A Good Name

His legacy is what teaches us to be righteous and walk in integrity so that the children we have, which are His blessing to us, are then blessed by us.

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Sorry for the lateness of this readers.

Have you ever felt like you were in someone’s shadow?  You know that place where someone who has laid down groundwork before you ever came along and you bear their same name and are therefore expected to be just as good as they are?  A lot of people do not realize while positive, it can also be negative to live in someone’s shadow.  What if they have done harm or left a bad reputation in their wake?  This can also cast a negative shadow upon you, where you are expected to fail or do negatively.

Today’s reading for me came from Proverbs 20:24.  That particular verse, while inspiring, wasn’t what struck me.  It was verse 7.

Proverbs 20:24

The righteous man walks in his integrity; His children are blessed after him.

I have known people in life whose goal it was to make sure their children’s lives were just a little bit better than their own.  But what about the name the child has to carry with them.  My birth mother, during an argument, once said to me that I was just like my father.  It was one of those moments that struck me deep in my heart, because I did not want to be even associated with his name at that time.  In my head, there were things that he had done that I could not forgive.

It wasn’t until I came to truly know the Lord, that I was able to forgive my father and have some understanding of him.  But just his name, left a lasting legacy with my birth mother, that I had fight against for years.  This should be a lesson to all parents.

Walk your walk with the Lord.  Don’t tarnish your legacy to your children by having a bad name or reputation.  Let your children be able to walk into a place, with their own identity and be proud of their name.  It’s what our Heavenly Father did for His Son.  It’s what He does for us as believers.  His legacy is what teaches us to be righteous and walk in integrity so that the children we have, which are His blessing to us, are then blessed by us.

Repeat Performances

It is hard for everyone, doesn’t matter whether you are a believer or non-believer to yield control. But here is the paradox, you do have control. You control whether or not read God’s Word and heed His instruction for whatever situation you may be facing.

Do you like movies?  I know I do.  I have several movies that I can watch repeatedly and never get tired of them.  My girlfriend, a wonderful answer to prayer, has a similar mindset when it comes to the Broadway show, “Cagney.”  She liked it so much, she’s going to see it again.  It makes me wonder, is God’s Word like that for us, as believers.

Today’s devotional took me back to Psalm 119, but this time to different verses.  These verses encourage us to never forget God’s Word because His precepts are what give life.  This return to a Scripture that I read yesterday demonstrates the importance of spending time with God on a daily basis.  It was a “repeat performance” as today’s entry is entitled.  Why would He do that?  I find myself asking.  And the answer comes immediately.

Some of us, even believers, can have different situations when reading God’s Word.  One of them may be frustration because we don’t understand how what we are reading currently applies.  Another may be lack of time, a poor excuse, but an excuse one uses more often than not.  The one reason that I have found a lot of older Christians will use, is that they’ve read the Bible cover to cover and practically have it memorized, so they don’t need to, and I find that one to be the biggest folly of them all.

Reading God’s Word, studying Scripture is one of the most important tools you have against the enemy.  While Scripture may not necessarily apply to the immediate when studying it, I personally have had moments where things happened in my life, the Lord spoke to me through Scripture as far back as three weeks earlier and suddenly, boom, the situation shows up the Lord was talking about.  He prepares us and guides us because He knows us.

I once had a conversation with my big brother where I told him a very comedic thought that occurred in my head as to how God must see things when He looks at me and sees the calls that I have made in life.  God is sitting at His plain old wooden watching me, and everyone else for that matter, sees the decisions I make and when I make the wrong ones, puts His head in His palm, grabs the phone there and says, “Okay, send the clean-up angels down for Bodon.  He’s made another mess.  Where is the angel I assigned to him?  What do you mean he’s asleep at his desk?!”

Quite comedic, I’ll agree.  But that entire scenario only occurs at one moment, when I am not reading God’s Word and heeding His direction and steering.  It is hard for everyone, doesn’t matter whether you are a believer or non-believer to yield control.  But here is the paradox, you do have control.  You control whether or not read God’s Word and heed His instruction for whatever situation you may be facing.  And if there is a repeat performance in Scripture because He leads you back to the same verses, then you’d better make sure you are listening closer..

Going Astray

If you are going to be obstinate and stray anyway, hold onto the things He has planted deep inside you. Those are the things that are going to be the road map back to Him.

Have you ever gone astray?  You know, you take some time off from your faith?  I have news for you…you haven’t taken time off from your faith.

I find this to be a paradoxical and humorous concept, but it’s true.  See, once we come to know the Lord, He doesn’t let us go.  He always has eyes on us like a good parent with a child.  Sure, He’ll let us explore the playground for a bit.  He’ll let us play on all the slides and monkey bars, but He will always be watching us.  He’ll even let us do the dangerous things we know we shouldn’t be doing, all the time watching us.  And sometimes, He will stop us when it looks like we are straying too far.

My reading today came from Psalm 119:49-50.   It talks about aligning your beliefs with Him and checking His Word against what you are believing about things.  But as I read, what penetrated my heart and struck me hard was the last two verses of the Psalm.

Psalm 119:175-176

Let my soul live, and it shall praise You; And let Your judgments help me.  I have gone asrray like a lost sheep.  Seek Your servant, for I do not forget Your commandments.

You see, when we go astray, or walk away from our faith, as it were, He doesn’t stop watching us, looking after us and keep us from going too far off the reservation.  We may compromise on some things, which go against what He wants for us.  He will be disappointed in us, but He’ll let us do it, keeping a close eye on us.  However, there are other things, certain deep-seeded concepts and beliefs that we will hold onto, which keeps us from straying too far from Him.  We may think we are “living” when we go astray, but in truth, we aren’t.  But we hold onto the basics,  which keep us safe.

For the better part of the last year, I was wandering the wilderness, straying as it were.  There were plenty of things that I personally should not have done.  But He kept an eye on me, watched and made sure I didn’t stray too far off the reservation.  I held onto the people He brought into my life and it kept reminding me He was there when I was ready to come back home to Him.  If not for the deep-seeded things that He had planted, I might have strayed too far, but He kept me safe, He watched me.  Ever the Father, ever the loving parent, He never got eyes off me.

If you ever feel like your straying, don’t.  If you are going to be obstinate and stray anyway, hold onto the things He has planted deep inside you.  Those are the things that are going to be the road map back to Him.  Heed the words of people who are lovingly telling you to come back to Him, and if not, don’t disconnect from them.  They are the lifeline He has provided to remind you, He still loves you and wants you to come home.  But don’t stray too far off.

Be Strong and of “Good Courage”

People’s hearts are weak and we became fearful way too easily.

Hey, how many of you out there have courage?  I know I do.

Did you know there is a difference between good courage and foolish courage?  Good courage is those moments when you have normal life challenges and face them down with prayer and heeding God’s Word to you.  There’s no better courage than that which can come from our Heavenly Father.

Foolish courage, however, is those moments when you sit there in your own arrogance and say, “Don’t worry God.  I can handle this on my own.”  While you can sometimes come out on the other side of whatever challenge is facing you okay, more often than not, it will lead to disaster.

In today’s reading from Joshua 1:7, God tells Joshua to be “strong and very courageous.”  See Joshua had just been promoted to the head of the class as leader of Israel.  Moses had passed away and it was now time to enter the Promised Land.  This was a land, had the Israelites had courage earlier and heeded Joshua’s and Caleb’s words, they could have entered into 40 years earlier.  But they didn’t and ended up lost and wandering.  How often does this happen in your personal life?  You know those moments where you sit there and overthink things to yourself.  You over-analyze, double check, triple check and figure out all possible angles of how a situation can go wrong.  Again, I know I do.

We have to remember something as believers, at all times.  If God is for us, who can be against us? That’s from Romans 8:31.  Essentially, if what you are doing 1) comes from God and 2) we go forth and do it in the courage He provides, then whatever angles or issues we may see are moot.  In addition, our hearts may question or even tell us not to do it.  Well we get the answer to that right in the book of Joshua as well.

Joshua 3:20

For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things.

For me, the book of Joshua will always be the book of courage.  It always has the same message in many different ways, but boiling down to relying on our Heavenly Father for the courage to do the things He wants me to do.  People’s hearts are weak and we became fearful way too easily.  So I encourage you all today, pray to find out what God wants you to do and when He tells you, be strong and of good courage.  You can never go wrong with that.

No Fear

Don’t be like Israel and be afraid to walk into enemy territory the Lord has already promised or given to you. Just because you can’t see where His Hands are working, doesn’t mean they aren’t.

Okay, I’ll admit it.  Sometimes in life, I get afraid.  Being afraid is not a bad thing, it’s a healthy human response to unfamiliar situations.  But how our mind responds to that fear determines our actions.  In 2009, after I re-started my walk with the Lord, I made a decision.  Live my life with no fear.

Today’s reading for me came from Psalm 23 and while we all know the theme and remember the part about walking through the valley of the shadow of death, here is the part that struck me…the lack of fear.

One of the more powerful weapons the enemy uses against believers is fear.  Fear can cause us to make rash and foolish decisions under normal circumstances.  It’s worse for the believer, because fear can also cause us to be disobedient to our Heavenly Father and our Savior.  How so?

Jesus said in the last chapter of Matthew to go out and make disciples of all nations.  How can we do that if we are afraid to step out of the door of our homes?  Fear is what caused Israel to have to walk around the desert for 40 years in Numbers because they did not trust God’s Word.  There are numerous accounts in Scripture of the Lord commanding us to go forth boldly.  Not a single mention of having fear in any of those Scriptures.  Fear.  A tool of the enemy to keep us from doing what God wants us to do.

In today’s reading, the biggest example of trust in God and having a lack of fear, lies in the fifth verse where it speaks of God “preparing a table before me in the presence of my enemies.”  That’s a bold statement.  Could you even begin to imagine walking into an enemy hall or stronghold, on your own and eating a meal with them?  They could attack you immediately, poison your food or put you in prison.  But here’s the paradox, you only think you are walking in there alone.

Don’t be like Israel and be afraid to walk into enemy territory the Lord has already promised or given to you.  Just because you can’t see where His Hands are working, doesn’t mean they aren’t.  If you read my first entry, you will remember when I spoke about trusting Him in the big things and the small.  I’d say personal battles are pretty big things.  Don’t trust in your strength, trust in His and go forth into battle with no fear.

Bad advice

He allows us to have our knucklehead moments, where we listen to people other than Him. Why? Because He loves us enough to let us make our own mistakes.

You and I don’t know everything.  This may come as a shock, but we don’t.  As much as there are times when I like to think I know everything, I truly don’t.  And it’s hard, when someone seeks my advice, to remember that single fact.  It’s also hard to tell a person the black and white, unadulterated, unfiltered and not sugar coated truth.

During the time of Isaiah, the time period for my reading today, Israel, specifically Judah, was seeking advice.  But they didn’t want to hear the truth.  God was sending prophets to them and they would tell the prophets to not see or not prophesy.  Does that sound familiar?  I know I have heard it recently from a friend, not those exact words mind you, but definitely the same effect.  A friend had come to me for advice and I told him the truth and I was told, “Don’t preach to me.”  What’s interesting to note, is that I never started speaking about Scripture or God, I just told him what my personal stand point on a subject was and to him, that was preaching.

Isaiah 30:8-11, which wasn’t the verse for my personal study today, but as usual, I read the whole chapter, speaks of Israel, who didn’t want to hear what God had to say.  The prophets tried to get Israel to listen to God, but they, Israel, didn’t want to hear the truth, so they took bad advice.  Israel was led astray and relied on the advice and strength of men rather than God and his prophets.

Now please don’t take this to mean that I am arrogant enough to believe I am on par with God’s prophets,  Those guys had a direct line to our Heavenly Father that I cannot even begin to imagine.  I feel blessed just to have the little bit of insight He gives me to write these blogs.  But I do know this, sugar coated, gray area advice, is never a good thing when it comes to doing what He wants us to do.

Luckily, once we stop being knuckleheads and start listening again, because if you are anything like me, you eventually do, He responds.  Sometimes it’s in a big way, sometimes in small, but there is always a response.  If you read the whole chapter of Isaiah 30, you will get further along and read what God’s response is in verses 18-28.  He responds abundantly, but what’s even more amazing is our response to Him.  When we come back to Him and start listening to Him, we respond so strongly that we sometimes eliminate those things that drew us from Him in the first place in our lives.

And remember, He is gracious.  He allows us to have our knucklehead moments, where we listen to people other than Him.  Why?  Because He loves us enough to let us make our own mistakes.  Those mistakes will do one of two things, draw us to Him or make us run from Him.  It all depends on whose advice we are listening to, His or others.  I’m a knucklehead and sometimes listen to bad advice, but every time I do, I manage to get closer to Him and it strengthens my faith in Him.  But it would have been better and less difficult if I wouldn’t have listened to the bad advice in the first place.

“No” for an Answer

Accepting the “No,” the discipline from our heavenly Father, with joy, willingly and without complaint is the best way for people to see Christ in you.

“But I want it!”  Does this sound familiar to any parents out there?  How about, “I really need that!”

When I was a foster parent, one of my boys would use these words when walking through Wal-Mart.  I can honestly say, I learned more about the character of God from that two-year-old than I did from my pastor at the time.  That little boy loved and adored me and I could do no wrong in his eyes, even when disciplining him or having to tell him “No” for certain things.  Yes, he’d throw his tantrum or start crying, and it broke my heart to see him upset, but he had to learn, even at two, to accept the “No.”  And you know, God does that with us.

Today’s reading focused on Hebrews 12:9-10 where it speaks about us being subject to our earthly parents and their discipline as we grew up and how we, as believers, should be more under subjection to God when He disciplines us, because it’s for our own good.  God loves us, no matter how stubborn we are, how much we disappoint Him or are just outright disobedient.  So like a good parent, He will discipline us.  But that is not what struck me in my reading for today.  Here comes the meat and potatoes folks.

In verses 12 and 13, it states:

Hebrews 12:12-13

Therefore, strengthen the hands which hang down and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed.

The notes in my study Bible bring up two points with regard to these verses.  The first point, which I like, again, sports analogy, is that God is not just a loving parent, but the ultimate Coach.  “How much do you think you can do with what I have given you?”  He will ask.  And what He’s given you doesn’t have to be material things.  Remember from yesterday’s insights, He made us from the inside out, so it could be our talents, our time, any thing He has blessed us with, but I digress.  We will often respond with a human and practical answer of, “Well I can do this much.”

His response will go one of two ways…”Do your part with what I make you responsible for and then see what I can do with the little you do,” which is truly awesome when He does that by the way.  The other response, the one we usually don’t like is, “Do this with it.”  In my personal experience, it’s usually been the sacrifice of something He has given me.  It took a long time for me to become okay with that, but I learned, every single time, it was for my own good.

Then there is the second point of those two verses, which is how do we respond?  I know I personally didn’t always respond well.  I resisted, wrestled with the Angel, as it were.  And the more I wrestled, the more tired I became, the more bitter I got about the situation, the more I stamped my feet, the more…well let’s just say, I ran the gambit of rebellious and resistant emotions.  By the time I was done, you wouldn’t have recognized me as a believer.

Eventually, overall in life, I got to a point where it was, “Okay Lord, what do you want me to do with this?”  And I learned to do it without a complaint, without a grumble, doing my best for people to see Christ in me.  Did I always manage that?  No way, not by a long shot.  But it was all about being content in all circumstances and knowing that my behavior reflected on Him and how others saw Him.  Was I resistant and obstinate and whiny when He told me to do something or did I do it willingly with a smile on my face, kinda like my two-year-old foster son when I would ask Him to do something.  But then, there is the “No.”

As an adult, taking “No” from an answer is difficult.  We want what we want, when we want it.  And sometimes, He has to tell us “No” for our own good.  Do we like it?  Ironically enough, no we don’t.  And we have to be okay with that response and not pout, slouch, grumble or complain.  And don’t resist Him, He’s always gonna win.  He’s been doing this a lot longer than we have.

Instead, accept the “No” from Him as creating loving discipline to build your character and show the world there is something about you.  Let them think you aren’t right in the head, because you aren’t.  Accepting the “No,” the discipline from our heavenly Father, with joy, willingly and without complaint is the best way for people to see Christ in you.