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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: Confession is Good for the Soul

Growing up, I always dreaded the first weekend of August, the weekend that my mom would drag us to the family reunion. We would show up to some tiny, community center where about 100 relatives had gathered and spend the first 30 minutes hearing, “Why Brocke! You’ve grown a foot since I last saw you. You remember me don’t you?” I would lie and say I did, hit the pot luck buffet and find the one or two cousins that I did know and we would sit and eat and talk about important things.
I have decided that there are people in this world who show up at family reunions just to get hugs. We always had some mysterious “aunt” who would run around hugging everyone, while talking about how much they had grown, then run to the next victim. I’d ask someone, “Who is that lady?” and I’d get the same response, “Um…that’s…Carol…I think.” Ok, so how is she related to us? “Um…she’s….well….you know it’s complicated.” It’s funny how the word “complicated” is used to describe a lot of family relationships.
This past week, one of those complicated relationships came to light in my life. My grandfather passed away at the age of 85. The last time I saw him was at my mom’s funeral 4 years ago. Due to some events I won’t bore you with here, it’s been about 14 years since we have had a decent grandfather/grandson conversation. I guess the best way to describe what happened is this: an immovable object was struck by an unstoppable force. In a nutshell, we were both stubborn and really held our ground on certain battles.
The argument we had is not important. What is important is following Christ’s example. In my last devotional I talked about Hosea, and how God instructed him to marry a prostitute. I mentioned that this is a hard book to study because it’s hard to accept the fact that in this story we are the prostitute. But there is a greater point to the story. God still loves us…in spite of ourselves. Hosea 14:4 says: I will heal their apostasy; I will freely love them, for My anger will have turned from him. We have a gracious and loving God who promises to love us no matter what.
But there is a catch.
If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 With the heart one believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth one confesses, resulting in salvation. 11 Now the Scripture says, No one who believes on Him will be put to shame, 12 for there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, since the same Lord of all is rich to all who call on Him. 13 For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. –Romans 10:9-13
God’s love and forgiveness only comes when you confess your sin. Here is where Cain failed. You see, God knew that Cain had killed Abel, and he knew where Abel had been buried. God wanted Cain to confess his sin in order to receive forgiveness. But Cain wouldn’t budge. God’s anger was validated when Cain reacted with anger to God. “I’m not my brother’s baby sitter!!”
We worship a faithful and loving God. He has sent his Son to atone for our sins. He has promised us eternal life. He has promised us everything. But if we are unwilling to humble ourselves and confess our sins, God’s forgiveness is not available.
So it all comes down to humility, admitting that we were wrong. In Cain’s case, he should have admitted that he had acted in anger, and asked God for forgiveness.
In my own personal case, after 14 years, I’ve come to the place where I am ready to admit that I was wrong. I still say that my principles that I stood for that day were right. I will never denounce my belief in Jesus Christ. But the way I acted towards him was wrong. The way I steered clear of him afterwards, was wrong. As a Christian example I failed. Jesus did not spend his days avoiding those who disagreed with Him; a lesson that I really need to learn.

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.