Some Quick Encouraging Words for 16 December 2015 (Oil Change)

I’m sitting at the car dealership, waiting while they perform an oil change on my car.  And I figured, since I have an hour or so to hang around and the place has free Wi-Fi, I’ll send out a little encouragement to all of you.

And, as I pondered what to write tonight, the thought of oil came to mind.

Of course, oil in the Bible is nothing like the petroleum-based stuff they’re putting in my engine.  (At least it better not be.  EVOO makes a great salad dressing, but does it protect the valves in my engine like 5W30?)

Olive oil was originally used by shepherds to keep bugs from getting in their sheep’s ears.  They would pour it over the animals’ heads, making a surface too slippery for bugs to climb.  In doing so, shepherds were protecting – even saving – their flock.

This is the origin of anointing, the act of applying oil on one’s head as a sign of God’s blessing.  When we accept Christ as our Savior, we essentially are anointed.  The Holy Spirit – Who is symbolized by oil – indwells us, inspires us, comforts us, guides us, strengthens us, intercedes for us…

But oil is also important in Scripture as a source of light (just like Jesus, Who is the Light of the World). It is important that we don’t let our oil run out.  How can we be salt and light if our lamps have no oil?  

Consider Jesus’ parable of the wise and foolish virgins:

 “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 3 For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, 4 but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. 5 As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. 6 But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ 7 Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. 8 And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 9 But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ 10 And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. 11 Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ 12 But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ 13 Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” – Matthew 25:1-12 (ESV)

Why did the five foolish virgins miss the bridegroom?  They weren’t prepared.  They brought no oil for their lamps.

They were facing an oil crisis.   

When we are overly busy, overly stressed, overly worried, overly preoccupied, overly anxious… We can easily let our lamps run low on oil.  So low, in fact, that we may not be able to easily get our lamp relit.  Without the Light, we miss the blessings of God.  We view our struggles as disasters instead of what God can do with them.  We can’t see the Lord working in and through our pain, our troubles, our trials.

Keeping our oil level right is vital – in our vehicles as well as our lives.  Stay focused on Jesus.  Rest in the Holy Spirit.  Trust God at all times and in all things.  Don’t let your lamp run dry.  Let it shine the light of the Lord on this dark world.  Be a beacon of love, peace and joy in the Lord!

Hmmm…. now that I think about, I understand why the exhaust from my car smells like a Caesar Salad.

Advent 4: I Do Not Know Teddy Roosevelt

“O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” – John 17:25-26 (ESV)

I do not know Teddy Roosevelt.

I know he was an asthmatic child who grew to become a poster child for strength and macho.  

I know he led the Rough Riders up San Juan Hill during our short war in Cuba.  

He was governor of New York at the end of the 19th century, then vice-president under William McKinley until, a few months after the election in 1901, President McKinley was assassinated in Buffalo NY.  After that, Roosevelt was President of the United States for nine years – the youngest man (at age 42) to ever hold the post.

Roosevelt stood up to bankers and captains of industry, saw to it the Panama Canal was dug, and established the National Forest Service, creating many national parks, monuments and forests.

At a campaign stop in Milwaukee in 1912, he was shot by a would-be assassin while making a speech.  Refusing immediate medical attention, Theodore Roosevelt – wounded and bleeding – stood and gave his 90 minute speech, telling the crowd that “it takes more than (a bullet) to kill a Bull Moose.”

He was the inspiration for the teddy bear.  He had a great, tooth-filled grin, a fantastic mustache, and used terms like “bully” and “deeeeee-lited!”
I also know Robin Williams portrayed Roosevelt in the “Night at the Museum” movies.

I know a lot about Theodore Roosevelt.  I have read a couple of biographies, watched Ken Burns’ excellent PBS series on the Roosevelts, and have Wikipedia to fall back on for quick facts while writing this (and, if it’s on the internet, it has to be true.  Right?)

But… while I possess knowledge about our 26th president, I cannot make any honest claims to have known the man.  He died nearly half a century before I was born.

With this being advent season,it is a time to prepare ourselves to celebrate the birth of our Savior.  It is a wonderful opportunity to build fresh habits to draw nearer to God, to get to know Him better.

Unfortunately, so folks believe knowing God requires a theology degree, or is based so,sly on studying the Bible.

Yes, there is an intellectual role in knowing God.  But that alone won’t do it.  Relationships require time and attention.  They require investment.

I may not know TR, but I know my wife.  We’ll be married 25 years next summer.

She deserves a medal.

I didn’t read about my beautiful bride to get to know her.  I spent time with her.  I listened to her, watched her, hung out with her.

It is the same with us and God.  Reading and knowing His Word is important – vital – because this is where God reveals Himself to us.  But we also need to invest time in prayer, listening to Him, watching for Him, hanging out with Him.

So, today, find some time to invest in your relationship with our Heavenly Father.  Talk to Him.  Wait on Him.  Listen to Him.  Revel in the fact that you have the attention of the God of the universe.  Study His Word.  Seek His guidance.  Love Him.

And see how greatly He loves you. 

Relationships take time and patience and love and nurturing.  And there is no better investment than Jesus Christ.  After all, Heinvested everything in us.

Today’s Peaceful Reminder for 9 December 2015 (or, What If?)

What if…?

That’s the question that pains so many people when worried or anxious or stressed.

What if something bad happens?

What if the things I fear come true?

What if all these problems overwhelm me?

What if they stop playing “Friends” reruns on cable TV?

What if they stop running cable TV?

What if… what if…

The mantra of the worrywart.

The thing is, rarely do all these “what if” moments ever come to pass.  No wonder Jesus tells us not to worry, for worry cannot add one single hour to our lives.  In fact, worry does just the opposite: it steals our joy, robs us of our time, saps our energy, confuses our focus…

Steals.  Robs.  Saps.  Confuses.  Who does that sound like?  Certainly not God.

Let’s turn this “what if” questioning around and reframed our thoughts.

What if God showed up at just the right time in this situation?

What if these trials are meant to strengthen me.

What if the situation isn’t anywhere near as dire as I fear it may be?

What if I understood that God is in control, sovereign over all?  What if I realized I am not in control of the results and have to be?

What if I accepted that I am human, I make mistakes, and that is ok?

What if I knew for sure this storm will pass without destroying me?

What if I recognized Who God is, that He loves me and will never abandon me?

What if my faith in the Lord were so great that it swelled up and over every aspect of my life and drowned all the worry and anxiety?

What if I just started being brave, refusing to doubt, and letting my weakness be God’s strength?

What if I just stopped worrying and started trusting the Lord and resting in Christ?

And… what if they dropped those old “Friends” episodes?  There’s always “The Andy Griffith Show”.

Consider the “what if” questions and begin retooling them.  Know God is at work in you.  Rest.  Relax.  Let Jesus refresh you, shape you, inform your thinking.  Trust God and watch Him work.  You will find great blessing when you choose to seek first God and His kingdom.

Today’s Peaceful reminder for 7 December 2015 (or, Mind Your Cheeseburger)

Keep your heart with all vigilance,
    for from it flow the springs of life. – Proverbs 4:23 (ESV)

Chances are, if you were going to invite someone to lunch, it wouldn’t be Satan.  Not that it matters all that much.  His manners are so poor that he just invites himself.

Sits down at your table.

Sidles up close to you.

Doesn’t bother to look at the menu.  He knows what he’s having: whatever you’re having.

He wants to eat your lunch.

But, here is some good news: he can only grab your cheeseburger if you let him.

This is one of those reminders the Lord has put before time and again lately: “do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10,ESV).

You see, God finds great delight when we seek Him.  He doesn’t just invite us to find strength in Him.  He expects us to accept the RSVP to come to His feast.

And… He expects us to show up.

The Lord is our strength.  There are so many verses in Scripture that point to this fact.  We tend to take on so much ourselves: so much worry, so much anxiety, so much guilt, so much shame, so much insecurity, so much baggage we were never meant to lug around.

We are not called to hand over our plate to the devil.  Don’t even let him have a french fry.  We are called to trust in the Lord without understanding the whys and wheres and hows.  We are called rest in the Lord.  We are called to follow Jesus, to love God and love others, and to let faith be our understanding.

This isn’t a simple panacea to cure what ails us.  This is reality.  When we are heavily burdened and downtrodden, we do not function as we ought.  But, when we give up the stinkin’ thinkin’, stop giving in to the temptation to worry or doubt or feel sorry for ourselves, and start giving thanks to the Lord as we seek Him in all areas of our lives – with joy and peace and faith, we discover that we are safely in God’s hands.  He is truly in control and we need not worry about circumstances.

Remember… Satan is a defeated foe.  Jesus beat evil at the cross.  That alone is cause for great joy!  So be mindful of the Lord’s presence.  And take the enemy for what he is:

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. – John 10:10 (ESV)

And this thief is eyeing your burger.

Trust in the Lord and let Him fill you with strength and joy and peace and love, for with Him there is nothing we cannot face. 

Including unwanted table guests.

Have a great lunch!




Today’s Peaceful Reminder for 4 December 2015

13 I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living! 14 Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD! – Psalm 27:13-14 (ESV)

Wait.  I don’t know about you, but that’s not my favorite word.  In fact, it doesn’t even make the top 100 list.

But it should.

Your mom was right.  The old adage that “good things come to those who wait” is absolutely true.

We’re all waiting for something.  Peace for our troubled souls.  A change in life.  A season to come or a season to pass.  Healing.  Joy.  A relationship resorted.  A path revealed.  

Whatever you are waiting on – no matter how big or how small – give it to the Lord.  Instead of waiting for any thing in life, wait on the Lord.


Have faith.

Keep having faith.

Wait in faith.

Wait until your prayer is answered.

If He doesn’t show up – or, rather, you can’t perceive He has shown up – keep waiting.

Seek God.  Let a Him build your faith.  Let Him strengthen you.  Know that what you are whatever you are waiting for is far less important than what the Lord has planned for you.

And God does have a plan for you.

A good plan.

A perfect plan.

The Lord knows exactly what you need and when.  Don’t be anxious in your waiting.  Don’t give in to the temptation to give up.

Keep your heart fixed on Jesus.

Keep your mind focused on God.

Wait with great patience and joy and thankfulness for all the Lord done, is doing, and will do in your life!

Today’s Peaceful Reminder

Love God, love others.  That’s what we are called to do.

God isn’t looking for perfection from you.  He isn’t grading you on your performance.

You are where you are because God has placed you there.

For a reason.

To be salt and light.

To be a blessing in the lives of those around you.

To love God and love others.

The results are not your responsibility.

Keep looking to The Lord.  He is your strength and shield, your guide, everything you need.

Have a most blessed day by being a blessing!

Advent 3: Sure

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. – Philippians 1:6 (ESV)

You’ve no doubt heard the old saying that the only things we can be sure of are death and taxes.  But, for those who put their trust in Christ, there is so much more we can be sure of.

We can be sure that we are saved.

We can be sure that the Lord is always with us, even (especially) when we can’t sense His presence.

We can let go of the nagging perceived need to be in control of our surroundings.

We can rest in all that God is, in His every promise.  Because one word we can apply to the Lord is sure.


Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. – James 1:17 (ESV)

Our Heavenly Father is the giver of all good gifts.  And He never changes.  


God is absolutely all He reveals Himself to be in Scripture.

God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it? – Numbers 23:19 (ESV)

When we feel God has let us down, we need to understand that He is not the one to blame.  Sometimes we have wrong expectations of God.  The truth is simply this: God is God, and we are not.  Regardless of circumstances (or our perception thereof); despite hurt or disappointments or troubles; no matter what we face in life, the truth is that God is with us.  

He said so.  It’s in His Word.

And He is using the circumstances of our lives to form us, shape us, grow us.  That is the good work – sanctification – that He has begun in us.  

The good work He will see to completion.

The good work He is always working in us, which means He is always with us and will never abandon us (sound familiar)?

And you can be sure of every word, every promise, in the Bible.  God isn’t going to lie to us.  What would He gain by doing that?  He is GOD!   Sovereign over all.  Fully in control.  Ever present, ever faithful.

God is steadfast and trustworthy.  He never changes.  But, thankfully, in the Lord’s presence, we do.  For the better.  We draw near to God, and He draws near to us.  He forms us into the men and women He wants us to be.  In His good will.  In His good time.

He is our strength, our wisdom, our guide.

Of all these things, you can be sure.