Psalm 101 for 2017

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wp-1483279541415.jpgOne of the routines I have right now is reading in Psalms every morning before my feet hit the floor.  I don’t do it to be spiritual or to impress anyone.  I do it because I need it!  Since disciplining myself in this way, I find I have a little more grace to extend and a more positive outlook on the hard days as I have a bit of God’s Word rattling around in my mostly empty skull.

Last week I hit on Psalm 101, and after a couple days of looking at it, reading it, and thinking about it, I began to wonder what David’s thoughts were when he wrote it.  I know he was led by the Spirit to write it, but I wonder what the prompt for it was.

Since we were closing in on the end of 2016 and the thoughts of the New Year, goals, plans and dreams were running through my mind, I began to wonder if this was a “New Year’s Resolution” list for David. Is it possible that this was his list of things that he wanted to work on for the upcoming year?

I mentioned in my last post that I would be sharing more about this chapter and how I wanted to use it for myself in 2017.  Stop and think about it.  This is not a bad list!

  1. I will sing of your love and justice, lord.  I will praise you with songs. – I want to praise God more this year. I want to tell people about His love for me and how He has made changes in this life of mine that He has paid for.
  2. I will be careful to live a blameless life—when will you come to help me? I will lead a life of integrity in my own home. – I want to live a life that doesn’t make people wonder if I am a fake Christian, just putting on a show.  I want people to just believe that God is real to me and that I am the same person in the workplace that I am at home or with my friends. I want to be careful to avoid the things that cause doubts.
  3. I will refuse to look at anything vile and vulgar. I hate all who deal crookedly; I will have nothing to do with them. – I want to protect my eyes from things that are evil. I want to be sure that I am engaging in honest actions with people and avoid anything that will pull me into evil thoughts or actions.
  4. I will reject perverse ideas and stay away from every evil. – I want to keep my thought life clean and focused on things that give God glory rather than things that give my flesh power.
  5. I will not tolerate people who slander their neighbors. I will not endure conceit and pride. – I want to not only avoid negative talking about others, but also I want to be a voice that speaks up against that behavior.  I want to both be humble and promote humility in others.
  6. I will search for faithful people to be my companions. Only those who are above reproach will be allowed to serve me.  – I want to surround myself with people I can trust for encouragement, correction, love, and joy.  I want to help people live and work with a strong moral code.
  7. I will not allow deceivers to serve in my house, and liars will not stay in my presence. – I want to bring truth to light in my surroundings. I want to use grace and mercy to uncover the deceptions that are around me and  bring a restoration to the circumstances and people involved.
  8. My daily task will be to ferret out the wicked and free the city of the lord from their grip. – I want to be on the lookout for evil every day.  Evil is not usually a person, but evil actions need to be addressed for what they are and they need to be stopped.  In all things, I want God to be glorified where His people work and live.

seo-checklistI don’t know if this was David’s list for a New Year, but I do see where I can take this list and use it as an outline for how I would like to act this year.  If I can even make a little progress on it in my life, that will be a good thing!  There is nothing wrong with a single step as long as it is in the right direction!

2017 is a fresh start.  I have made my plans for this year, and in total, they are pretty big plans!  I will need to be Relentless this year in order to accomplish them.  I will need to keep a strong Focus on the goals.  I will need to be Resilient as obstacles pop up and try to pull me off track.

What do you think?  Would love to hear from you.  Feel free to comment and share!

Happy New Year!

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New Year, Fresh Fail…

failSo, a couple weeks ago I sat down and wrote a blog mentioning some goals I have for myself this year.  Now that we are 11 days in, I thought it was time to give a report:

So far, this year is a fail.  Let me tell you why.

  1. Writing at least 5 times per week? – Try this is the first time since January 1.  Doing the math on that I am only about, well, 10 days behind.  Need to work on that.
  2. Reading my Bible every day? – Well, better on this one.  There has been at least a few minute look into it every day, but I have not been the scholar that I have set out to be this year thus far.
  3. My health? – Well, we all get that holiday bulge, right?  I haven’t gained a lot, but I need to get that focus back if I am going to make positive change with a declining poundage!
  4. Me as an employee? – Depends in what you are looking at.  I have been VERY busy, but it has all been in handling the urgent things that have been coming up.  Most of the important work I feel I need to get done has been pushed aside.  I’m busy, and people are happy, but this is building in the background…

So, yeah. Not where I wanted to see myself 11 days into the year.  The thing to remember is that I have 355 days left in 2016 to turn it around! (Thank you, Leap Year!) There is no reason to let it get me down.  It’s just a reminder to keep the focus where it belongs.

Where does it belong though?  If I’m just focusing on these things, it will get very easy to be busy doing these good things, but in the end I could miss out on the best thing – seeing God at work in them.

The Bible is so great in how it tells us where we need to keep our focus in the midst of the hustle and bustle of life.  Solomon tells us about amazing, wonderful things that he was able to experience, and in the end it was like chasing the wind.  The Proverbs repeat over an over how important it is to keep a wise focus in our actions.  David tells us in the Psalms that in the middle of war, turmoil and family squabbles, all He really needed was God in His life.  Paul tells us that he doesn’t want to live his life in a way that is like just batting at the air.

All the things that we get busy with are not bad things unless they are pulling our focus from God.  Yesterday our Pastor talked about the importance of abiding in God.  Abiding in Him is what we are called to do.  The thing is, we get hung up on all the stuff that we are doing that are good things that will bear fruit, but the truth is that NOTHING WE DO will ever bear fruit.  That comes from God. He is the vine that brings life to the branch and in the life is the fruit.  Apart from Him we can never bear fruit.

We can live busy lives, but if we are not RELENTLESS about living in a way that keeps our focus on Him in our business, we are wasting time, energy, and maybe even our witness. Ouch.  None of us wan that, so what can you do?

Take time at the end of the day today and think about the things that kept you busy.  Ask yourself if God ever came to mind in those moments.  If He didn’t, maybe it would be a good thing to ask Him for a bit of forgiveness for shutting Him out or at the very least ignoring Him.  Then, take note of those moments and make a commitment to take control of that moment the next time and give it to Him.  Ask Him in that moment what He is trying to teach, what the eternal value of the action is, how your action or attitude might be modified to bring glory to Him in it.  Maybe you just need to ask if you should be doing it at all!

The new year is always going to bring fresh fails, but a RELENTLESS year is going to take those failures and use them to grow closer to God.  Even in the crazy times!

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Blank Slates and Buried Hatchets

etchASketchYou are my king and my God.  You command the victories for your people.  Only by Your power can we push back our enemies; only in Your name can we trample our foes.  I do not trust my bow; I do not count on my sword to save me.

Psalm 44:4-6

2014 is here!  Are we all excited?  I’m not sure why, but I always feel a little bit of excitement when the new year hits.  It could be that “clean slate” feeling of a year that is unmarred by mistakes.  Possibilities are there that are just waiting for me to grab and enjoy.  The date of January 1 just makes me feel like I did as a kid and I gave my Etch-a Sketch a really good shaking – Everything is reset! what can I do with this?

I think reality hits somewhere around the 5th of January.  I am finally getting back into the groove after the holidays, vacations are too far away to start getting excited, and I am locked in my house for the winter.  It gives me a chance to think a little more about the year behind as well as the year ahead.

I started a little early this year in my look back. 2013 was a very busy year.  We had a ton of fun on some trips that we took over the summer.  We saw some pretty radical changes in our jobs.  We watched our kids take some big steps as young adults.  God saw fit to bless us in some big ways too.

We also had to deal with some tough stuff.  We had some friends that moved away. We had some pretty significant vehicle problems.  We had friends that had to deal with the loss of a loved one.  We experienced some rough spots with some friends.  Things are not always “fun” in life, but nobody ever promised it would be.

“Things are not always “fun” in life, but nobody ever promised it would be.”

One of the tough things about life is relationships.  Sometimes they are a lot of fun, but other times… You know what I mean.  We all have people in our lives that can cause us some discomfort, irritation, or annoyance, but it is not very often that we would put someone squarely in the category of “enemy”.  Over the last few years, I have been dealing with a person I would put in that category.  Dealing with this person has shown me a real area of character development that I have needed, and while I would not begin to call it a strength, it is getting stronger.

My enemy seemed to do whatever they could to set me up in order to tear me down.  It seemed like every time I would be around them, I would have to keep my eyes open for that bus that I would inevitably be thrown under.  It made things very hard.  Not only was it hard to deal with that person, but with anyone associated with that person.  Every word that came out of my mouth needed to be tempered, filtered, sanitized, and clarified so that it would HOPEFULLY not come back to cut me at the ankles.

No matter how hard I tried, I could not overcome this bad relationship.  No matter what I did, I could not win over this enemy.  I would plan, act, assess, adapt, and act again.  I would confront and then retreat to lick my wounds.  I would avoid in hopes of not being forced into an argument.  Everything I did blew up in my face.  I finally gave up, accepted that I could do nothing, and did the only thing that was left for me to do.

I prayed.  I prayed a lot.  I’m not talking about lofty King James Version type prayers that are meant for inspiration and comfort.  These were gritty King David prayers where I was almost asking for bones to be broken and the blood of my enemies to run cold at the sound of God’s voice coming to my defense.  Were they selfish prayers?  Maybe a little at first.

“I prayed.  I prayed a lot.”

As time went on the prayers changed as I changed.  The prayers started as a childish whine, begging God to step in and fix this because I didn’t like how it made me feel.  I was being mistreated, and I hated it.  I was angry that I was in the situation with this person, and I saw the entire thing as unfair.  As time went on, I began to see things in a different light. I was not angry anymore.  I was just tired.  I had given my all, and I had come up short.  It was a hard pill to swallow.  I didn’t want justice anymore, I was just praying for God to show me the way out.  I wanted peace, and I wanted Him to take me away.  He had another plan.

As the months went by, I just kept praying that I would do the things that God has asked me to do.  I would not look for trouble.  I would not antagonize, I would turn the other cheek, I would not avoid or give reason to doubt me.  I was honest, kind, and supportive to this person.  It was not because I was trying an angle.  I was just trying to be as Christ like as I could with my enemy.  I figured Christ was perfect, and was crucified, and since I am not perfect, anything less than an actual crucifixion would be okay.

This past year, something finally changed.  My enemy changed.  While they still may not be a close friend, I can honestly say that I no longer see them as someone who is out to bring me harm.  I have enjoyed some great conversations with them that have given me a reassurance that they now see me in a different light as well.  I have a peace with them that did not come through me.

You might argue that I did the right things, and that is why things worked out, but I don’t believe that.  I had used my bow. I had used my sword.  I had used all the strength I had in me, and I came up short.  The only thing I did right was that I stayed under the load and gave the fight to God.  He gave me the victory.

“The only thing I did right was that I stayed under the load and gave the fight to God.”

I’m not saying there aren’t times to fight.  There are.  As I look ahead to this “blank slate” of a year, I already see some looming battles on the horizon.  Most of them will be battles that will be waged privately with my own selfish desires, but there are more coming.  I can’t say I see enemies, but I see opportunities to stand and do the right thing.  I see chances to speak the truth in love where it may not be wanted.  I see struggle, and I have a choice to make.

I have a weakness in me that demands my voice to be heard and my rights to be upheld.  I seek justice for myself and the conviction of those who have brought things against me.  That is not the man I want to be.  That is not Christ.

I want to be relentless in my growth in Christ.  I want to go after the things He has for my life with all the power I have.  But I also need to remember that there are battles that I will be involved in where my role is to endure as God does the work around me even while I am hurting.  It will take discipline, hard work, sweat, and probably some tears. I’m not going to give up though.  I have had the taste of a victory.

In HIS Grip,

Tom