Imposter

Naples

I spent three days in Naples, FL this week.  My conference was set near the beach, and it was a struggle to sit in the sessions while looking out at the gulf, the sunshine and the palm trees.

The reality, however, was that it was still January in South Florida.  The temperature was unseasonably cold.  There was a 35 mph wind gusting off the gulf.  It was miserable.  Appearances can be deceiving.

There are times in my life when I’ve felt the same way. This usually happens when I feel insignificant, tired and defeated.  Times when I wonder why I’ve been so blessed with family and friends.  Times that I feel like I’m barely holding it together. When I’ve felt like this, it’s typically because I’ve been comparing myself to others.

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. Galatians 1:10

Isn’t that what we do?  We compare our insides to what we see on the outside of others.  This will always lead us to unhappiness.

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” I Samuel 16:7

We need to focus on our heart health.

The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.  1 Timothy 1:5

God cares about the condition of our hearts- not outer appearances.

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.  Psalm 51:10

Pray for me to be diligent in a continual search for a pure, clean heart.  And let me know if I can pray for you.

God bless.

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Prayers at bedtime

JT and Hollianne

reprinted from my journal two years ago…January 21, 2013

Jack Thomas and Britton have started keeping prayer journals on their bedside tables. Each night they write down a couple of things that they are thankful for- and other items that are prayer requests.

After their prayers tonight Jack asked if we could talk about Psalm 1 and the lesson the psalmist gave that said “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners…”. We opened his Bible and read the chapter and discussed what it meant to him. It was a great moment.

When I asked him why he wanted to discuss this particular passage tonight, he reminded me that this was the passage that we read aloud in church just yesterday as we were beginning our worship service. It obviously made an impression on him…and I was a little embarrassed that I didn’t recall the reading immediately.

At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”  Matthew 18: 1-4

In the midst of our crazy lives and hectic schedules, it often takes our children to help us pause and reflect on what’s truly important. I hope that I can have more of a child-like approach to the Gospel and my faith walk in 2013. Thank you, Jack.

God bless y’all.

Keith

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A ruckus in Starbucks

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She bolted in the door looking for a fight.

I issued a warning for the other customers to get out of her way. Seconds earlier I had seen (and heard) her yelling at the server in the drive-thru window of the crowded Cookeville, Tennessee Starbucks.  Her order had apparently not been prepared to her satisfaction.  She had received a drink she didn’t order- and loudly stated that the server was “apparently so stupid that he couldn’t hold down any other job…and should be fired from this one.”

As the server tried to apologize and make the order right, she yelled at him again.  “Are you making fun of me?  Don’t speak to me in this tone!”  With this she raced her car to the front of the store- then ran inside looking for a confrontation.

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.  James 1: 19-20

To his credit, the store employee remained calm.  He apologized for any misunderstanding and politely asked if he could try again.  She wouldn’t listen….instead demanding that she speak to the manager and that she would expose him for the rude behavior he had exhibited.  He calmly gave her the information she requested, apologized again and returned to work.

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.  Ephesians 4: 31-32

I learned a real lesson from that young man in Starbucks.  We cannot control the actions of others, but we can control our own response.

Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil. For the evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land.  Psalm 37: 8-9

May the spirit of Jesus guide us in our responses to others…and give us the endurance to remain calm during life’s storms.

Please pray for me to hold my tongue- and let me know if I may pray for you.

God bless.

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Stuck on the sideline…

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The Carver family loves a good ballgame.  This week we’ve watched the kids play basketball and soccer.  Within the next month we’ll add in baseball into the mix…and see an increase in the number of basketball and soccer games.  Weekends are wild…as Hollianne and I divide and conquer the schedule to transport our kids all over East Tennessee (and beyond).  And we love it.

While none of our children will ever be accused of being the next sports prodigy, they have learned valuable life lessons from their involvement in sports.  Traits such as being active and making things happen.  The competition has taught them not be afraid of a challenge and being bold in pursuit of a goal.

As much as I admire these traits, I often find myself in a struggle to adhere to these principles in my spiritual life.

So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. James 4:17

It’s one thing to have the spiritual maturity to recognize sin- but another thing to have the courage to do something about it.

Sin separates us from a relationship with Jesus. With sin there is fear that keeps us standing on the sidleine…out of the action…and keeps us from being spiritually effective.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:1-2

God calls for us to be active.  Active in our stance for what is right and just.  Active in advancing the good news of Jesus while on this earth.

Pray for me to be bold when fear encourages me to stay on the sideline.  And let me know if I can pray for you.

God bless.

“Our days begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”  Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Who is calling you?

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I spend quite a bit of time each day on the phone.  It may not be a phone call, but it still involves communicating on this small black box that I carry with me all the time.  This device allows calls, texts and e-mails to flow back and forth all day long.  I’m constantly checking to see who is calling or contacting me.

I spent some time in the book of Mark this week.  Chapter 1 talks about a special call.  Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John were working on the Sea of Galilee.  These good people were fishermen- and they were working their nets and boats just like they did every day.

But something incredible happened.  Jesus spoke to from the shore and extended a simple invitation.

“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.”  At once they left their nets and followed him.  Mark 1:17-18

Did you read that?  These men left their jobs and homes to follow Jesus.  James and John even left their father, Zebedee, standing in the boat.  They just walked away from security and comfort to follow Jesus.  That’s compelling.  That’s powerful.  That’s faith.

The call heard by the first disciples was quite different that anything that you and I might experience.  We do know, however, that God still calls us.  We just need to listen.

How can you hear the call?

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.  Romans 10:17

The call can come through careful study of the scripture.  The call can be heard through steadfast prayer.  The call can be felt through reflection and meditation on God’s word.  We’ve just got to be open to listening.

We have a special purpose that God intends for us to fulfill while on this earth.  I pray that we have the patience to listen for our call- and the courage to act and respond when we receive the message…just like the fishermen on Galilee.

God bless you.  Pray for me and please let me know how I may pray for you.

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Skipping church…

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I skipped church this past Sunday morning.

That’s a bit unfair.  It’s more like I missed church.  I had been fighting a losing battle with a sinus infection.  My ears hurt.  My throat burned.  My head felt like it would explode with each cough.

Regardless, I missed church.  It was difficult to see Hollianne, Carson, JT and Britton leave for service without me.  Sky, our loyal dog, and I were regulated to the couch for the morning.

When you have to miss something that you normally take for granted, it hurts.  We are creatures of habit and we certainly don’t enjoy having our routines derailed for sickness or an unexpected event.

But there are other pieces in our lives that we need to skip.  Those pieces of personality or character that are damaging to ourselves or others.

Perhaps it is anger.

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.  James 1:19-20

Maybe we tend to struggle with pride.

Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.  Philippians 2:3

Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.  Romans 12:16

There are countless other struggles we might face.

Just because these traits are unhealthy doesn’t make them any easier to quit.  We know that we need to work on these things, but our pride and selfish nature push us to keep them at the forefront of our lives.

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.  Colossians 2:3

If we are lucky- we have good friends who can help us when we need “adjustments” to our attitude.  At other times, we are self-aware enough to know when we need to change our behavior.  Regardless of how we become aware of our flaws- we need to ask Jesus for help.  We need to let go and let Jesus carry these burdens for us.  We should seek intentional, directed prayer to help us focus.  We have to ask others to pray for our shortcomings, too.

What do you need to skip in 2015?  I’ve named (a few of) my bad habits in the sections above.  Please pray for me to have strength to address these….and let me know how I can pray for you.

Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you.  Proverbs 4:25

And I look forward to worshiping with my family again next Sunday morning.

God bless.

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Everything that’s old is, well….old again.

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I’m going to lose 15 pounds.  I will read more and be more attentive to Hollianne and the kids.  I will sleep more and be more forgiving.  It’s also just January 2 and I’m already struggling with each of these goals…

The new year represents a time to put aside old habits.  A time to set new goals and create change in our lives.  The slate is clean.

Unfortunately, this is only temporary.  2015 will be filled with life events and occurrences that will disappoint us.  People will still hurt our feelings, obstacles will arise and trouble will come.  We can change our personal outlook toward life on this earth, but it won’t stop others, illness or unforeseen circumstances from derailing our best-laid plans for the new year.

This world is flawed.  Sin and despair abound on this physical earth.  It’s what happens when you place a large number of broken people in a cramped, crowded space.

For all that is in the world- the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions- is not from the Father but is from the world.  1 John 2:16

Trouble and strife, however, can serve as great reminders that this world- as we currently know it- is only temporary.

Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.  Proverbs 19:21

We are fortunate to have a great hope.  A promise of better days.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old is passed away; behold, the new has come.  2 Corinthians 5:17

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life.  He does not come into judgement, but has passed from death to life.  John 5:24

Jesus has given us this great hope.  His death has redeemed us from the pain of this world- and extended an invitation for an eternal, perfect life in Heaven.

So, while 2015 may be filled with disappointment, take heart.  We just need to adjust our focus to goals that are eternal and everlasting.

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 6:23

God bless.  I love you.

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