Comfort

1 + 1 ≠ 2

childrens wooden blocks

It’s easy to look at something and see what we expect while missing what can be discovered. Those of us who regularly post blogs know the value of “fresh eyes.” If we can put aside a post for a few hours or a day before we need to publish it, we will almost always find something unexpected – errors to fix and better ways to communicate.

When 1 + 1 Does Not Equal 2

Let me give you a simple example of revealing something unexpected. We were taught very early in our lives was that 1+1=2. This math is learned so early in a child’s development that it becomes organic; it’s an axiom that’s not to be questioned. Nevertheless, right now, I’m going to prove that 1+1 does not always equal 2.

What I’m going to show is shockingly simple and staring us right in our faces. (By the way, the ≠ symbol means “not equal.”) Now here’s why 1 + 1 ≠ 2.

Let’s imagine that we have a tub full of children’s wooden building blocks. Each block has either a number, zero through nine, or the mathematical symbols + or -.

Now you reach into the tub and pull out a block that has the number one on it. You repeat and pull out another block that has the number one on it. Finally, you reach in and pull out a block that has the plus symbol, which represents “addition.” So, how many blocks do you have? Yep, you have three blocks. So, 1+1=3. 🙂

Promises

The one true God, the Triune God of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob, has given promises to us throughout God’s Word, from Genesis through Revelation. They are there to be used. We use them for comfort, and we use them in our prayers to keep our prayers within God’s will. The following Psalm is one to which I hang on.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah – Psalms 46:1-3

The Holy Spirit inspired the Psalmist to write, “We will not fear though the earth gives way.” Right now, many people think the world is collapsing. They predict that economies will fail, populations will be decimated, and our creature-comforts will be lost. But they don’t see with fresh eyes. We, as believers, aren’t to fear any of those things.

We have a hiding place, a place where we can be covered; that place is in God, and Jesus is the only gate (John 10:9) through which we can enter God’s refuge. Sure, bad things may happen, but we serve a good God (Mark 10:18) that will help us through them.

As we walk through each day that God gives us, let’s ask Him for fresh eyes. There are too many wonderful things that God has in store for those that trust Him.

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I Go To The Rock

There was a time, back when I was in my 20s when I played bass guitar in my local church and a Gospel group. That Gospel group was important because that’s where I met my wife-to-be. I’ve never met anyone that more exemplifies the Christian life than my wife, plus she’s beautiful and talented!

During my life in Gospel music, there was one songwriter that dominated the songs we played. That person was Dottie Rambo. She’s like the Loretta Lynn of Gospel music; more accurately, Loretta Lynn is like a Country music version of Dottie Rambo. Here’s some background about her:

Some of Dottie Rambo’s History

From her About page of the website for Dottie Rambo (1934-2008): Her songs have been recorded by such luminary artists as: Elvis Presley, Barbara Mandrell, Bill Monroe, Johnny Cash, Whitney Houston, Vince Gill, Dottie West, Pat Boone, Sandi Patty, the Oak Ridge Boys and countless others. Whitney Houston recorded, “I Go to the Rock” for the movie “The Preacher’s Wife” and won a Dove Award (along with Dottie).Dottie’s final album was her 71st album, “Stand by the River”. Again it was a chart topper — giving Dottie hit records through five decades. And it had the added prestige of the duet with country legend Dolly Parton, being nominated for CCMA song of the year, duet of the year, Dove nominated for Country Recorded Song of the Year, Gospel Fan Awards for Duo of the Year and Song of the Year.

Her style of music isn’t appealing to everyone, but her massive discography testifies to her love for Jesus and her desire to share Christ’s love.

During this time when we all are wondering what will be the final outcome of the coronavirus, I thought we should listen to Dottie’s song, “I Go To The Rock” because we can find peace and solace in Jesus.

Jesus is the Rock

Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’? – Matthew 21:42

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The God That Has Included You

I remember many years ago when I was freelancing, I was called into an old factory that manufactured steel components used in buildings. They had a machine that punched holes in the steel used to make girders, which wasn’t working correctly.

The company had a PDP-8 computer that controlled the punch press. They called me in to fix the machine. I dove right in to the computer to figure out what it was doing and how it worked; nobody knew. I was down in a concrete pit with a roll of steel moving past me, and every few seconds, the entire foundation thumped when the machine punched the holes. At one point, I stood up and looked around. 

Today That Factory is Gone

The entire factory was covered in steel dust, which covered hardworking men standing at WWII-era lathes, grinders, and such. It was then that I thought: “Everything I see will be gone soon.” They had one computer, and it made no sense to any of the employees. But someday that factory would be all computers. These workers were so focused on their daily jobs that they couldn’t see the big picture.

Today that factory is gone, and if you go into any steel fabrication factory, you will see designers using AutoCad®, fabricators running multi-axis CNC machines, and computers everywhere. These companies are leading in the adoption of robotics. What’s my point? You are a Quantum computer in the middle of an old factory.

You are Essential to God’s Plan

As you’re reading this devotional, take a moment to look up and look around. If you are a child of God, then you are essential to God’s plan. God is so big. God is so powerful. And God is active in all that He’s Created. 

Take courage, receive His strength, receive His love, for what you see with your eyes will all pass away. And God has included you in His kingdom and His work. As you read the following passage of Scripture, marvel at the God that has included you.

Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, and you are exalted as head above all. – 1 Chronicles 29:11

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Separation

U-Haul truck

This devotional is quite different from what I usually write. However, I felt that someone needed to read this. Warning: I am not a certified counselor. The following are things that I’ve learned through my many, many moves.

God moves people. Let’s say it’s you. Whether it’s across the city, across the country, or to a different country, often the “left-behinds” feel betrayed or abandoned. After all, you chose your desires over theirs. They have no choice but to deal with separation. It’s different for you because, well, you’re leaving. During our travels, my wife and I left all four parents, numerous aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, friends, and two of our (grown) kids. However, we were almost always the ones leaving. 

Some Powerful Emotions May Arise

Some powerful emotions usually arise from a pending separation, and those feelings may differ from the emotions the “left-behinds” feel after you’ve moved. The stages of emotions closely track the seven stages of grief. The “left-behinds” start with denial; they often skip the “pain and guilt,” but they barrel right into anger and bargaining. I once was bargained out of a move, and that did not turn out well.

After anger, some “left-behinds” feel depression, especially a close friend or parent. Sadly, some loved ones get stuck on either anger or depression. They never make the upward turn, reimagining their life with you not in it on a daily basis. While some “left-behinds” do reach acceptance, it may take years.

Talk Face-to-Face

The best way to communicate a pending separation is, if possible, through a one-on-one conversation. Let’s face it; when you tell your best friend in the world that you’re going to leave, they won’t take it gracefully. 

In all the pains of life, there is a human need to speak, to get out all of the words boiling inside, and to find some hope to grab hold of. My wife and I have told many people to, “Just puke out your feelings, and we’ll clean the mess up later.” Let the “left-behinds” speak. Don’t interject, don’t quiet their feelings (as long as they haven’t gone postal); just let them grieve.

Kids Need Extra Care

Often, if you’re talking to a child, the hurting child thinks they can’t say what they are feeling for fear of hurting you. Talk with them if you have permission from the child’s parent(s). Help them not to shut down. They need to express their feelings, and you need to be prepared to hear them.

If you or loved ones are facing separation, then be bold. Pray for God’s wisdom and then broach the subject; sooner is better than later, provided it’s a done deal. God is in the business of healing. He can use you to bring healing to a hurting heart.

God’s Wisdom

Proverbs 12:18 (ESV), “There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

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Human Touch

people hugging

2 Corinthians 13:12, “Greet each other with a holy kiss.

People Need Human Contact

There are five references to a “holy kiss” in the New Testament. I know the idea of a “holy kiss” freaks out Americans, myself included, yet most Americans are comfortable with a hug as part of a greeting or farewell. And the European tradition of air-kissing each cheek when formally greeting someone has long been practiced. 

Every culture has its own approach to personal contact during a greeting or farewell. “The traditional Māori greeting, the hongi (pronounced hɒŋi) is performed by two people pressing their noses together; some include, at the same time, the touching of foreheads.” –https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hongi

By nature I’m not a hugger. Over the years I’ve learned from my wife and her family how to hug but I’m still a bit clumsy. This seemly insignificant deficiency of mine proved to be a problem during my ministry in Romania. 

I Kiss Your Hand

I was in Romania shortly after that country’s independence from the Soviet Union and the “old ways” were in full force. When formally introduced to a woman I was expected to air-kiss both cheeks. That was too much. Thankfully, a friend taught me to say “Îți sărut mâna”, meaning, “I kiss your hand.” This statement was an acceptable formal greeting. Yeah!

The Power of Touch

There’s a fascinating article in The Atlantic, titled, “Can We Touch,” which highlights the medical and psychological benefits from platonic, human touch. For example:

From a small initial study the psychologist Tiffany Field published an article in the journal Pediatrics in 1986, which showed that just ten days of “body stroking and passive movements of the limbs” for less than an hour led babies to grow 47 percent faster. They averaged fewer days in the hospital and accrued $3,000 less in medical bills. The effect has been replicated multiple times.

Tiffany Field has published similar findings about the benefits of touch in full-term infants, and then children and pregnant women, adults with chronic pain, and people in retirement homes. Studies that involved as little as 15 daily minutes found that touch alone, even devoid of the other supportive qualities it usually signifies, seems to have myriad benefits.    

Be a Hugger

So, what’s my point? With Thanksgiving and Christian nearly here, we’re entering a time when we will be meeting, greeting, and farewelling (?) lots of people. As Christians, we should always offer to hug anyone. People will let you know if they don’t want a hug. However, it seems that many people are desperate for human touch, and hugging someone might make their day and cure their cold!
( read the article 😉 )

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Soul Insulation

people walking in downtown as it snows

As I recently mentioned, we bought a shed for my office. Getting the electrical installed was easy-peasy because we “have” an electrician that is reliable and affordable. However, we have struggled to get my office insulated and drywalled. It seems that my project is too small for anyone to bother with.

My wife and I are about ready to do this work ourselves. When we were younger, we’d already had the job finished. However, time is catching up with us, and our strength is waning. Still, I’m confident that God will make a way for this work to be accomplished.

Just as a house or office needs insulation to keep out the extremes of weather, so we as Christians need insulation to maintain a barrier between what the Holy Spirit is working within us and what our society is attempting to stifle within us.

Soul Insulation

One of the best spiritual insulators for our minds and souls can be purchased for free. It is be found in 

Philippians 4:8-9, Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

This passage of scripture gives us the insulation that we need to keep the world from chilling the Holy Spirit’s fire within us or overheating our passion for the work God has given us, which can lead to frustration and anger. 

Keep the Precepts of Philippians

Daily we need to keep the precepts of Philippians 4:8-9 at the forefront of our thoughts. If we do this, then the storms of life may buffet us, but we will remain warm and snuggly with God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

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My Stress

two white haired old men playing chess

There is good and bad stress. Today I’m writing about bad stress.

“Stress alters your body. 75% to 90% of all doctor’s office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints.” (WebMD) “Stress has both physical and emotional effects on our bodies. It can raise our blood pressure, increase our breathing rate and heart rate, and cause muscle tension. These things are hard on the body.” (MedLine Plus)

Nerve cells and dendrites. Source: Pixabay free

Dr. Cheryl Conrad, Professor of Psychology at Arizona State University, believes that chronic stress can have significant negative consequences on brain plasticity and resilience and may be a factor in depression, anxiety, PTSD and even Alzheimer’s disease.

Jesus Speaks Peace

I believe the reason Jesus’ first response to people often was “peace” because lack of peace alters the whole person – body, mind, and spirit. (This is your brain on stress)

Lately, I’ve been wrestling with stress. The “why” is not germane but I will say it is perhaps the most difficult issue I’ve faced. Through this time I can testify that Jesus has given me peace in my spirit.

An interesting side-effect of this spiritual battle I find myself in – yes, the root of bad stress is often spiritual – is that my hair has turned white almost overnight; not all of it, but nearly so. That’s fine. As an adopted child, grafted into the lineage of Jacob, I am resting on Isaiah 46:3-4 (ESV)

Isaiah 46:3-4

“Listen to me, O house of Jacob,
    all the remnant of the house of Israel,
who have been borne by me from before your birth,
    carried from the womb;

even to your old age I am he,
and to gray hairs I will carry you.

I have made, and I will bear;
I will carry and will save.”

I assume white hair qualifies for “gray” :).  This passage is for everyone that has received Jesus, even if you don’t have grey hair! Receive the peace that God speaks to us through this passage in Isaiah. Be at peace.

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Cookies

When I was in first grade at school, I came home one day and told my mother that I was supposed to bring cookies to school the next day for the whole class. Now, I don’t remember any of this, but I’m confident that I believed this burden was placed on my tiny shoulders; well, my mother’s.

At that time, we lived in the country, and my mother had neither a car nor a license to drive. She went into panic mode – rummaged through our pantry she came up with an impromptu receipt and proceeded to make fifty cookies – her math was that each child would want two cookies, and the teacher would want one or two, and there would be leftovers in case visitors were there. We didn’t see Mom that evening as she turned our kitchen into a bakery factory.

The Next Day

The next day she made it a point to come to school with me – I don’t know how – to make sure I didn’t eat, lose, or destroy the cookies for which my whole class was anticipating. I don’t remember this. However, I do remember this next part. Upon arriving, Mom handed the cookies to my teacher with a perfunctory apology about hoping she’d made enough and that they tasted okay. My teacher was speechless, which was quite unusual for her. She calmly explained to my mother that there wasn’t a special occasion, and she had not requested cookies from any parent. My teacher laughed; my mom rather stiffly responded in kind. Mom left, leaving the cookies for the class. I thought it was a great treat, not knowing that for the rest of her life, my mother never let me forget that incident.

Cookie Fiasco

Admittedly, the cookie fiasco, as it’s come to be known, is a trivial event. Still, this event demonstrates the lengths to which a parent will go do for their kids. “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:11) Now that’s good news!

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Trying Sea Eel Soup

I couldn’t sleep tonight, so I decided to finish watching “Street Foods” on Netflix. It’s a documentary series that is about success stories of Asian people whose lives have been changed by selling traditional foods from small stalls or even just on sidewalks and streets. Each episode features a different Asian country and, just now, I watched an episode that featured Cebu, Philippines. I’ve been there, so it got my attention.

What intrigued me was the story of this elderly fisherman that wanted to help his small fishing community. They were all extremely poor because the kinds of fish that sold well were too few for the number of people fishing. So, this man looked for what was plentiful; it was sea eels. (Now stay with me.) So, he started experimenting to create a recipe for eel soup that people would like. He found it!

Now, I have to admit that, to me, seeing eel soup and watching people eat it was sickening. Nevertheless, he shared it with locals in his community, and they loved it so much they talked him into opening a small restaurant, which he built himself. As word spread about his eel soup, his little restaurant shack on the beach became so popular that the government poured a concrete road through the town, ending it at his shack.

As more people came to town more shops opened, more people bought fresh seafood, the fishermen began to prosper, and the quality of life improved for the whole community. His kids now run the business while he enjoys his twenty-three grandkids.

This Filipino fisherman is an excellent example for Christians. Just look at Psalms 34:8: “Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!

Many people today are disgusted when they look at Christianity. TV preachers, mega-churches, promises of wealth, preachers dressing in three-piece suits, looking like bankers and running their local churches like businesses.

All of these issues and more have made Christianity repugnant to irreligious people and people from other religions. For them, Christianity is distasteful because of what they’ve seen; they have never tasted God.

Having never been in contact with a Christian that has living water pouring out of them (John 7:38), people that have rejected the Church without ever having connected with God. However, when people get a “taste” of God, not only will many come back for more, but they will bring others with them.

It is us, God’s children, that He uses to provide that taste of Him to others. Life begets life. If we have the life of Jesus within us, people will see a difference, they will feel God’s power, and they will want God in them. We already are commissioned for this work (Mark 16:15), so there’s no need to ask God about it, just go; take the living water of God to the world.

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Insecurity

Are you insecure? If so, the following devotional can fix you in just three minutes.

When I was in middle school – it was called junior high back then – I began to notice and be attracted to girls. My first girlfriend was Leslie. I had no courage around girls, so she chased me until she became my girlfriend for about two weeks.

We’d been friends for much longer. My best friend and I would play tetherball with her in her backyard and, sometimes, she’d watch my wrestling matches at school. But, after I became her boyfriend, she quickly dumped me and moved on. I don’t fault her for that.

Before this first brush with courting, I was backward and clumsy; afterward, I was backward, clumsy, and completely insecure. Attraction, attention, affection, and abandonment is the process of how kids begin to learn the social skills they will need once they mature and are ready to start courtship.

If nothing else, I’m consistently a slow learner, so when I entered high school, I had to take a speech class. When it came to my turn to stand up and give a speech, I took an “F” because I was too insecure to give the speech I had prepared and held in my hand.

As a novice student of history, I am astonished by the number of kingdoms destroyed by the actions of insecure leaders. Pride, combined with fear, produces an insidious foundation for insecurity. You can be sure that this toxic abscess within one’s self will manifest itself.

Hold on, you might say. If insecurity is a person’s nature, why am I picking on them? For twenty years, I was the poster child for insecurity. Then, God showed me that just as worry is a sin, so is insecurity.

Now, here comes the cure.

Just as worry is an expression of a person’s lack of trust in God, so insecurity is pride with doubt. Both pride and doubt are not God’s will for His children. God loves us and has told us, “God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble.” (Psalms 46:1 KJV) If we are called on to give a testimony or to take a leadership role, we need to pray. If God tells us “yes” then any action on our part to undermine God’s call is a sin. None of us want that.

Left unchecked, when insecurity has run its full course, an implosion takes place leaving that person an empty shell, exposed to all as someone who’s God-given strength was drained by insecurities abrogating God’s joy, peace, contentment and love which are available to each of us through Christ Jesus.

You can read a brief example of the impact of insecurity in Mark 6:21-28, I’ll give you the “clincher” here: “And he [King Herod] promised her with an oath...” He was a king. He did not need to write her a blank check, but his insecurity in front of his guests manifested itself much to his remorse and eventual destruction.

‘Insecurity’s fruit is loss, destruction, and embarrassment. God wants better for you.

Insecurity will lose its hold on us if we do what Jesus said in Mark 12:29-30, “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.[a] 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’” If we do this, then there’s no place in our lives for insecurity.

Prayer: Father God, we know your bountiful promises in your Word that calls us to peace and rest in You. Therefore, right now, we ask that you would give us the boldness to deal with the root causes of our insecurities. Set us free and teach us to cast all of our care upon you. Thank you for this new freedom you have imparted to us. In the Name of Jesus we pray. Amen!

There you go. If you take to heart these passages of Scripture and pray a prayer similar to the one, above, you are free of insecurity. Walk in faith and that’s good news.

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