If we are going to finish a race, a project, a speech or whatever, the way we begin greatly affects our completion. The same is true in our walk with God. Learning how to memorize scripture, or to have a quiet time with God, or how to study the Bible are for sure blue ribbons. They get us going, but if we don’t know the “why” we are doing these things, we will probably drop them when life sneaks up on us and hits us with real hard stuff.

If we know why we should memorize scripture, it makes complete sense to do it. David said it like this in Psalm 119:9 and 11 in The Word on the Street “The chances of a young guy staying pure? The odds on a girl not getting hurt?…I’ve memorized your words in my heart as my guarantee not to make you frown.”

If we don’t know “why” we should “hide God’s Word in our heart” (memorize it), we’re kidding ourselves about our intention to please God with our life or win the battles our enemy wages against us every day. The same can be said of having a quiet time or reading or studying the Bible. The “why” makes all the difference in what marks our life when we are 40, 50 or 75 years old.

WHAT THIS MEANS: Have you started the race on the right foot? If not, it’s never too late to begin. We must understand the power in knowing “why” we are doing something before we focus on the “how” to do it.

Memories are interesting. The older I get, it seems my life has become more uncluttered. What that really means is that I don’t remember a lot of things. But there are some things I know, have seen and experienced, that will always be ingrained in my memory. I can see them in my mind’s eye.

The early followers of Jesus had a unique place in history. They actually saw, listened to and talked life with Jesus. We get to read about it. The first verses of 1 John 1 say it like this in The Word on the Street “I’ve seen the Real Thing. He was around way back before history heard the starting gun. I was there! I heard him, clocked my eyes on him…we’d share in court that he’s the genuine article.”

There was no way they would be talked out of the stories they must have repeated many times to people. We haven’t seen Jesus like these guys did, but we can know him and see who he is anyway. Once we know and see, we are changed and we can’t decide we never knew or saw the truth that walked around the middle east. We can’t go back!

WHAT THIS MEANS: Keep making memories of Jesus events in your life. Google Maps can’t diagram this destination and once we begin the trip, we “know and see” and build a memory for a lifetime.

You can get a coffee at many coffee shops and there are many places you can get a burger and fries. How do you decide? In the long run, it really doesn’t matter (except for coffee). Do you ever stand before your closet and take 20 minutes deciding what to wear? Gender probably plays a role in that one-just saying.

But there is one decision you can make that will change everything. would you like to know? Or might you have some questions as to the implications, dangers, benefits…?

Think with me about 2 Corinthians 5:17. If we’re “linked to Jesus”as The Word on the Street says, “…we’re not genetically modified but are brand new.” There’s a big decision to make here. John 3:5-7 talks about a destination that’s better than our dream vacation-God’s kingdom. But a decision must be made. If every person will kneel before God at some point, making a right choice is huge. Look at Romans 14:12.

So, we make decisions every day, but one is make once and then reaffirmed many times in our lifetime. Everything is affected when we decide Jesus meant what he said and we’re going to do it all and not miss out.

WHAT THIS MEANS: Each person has an opportunity to let Jesus be the boss. Our decision to be “all in” affects everything. How do you know you have made that decision and meant it?

It was recently discovered that a house built in the foothills of Boise had a crack in the foundation. The hill had settled and caused the damage. It may take a little while to discover flaws in a foundation. An earthquake can expose them quickly, but rain over a few years eventually can do the same thing. Either way, something could be incomplete in the construction.

No one would want to purchase the house mentioned above until the issue is resolved. What about spiritual growth? We can easily accept learning information about the Bible without dealing with it in our life. Just as we wouldn’t want to live in the house with an exposed flaw in the foundation, we shouldn’t settle for learning Biblical facts without seeing a change in our life.

In John 13:17 Jesus is clear that the benefit for us is not in knowing what he said, but rather practicing what he said. He spoke about this also in Matthew 7:24-25 using another analogy. The Message speaks about “incidental additions” we can make in our lives that don’t change anything in our attitudes or character. They only have an appearance of change. James 1:25 also in the Message speaks about how distractions can derail us in practicing what matters.

WHAT THIS MEANS: Take a hard look at your life this week and ask the Holy Spirit to show you if you are practicing what you have studied and maybe even memorized. What hangs you up in making an application of the Word? What distracts you from getting serious about practicing what you know?

Everyone lives with questions every week. “When are you going to take out the trash? What time are we going? What are you wearing tomorrow?” These questions really make us dig deep, right? No, and they are quickly forgotten and are almost irrelevant to many of us.

Then, there are the questions we would just as soon avoid. Questions like “What does it look like to practice love with these people? What benefit will it be for me  to get into that small group studying the Bible?” These questions remove some shallowness seen in the first set of questions.

Oh, and one more-“What is enough?” This question is one that really changes everything. Philippians 4:11-13 are verses that raise this question for us. How do we get to a place where we can say and mean it that we have enough? When we can say “I have enough”, we are finally free. We are free from the culture’s insistence that just having this thing and we’ll be happy, satisfied or whatever.

Paul is absolute in saying he “learned” to be content. Being thankful is one of the roads that leads to contentment and making it easier to say “I have enough.” Listen to Paul’s conclusion to Philippians 4 in The Word on the Street “The generosity of the Boss, Jesus the Liberator, soak into your soul. Absolutely!”

WHAT THIS MEANS: Can you say with Paul that you have learned the secret of being content? What holds you back from wanting to get to this place? Give more away this week to someone in need.

Whatever we do, we should avoid being average or normal when it comes to the pattern of our culture. 2 Timothy 2:3-4 in The Word on the Street in part says “…trained  combat teams don’t get sucked into the daily soap opera of normal life…” Perhaps part of the issue for most “Christians” is that most haven’t been trained prior to engaging our culture.

Think about it. How much training, preparation or whatever did you receive in school, from parents or a Christian college community that really helped you deal with the jungle of our 21st century culture? The Message further adds on to the Timothy verses-“A soldier on duty doesn’t get caught up in making deals in the marketplace.”

Where can you live where this is not the accepted lifestyle of people who are involved or not involved in church and the Christian way of life? We so easily get involved in political and various social issues that our lives get increasingly complicated. Some issues are worth our time, that’s for sure but Jesus faced some of the same challenges with a different focus.

Matthew 6:33 and 28:18-2o are a focus that we must have if we are to avoid the traps of our “normal” Christian life these days.

WHAT THIS MEANS: Take a deeper look at how Jesus and his followers lived. What focus do you see with them that you need to have more firmly in place in your life? How can you begin to avoid being more traded in our culture’s persistent pull?

There always seems to be something that trips us up rather consistently. Sometimes we see it coming and at other times, it just seems to come out of nowhere. We need to learn to not be oblivious to our enemy’s strategies. Take a look at 2 Corinthians 2:11 for Paul’s comments.

1 Corinthians 15:34 challenges us at the core of why we need to deal with the persistent hard stuff in life rather than live in the hamster cage lifestyle that is so easy to stay in. Paul reminds us to come to our senses and stop repeating the consistent sin that keeps us from moving forward. This behavior also detracts from those who are really trying to grab some joy in life but can’t find the formula.

To not adopt the habit of dealing with that sin, failure, or hard stuff only guarantees doing it again, and tripping up those hoping to find something different in us to give them hope.

Doing some things over and over often does provide beneficial results, but with that nasty habit or worthless sin pattern, it must end or the hole we’re digging gets deeper.

WHAT THIS MEANS: We always have choices to either go forward or backward. We don’t stay in the same place. What could you do this week to really deal with that sin that keeps winning in your life?

Sometimes there are a couple of life events that come out of nowhere and all you want to do is hide. Much of the time life deals us the same stuff that doesn’t sneak up on us, but takes its’ toll and smiling and dancing are easily tucked away in the closet.

The song goes “…we can dance if we want to, we can leave your friends behind…” It’s a forgotten truth, but we can rejoice and express our joy in dance or in whatever expresses the gift God places in our heart.

Habakkuk 3:17-19 expresses a response to an agricultural disaster we can learn from, even if we don’t live on a farm. This guy’s going to party and celebrate God regardless. Is it a reckless choice he makes or does he know something else?

Even Paul shares his story, with a strange response to the hard stuff of life. Check out 2 Corinthians 1:8-9. God taught him to trust Him totally, which wasn’t a bad idea since God can raise dead people. Paul even said it couldn’t get any better than this.

How do you get to this kind of place? Is it reserved just for people who made it into the Bible?

WHAT THIS MEANS: When we choose to believe God really is who He says He is and means what He says about life stuff, we have the freedom to dance whenever. Satan can try to  cancel the party, but he can’t touch our joy. It’s about choice.

Have you ever read a book about somewhere in a country, say like Siberia and thought you really learned some significant things about it? It’s true that we can learn from reading, but taking a trip to wherever, well, you know.

I had seen pictures and read a little about Siberia but hadn’t heard about throat singing. But on a trip to southern Siberia once, I met a man who gave us a demonstration. Extreme is about all I could say about it. I wondered if it was demonic.

In Joshua 1:9 and following is the story of Joshua and his opportunity to lead Israel into a place they may have only dreamed about. But the story begins with God telling Joshua he would need to be brave and take risks to get there. It would be worth it. Message received!

Has God ever put something in your life track so that you had to really think about whether it would be worth packing up and going? What if…? The “what if’s” steal much of the beauty of what God wants us to experience. Bravery unlocks the door, but fear has a way of losing the key to that door.

WHAT THIS MEANS: When God puts you in a place where you could experience something forever impacting but it requires courage and risk, by all means grab those keys and unlock that door. Don’t live with regret.

A young right handed batter swings hard but misses the pitch every time. When they do hit the ball it usually goes foul. A former major league player watches this and offers some advice that makes the kid the envy of every player as they consistently lead the league in averaging a .400 batting average. All they had to do was hold the bat differently.

If we live the same way we always do, the results we experience in relationships, ministry, exercise or whatever will be the same. That’s great if we are on the right track, but tragic if we’re missing it big time.

Jeremiah’s message in Jeremiah 34:17 shows the consequences of not living life as God intended. Proverbs 22:8 adds that we can end up with something we never thought of. 2 Corinthians 9:6 and Galatians 6:7 further illustrate where decisions in how to live or what to give lead in distinctly different directions and destinations.

WHAT THIS MEANS: Set aside some time in your schedule to really look at your life. What are you doing right or wrong? What small or large steps could you take to achieve what you know God would like to see you give your life to? Maybe you need to grip the bat differently.