go. I perceive that there is so much more of me and far too little of Jesus in me. Some times you don’t make progress until you’ve unburdened yourself from the things that weigh you down. Yet, there is no retiring from this journey. There is only the daily decision to go my own direction, go back, sit down on the path, or keep pressing on.

I’m lacing up the shoes. I’m determining to pitch some of this dead weight and continue pressing on.

Some days it’s not as easy as others.

Chapter-a-Day John 5

The healing of a paralytic by Jesus, after Mar...
The healing of a paralytic by Jesus, after Marten de Vos, ca. 1585, from the Bowyer Bible. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When Jesus saw him and knew he had been ill for a long time, he asked him, “Would you like to get well?” John 5:6 (NLT)

It seems like such a silly question to ask a paralytic sitting by a pool that, as the legend goes, had miraculous healing powers.

“Do you want to get well?”

I’ve found this to be one of the most haunting questions in all of scripture, because it cuts right to the heart of my motives, my desires, and my true willingness to act on them. What I say I want and what my life and actions reveal that I want are daily revealed to be two different things.

“Do you want to get well?”

I do, but maybe I’d rather be sick than have get a job. I like the attention and sympathy I get from others, and the disability check is nice.

“Do you want to get sober?”

I do, but tomorrow after I finish off this last bottle.

“Do you want to work?”

Yes! Are you kidding?! I’ve been searching for months, but I can’t find the job I want (the one that pays me a lot of money, gives great benefits, and doesn’t demand too much of me).

Do you want to know God?”

I do! But, I kind of want a God that fits my lifestyle. I don’t want to be uncomfortable or have to deal with guilt or anything like that. I want to know God, just as long as it’s all positive. You know, answering my prayers and blessing me and loving me and all that stuff without expecting too much of me.


I find it interesting that today’s chapter starts with a physically crippled man and ends with spiritually crippled men. Jesus asks the paralytic about his motives and heart desire about getting physically well, then His act of healing reveals the motives and heart desire of those who say they wanted to get spiritually well – but refused the One God had sent who was standing in their midst.

Today, I’m thinking about all of the things I say I desire … but don’t act accordingly. God, forgive me. It’s a good day to make a change.

Chapter-a-Day Proverbs 21

The sacrifice of an evil person is detestable, 
      especially when it is offered with wrong motives.
Proverbs 21:27 (NLT)

When we hear the question “What’s my motivation?!” we tend to think of some cheesy character in a television show obsessing about an acting role. It stems from the acting method which teaches actors to get below the surface of the lines in the script – the words that the character say, and to think about what is driving the character to think, act, and say certain things.

All joking and mocking of actors aside, I’ve actually found the question itself is quite pertinent to almost any situation in life. I find myself asking the question of myself all the time:

What’s my motivation here; Is is positive or negative?
Am I doing this selfishly or selflessly?
What is motivating my words right now; Am I building up or tearing down?

I also find the question useful in discerning the words and actions of others. If I am perplexed as to why a person would say this or that, I look for his or her motives. What is driving them? What is it they want? What are they hoping to accomplish?

I have found that when I take a moment to thoughtfully examine my motives before I act or speak, I save myself from doing and saying a lot of stupid, hurtful things that I would regret and would cause me more pain that it was worth. When I examine the motives of others and understand why they act and say the things they do, it often allows me to respond with grace rather then react with irritation.