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brocke

Life with Lively: Stepping Out Of The Boat

 

My step-daughter, Steph, is your typical teenage girl. She’s always putting a new and funky coat of paint on her nails, wants to wear the latest fashions, and her cell phone has grafted itself to her hand. She has that typical “the world should revolve around me” attitude that everyone has during those teenage years.

However, something spectacular happens whenever she is around people who are mentally challenged. The phone is put away, and the moody teenager is replaced by someone more loving and caring than Mary Poppins, and a smile even comes to her face.
Steph has a talent and a calling to work with people with special needs. I don’t know what it is, but it’s almost magical. It all started about three years ago. We have a little girl in our church who suffers from Down syndrome. Steph was asked to follow her around during Vacation Bible School that year, and when things got a little intense, she would take the girl for a walk, and find a quiet place to calm her down. The next year, Steph asked if the church would buy the special needs curriculum so she could teach this girl in a one-on-one setting. By the time school started this fall, Steph was teaching our first special needs class, and was already deep into a science project to discover how different foods affect kids who suffer from Autism Spectrum Disorders. While most of her friends were shopping or “hanging out,” she was locked in her room, nose into a text book, reading about the latest research. The big “she’s serious” moment came when she asked us to take her to Lubbock and let her spend the afternoon at the Texas Tech Medical Library. I tried to break it to her that they might not let high school students into the Library, and she quickly responded with, “Oh, I’ve already called and made sure I can get a card there and everything, I’ve even filled out the application already.”

While all this was going on, her friends were trying to get her to do “high school” stuff. One even complained that Steph was “going to the darkside into complete Nerdville.” She never wavered. Her science fair entry went over the head of the judges, and she didn’t advance, but she kept her chin up. She moved on, and began looking into plans for after high school. Her goal is to become a Pediatric Autism Specialist, and truth be told, as long as she keeps her focus, she’s well on her way to being one.
It’s a lot like the situation we find Noah in. God gave him a calling, and the talent to accomplish the task. People kept questioning him, making fun of him, and challenging him. But he kept his focus and finished the task, not letting the distractions bother him.
I’m reminded of the story of Jesus walking on water. A lot of people focus on Peter not having faith, but I look at this differently. Peter had the guts to get out of the boat.

Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”
“Come,” he said.
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me! (Matthew 14:28-30)

I’m sure the others in the boat tried to talk Peter out of stepping on the water. But he did it anyway. He was well on his way to Jesus until the A.D.D. set in. The wind blew by and he took his eyes off of Jesus and he began to sink. Jesus came to his rescue and pulled him up. But until he lost his focus, he was walking on water!

God calls us to serve him in many different ways. He has given us the talent and abilities to do what he asks, and as long as we keep our focus on God, we will excel at whatever it is God has for us. We just have to learn to ignore the wind; to not let the naysayers and party poopers distract us from serving as God has commanded. Our job as God’s servants leads us in many different directions; some that others may not quite understand. We have to be able sort through the confusion and see God’s plan.
My prayer this week is that we have the guts to step out of the boat, no matter how strange and over our heads it seems. That we put our faith and focus on God’s will, and never waiver from God’s master plan.

Life with Lively: Finding Grace


When the Lord saw that man’s wickedness was widespread on the earth and that every scheme his mind thought of nothing but evil all the time, the Lord regretted that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. Then the Lord said, “I will wipe off the face of the earth: man, whom I created, together with the animals, creatures that crawl, and birds of the sky—for I regret that I made them” (Genesis 6:5-8)


That’s a pretty heavy passage to read right after you watch or read the news. It seems not a day goes by without hearing a story about abuse, neglect, or perversion. Just today, I read a story about a school secretary who was caught making adult movies in her free time; how a local man was found guilty for beating his roommate to death, and of course all the latest news from the Libyan front. One could easily say that those verses in Genesis could easily apply today. There are days that it just seems hopeless.

But read on.

But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord (Genesis 6:8)

Noah, one single man, found grace in the eyes of the Lord. Noah, one single man, was enough for God to rethink his plan to destroy man. What was it about Noah that was so amazing?

These are the family records of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless among his contemporaries; Noah walked with God. (Genesis 6:9)

Noah was righteous, he was a believer. He grew up with a great-grandfather whose faith and relationship with God was legendary. But not only was he familiar with God, he grew that into a deep relationship with God.

Noah was blameless among his contemporaries. Notice the bible doesn’t say Noah was sinless. But he was blameless. That means that among his peers, they could not find fault with him. He lived a relatively clean cut life.

Most importantly, Noah walked with God. This is the keystone of Noah’s life. Onethe one side, you have Noah’s legacy. He was raised in a family that believed in God. He took that knowledge and grew a relationship with God. And through that relationship, he lived a blameless life. Thereby, finding grace in the eyes of the Lord.
Salvation is really that simple. And through Jesus, it is available to us all. But the trick is it’s not a multiple choice test. You cannot achieve salvation through righteousness and living blameless. You cannot claim to walk with God, but live a wicked life. The three things go hand in hand. Finding grace in the eyes of the Lord, takes a full effort. Living righteous/blameless and walking with God go hand in hand.

I will admit it is difficult to do. Daily there are temptations to lead us into wickedness, but through having a relationship with God, we can overcome the wickedness.
And once we find favor with God, amazing things happen.

By faith Noah, after being warned about what was not yet seen, in reverence built an ark to deliver his family. By this he condemned the world and became an heir to the righteousness that comes by faith. (Hebrews 11:7)

Because of his relationship with God, Noah had the faith to do what God commanded, even when it seemed strange and unfathomable.

God isn’t going to come to us and tell us to build an ark, but he does come and ask us to follow him. Maybe it is to reach out to your neighbor, or someone who is suffering. Maybe it is to pack up your bags and move to a new place to serve where God needs you.

Faith is a powerful thing; when God knows that he can count on you, he can lead you to amazing things.

And it all starts by living righteous, blameless and walking with God.

I’ve got some work to do….

Life with Lively: I Got A New Puppy

I got a new puppy!  Some friends of mine posted on Facebook that they had some puppies to give away.  I called them up and when I found out their heritage, I really wanted one.  The father of the litter is known around here as a super cattle working dog, and getting the chance to have one of his offspring was too good to pass up.

We brought him home Sunday night, and introduced him to my two other dogs.  Skeeter is an old Basset Hound that is enjoying the twilight of her life.  She took one look at him, growled and turned her back and went on her way.  My black lab, Bob, didn’t know what to think.  We’ve had Bob for 5 years; I got him about a month after Lela and I got married.  He knows he is my buddy and we’ve always had a one on one relationship.  But now there is this new puppy.  Bob still gets attention, but now he has to share it with Alf (the puppy).

Monday, I began the new puppy training routine, and Bob had to interject himself and prove that he could still do all the same tricks.  I would acknowledge him and try to go back to training Alf, but again, Bob would horn in.  Finally, I had to take Alf into the house to continue his training.  The entire time, Bob sat at the back door, looking in and whimpering.  He felt like I had chosen a favorite.

It is so easy to claim favoritism when we don’t understand the master plan.  Bob doesn’t understand why Alf is getting more attention, but as their master, I am trying to train them both to do as I ask.  Bob knows what I expect, and is a very good and obedient dog.  Alf is still a puppy; his maturity requires more attention, and more discipline.

The same thing is found in the story of Cain and Abel.  Cain was furious because God was not impressed with his offering.  It wasn’t just because God preferred livestock to grains.  It was because Cain’s offering wasn’t as sincere as Abel’s.

In the course of time Cain presented some of the land’s produce as an offering to the LORD. 4 And Abel also presented [an offering]—some of the firstborn of his flock and their fat portions. The LORD had regard for Abel and his offering, 5 but He did not have regard for Cain and his offering. Cain was furious, and he was downcast –Gen 4: 3-5

Notice that the Bible notes that Abel’s offering consisted of the firstborn of his flock, and their fat portions.  Abel gave God the very best.  Cain’s offering was just a portion of the land’s produce.  He didn’t save his first and best crops for God.

God expects the very best from all of us.  This was a lesson that Cain still had to learn.  However, instead of going to God and asking what he had done wrong, he got angry and took matters into his own hands.

So many times we make mistakes, and instead of trying to learn from them and correct them, we just make a situation worse. Many times, it’s what we do after we’ve sinned that matters most.

Life with Lively: This Devotional Presented In Technicolor

A couple of months ago while on “vacation,” I introduced Damon to one of the greatest TV shows of all time.    You may remember in past blogs I’ve talked about my step-son’s visit to the hospital with a ruptured appendix.  As anyone who has ever spent much time in a hospital can attest, most hospitals do not get the premium cable package.  Personally, I think when you consider how much you pay during a hospital say, they should go ahead and pop for the premium package, but that’s another subject.

One afternoon I was flipping channels and came upon the classic “I Dream of Jeannie.”  These were classic, first season, black and white episodes.  The first episode opened with Nelson and Healey in their military uniforms walking the halls of NASA and discussing the next space experiment.  Damon was hooked. (Anything involving the military in any way gets his attention.)  Next, Jeannie appeared and complicated the situation and the episode unfolded.  We watched the show every afternoon until he finally got to come home.

That brings us to this past Saturday.  Our local college team has decided that actually playing is over-rated and so I was flipping channels trying to find something to watch.  I came across the show, this time it was one of the episodes from the final season.  This one was in color.  Damon came walking through the house and saw the TV.  “Does Jeannie always wear a pink outfit?” he asked.

“Yeah.  Why?”

“I had just pictured it as purple.”  He said then he went outside to play with his friends.  I got to thinking about what he said.  When things are only black and white, we begin to imagine what the colors could be.  Our own preferences define the color pallet.

God started out in black and white.  He laid out his laws very simple and plain.  Eat this.  Do not eat this.  Each and every one of his commandments have been that simple.  The problem is we are sinners.  We don’t like dealing in absolutes.  So for centuries, we have been trying to add Technicolor to God’s commandments.  Look at the original sin:

In Genesis 2:16-17 God set out a very simple and straight-forward command:  And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree of the garden, but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for on the day you eat from it, you will certainly die.” Very to the point wouldn’t you say?  Eat from this specific tree and you will die.

But looks what happens when Eve and the Serpent get some crayons and try to tinker with God’s command.

Gen 3: 1-6: Now the serpent was the most cunning of all the wild animals that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You can’t eat from any tree in the garden’?”

The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit from the trees in the garden. But about the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden, God said, ‘You must not eat it or touch it, or you will die.’ “

“No! You will not die,” the serpent said to the woman. “In fact, God knows that when you eat it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Then the woman saw that the tree was good for food and delightful to look at, and that it was desirable for obtaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate [it]; she also gave [some] to her husband, [who was] with her, and he ate [it].

Do you see how the Serpent began to manipulate God’s word to serve his own purpose?  Do you see how he even went so far as to get Eve in on the “color commentary”?   Even Adam had a roll in this.  God had spoken directly to him about the tree and the fruit, but while Eve and the Serpent debated theology, he stood there silent.  Did he interrupt the conversation and set them straight on what God really had told him?  No.  He just stood there and let them paint their picture of what God’s commands “really” meant.

Throughout time, this tradition of interpreting God’s word has continued.  God spoke his commands and then “spiritual pundits” would take to the streets proclaiming what God really meant.

Finally after years of waiting, God trumped them all and introduced Hi-Def 3D.  He sent his Son to be a mediator for us.  Through Jesus, we now have a clear understanding of God’s intentions.  Through Jesus we no longer have to rely on those “color commentators” to decide if we are living right and wrong.   One of my favorite images in the bible is found in Matthew 27: 50 and 51.

Jesus shouted again with a loud voice and gave up His spirit. Suddenly, the curtain of the sanctuary was split in two from top to bottom; the earth quaked and the rocks were split.

The curtain talked about here is the symbolic barrier that separated God from the people.  The high priests were the only persons allowed to go behind the curtain.  Anyone else was considered “unworthy” of being in direct contact with God.

However, the moment that Jesus died for our sins, that way of thinking became obsolete.  The curtain was ripped in two, just like our separation from God.    Jesus removed the barrier that sin had built between us.  He renewed the relationship that God had intended in the Garden of Eden.

That’s what makes Christianity so great.  While so many religions are based on what some dead “prophet” interpreted as “the way.”  Christianity is based on “The Way” (John 14:6) reaching down, and becoming personally involved with us.

Now the task before us is to share Christ.  We can’t be like Eve and let flashy talk confuse us, and we cannot be like Adam, standing silent and allowing ourselves to be lead into sin.  We are to use that personal relationship with God, to get to know God; so that we are not lead into confusion and tricked into following someone else’s version of religion.

Life with Lively: You Must Obey!

Back in the spring we had an incident involving the teenage girl that lives in our house.  Long story short; she had, basically, decided that all I had done for her in the past two years wasn’t good enough and that she could do her own thing. That my rules weren’t worth respecting, much less obeying.
We find a similar situation in the Garden of Eden. God spent six day creating paradise. Then he put man and woman in it to live in and enjoy. The only rule was “you must not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, for on the day you eat from it, you will certainly die.” (Gen 2:17)
Like a parent laying out the ground rules to a child, God made one specific rule for Adam and Eve to follow. The problem was that, like children so often do, they disobeyed. They sinned.
The problem is we don’t like to recognize disobedience. We try so hard to legalize it, or to make it ok. I could spend hours talking about the types of disobedience, but I’m going to try to lump it into three categories: 1) Blatant Disobedience, 2) Selective Disobedience, and 3) “Justified” Disobedience.
1) Blatant Disobedience
I think the best example of this kind of disobedience is seen in the story of Jonah. We all know the story. God commanded Jonah to go to Nineveh. Jonah proceeded to go in the completely opposite direction. Instead of doing God’s will, Jonah decided to get as far from God as possible. This led to a mess. If Jonah hadn’t suddenly grown a backbone his disobedience would have lead to the deaths of an entire ship’s crew. Jonah was at least man enough to separate himself and not lead others to share in his demise. But in the end God still got to him. Jonah found himself sitting in the belly of a whale. Where he met a talking cricket and a wooden marionette boy –wait, that’s not the story, is it? Jonah came to the realization that Blatant disobedience leads to a really nasty place.
We do this don’t we? We decide that “God don’t know what he’s talking about,” and try to go our own direction, only to find that we are taking ourselves –and sometimes others– to destruction.
2) Selective Disobedience
We all know that David was a man after God’s own heart. He loved God and strived to keep all of His commandments, until, one sleepless night. (2 Samuel 11) David couldn’t sleep and went for a walk on the roof (like we all do when we can’t sleep). Suddenly, God’s chosen King became a simple Peeping Tom. Suddenly David was an avid follower of the 9 commandments. “Surely, God wasn’t serious about that whole ‘Thou shall not covet your neighbor’s wife” thing. Surely 90% obedience is better than no obedience at all right? This lead to adultery (80% obedience), then bearing false witness (70%), murder for a grand total of 60% obedience. If you ask my kids a 60 on an exam is failing. It’s failing on God’s book also. 2 Samuel 12:11-12 says “This is what the LORD says, ‘I am going to bring disaster on you from your own family: I will take your wives and give them to another before your very eyes, and he will sleep with them publicly. 12 You acted in secret, but I will do this before all Israel and in broad daylight.’ ”
God wants complete obedience, not just obedience that allows us to follow as we choose. Choosing to follow God a la carte leads right back to wrong side of God’s courtroom. Do we really want to pin our hopes that God grades us on a curve?
3) “Justified” Disobedience
This is the more common form of disobedience among people. We start to find a reason, or a verse we can take out of context to justify our sins. I’m reminded of a story our church’s youth director likes to tell about one of his students. One Wednesday night, during youth meeting, one of the kids piped up with a statement. “Hey Byron, did you know Jesus says it’s ok to smoke bud?” Byron knew that this student was new to any kind of church environment and so he decided to see where this led. The kid went on to quote Genesis 1:29 (God said, “See, I give you every seed-bearing plant that is upon all the earth, and every tree that has seed-bearing fruit; they shall be yours for food.) So here was a kid who had never been in a church before, quoting the Bible out of context to satisfy his desires.
It’s not a once in a life time occurrence, this type of Disobedience is the oldest in the book. Remember Genesis 2:17? (you must not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, for on the day you eat from it, you will certainly die.) Ok now read how the serpent and Eve started playing with God’s commandment in Genesis 3:1-7: Now the serpent was the most cunning of all the wild animals that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You can’t eat from any tree in the garden ‘?”
2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit from the trees in the garden. 3 But about the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden, God said, ‘You must not eat it or touch it, or you will die. ‘ ”
4 “No! You will not die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “In fact, God knows that when you eat it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 Then the woman saw that the tree was good for food and delightful to look at, and that it was desirable for obtaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate [it]; she also gave [some] to her husband, [who was] with her, and he ate [it]. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.
Do you see how in verse 1, the serpent misquoted God and introduced doubt. Then in verse 2 Eve misquoted the command, leading to confusion, doubt and eventually the fall of man. It’s so easy to use doubt and misinformation to justify disobeying God.
Disobedience is another word for sin. That is all there is to it. God provided everything Adam and Eve could ever want, and they only had to follow one command. They failed. The next thing they did was go and hide. They knew that they had done something wrong, but they didn’t know what to do next. We are lucky enough to have more information, thanks to Jesus. We know that we are sinners, and we also know that through the grace of Jesus, we are forgiven of our sins. We know that it is our nature to be disobedient and sinful. But it is also nature as followers of Jesus to be more like Him, perfect and sinless; obedient.
So the bad news is we are going to sin, and sin separates us from God. Next time, we are going to see how God works to bridge that gap.

Life with Lively: The Task At Hand

“The Lord God took the man and placed him in the Garden of Eden to work it and watch over it.” (Genesis 2:15)
So God created responsibility. It’s one of those things that we all have in our life. It has been around since the beginning of time. And everyone handles it differently. Some people dive into it head first, some people take it on, then delegate it to others, and some just shirk it completely.
This is something that we see in the world every day, but it is also something that rings true in the “Christian world” as well. Jesus gave us a new task right before ascending into Heaven. “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always to the end of the age.”
I’m going to be honest with you. As I write this I’m sitting in a hospital room while my step-son Damon is preparing to go into his second surgery in six days. His appendix burst, and he had to have emergency surgery. Now, five days later, we have found out that they have to go back in and go after an abscess that has started growing. As a parent, watching your kids go through something like this just sucks.
I’m no stranger to sitting in hospital rooms with my kids. My first month as a parent was spent in a NICU in Hershey, Pennsylvania. My oldest daughter, Courtney, was two months premature. That was a life changing day for me as a man. Courtney was born through emergency C-section, and taken directly to the NICU. I was told to stay with her mom while they finished closing her up. When the surgery was over the Pediatric Specialist met me and told me that things were better than expected and in about an hour I needed to go to the 9th floor and do the “NICU Orientation.” I picked at lunch, took an elevator ride with a famous football coach, then I arrived at NICU. If you’ve ever had to deal with NICU (and I pray you never have to go through this), you basically have to scrub up and dress for surgery. It’s a super clean environment. So I put on my gown, booties, mask and surgeons cap, and walked onto the NICU floor. They lead me to a plexi-glass box with two little opening. Inside was this little ball of pink wrapped up in a blue and white blanket, it looked like some kind of sci-fi scene. You know the one where the alien life form is kept in containment, and at any moment it would unleash terror on the world.
Anyway, I sat down in the chair and opened the access. I remember running my finger over her forehead and down her nose. They had her swaddled, but had one of her hands sticking out because of the IV in her arm. I remember rubbing my fingers across the knuckles of her fisted hand. She opened her hand, and wrapped it around my finger. She then opened her eyes, looked at me and sighed.
Never in my life had I ever had such a moment of clarity. It was real now. It was no longer about me. Everything I did from then on was about my family. From that moment on, I took my responsibilities with purpose. For years I had claimed to be a man, but at that moment on January 2000, I understood what it meant to be a man.
Adam and Eve went through the same thing. They had been given a responsibility, but they didn’t understand the gravity of their duties until they had made a horrible mistake. Their “come to Jesus” moment happened after they realized just how grave their responsibilities were. Thankfully my “come to Jesus” moment as a father didn’t come after I had made a horrible mistake.
But as a Christian, that’s another story.
I “got saved” when I was in the second grade. We went to a revival at our church, and on a Tuesday night, I felt the Holy Spirit convicting me. I remember during the invitation I fought with myself as to whether I should go down and talk to the pastor or stay in my pew. When the invitation was over I broke down in tears. My preacher, Brother Dwayne, knew exactly what I needed. We sat down, and talked about some verses in Romans. Then we said a little prayer. I asked Jesus to into my life, and I became a Christian.
For years I talked the talk. I told people I was a Christian, I was at church almost every Sunday, doing what God had “called” me to do. I was a seat warmer. I had actually rationalized that God didn’t have a use for me, and that my calling was to show up and give the teacher someone to teach to, and the preacher someone to preach to.
Then one morning….
My daughter Courtney was four. My other daughter was two, and I was still married to their mother. As a father I was doing all I could to support my kids. I was shoving them off to church in hope of their salvation, then going home and doing things I shouldn’t be doing. Their mother was diving deeper and deeper into things and dragging me along with it. Then one morning I got up to go to work, and happened to look at myself in the mirror. I threw up. I was disgusted at my own site. Here I was praying for my girls to become Christians, and be more like Christ, and I was living a life opposite of that.
After a day at work trying to figure out what was wrong, I finally came toe to toe with the Holy Spirit, and did He lay down the smack down.
Just like in the Garden, God started with a house cleaning. I told my wife that I was not going to be a part of her smut anymore, and that I did not want it in my house and around my kids anymore. She laughed. After a few months of struggling, I found myself in divorce court. I got custody of my two girls, and a fresh start. I became more involved with God. I began reading his word. I began to get involved with my church. God reintroduced me to my best friend from high school, who was going through a very similar situation. She had left an abusive relationship with her three kids. A year later, she and I got married. We placed our lives on God’s altar. We live in a three bedroom house with 5 kids. I can tell you it has not always been easy. We have had our share of hardships and battles. But knowing that God has a plan, and that by following him that plan has a happy ending, it is worth it.
You see, like Adam and Eve, when their responsibility became real to them, God gave them two promises. One of these was to Adam: (Gen 3:17b) The ground is cursed because of you. You will eat from it by means of painful labor. God promised a lot of hard work. The second promise is found in Gen 3:15 (I will put hostility between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed. He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel. This was God speaking to the serpent, Satan. It was God promising that Jesus would come and defeat Satan.
As Christians, God has made us the same type of promises. Matthew 7:13-23
“Enter through the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the road is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who go through it. How narrow is the gate and difficult the road that leads to life, and few find it.
“Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravaging wolves. You’ll recognize them by their fruit. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes or figs from thistles? In the same way, every good tree produces good fruit, but a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit; neither can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So you’ll recognize them by their fruit.
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord!’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but [only] the one who does the will of My Father in heaven. On that day many will say to Me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in Your name, drive out demons in Your name, and do many miracles in Your name? Then I will announce to them, ‘I never knew you! Depart from Me, you lawbreakers!

God promises us two things: One: salvation for those who follow him; and two: a lot of hard work.
From personal experience, I can tell you there is more to being a Christian than filling a pew and saying a prayer. It is a lifestyle, a commitment, a responsibility, that we should take on with an eternal gratitude.
I know that this week’s devotional is more like a testimony, but I figure it’s time to open up a little about just who I am, and where I am on the path to being a servant of Jesus. I would like to say what a joy it is to get have the opportunity to share what God lays on my heart. I’m not a perfect Christian; that is a goal I’ll achieve when they set my funeral. In the next few months as we dive deeper and deeper into the Bible, I hope you will continue to join me as we follow where God leads.

Addendum: Damon got to go home four days after the surgery and is now home. As of this posting he is back in school and acting like nothing has ever happened. Only the scars remain. God’s grace and healing power are amazing.

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: What’s In A Name?

My name was supposed to be Melissa Dawn. My mother was convinced that she was going to have a girl. So convinced, she had a special suitcase put together with the dress she wanted me to wear home, along with a special pink blanket and a lot of other things. Sadly, after Mom passed away, my dad gave me that suitcase, still packed with the clothes I never wore. (Any psychiatrists want a case study?)
So my name was supposed to be Melissa Dawn, and in the odd case I would happen to be a boy, my parents had chosen the name Aaron James Lively….what? Wait a minute, so where did the name Clifton Brocke Lively come from? The answer is simply this, in the 1970s they gave out a lot of really good drugs to women in labor. I know that sounds crass, but when you would ask my mom where my name came from, that would be her answer. Aaron James had a logical reason behind it. Aaron (the Robin to Moses’ Batman) was one of my mom’s favorite Bible characters, and James is my dad’s name, so that’s where that came from. Clifton is my grandfather’s name, so that makes sense, but here is where the drugs kick in. Brocke comes from a character on the soap opera “The Young and The Restless,” named Brock Reynolds. So if I were to live up to my name I’d have to be a junk dealer/soap opera lawyer; I smell a sitcom.
But to be honest I’ve been called many names, some good, and some bad. Some have been unjustly cast upon me, some I have earned; just the other night my wife told me that my Native American name was now “Silent-But-Deadly.” Sadly she wasn’t referring to my ninja-like hunting skills, but I digress.
Among some of the more popular names I have been called are Husband, Dad, Provider, Friend, and the ever important Christian.
A lot of people take the name Christian, but do they ever truly live up to that name? Adam had a simple rule when naming the animals: If it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck and swims like a duck it’s a duck. Taking that simple framework, would he be able to call you a Christian?
There are a lot of people who think becoming a Christian simply means saying a prayer and automatically you get a get into heaven card. But think about that logic. Does it work?
A few weeks ago I went to a wedding. A friend’s daughter was getting married in a pretty outdoor sunset ceremony. They both said their vows. Everyone watched them commit their lives to each other, and now all through our town she is now known by her new name. But what if after the ceremony she went back to her mom’s house. Kept doing “her own thing”, and once a week showed up at the field where we held the ceremony hoping to see her new husband. Would the marriage be real? Would it even work? Of course not!
But how many people do the same thing with God? I love the imagery in Ephesians 5: 22-33:

And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of his body, the church. As the church submits to Christ, so you wives should submit to your husbands in everything.
For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word. He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault. In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself. No one hates his own body but feeds and cares for it, just as Christ cares for the church. And we are members of his body.
As the Scriptures say, “A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.” This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one. So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

Paul was trying to find the best way to explain how we should be in relationship with God. For centuries God was the Father, and our place was the subordinate child. But through Jesus, that changed. Instead of living to please a father, our new purpose is to live in relationship with the groom, Jesus. Would that marriage work if we only show up once a week, to spend an hour or two with him? To have a true relationship with Jesus we need to wake up each morning with Him, spend every minute thinking of Him. Making our every decision based upon how it not only affects our self, but how it affects our relationship with Him.
First things first, have you taken a “vow” to Jesus as your Lord and Savior? If you have, did you just say the words, or was it truly a commitment? Have you taken the name Christian, or are you living it? Do you walk like a Christian? Quack like a Christian? And swim like a Christian? Or is it just a name you call yourself?

Life with Lively: Why Do Elephants Have Big Floppy Ears?

Growing up, there was a time that we didn’t have cable. Yes I actually lived in a time when we only had four channels. Saturday afternoons were awful. My parents usually would watch PBS because Saturdays were full of cooking shows. I wasn’t as into cooking shows then as I am now. So I would spend a hot summer afternoon stuck in the house playing with my G.I. Joes until 4:30 when the cooking shows would go off, and my favorite Saturday afternoon show would come on. Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, hosted by Marlin Perkins. Every week, this smiling old man would take viewers on an adventure to some exotic place where they would track a herd of animals into open prairie. They would chase the herd with helicopters; they shoot one or two with a tranquilizer gun. The herd would run off, and Marlin Perkins and his crew would circle back and examine the tranquilized creature.
I always loved watching how each animal was built specifically for its environment. Elephants are large creatures; they are able to “bulldoze” their way through heavy brush. Their large, thin ears are full of blood vessels, so they can cool themselves in the African heat. Antelope have tiny feet. They are built that way for speed, agility, and stealth (little feet don’t make as much noise). Even the common housecat was created just for its situation. Its claws are just enough for defense and escaping sticky situations. They prefer to poop in a box of sand, making it easy to housetrain them.
The point I’m trying to make is every one of God’s creatures were created with the things they need to survive their natural environment. Part of his grand design included covering all possible situations that might arise.
God equips us for whatever situation is before us. He gives us abilities that sometimes we never knew we had until that moment arrived and suddenly we find ourselves doing things we never thought possible. Take Moses for instance. We all have this picture in our head that Moses is Charlton Heston, strong build, deep voice, and an eloquent speaker. The truth is, the great classic “The Ten Commandments” would have been more accurate (and in my opinion, more entertaining) if Moses would have been played by Mel Tillis.
Check out Exodus 4:10: Moses raised another objection to GOD: “Master, please, I don’t talk well. I’ve never been good with words, neither before nor after you spoke to me. I stutter and stammer.” Moses had a stuttering problem, but God reassured him. When Moses still was bothered by his lack of faith, God promised that Aaron would be there to stand by his side. Do you notice that all throughout Exodus, when Moses is speaking to Pharaoh, he is credited as the one standing up to Pharaoh. God provided him with the tools he needed to do God’s will.
He does this with us today. God has a plan, it may seem like chaos to us, but it’s a working plan. We all have a part in his plan. Ephesians 4:7-16 says: Now grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of the Messiah’s gift. 8 For it says:
When He ascended on high, He took prisoners into captivity;
He gave gifts to people.
9 But what does “He ascended” mean except that He descended to the lower parts of the earth? 10 The One who descended is the same as the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things. 11 And He personally gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12 for the training of the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, [growing] into a mature man with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness. 14 Then we will no longer be little children, tossed by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching, by human cunning with cleverness in the techniques of deceit. 15 But speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into Him who is the head —Christ. 16 From Him the whole body, fitted and knit together by every supporting ligament, promotes the growth of the body for building up itself in love by the proper working of each individual part.

God has provided us with the talents we need for the situation we are serving in. The point is now we have to serve. There is more to being a Christian than just accepting salvation and filling a pew. An elephant would seem awfully out of place if it never pushed its way through the jungle brush. We have talents from God to use for his glory. Find your niche, serve! And use that talent God provided for you. You know you have one.

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: 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.