We are being being brainwashed constantly. People and agencies are shaping our thoughts, decisions, and entire being for that matter. Who wants to do this? It’s a long line: The government, Hollywood, the media, and the internet, to name a few. I want to be brain washed. Not by these entities of course. We need our brains washed and cleansed by the Word of God and the Holy Spirit. Having our brains washed by God is not God manipulating us for control. It is not us following like good robots. It means our brains are stained with sin. Our minds are filled with sinful, selfish, and dark thoughts. Even the best thoughts and intensions are tainted. Paul, in Romans 12:2, writes, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” This verse reminds that to follow God, we need our minds washed, transformed, and renewed. “Lord, my brain and thought life is jam packed with sin and selfishness. Clean my thoughts. Make me more like You.”
The Bible is the best-selling book of all times.
It’s a life-changing masterpiece.
The Bible is actually a collection of 66 books. It’s approximate 750,000 words can overwhelm the reader.
Many people start reading at the beginning in Genesis. Then they next read Exodus, then Leviticus, and they start getting bogged down.
If you’re new to the Bible, I recommend another approach.
Here are 3 Options to Get you Started
1. Read the Gospel of Mark
Why Mark? Mark tells the life and ministry of Jesus. It’s written like an action film. The word, “immediately” is repeated throughout. It’s also the shortest of the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John).
2. Read the Proverbs
What are proverbs? Short sayings of wisdom.
“A penny saved is a penny earned,” is an example of a proverb, though not in the Bible. The book of Proverbs is a collection of proverbs, short sayings of wisdom. It teaches about friendships, money, and decision making, to name a few.
Proverbs has 31 chapters. So, on the 1st day of the month, read Proverbs 1. On the 2nd day, read Proverbs 2 and so forth. You’ll have read the entire book in one month.
3. Read Genesis
The Bible is a collection of books, but it ultimately points to one story, or truth. God has created us to know Him and follow Him. Though we’re rebellious and disobedient , God sent Jesus to restore us.
Genesis starts the story. It tells us about creation, Noah and the Ark, Abraham, and Joseph, for instance.
Are you new to the Bible? I recommend Mark first.
Then maybe try Proverbs or Genesis. If you’ve read those try Romans, James, or the Book of Psalms.
2 Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”
Communication is key to a successful marriage.
I’ve been married 26 years, but it’s still a struggle for my wife and me. Even when we communicate, life’s so busy, we tend to forget what the other person said.
My wife and I try to have a weekly “meeting.” We sit down, look at the calendar, and talk about life. A weekly meeting, for us, is not enough. It’s need to be daily. My goal is to daily ask my wife these 4 Questions.
1. How full is your bucket?
If the bucket if full, your spouse is ok emotionally, physically, mentally, etc. If the bucket is empty, your spouse is tired, weary, anxious, or discouraged. Your spouse needs extra attention. Maybe both your buckets are empty, leading to agitation and conflict. Find ways to refresh together.
2. Is there something about money we need to discuss?
Money is a sore subject for many marriages. Take the opportunity to discuss what’s needed for the week, upcoming expenses, bills, etc.
3. Is there anything about the kids we need to discuss?
As a parent, you’re bombarded with the daily flow of info. Homework, practice, events, etc. are overwhelming. Be on the same page with your spouse about events, needs, discipline, etc.
4. How can I help you today?
You desire help from your spouse, and you’re irritated when nothing happens. Take the initiative and you be the helper. Maybe your spouse wants to help, but doesn’t know how. Questions like this help you tend to one another’s needs.
James 1:9, “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.”
It’s not easy helping someone that’s depressed.
I know this firsthand. I’ve both had depression and helped others with their depression. So many people are depressed, so it’s a skill you need to know.
Unfortunately, this is an area people get wrong, even with good intensions.
People often say the wrong things to the depressed.
Here are a few things you need to avoid saying:
- #1 Suck it up and get over it
- #2 You are too weak and emotional, toughen up
- #3 Your life is great, you have no reason to be depressed
- #4 If you just had enough faith, you would not be depressed in the first place
- #5 You’ve been like this awhile, isn’t it time to stop
Maybe you have said, or thought, something like this, maybe not. How do we help our depressed friends and family?
Step 1: Don’t judge them
They are not less of a person because they’re depressed. Great leaders, inventors, writers, etc. have dealt with depression. I am a pastor, and I too have dealt with depression.
Step 2: Don’t smother them
Depression often drives one into isolation. This hurts the depressed and their loved ones. Encourage them, don’t badger them. Don’t constantly ask how they’re doing. Don’t harass them to tell you why they’re depressed. Let them know you love them and are available when they need you.
Step 3: When they do talk, listen
Maybe they just want to share their feelings, and they don’t want a lecture on how to get better. Maybe they just want to know they’re not alone. They probably don’t need you to give 5 tips to get better. They probably just need you to be with them.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!”
We live in a time of division
People are tying to create rifts, or further the rifts, between colors and classes. We’re different, but we’re really the same.
I’ve been blessed to visit several places. From Eastern Europe, South East Asia, and Western Europe to name a few.
People are different.
Languages are different. Customs and diet are different. How someone look can be different, too. Other nations have different needs than we do in America.
People are really the same.
It doesn’t matter what country you’re from, or what you look like, we’re basically the same. We have problems. We have good days and bad. We love our families and want the best for them.
You can connect with people different than you.
I’ve stayed in homes of total strangers on the other side of the world. They’ve treated me like family. I’ve played and laughed with children from orphanages in Asia. I love them like my own children. I’ve broken bread with red, yellow, black, and white.
Yes, we’re different, but we are all part of the human race.
Maybe you’ll never travel abroad, but there are a variety of people around you. Stop focusing on how different you are. Yes, we can celebrate differences. Let’s not divide because of our differences. There is so much we can learn from one another.
We are all part of one puzzle. The closer we are together, the more beautiful life will be.
Psalm 133:1, “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!”
Smart phones can make you smart. Smart phones can make you dumb. They help and they hurt.
How they Help: You –
- Can fix something after watching You-Tube.
- Can connect with people via Social Media.
- Have a GPS at all times.
- Use apps to battle stress and anxiety.
- Use apps to enhance your fitness goals.
- Learn from podcasts.
How they Hurt: They can –
- Distract us while driving, making it unsafe.
- Become an addiction. We suffer pain and anguish without our phones.
- Hinder relationships. Instead of eye contact, we stare down at our phones.
- Lead to anxiety while looking at social media, the news, etc.
- Prevent us from truly disconnecting from school, work, etc.
- Lure us from deep thinking and reading articles, books, etc.
I remember life before the smart phone. It’s hard to imagine life without it now. My smart phone, in some ways, has made me smart. It some ways, it has made me dumb.
How can we assure the good outweighs the bad?
- Track your screen time. It shows how much time you spend on the phone and what you use it for.
- Put the phone away when you’re with someone. It’s hard to connect with a person while checking texts, notifications, etc.
- Don’t sleep with your phone next to you, unless you’re awaiting an emergency. You don’t need to check it in the middle of the night.
- Get away from your phone periodically. You can take a walk without it. You can go to the bathroom with it. Be detached and embrace the world in front of you.
How do you keep this delicate balance? How has the phone helped you? Hurt you? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
James 1:5, “ If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”
My dad was and is my hero. He’s been gone thirteen years now, due to cancer. It’s said time heals all wounds. That’s not true. The longer he’s gone, the more he’s missed.
Here are 5 lessons he taught me, whether by what he said or how he lived.
1. Treat Everyone with Respect
Dad was kind to everyone; red, yellow, black or white. He owned a small printing company and everyone was an important customer, whether it was a $5 job or a $5,000 job. Even when they wronged him, he treated them with kindness.
2. Love your spouse
He and my mom were married 44 years when he passed. If he were still alive, it would be 57 years. I never once saw them argue. I’m sure they did, they just didn’t do it in front of my sisters and me.
3. Spend time with your kids
I’ll forget the times he took me hunting or fishing. He taught me how to drive and “stay in the ruts’, on the backwoods’ roads. Dad worked crazy hours to provide for us, but he made time to be with us.
4. Save your money
Dad sometimes bought nice things, but he would rather save it then spend it. He taught me the value of both the dollar and how to acquire it through hard work and determination. One investment he always made was in people, giving to those in need.
5. Trust God
Dad was a man of great faith. He prayed, read the Bible, and went to church. This was the bedrock foundation of everything. Dad has passed on that baton. Today, I too am a man of faith, a pastor at that.
I would not be the man I am today without my dad.
If your dad is still alive? Be thankful. If not, what lessons did he pass on to you?
Proverbs 1:8, “Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction.”
Forest Gump said, “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’ll get.” Life is also like a Storage Unit.
Storage Units are Full of Junk
It’s full of stuff you don’t use or need.
The couch you once sat on is crammed in the corner. The box of video games is there. Your collection of lamps lines the walls.
Storage units are needed at times. Perhaps your kid moved back home, and you need a place for his extras. But, more often than not, it’s crammed with crap.
Storage Units are Costly
Keeping your crap is costly. A small unit might cost $45 a month. A large one $100 plus. That may not sound like much, but in one year a small unit costs $540. $2,700 if you rent it for five years. $2,700 to store $300 worth of junk.
How is life like a storage unit?
We keep a lot of junk in our lives
- We cram our schedules with activities we’re no longer passionate about.
- We fill the day with habits, routines, and addictions that make life less enjoyable.
- We stuff our minds and hearts with harmful memories, not forgiving and letting go.
- Even with the good things in our life, we cram in all we can, making it harder to shut the door, leaving no room to breathe or relax.
Keeping our crap is costly
- Cramming our lives with stuff, even good stuff, leads to anxiety and weariness.
- All the extra baggage weighs us down.
- The stress harms our relationships, too.
How is your life like a storage unit? Perhaps it’s time to:
- Remove the excess baggage.
- Rid yourself of unnecessary stress.
- Forgive and move on.
Keeping your crap is costly.
Luke 12:19-20, And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’ “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’
I get anxious. Most of us do. It’s especially terrible when we get anxious of our anxieties.
We start to PANIC and our thoughts and feelings get:
For me, when anxiety hits, it feels like my thoughts and feelings are amplified. My mind is running 100MPH, and I am about to crash and burn.
How can we have PEACE?
- Pause and take deep breaths.
Breathing helps slow down our flight or fight response.
Go for a walk. Run. Ride a bike. Exerting physical energy helps your body relax. It also produces endorphins and other feel-good responses.
- Ask why.
Why are you anxious? Do you even know why? Thinking about it will help you get a better perspective. It could help you reduce anxiety by identifying some of the triggers, see below.
- Consider a key phrase or action.
What will you say or do when anxiety hits? Maybe at home your key action is to pet your dog. If at work, maybe a key phrase to tell yourself is, “I am ok”, or “I can and will calm down in just a few minutes.” Maybe, for you, prayer is the key action when gripped by anxiety.
- Eliminate the triggers, where possible.
Does caffeine heighten your anxiety? Reduce your caffeine intake. Does the news amp you up? Don’t watch it. Your phone causing anxiety? Put in on “Do not Disturb” for an hour or two.
Philippians 4:6-7, “ Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
Marriage, though not easy, is meant to bring joy and fulfillment. I’ve been married for 26 years. Here is the recipe for a happy marriage.
Neither one of you are perfect. There is no perfect marriage or family, either. You will both make mistakes and disappoint. You can choose: Forgiveness or Bitterness.
Go on a date night. Laugh together. Spend time away from the kids, when possible.
It’s good to fight sometimes. I don’t mean anything physical of course. But, there comes a time when you both need to share your heart. It can get heated at times. After let it all out, it’s a great time kiss and make up! The other option, a poor one, is to hold it all in and stay mad.
Forget about trying to change your spouse. It’s not going to happen. I’ve been trying for 26 years to make my wife organized. It’s not who she is. I have to learn to accept her as she is, flaws and all. She has to accept my flaws, too. You can make your spouse a better person, but that’s different than changing the person completely.
For me, this is the foundation of a sold marriage. God is the creator of marriage. He is the glue that sticks you together. He is the one who empowers you to forgive. God is the one who can change your spouse. The closer you are to God, the better a spouse you are.
Marriage is like aged cheese. The longer you’re together, the tastier it gets. For a successful marriage, mix all 5 and enjoy:
Which one is the strongest in your marriage? Which one do you struggle with?
Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!“