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Life with Lively

Life with Lively: Staying in a Flock

God is a repetitive designer. When He creates something that works well, he repeats that design in all forms of nature. Take birds and fish for instance. Birds are known for traveling in flocks, fish travel in schools. They gather in groups with similar purpose and travel together while fulfilling their purpose.
God continued that design when he formed the first church. Jesus commanded us in Matthew 18:20 to get together in groups. (For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there among them.) This past week I have been asked to take on the task of building a new Sunday school group at our church. So I’ve spent the last week laying the foundation as to what this class is going to be all about. I have decided that my class is going to focus on connecting with other Christians as we walk God’s path. I want this class to turn into a group of friends who look forward to getting together once a week and celebrating the things that God is doing in their lives. I’ve even decided that the “motto” for our class is going to be 1 John 1:3-4, We saw it, we heard it, and now we’re telling you so you can experience it along with us, this experience of communion with the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ. Our motive for writing is simply this: We want you to enjoy this, too. Your joy will double our joy!
Now, if God is all powerful, why do we need to find a group of friends? What could a group of fellow believers provide that God, the great provider, cannot?
In the book, “Lists To Live By,” (compiled by Alice Gray, Steve Stephens, and John Van Diest) there is an article called “Five Reasons We Need Friends.” This is the simplest way of stating the importance of friends that I have found.

  • 1. Friends Provide Perspective. There are so many times that we get bogged down in a problem that we cannot see the solution to. It sometimes takes some thinking outside the box to see the best way to approach a situation. That is what friend does. A good friend does this without patronizing.
  • 2. Friends Provide Company. God understood early on that we just aren’t wired to be alone. I spend 9 hours a day in a truck by myself, and it’s a good thing I have my cell phone. I can be lost in the monotony of dumping dumpsters and a call from a friend or a funny text message provides variety to my day.
  • 3. Friends Provide a Place to Vent. Sometimes things just set us off. There is not really anything we can do about it. It’s not anything even significant. But a friend is there to hear you unload. Then sometimes they can help you put it in perspective and help you re-focus on what is important.
  • 4. Friends Provide Accountability. Our friends are the ones we let see what is in our closet. I pass people every day who I know nothing about, and they know nothing about me. Sure I may seem like a mild mannered well dressed man, but what am I like at home? I heard a radio psychologist say once that we all need to have a friend who we aren’t ashamed to let them see the moldy cheese we have in our refrigerator. And we allow or friends to be critical of us because we trust them. I know I’d be a lot more comfortable with my best friend telling me my cheese was molded than I would hearing it from the Avon lady. We are more willing to change our ways when a friend tells us.
  • 5. Friends Provide Encouragement. I can be having a really crappy day, and I get a Facebook message, or text from a friend telling me something encouraging and things begin to look up. That’s why we make friends in the first place; we find people who help us feel better about ourselves.

I am a huge NASCAR fan, and those who know me have been waiting for me be bring a NASCAR story into my devotionals, so here it is. Each week the race teams build what they think is the best car for the upcoming race. When they roll it off the truck they are sure that it is the best they can build. Then they get on the track to practice. They run side by side with other cars. Very soon they find out who still has work to do. The pull into the garage and make a few tweaks. Then get back on the track to compare themselves with the other cars. I’ve seen cars that were the worst in the first practice come full circle and win on race day. If they didn’t spend that time comparing their setups with the other racers they would have never known what it would take to win.
The same can be applied to us. Left alone we can convince ourselves that we are the best we can be. But once we get in a small group of friends we can learn where we need to tweak our lives toward serving God more effectively. We allow our strengths to help strengthen others where they are weak, and we allow our weaknesses to be strengthened by our friends. There is no greater truth than that found in ECCLESIASTES 4:9-12: Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their efforts. For if either falls, his companion can lift him up; but pity the one who falls without another to lift him up. Also, if two lie down together, they can keep warm; but how can one person alone keep warm? And if somebody overpowers one person, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not easily broken.
Do you have a flock to join? If not, find one, we weren’t designed to fly solo.

Brocke Lively is a lifelong Texan from a little town called Olton.
Brocke and his wife, Lela, have 5 kids, 2 dogs, 5 cats, 2 chickens, and what seems like a revolving door of neighbor kids coming over to play. As a father, Brocke recognizes that how he lives his life, and how he worships God not only reflects on his own salvation, but ripples to how his kids worship God.
Brocke attends a small town church where he is known as an on-call substitute Sunday school teacher. He recognizes that his church family is also a large part of who he is, and who he want his kids to grow up to be; God-fearing followers of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Life with Lively: The Stars at Night are Big and Bright….

Probably my favorite time of the year is around the second week of November. Every year around that time the Earth passes through the path of a comet called Tempel-Tuttle. This results in an annual meteor shower call the Leonids. This is one of the most brilliant displays of cosmic awesomeness with its peak reaching 2000+ meteors an hour. It just so happens that the Leonids are timed to when sky watching conditions are perfect our here in Texas. Usually we have just had our first hard freeze and have had a strong cold front to clear the air, and of course, being out in the middle of nowhere we don’t have to worry about light noise from the cities. You can go out to a field or pasture and just spend hours watching countless meteorites fall from the sky.
Yes, I’m a space nut. I have gotten up at two in the morning and watched the astronauts install a toilet in the space station on the NASA channel. I’ve tried to catch anytime the space shuttle or space station is visible overhead. (Sadly I was up watching overhead the morning Columbia broke up). I even have a space shuttle model hanging over my bed. The point is I like space!! But several years ago I got a dose of reality that I was taking what I had for granted.
Years ago, I was dating a girl from Dallas. It was one of those long distant doomed to fail things, but things progressed to the point that she made the trip across the state to visit. We had dinner at my parents and I was driving her back to town to the local bed and breakfast, when she asked me to pull over. She got out of my truck and started looking up at the sky. I asked if something was wrong and she pointed upwards and said, “I’ve never seen so many stars. Are there always this many out at night?” I was confused, “Of course there are, don’t they have stars in Dallas?” She said that in Dallas you were lucky if you could see a dozen or so stars because the city lights blocked them out.
As I’ve matured I’ve always had in the back of my mind that there are a lot of stars out there, even if I’m somewhere I can’t see them all, they are still there, serving God’s purpose. This has been a reminder the past few weeks at our church. We just recently finished VBS. Our church takes VBS very seriously. Our community has a lot of families who won’t come to church but will send their kids. Our church has taken children and youth ministry and its calling and we give 110% focus to things like VBS. Most of the kids get to know their teacher, their craft leader, the music leader and the preacher, but VBS would not happen without a lot of those little stars that no one can see, unless you look for them.
The same goes with Bible News Network, sure each week we see Raymond O’Neil, Brad Bartelloni and Tad Shultz, but what about the people behind the camera? There are lots of people behind back there making things happen. Do you realize how much makeup it takes to make Tad Shultz presentable? Who do you think brings Brad Bartelloni his Carl’s Jr “Big Bacon Classic”?
All kidding aside, God’s work is done by lots of people. Some get more attention than others, but every part is important. We are all a part of one body each with its function. If my knee isn’t working right the rest of my body will begin to suffer. I can’t get on this subject without talking about my mom. She suffered from kidney failure. She spent 7 years on dialysis because her kidneys stopped doing their part. But she didn’t pass away from kidney failure. She died of a heart attack. Her heart gave out because her kidneys weren’t doing their part to filter her blood. The poisons in her body weakened her heart to the point of failure.
There are times when we feel our part in God’s body is small and insignificant. We start thinking “oh well, no one will notice if I don’t do my part.” That’s when the chain starts to weaken. That’s when the momentum starts to slow. I’m a substitute Sunday school teacher; doesn’t seem that important. But what if there was no one to step in and take a class when a teacher went out of town, or had an emergency. The dominos would begin to fall.
The fact is this: Just like there are countless stars in the sky of varying brightness, there are countless places to serve God’s plan. Not all are glamorous. There is no guarantee of fame (not really the point of service anyway). But once you find that place where God wants you to serve, be ready because you will shine. Remember, each and every star in the sky, no matter how bright they seem to us; they are a sun with their own set of planetary bodies revolving around them. So shine on baby!!
This week’s passage is Romans 12:1-21 (The Message): So here’s what I want you to do, with God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, and develops well-formed maturity in you.
I’m speaking to you out of deep gratitude for all that God has given me, and especially as I have responsibilities in relation to you. Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it’s important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him.
In this way we are like the various parts of a human body. Each part gets its meaning from the body as a whole, not the other way around. The body we’re talking about is Christ’s body of chosen people. Each of us finds our meaning and function as a part of his body. But as a chopped-off finger or cut-off toe we wouldn’t amount to much, would we? So since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvelously functioning parts in Christ’s body, let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren’t.
If you preach, just preach God’s Message, nothing else; if you help, just help, don’t take over; if you teach, stick to your teaching; if you give encouraging guidance, be careful that you don’t get bossy; if you’re put in charge, don’t manipulate; if you’re called to give aid to people in distress, keep your eyes open and be quick to respond; if you work with the disadvantaged, don’t let yourself get irritated with them or depressed by them. Keep a smile on your face.
Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.
Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality.
Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody.
Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. ‘I’ll do the judging,’ says God. ‘I’ll take care of it.'”
Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good.

Brocke Lively is a lifelong Texan from a little town called Olton.
Brocke and his wife, Lela, have 5 kids, 2 dogs, 5 cats, 2 chickens, and what seems like a revolving door of neighbor kids coming over to play. As a father, Brocke recognizes that how he lives his life, and how he worships God not only reflects on his own salvation, but ripples to how his kids worship God.
Brocke attends a small town church where he is known as an on-call substitute Sunday school teacher. He recognizes that his church family is also a large part of who he is, and who he want his kids to grow up to be; God-fearing followers of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Life with Lively: Lawncare Tips and More

It’s funny how things work together. The last time we visited, God had created water, and I got the opportunity to talk about all the water we had recently received in the way of rainfall. Now, we discover that God has created dry land, and placed the plants upon it. So this week we are going to talk about plants.
Thanks to the recent rains, plants around here are growing like mad. My wife, Lela, has planted a garden; it’s not a huge plantation, just a four foot by eight foot patch of green beans, some carrots, tomatoes, sweet peppers and cantaloupes. The cantaloupe patch scares me; it’s huge and full of blooms so if the weather holds, we will be deep in the cantaloupe business in a few weeks. We’ve already had our first bean harvest. We filled up a four gallon bucket full of green beans, and they are back to producing their next harvest.
And of course the rain has caused my grass to grow, and magnified an annual argument that I have with my neighbor.
Before I go any further with this I have to explain something, and provide a disclaimer. My neighbor is my grandmother. I love my grandmother very much, and if at any point in this piece you find humor, please note that I am in no way poking fun at her or am I trying to make her look foolish. (I have to put this in here because I have some relatives who do not understand the humor called sarcasm.)
So, with all legalities aside, let me tell you a little about my lawn. Most people around here grow Bermuda grass. It is a hearty grass that does well in our relatively hot dry climate. When treated right it makes even the roughest lawn a smooth velvety surface to walk barefoot on a summer night. Now there are two schools of thought as to how to treat Bermuda grass.
There is the “old school” method. This method consists of mowing the grass down to less than one inch tall (putting green height). Sure it means you don’t have to mow as often, but when you cut it down, you have to replace nutrients with lots of fertilizer, and you can also expect a high water bill.
I subscribe the “new school” method. I cut my grass at a height of three inches. When I water, the ground stays damp longer due to the natural shade the grass provides. In this cool damp environment, the clippings turn to mulch meaning I spend less on fertilizer.
This drives my grandmother crazy. So every year we have a debate over how I don’t mow my grass like I should.
Unfortunately, Christians today are cutting their spiritual lawns short. We get so wrapped up in being “politically correct” that our message gets diluted. Instead of boldly proclaiming Jesus, we whisper afraid that someone might be offended. We even go so far as to allow the enemy to convince us that Jesus was “the great appeaser;” and one who never offended others. Well, check out Matthew 15.
The Pharisees came to Jesus and the disciples and were offended by what they saw. They got upset because the disciples did not wash their hands before dinner, a major Jewish taboo. But Jesus knew that there were bigger lessons to learn. He didn’t apologize. He didn’t run off and make everyone wash their hands, he pointed out in verse 11: It’s not what goes into the mouth that defiles a man, but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man. He basically accused the Pharisees of committing greater sin. He didn’t back down and start apologizing. He didn’t beg for forgiveness. He boldly proclaimed the Gospel.
This is the example that Jesus set for us, and every time we cut ourselves back, and apologize for being Christians, we have to make up ground to find boldness again. The internet is full of news stories about how Christians are being unfair and not giving other “religions” their fair due. Well guess what? Those other religions are just bunk. Buddha and Mohammed are still lying in their graves while our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ has ascended into heaven in front of several witnesses. At Jesus’ last appearance, He commanded all Christians to boldly proclaim His message to all nations.
I really don’t want this devotional time to become political, but it’s no secret that our nation is coming to a crossroad. The question I want to ask is this: Are we as Christians going to quietly ride the currents of “public” opinions? Or, are we going to find boldness and stand for the beliefs that our savior instructed us to follow?
Pray also for me, that the message may be given to me when I open my mouth to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel. Ephesians 6:19

Brocke Lively is a lifelong Texan from a little town called Olton.
Brocke and his wife, Lela, have 5 kids, 2 dogs, 5 cats, 2 chickens, and what seems like a revolving door of neighbor kids coming over to play. As a father, Brocke recognizes that how he lives his life, and how he worships God not only reflects on his own salvation, but ripples to how his kids worship God.
Brocke attends a small town church where he is known as an on-call substitute Sunday school teacher. He recognizes that his church family is also a large part of who he is, and who he want his kids to grow up to be; God-fearing followers of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Life with Lively: Water, Water, Everywhere!

It’s ironic that this week’s episode of BNN is about God creating water. In the past week we have had an abundance of water here in West Texas. Normally we get a few showers here and there; just enough to nourish the crops and plants, but this year has been different. It started on July 2nd with Hurricane Alex. After making a landfill, all of her moisture came right up here where I live. We were on the western edge of the system, so in Olton we got somewhere in the area of 2 ½ to 2 ¾ inches of rain. However, just 25 miles to the east in Plainview where I work, they got 5 to 6 inches of rain at the landfill. For the Fourth of July (it was actually on the 3rd) we went to my dad’s in Lorenzo, about 50 miles southeast of my home. We got there to find a lot of water. I spent the day standing in ankle deep water stirring a pot of beans. Water, for the first time that I can remember, is in abundance in this part of the country.
I will admit it is a nice change of pace to see the lakes full, and to see creeks flowing again –although it has made for a rough week at work; just driving around the landfill has been a challenge. But God has blessed our part of the country, and for that I am thankful.
One thing that has struck me as funny has been a constant question that lots of people keep asking. “Where did all this water come from?” I can’t help but smirk at that because it brings me back to when I was in 3rd grade. My dad was in charge of the city water system in Olton when I was in school, and my teacher had asked him to come and give a talk about water and water conservation. I remember he had a mason jar filled with water, and he held it up and proclaimed it was actual water from the Great Flood mentioned in Genesis. My classmates were taken aback with how cool that was. He passed the jar around and we all looked at it like it was a museum piece. One of my friends asked my dad where he could get some water from the flood and my dad pointed down the hall to the water fountain.
It’s one of those things we don’t really think about is it? The Bible says God created everything in the first seven days. God created water on Day 2, and when he did he created enough to last the lifetime of the universe. God knew on the second day of creation how much water we were going to need on July 9, 2010; and on July 10, and July 11 and so on.
Now admittedly, we have contaminated a lot of our water, and it will take a lot of effort to clean out the impurities to make it usable, but in that statement is today’s lesson.
In John 4: 13 and 14, Jesus says, “Everyone who drinks this water will get thirsty again. But no one who drinks the water I give will ever be thirsty again. The water I give is like a flowing fountain that gives eternal life.”
Jesus has given us a pure and simple way to salvation through him. Unfortunately, sometimes we allow that living water to become contaminated. We get so tied up with other things that we lose the joy of living a life free from sin.
This week I’m subbing in a Sunday school class and the lesson is in 1 Corinthians 11:17-26. It deals with how the Corinthian church had taken something as simple and pure as taking The Lords Supper and turned it into a show of who was the better Christian. The message had become contaminated, and because of that, remembering this important time in the life of Jesus, had lost its value to the Corinthians. So many times we get so wrapped up in what image we are portraying to others that we forget the purpose of worship is to glorify God.
Worshiping “The Living Water” is in itself perfect. We don’t need to add any flavorings, or sweeteners to it. God created us for His companionship, one on one with Him. We don’t have to put on a pre-tense of how great we want God to think we are. God doesn’t see our Christian T-shirts, he sees the person wearing the shirt. He knows that person and all the dirty little secrets that he is trying to keep.
Are we really drinking in the pure living water of Jesus or have we contaminated our lives, and just keep pouring in artificial agents to try to cover up the mess? I for one know that sometimes its best to just dump out all the crud in our lives and get a fresh cup of water. That is my prayer for this week: that I clear out all the impurities in my life and worship God pure clear and unfiltered.

Brocke Lively is a lifelong Texan from a little town called Olton.
Brocke and his wife, Lela, have 5 kids, 2 dogs, 5 cats, 2 chickens, and what seems like a revolving door of neighbor kids coming over to play. As a father, Brocke recognizes that how he lives his life, and how he worships God not only reflects on his own salvation, but ripples to how his kids worship God.
Brocke attends a small town church where he is known as an on-call substitute Sunday school teacher. He recognizes that his church family is also a large part of who he is, and who he want his kids to grow up to be; God-fearing followers of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Life with Lively: Life in High Definition

It seems every episode of Scooby-Doo has the same gag in it. The gang from Mystery Inc. stays in an old haunted bed and breakfast, Scooby and Shaggy bunk in the same room. Within minutes of turning out the lights they hear a clicking noise. Shaggy asks Scooby if that was him, Scooby says it wasn’t him, so they turn on a lamp. There they see a shadow on the wall that looks like a boney hand reaching towards them. They scream and turn out the lights. Velma comes running in and turns on the room lights and explains that the clicking sound was a tree branch tapping the window, and the boney hand was simply a shadow of the tree cast in the moonlight. All is calm, Velma leaves, the lights go out and the monster gets them.
The point of this pointless story is that our imagination gets away with us in the darkness. However, once you cast light on a situation all becomes clear. Have you ever arrived in a strange city at night, and the next morning realized that the buildings and landscapes you had admired when you arrived turned out to be something totally different in the sunlight? Isn’t it amazing how much clarity comes from a well-lit environment?

It’s no coincidence that Jesus compared himself to light in John 8:12. His purpose was to provide illumination to this earthly light. One of my favorite verses is John 10:10–I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. You see, we are all charged with living a light. The minute you take that first breath you commit to living a life. But does that life have purpose? Does it have definition? I think a good modern translation to John 10:10 would be –I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it in high definition. Because that’s what happens when Jesus is allowed into our life. It becomes more vivid, more abundant, more…., more….tolerable.
For example: This last week has been a roller coaster. My step-kids were at their dad’s for the summer. Some issues developed and I found myself driving 3 hours to pick up the kids and bring them home. So we had the low of dealing with that, and the high of having the kids home. Today I was talking to a friend of mine who isn’t a Christian, and he asked me, “Brocke, how do you put up with stuff like that?” I answered, “I know Jesus has a purpose for it all.” I mean logically I should be depressed; I drive a trash truck in west Texas for Pete’s sake. It’s a wonder I don’t wake up every morning and take a drink, but thanks to Jesus shining a light onto my path, and showing me a higher purpose, I love my job. I get to spend 8 hours a day alone in the truck in prayer and conversation with God! I get off early enough each day to spend time with my kids and their friends. The light of Jesus shines bright in my life; does it in yours?

Brocke Lively is a lifelong Texan from a little town called Olton.
Brocke and his wife, Lela, have 5 kids, 2 dogs, 5 cats, 2 chickens, and what seems like a revolving door of neighbor kids coming over to play. As a father, Brocke recognizes that how he lives his life, and how he worships God not only reflects on his own salvation, but ripples to how his kids worship God.
Brocke attends a small town church where he is known as an on-call substitute Sunday school teacher. He recognizes that his church family is also a large part of who he is, and who he want his kids to grow up to be; God-fearing followers of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Life with Lively: A Voice in the Silence

We live in a noisy world. It’s just a fact of life. Think about it, what noises do you hear around you right now? Right now I’m sitting in my living room in the dark, but still there is noise. The air conditioner is humming. I can hear a cat digging in his litter box in the next room. A motorcycle just zoomed down my street. Even my fingers tapping on the keyboard breaks the silence. Yet considering this house if home to 5 kids and 2 adults all is quiet. Silence is something we just don’t truly understand anymore.

Some years ago we lived on a farm and about 100 yards away was an irrigation motor. It was a natural gas fueled Chevy 350 motor that ran 24/7 from June until August. The first week of irrigation season lead to sleepless nights as we all got accustomed to the low drone of the motor. I remember one night when the motor died, everyone in the house was suddenly awake by the lack of noise. By the time my dad got out to the motor to restart it, my brother and I were already at work trying to get the motor started. Afterwards as we enjoyed an early breakfast, we laughed about how we were “startled by silence.”
After watching BNN’s coverage of “The Creation;” I got to thinking, what was it like? What does nothing sound like? Can we even imagine nothing? And if we could in some way get our limited mind around that concept, can we imagine God’s voice shattering the vast nothingness and transforming it into something?
We wrap ourselves up in so much busyness, just trying to control our lives. I spent an hour today crunching numbers in the old family budget worrying about paying for things three months down the road. Even though I know God will take care of us as he always does. Sometimes we have to be reminded to turn off the noises, scale back to nothingness and let God’s voice complete our lives.
In Acts 2, we find God back in creation mode again. This time he was creating the body of believers. Acts 2:2: Suddenly there was a noise from heaven like the sound of a mighty wind! It filled the house where they were meeting. The disciples were at a loss as to what to do, so they went and prayed. They turned off all the noises and waited for God to speak to them. And when he did, did he ever. That “noise from heaven like the sound of a mighty wind” can still be heard today, but are we listening for it?

Brocke Lively is a lifelong Texan from a little town called Olton.
Brocke and his wife, Lela, have 5 kids, 2 dogs, 5 cats, 2 chickens, and what seems like a revolving door of neighbor kids coming over to play. As a father, Brocke recognizes that how he lives his life, and how he worships God not only reflects on his own salvation, but ripples to how his kids worship God.
Brocke attends a small town church where he is known as an on-call substitute Sunday school teacher. He recognizes that his church family is also a large part of who he is, and who he want his kids to grow up to be; God-fearing followers of our Lord Jesus Christ.