In Memory of Pops

On a cold, winter Saturday morning, about 5 years ago, Heidi and I were awakened abruptly at 6am by loud banging on our back porch. I jumped to my feet and peeked through the blinds at what was causing the raucous. What I saw was my father-in-law carrying, and stacking, a bunch of firewood he had “borrowed” from H. H. and Belinda Spiller. He knew we had run out the day before and didn’t want us to be cold.

I was putting on my jacket as he pounded on the back door. (He never did anything subtly.) I ran to open it before he woke the boys, and he welcomed himself in—ice, mud, leaves, and all.

“Good morning, Mike. I’m going to show you how to build a fire.”

I watched him as he strategically piled the wood in the fireplace. (I’m still not sure it was safe to stack it that high.) Then he began to try and light it. It must have taken him at least 30 minutes to get it started, but the combination of twigs, paper, and the stained wood leftover from building our deck finally did the trick. He proudly walked over and sat on the couch, getting up occasionally to stir the fire with his oversized screw driver.

“Would you like some coffee, Pops?” I asked.

“I’ll take half a cup.”

We sat and talked for a while, as he barely sipped his coffee. (It was a lot weaker than the tar he was used to drinking.) Then, as he headed for the door, he asked me if I had a poker set, which I did not.

“You really need to get yourself a poker set. That thing isn’t safe to use.”

I had been getting by with a metal clothes hanger, so he left me his giant screw driver (which was much safer) and was off. After he left, I cleaned up the mess he’d made and sat in front of the fire he’d built. Now, every time I build a fire, I think about him fondly and wish I could share a weak cup of coffee and clean up after him just one more time. I love and miss you, Pops. You had a bigger heart than most. Thank you for giving to us from it.

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Bits and Rudders

James 3:3-5 — When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts (NIV).

Your tongue is the bit or rudder that directs the course of your life. You shape your world with your words. What you say has the ability to propel you down the path toward God’s will or cause you to wander in the wilderness.

You might ask, “How is it that words pack such a powerful punch?” Jesus answered this question in Matthew 12:34: “For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks” (NIV). What comes out of your mouth is a direct reflection of what is stored up in your heart. You say what you think, and you think about what you desire. Every time you open your mouth you alter the course of your life.

Those who lie or speak negatively all the time are allowing their tongues to lead them down a path to destruction. On the other hand, speaking God’s word has the ability to restore hope in the midst of tragedy. This principle is true when it comes to how we speak to others as well. Our words either uplift or tear down those who hear them.

I want to encourage you today to speak positively to everyone and in every situation. If you truly desire the purposes of God in your life, your speech will reflect that desire. If you find the tone of your speech to be harsh or angry, perhaps there is a root of bitterness somewhere in your heart.

My mom used to say, “If you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say anything at all.” I’ll say this to you: If you don’t have anything good to say, speak the word of God!

Psalm 35:28 — And my tongue shall speak of Your righteousness and of Your praise all the day long (NKJV).

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A Warning to the Idle

1 Thessalonians 5:14 — And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone (NIV).

It is important for you to understand Paul wrote this message to Christians, not the unsaved. Paul says idle believers should be warned. When a warning is issued, it is usually because there is impending danger. Severe weather warnings are for areas that could possibly be affected by tornadoes or thunderstorms. They encourage people to take the appropriate actions necessary to keep themselves safe.

If you are currently idle in your faith, or if your life is at a standstill, let this serve as a warning to you. The alarm is sounding, danger is looming, and you must take action now!

Being idle is the exact opposite of working. One can have the appearance of being busy, but still be unproductive. 2 Thessalonians 3:10-11 says, “For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: ‘If a man will not work, he shall not eat.’ We hear that some among you are idle. They are not busy; they are busybodies” (NIV).

The Bible says an idle person is equivalent to a busybody. Interestingly enough, a busybody is a person who pries into or meddles in the affairs of others. He or she is a gossip and blabbermouth. Idlers talk a big game and can look as if they are working, but they accomplish little to nothing. They leech onto those who are doing the work. They expect things to get done but have no intention of lifting a finger.

I want to encourage you to examine yourself today. Do you need to get a job? If you’re able, actively pursue one. Are you fulfilling a role in your local church? Become involved. Do not be content with mooching off of those doing the work. Otherwise, Scripture indicates that you will not eat.

1 Timothy 5:13 — And not only do they become idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying things they ought not to (NIV).

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Anything Praiseworthy

Philippians 4:8 — Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things (NIV).

Something praiseworthy is deserving of approval, a person or idea that should be commended. Heidi and I went to an outdoor music festival a few years ago. Nine or ten artists performed over the course of the two-day event, and there were over forty-five thousand people in attendance. There were five musical acts the day we attended, but only one of them blew us away.

I’ve set through many concerts in my lifetime. I have heard bands that should rethink their careers, and I’ve heard others who are absolutely awesome. I had anticipated this certain individual’s set all afternoon. I knew he would not disappoint, but he totally exceeded my expectations. His guitar playing was second to none, he sang beautifully, and he related well to the audience. It was the greatest musical performance I have ever experienced in a concert setting. Keith Urban put on an amazing show.

When he was finished, the crowd roared their approval and applauded (myself included). He was to be commended; his performance was definitely praiseworthy.

I want to challenge you today to think about what is praiseworthy. Keep alert, and look for opportunities to applaud the people who surround you. If one of your children does something exceptional, voice your approval and appreciation. If a coworker or subordinate resolves a pressing issue at work, commend him or her. How many times a day do we miss out on blessing others for their accomplishments?

Don’t miss the positive things in life because you’re so focused on the negative. Readjust your thinking today, and give praise where praise is due.

2 Corinthians 10:18 — For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends (NIV).

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Anything Excellent

Philippians 4:8 — Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things (NIV).

I believe the word excellent is widely misused. It is defined as possessing outstanding quality or superior merit, remarkably good. Given this definition, how many people or things do we label as excellent that do not possess outstanding quality or superior merit? The answer: Too many to count.

The truth is the definition of excellent is going to vary from person to person, but Paul lists seven things that are excellent and profitable in Titus 3:1-2: “Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men” (NIV). If you desire to be excellent, you must purpose in your heart and mind to live according to these verses. Examine yourself as I go through them.

It is not uncommon for me to hear Christians bad mouth and ridicule anyone from bosses to pastors to the President and so on. If you do not agree with those God has established over you, submit to their authority anyway and pray for them.

Partial obedience is disobedience. Are you doing something God has not asked you to do? Perhaps you are avoiding something He has told you to do.

You have to put yourself in position to do whatever is good. Many people wind up doing or saying things they regret because they set themselves up for failure. Set yourself up for success.

Now let me ask you some questions. Do you slander or gossip about others, or do you uplift with your words? Are you at peace with everyone you are in relationship with? Do you put the needs of others above your own? Would the people in your life describe you as humble? If you are lacking in any of these areas, I encourage you today to recommit yourself to excellence.

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Whatever is Admirable

Philippians 4:8 — Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things (NIV).

Something that is admirable is first-rate. It is top of the line. The dictionary defines the word admirable as inspiring approval, reverence, or affection. What, or whom, do you consider admirable?

I used to admire a certain professional basketball player. In fact, I was pretty obsessed with him. I watched every game of his I could, and I would record the ones I missed. I bought his jerseys, collected his basketball cards, and memorized his stats. I knew where and when he was born, what schools he attended, and many other factoids. I also made it a point to tell anyone who would listen how awesome of a basketball player he was. I even pretended to be him when I played. I thought he was the greatest ever. He inspired me, and my admiration for him pushed me to be a better basketball player.

I admired this man’s basketball abilities, but his personal life did not promote godliness. I wanted to play ball like him, but I had no desire to imitate his lifestyle. You can learn valuable lessons from individuals who do not serve God, but I encourage you to admire people, things, and accomplishments that push you to become a more godly person. You should aim to be Christ-like in your thinking.

Become obsessed with knowing God. Admire Him, and fix your mind on how holy and awesome He is. Develop a fascination for His word and meditate on it. Purpose in your heart to pattern your life after Jesus Christ today. Read about Him, memorize the story of His life, and adopt His character traits. It is beneficial to admire His abilities and His lifestyle.

Hebrews 12:28 — Let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe (NASB).

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Whatever is Lovely

Philippians 4:8 — Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things (NIV).

The word lovely is defined as charmingly or exquisitely beautiful, of a great moral or spiritual beauty. The Greek definition is something acceptable or pleasing. Christians run into problems when their idea of what is lovely differs from God’s. Many times we find things acceptable and pleasing that God finds repulsive and offensive. We must learn to think about what God considers morally and spiritually beautiful.

If you don’t know where to start, begin by getting into the secret place where God is. Anywhere God dwells is beautiful because He is beautiful. Make this your prayer, “How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord Almighty! My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God” (Psalm 84:1-2, NIV). His dwelling place is lovely, and your thoughts wander from lovely to ugly when you live outside of His presence.

God desires intimacy with you, and that relationship is formed and developed in His presence. The most intimate times I have with my wife are face-to-face, not over the phone or in written notes to one another. The most meaningful moments in our relationship have come when it’s just the two of us together.

Relationships suffer when the individuals involved do not spend enough quality time together. If your thoughts are immoral or unpleasing, get back into God’s presence. Look upon His face because He is lovely. When you become intimate with Him, you will begin to think about how beautiful He is. Thank You, Jesus!

Psalm 27:4 — One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek Him in His temple (NIV).

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*Contact us at JMI, P. O. Box 135, Forest Hill, LA 71430.