As I think back, I guess that “Jesus Freaks” was used primarily in reference to folks involved in communal living and sharing amongst themselves. During the Cold War era, though, that idea was about as communistic as they came and little consideration was given to it possibly being a modern-day living out of the Acts 2 church. “Holy Rollers,” on the other hand seemed to refer to folks who were a part of mainstream society but wore their Christianity on their sleeves. They weren’t soft-spoken about their faith. In fact, they might even carry their Bibles with them and go to church more than once a week!
In the mid 90’s, DC Talk came out with his song “Jesus Freak”. When I started hearing it, it brought back memories of that term being used in a negative way, even by church-going folk. Ya know, though, if someone wants to call me a “Jesus Freak” today, I am quite okay with that. In fact, it would be my honor if, when I am gone, someone thinks that it is appropriate to have "Jesus Freak" carved into my tombstone below my name.
[What will people think
When they hear that I'm a Jesus Freak?
What will people do
When they find that's it's true?]
Separated, I cut myself clean
From a past that comes back in my darkest of dreams
Been apprehended by a spiritual force
And a grace that replaced all the me I've divorced
I saw a man with tat on his big fat belly
It wriggled around like marmalade jelly
It took me a while to catch what it said
Cause I had to match the rhythm
Of his belly with my head'
Jesus Saves' is what it raved in a typical tattoo green
He stood on a box in the middle of the city
And he claimed he had a friend
What will people think
When they hear that I'm a Jesus freak
What will people do when they find that it's true
I don't really care if they label me a Jesus freak
There ain't no disguising the truth
[oh oh oh]
[ain't no disguising the truth, no I ain't hiding the truth]
Kamikaze, my death is a gain
I've been marked by my Maker
A peculiar display
The high and lofty, they see me as weak
Cause I won't live and die for the power they seek
There was a man from the desert with naps in his head
The sand that he walked was also his bed
The words that he spoke made the people assume
There wasn't too much left in the upper room
With skins on his back and hair on his face
They thought he was strange by the locusts he ate
The Pharisees tripped when they heard him speak
Until the king took the head of this Jesus freak
People say I'm strange, does that make me a stranger
My best friend was born in a manger
People say I'm strange, does that make me a stranger
My best friend was born in a manger
What will people think
[What will people think]
What will people do
[What will people do]
I don't really care
[What else can I say]
There ain't no disguising the truth
[Jesus is the way]
How often do I start running scared when threatening events, circumstances, or people seem to be looming over me? It's easy for "flight" to be my natural reaction even though I know how wrong that is. God will be with me in all things. He is not telling me there won't be tough times but He is saying that ultimately He will prevail. Tough as it is to live this out, I also believe that tough times are to be embraced because God has big lessons for us in those tough times ... preparation for other seasons of our life ... preparation for things the future may hold ... preparation for calls He may put on our lives at a later date. Who would want to miss any of that?
Romans 8:28 says "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose." With that assurance, we should embrace the tough times, even revel in them and be happy, knowing God's promise that it will all work out in the end. And it does. I know it does. How many times have we all faced things that made us want to cringe or flee and yet, in the end, we saw God's providential activity ... we saw Him at work ... we saw the beauty and wonder of all things ultimately working together for some sort of good, often Kingdom-building good. But yet, in the face of fear, human emotions and frailty take over and drive us to places where we know we needn't go.
When I was in Israel, I saw the mountains where David ran to when he was being chased. It is rough, craggy terrain, not someplace you would normally venture unless you felt the hot breath of those who were out for your head lapping at your heels. In this case, they were mountains of refuge and protection and God did protect David there, even though his enemies were extremely close to him at times, close enough for David to snip away a part of Saul's coat.
But I think there is a difference today ... that the Holy Spirit is working here on earth through the hearts of believers and that, in the tough times, we are to hold our ground, gaining encouragement and support from the Spirit through the other believers that we surround ourselves with. I don't think God wants us to run to the craggy mountains for protection today but to instead stand firm in His promise of protection and justice and the ultimate good as promised in Romans 8:28.
So, with that, I will start my day, certain to encounter circumstances that make me want to flee at times but yet confident that God will be there, that His banner of protection will cover me, that He has many lessons for me, and that He is still in control even though the world may seem mad.
1-3I've already run for dear life straight to the arms of God. So why would I run away now when you say, "Run to the mountains; the evil bows are bent, the wicked arrows aimed to shoot under cover of darkness at every heart open to God. The bottom's dropped out of the country; good people don't have a chance"?
4-6 But God hasn't moved to the mountains; his holy address hasn't changed. He's in charge, as always, his eyes taking everything in, his eyelids unblinking, examining Adam's unruly brood inside and out, not missing a thing. He tests the good and the bad alike; if anyone cheats, God's outraged. Fail the test and you're out, out in a hail of firestones, Drinking from a canteen filled with hot desert wind.
7 God's business is putting things right; he loves getting the lines straight, setting us straight. Once we're standing tall, we can look him straight in the eye.
Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. (Matthew 5:13, King James)
I had something odd happen yesterday that has given me a different perspective on this though. This makes for a strange analogy though so consider yourself warned.
For several years, I have practiced "sinus irrigation" to help me with my allergies and sinus problems. A sort of odd thing to do, this practice has drastically reduced my number of sinus infections each year. When you irrigate your sinuses, you pour a solution into one nostril which then circulates through your sinuses, coming out the other nostril, typically carrying a lot of "stuff" with it. (I hope you're not reading this too early in the morning.)
For many years, I used a product called Alkalol to do this but, a year or so ago, I switched to a product called Sinus Rinse which is a little packet of stuff that you mix with water and then squirt into your sinuses. It creates a saline solution which means that it has salt in it. As odd as this all sounds, it is a very soothing and pleasant experience to clean out your sinuses with this solution.
Yesterday morning, I went through all of this but, when I squirted the solution into my nose, it felt like my head was being driven up through the bathroom ceiling. The pain was incredible. My eyes turned red immediately and I had the most horrible burning sensation that you can imagine -- right inside my head. For several seconds, I wasn't sure what was going on ... or if I'd ever recover. I tell you -- it really hurt.
I came to the conclusion that something must have been wrong with the little packet of stuff that I mixed with water. It had to be too strong! I had to contact the manufacturer and warn them so they could do a recall or something! I didn't want anyone else to suffer this same feeling.
I started looking around frantically to find the packet because I was pretty sure that each packet had a production code on it. I looked in the trash can and couldn't find it. That was odd because I normally always throw the packet into the trash can after I empty its contents into my squirt bottle of water. Then, I glanced down at the bathroom countertop and there sat the package -- unopened.
I had messed up and forgotten to add the salt packet to my water so what I had squirted deep into my sinuses, resulting in unbelievably intense pain, had been just plain tap water.
Wow, salt, the thing that I thought had an "edge" or a "bite" to it was actually the ingredient that soothed my sinuses and made them feel better each morning. When the salt was withheld -- when the solution being squirted into my nose lost its saltiness -- then I was left writhing in pain.
This made me reflect a lot on Matthew 5:13. The King James version uses the word "savour" which does have a very soothing implication to it -- bringing out the full flavor of something, not necessarily adding a "bite" to it. Perhaps this was what was meant by not losing our "saltiness". I don't know that we're necessarily being called to be "feisty" for Jesus (that may fit the giftedness of some of us better than others, and that is great when it does) but instead we're being told to spread His love and His peace, to bring out the full flavor of Christianity in all things around us. When we lose our ability to do that -- our "saltiness," if you will -- then we have lost our godliness and our effectiveness as Kingdom-builders. We may as well be trampled underfoot at that point.
1 O Lord, why do you stand so far away?
Why do you hide when I am in trouble?
2 The wicked arrogantly hunt down the poor.
Let them be caught in the evil they plan for others.
3 For they brag about their evil desires;
they praise the greedy and curse the Lord.
4 The wicked are too proud to seek God.
They seem to think that God is dead.
5 Yet they succeed in everything they do.
They do not see your punishment awaiting them.
They sneer at all their enemies.
6 They think, “Nothing bad will ever happen to us!
We will be free of trouble forever!”
7 Their mouths are full of cursing, lies, and threats.
Trouble and evil are on the tips of their tongues.
8 They lurk in ambush in the villages,
waiting to murder innocent people.
They are always searching for helpless victims.
9 Like lions crouched in hiding,
they wait to pounce on the helpless.
Like hunters they capture the helpless
and drag them away in nets.
10 Their helpless victims are crushed;
they fall beneath the strength of the wicked.
11 The wicked think, “God isn’t watching us!
He has closed his eyes and won’t even see what we do!”
12 Arise, O Lord!
Punish the wicked, O God!
Do not ignore the helpless!
13 Why do the wicked get away with despising God?
They think, “God will never call us to account.”
14 But you see the trouble and grief they cause.
You take note of it and punish them.
The helpless put their trust in you.
You defend the orphans.
15 Break the arms of these wicked, evil people!
Go after them until the last one is destroyed.
16 The Lord is king forever and ever!
The godless nations will vanish from the land.
17 Lord, you know the hopes of the helpless.
Surely you will hear their cries and comfort them.
18 You will bring justice to the orphans and the oppressed,
so mere people can no longer terrify them.
Read and be deeply touched ...
1 I will praise you, Lord, with all my heart;
I will tell of all the marvelous things you have done.
2 I will be filled with joy because of you.
I will sing praises to your name, O Most High.
3 My enemies retreated;
they staggered and died when you appeared.
4 For you have judged in my favor;
from your throne you have judged with fairness.
5 You have rebuked the nations and destroyed the wicked;
you have erased their names forever.
6 The enemy is finished, in endless ruins;
the cities you uprooted are now forgotten.
7 But the Lord reigns forever,
executing judgment from his throne.
8 He will judge the world with justice
and rule the nations with fairness.
9 The Lord is a shelter for the oppressed,
a refuge in times of trouble.
10 Those who know your name trust in you,
for you, O Lord, do not abandon those who search for you.
11 Sing praises to the Lord who reigns in Jerusalem.
Tell the world about his unforgettable deeds.
12 For he who avenges murder cares for the helpless.
He does not ignore the cries of those who suffer.
13 Lord, have mercy on me.
See how my enemies torment me.
Snatch me back from the jaws of death.
14 Save me so I can praise you publicly at Jerusalem’s gates,
so I can rejoice that you have rescued me.
15 The nations have fallen into the pit they dug for others.
Their own feet have been caught in the trap they set.
16 The Lord is known for his justice.
The wicked are trapped by their own deeds.
17 The wicked will go down to the grave.
This is the fate of all the nations who ignore God.
18 But the needy will not be ignored forever;
the hopes of the poor will not always be crushed.
19 Arise, O Lord!
Do not let mere mortals defy you!
Judge the nations!
20 Make them tremble in fear, O Lord.
Let the nations know they are merely human.
I experienced that yesterday. For the first day in over a week, I was able to walk most of the day without a limp. No more feeling like Quasimodo dragging a leg behind me! It was freeing, it was joyful, it was euphoric! I was still in some pain but, oh, it was so much less pain than I had experienced for several days prior. A huge weight of pain, misery, and worry had been lifted from me. The black cloud was gone. Blue skies had broken through. I could truly put on a happy face. I tend to get a little giddy and silly when I am at home and finally feeling good again. It was either that or all of the left-over Halloween candy but I was probably driving Lisa nuts last night.
Of course, that was my physical side and, boy did it feel good. But on our emotional sides, how much stuff do we carry around day in and day out that weighs us down and creates a black cloud? How much baggage, how much garbage, how much head trash? Grudges against others, building walls between us and them, guilt over past mistakes, worries about the future, concerns over our abilities, pridefulness and egos … these are all often deeply embedded things. Things that are, in reality, much harder to shake off than a bum knee or a bad cold.
But yet Jesus, if we can turn things over to Him, if we can trust in Him, if we can follow His assurance, offers us the same joyfulness and euphoria that we feel when that bad cold or flu goes away or when that bum knee finally starts to feel better. It can be ours all the time.
Treat others the way you want to be treated, my grace is sufficient for you, go and sin no more, my strength is made perfect in your weakness, the one who humbles himself will be exalted, all things work together for good … these are all His assurances that we were made in His likeness, that we can live emotionally pain-free and joyful lives, that we can do cartwheels down the hallway, smile and hug everyone, dance in the living room, run naked in the front yard (well, maybe that one should be taken under advisement) … but freedom is ours when we accept what He so freely offers and when we consistently follow Him in all parts of our lives.
1 O LORD, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory
above the heavens.
2 From the lips of children and infants
you have ordained praise
because of your enemies,
to silence the foe and the avenger.
3 When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
4 what is man that you are mindful of him,
the son of man that you care for him?
5 You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor.
6 You made him ruler over the works of your hands;
you put everything under his feet:
7 all flocks and herds,
and the beasts of the field,
8 the birds of the air,
and the fish of the sea,
all that swim the paths of the seas.
9 O LORD, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
1 I come to you for protection, O Lord my God.
Save me from my persecutors—rescue me!
2 If you don’t, they will maul me like a lion,
tearing me to pieces with no one to rescue me.
3 O Lord my God, if I have done wrong
or am guilty of injustice,
4 if I have betrayed a friend
or plundered my enemy without cause,
5 then let my enemies capture me.
Let them trample me into the ground
and drag my honor in the dust.
6 Arise, O Lord, in anger!
Stand up against the fury of my enemies!
Wake up, my God, and bring justice!
7 Gather the nations before you.
Rule over them from on high.
8 The Lord judges the nations.
Declare me righteous, O Lord,
for I am innocent, O Most High!
9 End the evil of those who are wicked,
and defend the righteous.
For you look deep within the mind and heart,
O righteous God.
10 God is my shield,
saving those whose hearts are true and right.
11 God is an honest judge.
He is angry with the wicked every day.
12 If a person does not repent,
God will sharpen his sword;
he will bend and string his bow.
13 He will prepare his deadly weapons
and shoot his flaming arrows.
14 The wicked conceive evil;
they are pregnant with trouble
and give birth to lies.
15 They dig a deep pit to trap others,
then fall into it themselves.
16 The trouble they make for others backfires on them.
The violence they plan falls on their own heads.
17 I will thank the Lord because he is just;
I will sing praise to the name of the Lord Most High.
4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
But, what happens when you lay that scripture across John 13:34-35, Jesus' command to love one another which typically is thought of as a call to love all others, even our enemies and even (or perhaps especially) Pre-Christians:
34"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."
We may talk about loving all others but do we really give them the same grace and love called for in I Corinthians 13? I am not sure that I do. Well, in fact, I am sure I don't. Something to work on as I move forward ... from the shape I am in.
1O LORD, rebuke me not in thine anger, neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure.
2Have mercy upon me, O LORD; for I am weak: O LORD, heal me; for my bones are vexed.
3My soul is also sore vexed: but thou, O LORD, how long?
4Return, O LORD, deliver my soul: oh save me for thy mercies' sake.
5For in death there is no remembrance of thee: in the grave who shall give thee thanks?
6I am weary with my groaning; all the night make I my bed to swim; I water my couch with my tears.
7Mine eye is consumed because of grief; it waxeth old because of all mine enemies.
8Depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity; for the LORD hath heard the voice of my weeping.
9The LORD hath heard my supplication; the LORD will receive my prayer.
10Let all mine enemies be ashamed and sore vexed: let them return and be ashamed suddenly.
Be still and know that I am God.... - Psalm 46:10
There is a time and place in our walk with God in which He sets us in a place of waiting. It is a place in which all past experiences are of no value. It is a time of such stillness that it can disturb the most faithful if we do not understand that He is the one who has brought us to this place for only a season. It is as if God has placed a wall around us. No new opportunities--simply inactivity.
During these times, God is calling us aside to fashion something new in us. It is an isolation chamber designed to call us to deeper roots of prayer and faith. It is not a comfortable place, especially for a task-driven workplace believer. Our nature cries out, "You must do something," while God is saying, "Be still and know that I am God." You know the signs that you have been brought into this chamber when He has removed many things from your life and you can't seem to change anything. Perhaps you are unemployed. Perhaps you are laid up with an illness.
Most religious people live a very planned and orchestrated life where they know almost everything that will happen. But for people in whom God is performing a deeper work, He brings them into a time of quietness that seems almost eerie. They cannot say what God is doing. They just know that He is doing a work that cannot be explained to themselves or to others.
Has God brought you to a place of being still? Be still and know that He really is God. When this happens, the chamber will open soon after.
As you may know ... a few days ago I started covering "A Psalm A Day" here on my blog. I pull from different translations based upon what I see that resonates best with me. Sometimes I try to provide a few personal comments on each Psalm -- some detail on where I think it's coming from and how it's reaching me. Warning to everyone, though: I am not a Bible scholar.
Okay, as you know there are 66 books in the Bible, right? There are a total of 1189 chapters in those books. 1189 divided by 365 is 3.2 .... something.
I am going to try to work my way through the Bible here on my blog ... a chapter a day ... it will take about three years and three months but, by early 2010, I shall have made my way through the Bible ... in a unique way. I will continue to pull from the translation I like best for that chapter.
What better way to stick with the title and theme of my blog.
I will invite you along on this journey if you like ... feel free to invite others ... I would love to see others share comments or personal experiences related to each book as we work our way through the Bible. I would also love suggestions on what book we cover next. Right now, we have our work cut out for us with Psalms but we'll get there.
I think this will be fun ... and good ... and a way of moving forward ... from the shape I am (or we are) in.
They spread us out across the campus and dropped us off at the curb with our box of 100 Testaments. We had to stay out of the campus buildings as we passed them out. It was freezing cold and you-can-guess-who forgot to bring anything heavier than his sportscoat and a ball cap. Actually, I didn't get too cold but gloves would have been really nice. And I kept wanting to walk over to High Street to find the Starbucks that apparently everyone else on campus had visited that morning.
When we first got started and my leg and feet began hurting and my fingers were going numb, I really wondered by I was there. But I prayed that God would show me and, in His true fashion, He did.
It's been a really long time since I have spent much time on a college campus. Okay, 20 years to be exact. The students seemed a lot younger than they used to. I was wondering if they were all maybe super-intelligent "Doogie Howser" junior high students who were in college. Anyway, it was relaly neat to see the fresh faces and wide variety of students. It seemed like everyone dresses much more stylish than we did in college. Especially the young ladies. And they all had cell phones and MP3 players.
Oh, enough wistful yearning to be young again.
Wow, it was a neat experience. I could not believe how polite and courteous the students were toward us. I attended a very small Christian college known for its friendliness but, honestly, the OSU campus seemed much more friendly toward an old fart stranger in a sportscoat and ball cap standing on the corner trying to hand them a little green book than I would have ever been in college. Or probably today for that matter.
Many students accepted a Testament. In fact, as a group, I think we handed out over 10,000 in four hours. Wow. And double wow. (Okay, that just sounded like Joey Lawrence. Sorry.)
Many students explained that they already had a Bible or that they'd already been given a Testament that morning. Some just showed me the Testament they already had. Sure, there were a couple of people with negative or under-their-breath comments but given the number of students I approached this morning, the negative ones were very few. Several students approached me and thanked me for what we were doing. So did a couple of profs and other campus workers. One student told me that he himself was a Gideon and he'd come to bring a coffee to his dad, also a Gideon, who was passing out the Bibles with us.
I found that, the more enthusiastically I approached someone with a bright "Good Morning!" the more receptive they were to what I had to say. Those who I accidentally approached a couple of times during the morning were very forgiving.
You know what really thrilled me the most though? Several times during the course of the morning, I saw students walking through campus reading their Testaments as they walked.
That was truly neat. It warmed my heart and encouraged me and helped me to understand why I'd said "yes" to going to OSU today despite my still-painful leg, and despite what I was sure would be frost-bitten fingers.
God is good. Just as always, though I may have started the day questioning the whole thing, I received much more today than I gave.
14-16"Here's another way to put it: You're here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We're going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don't think I'm going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I'm putting you on a light stand. Now that I've put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you'll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.
1-3 Listen, God! Please, pay attention!
Can you make sense of these ramblings,
my groans and cries?
King-God, I need your help.
you'll hear me at it again.
I lay out the pieces of my life
on your altar
and watch for fire to descend.
4-6 You don't socialize with Wicked,
or invite Evil over as your houseguest.
Hot-Air-Boaster collapses in front of you;
you shake your head over Mischief-Maker.
God destroys Lie-Speaker;
Blood-Thirsty and Truth-Bender disgust you.
7-8 And here I am, your invited guest—
I enter your house; here I am,
prostrate in your inner sanctum,
Waiting for directions
to get me safely through enemy lines.
9-10 Every word they speak is a land mine;
their lungs breathe out poison gas.
Their throats are gaping graves,
their tongues slick as mudslides.
Pile on the guilt, God!
Let their so-called wisdom wreck them.
Kick them out! They've had their chance.
11-12 But you'll welcome us with open arms
when we run for cover to you.
Let the party last all night!
Stand guard over our celebration.
You are famous, God, for welcoming God-seekers,
for decking us out in delight.
My leg is still bothering me and it looks like I will be off of work a second day with it. I really hate that, and I especially feel like I am letting my co-workers down. I am sure that, somewhere in the midst of all of this, is a “God lesson” or two. One could be to slow down a bit and to be a bit more relaxed in life. Fibromyalgia flares are often triggered by stress and worries, and I have been carrying those burdens much more heavily that I should be recently.
Over the last couple of weeks, though, I have also been thinking a lot about whether I am really in the right career, whether I am really where God wants me to be. These thoughts all started with a story that a friend of mine told me. He had gone to college to be an undertaker and, right out of college, he was working at a funeral home owned by an older gentleman. His co-worker was the older man’s son who had also gone to college to be an undertaker and follow in his dad’s footsteps. One day, the older man died and his son inherited the funeral home. A couple of weeks later, the son sold the funeral home. (This is all starting to read like some really bad joke but I assure you that it isn’t.)
My friend approached the son and said, “I don’t understand this. It has been my dream to own a funeral home. I am working very hard to get there someday. And yet, you’re given one and you immediately sell it. That doesn’t make sense to me.”
The son replied, “The difference here is that you had a choice and you chose to pursue your dream of owning a funeral home. Yes, I eventually ended up owning one for a short period of time but it was never my choice to own one.”
Wow. While I have not been “given” a business, the son’s story and my story are sort of similar. Yes, when I was coming out of college I technically had a choice of whether to go to work for my dad or not. But yet, out of family commitment, I didn’t feel a lot of choice. You see, the business was struggling badly at the time and my dad’s partner had seemed to have lost interest in it, at least on the surface. I didn’t want to see my parents lose all they had worked for. The business needed someone who would work very hard for very little pay in order to revive things. That is what I, and a couple of years later, a good friend of mine who joined the business, did.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Over the years, the business has afforded Lisa, Evan and me a nice (not luxurious but comfortable) lifestyle. That is good. It has given us the ability to contribute to things and causes which we feel are important. That is also good. I have the pleasure of working amongst good friends. That is good. Frankly, I often question whether I am very good at what I do but that’s probably just part of life.
With my recent fibromyalgia bout, though, I think that God is trying to tell me that I am indeed where He wants me. While I don’t think God wants me to be afflicted with fibromyalgia, I do think He has me in a job which allows me to deal with it better than I could in a traditional employee setting. While I hope this isn’t the case, there is a chance that, as I age, I will have increasing problems with fibromyalgia. Lots of employers would, and rightfully so, not put up with my being off work for this. I wouldn’t blame them a bit. But my current job allows me some flexibility to work from home when I am having a bad flare.
So, I go forward, confident that God has me where he wants me. He calls us all to careers and places which are appropriate for us and our individual circumstances. And, of course, more than anything, he calls us to always be His face, feet, and hands. No matter where or what our workplace is, He calls us to be in ministry for Him. That is all the more reason for God to make sure that we are exactly where He wants us to be. While we need to always be mindful to His leading for possible change, we also need to be content and productive for both our employer and for God wherever we’re at.
So, I will continue to nurse my leg, thanking God for having me where I am at today.
1 Answer me when I call to you,
O God who declares me innocent.
Free me from my troubles.
Have mercy on me and hear my prayer.
2 How long will you people ruin my reputation?
How long will you make groundless accusations?
How long will you continue your lies?
3 You can be sure of this:
The Lord set apart the godly for himself.
The Lord will answer when I call to him.
4 Don’t sin by letting anger control you.
Think about it overnight and remain silent.
5 Offer sacrifices in the right spirit,
and trust the Lord.
6 Many people say, “Who will show us better times?”
Let your face smile on us, Lord.
7 You have given me greater joy
than those who have abundant harvests of grain and new wine.
8 In peace I will lie down and sleep,
for you alone, O Lord, will keep me safe.
I can also be guilty of acquiescing too easily ... sometimes just giving up and going back inside my box is a very attractive alternative, but it doesn't advance anyone or anything. It's hard, once we get inside our own little boxes, to come out of them. Very hard. If it's to be, though, it is up to me -- that needs to be our personal mantras in regards to building relationships, not walls.
This all goes back to the book Leadership and Self-Deception which I read a few weeks ago. Any thoughts, anyone?
“ ‘The saints,’ said [French author George] Bernanos [most famous for his Diary of A Country Priest], ‘are not resigned, at least in the sense that the world thinks. If they suffer in silence those injustices which upset the mediocre, it is in order better to turn against injustice, against its face of brass, all the strength of their great souls. Angers, daughters of despair, creep and twist like worms. Prayer is, all things considered, the only form of revolt that stays standing up.’
This is very true from all points of view. A spirituality that preaches resignation under official brutalities, servile acquiescence in frustration and sterility, and total submission to organized injustice is one which has lost interest in holiness and remains concerned only with a spurious notion of ‘order.’ On the other hand, it is so easy to waste oneself in the futilities of that ‘anger, the daughter of despair,’ the vain recrimination that takes a perverse joy in blaming everyone else for our failure. We may certainly fail to accomplish what we believed was God's will for us and for the Church: but simply to take revenge by resentment against those who blocked the way is not to turn the strength of one's soul (if any) against the ‘brass face of injustice.’ It is another way of yielding to it.
There may be a touch of stoicism in Bernanos' wording here, but that does not matter. A little more stoic strength would not hurt us, and would not necessarily get in the way of grace! “
Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander by Thomas Merton,
New York: Doubleday & Co, Inc., 1968 edition, p. 165
1 O Lord, I have so many enemies;
so many are against me.
2 So many are saying,
“God will never rescue him!”
3 But you, O Lord, are a shield around me;
you are my glory, the one who holds my head high.
4 I cried out to the Lord,
and he answered me from his holy mountain.
5 I lay down and slept,
yet I woke up in safety,
for the Lord was watching over me.
6 I am not afraid of ten thousand enemies
who surround me on every side.
7 Arise, O Lord!
Rescue me, my God!
Slap all my enemies in the face!
Shatter the teeth of the wicked!
8 Victory comes from you, O Lord.
May you bless your people.
King David wrote this as he was running from his son Absalom who had put together a whole army set on overthrowing David and making Absalom the king. How often do I really think of God as a shield around me? Or do I instead see myself as having to provide my own protection? When I have the worry of ten thousand enemies surrounding me, can I even go to sleep? My problems of this world seem minimal in comparison to what David was facing. God is here to guide me and protect me though. My shelter must be in Him. I will try to sleep soundly tonight, at peace behind God's shield.
When Paul was on his second missionary journey, he came to the city of Athens which was inhabited by people who loved to worship, and talk about their worship. They worshipped every conceivable god of their day and made sure no god was left out.
Acts 17:22-23 "Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: 'Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.'"
The people in Athens worshipped gods like Zeus, Hermes, and Diana. And to ensure they did not overlook any god, they also gave their worship to a god they did not know.
Today, many of us go through our life worshipping such gods as Pleasure, Leisure, Entertainment, Security, Power, and Wealth. Then, usually with much less intensity and commitment, we "worship" the Creator of the Universe. But our worship often becomes something we schedule and not something we live. We take part in religious activity, but have no idea how to make the Almighty God an integral part of our everyday life. We attend church services, but never give a thought to actually loving God or asking Him for guidance and direction. We go through the motions of worship, but our hearts are cold and far from the One True God.
We ALL must examine what we believe, and then live a life consistent with that belief. Many people profess belief in God - even the God of the Bible - but have no idea what this belief means or Who they really believe. They believe and then attempt to worship a God they do not know. If Christ died for the forgiveness of our sins, was resurrected, and now sits at the right hand of the Father making intercession on our behalf - if He will one day return and take us to be with Him for all eternity - then He certainly deserves more than our casual worship and the left-overs of our time.
Our Heavenly Father has been calling us back to an intimate fellowship ever since Adam and Eve sinned in the garden; and His message has remained the same: "Enjoy My creation, but give Me ALL your heart." He must be given sole possession, without any competition. The true Creator of the Universe will never accept just being one of our many "gods."
Let's proclaim the absolute and unchanging truth and encourage one another to "wholeheartedly obey the form of teaching to which you were entrusted" (Romans 6:17). Let's resolve to live a consistent life - a life of sincere love and faithful service - a life which no longer worships an unknown God.
1-6 Why the big noise, nations? Why the mean plots, peoples?
Earth-leaders push for position,
Demagogues and delegates meet for summit talks,
The God-deniers, the Messiah-defiers:
"Let's get free of God!
Cast loose from Messiah!"
Heaven-throned God breaks out laughing.
At first he's amused at their presumption;
Then he gets good and angry.
Furiously, he shuts them up:
"Don't you know there's a King in Zion? A coronation banquet
Is spread for him on the holy summit."
7-9 Let me tell you what God said next.
He said, "You're my son,
And today is your birthday.
What do you want? Name it:
Nations as a present? continents as a prize?
You can command them all to dance for you,
Or throw them out with tomorrow's trash."
10-12 So, rebel-kings, use your heads;
Upstart-judges, learn your lesson:
Worship God in adoring embrace,
Celebrate in trembling awe. Kiss Messiah!
Your very lives are in danger, you know;
His anger is about to explode,
But if you make a run for God—you won't regret it!
Psalm 1 (NLT) (author unknown)
1 Oh, the joys of those who do not
follow the advice of the wicked,
or stand around with sinners,
or join in with mockers.
2 But they delight in the law of the Lord,
meditating on it day and night.
3 They are like trees planted along the riverbank,
bearing fruit each season.
Their leaves never wither,
and they prosper in all they do.
4 But not the wicked!
They are like worthless chaff, scattered by the wind.
5 They will be condemned at the time of judgment.
Sinners will have no place among the godly.
6 For the Lord watches over the path of the godly,
but the path of the wicked leads to destruction.
I take great encouragement from verse 3. While I do not think it means “prosper” in the sense of this world, it is saying that ultimately, if we’re following God by seeking His will, the things we do will bear fruit and prosper … prosper for God, not for man. That is what we must care about. In a similar fashion, verses 4 and 5 are not saying that those who do not follow God will not do well in this world but rather that they won’t stand at the time of judgment. Of course, if we’re doing what God calls us to do, there will be as few as possible in the condemned camp at the time of judgment.
Here’s Psalm 1 from The Message as well … just because it made me smile.
1How well God must like you— you don't hang out at Sin Saloon, you don't slink along Dead-End Road,
you don't go to Smart-Mouth College.
2-3 Instead you thrill to God's Word,
you chew on Scripture day and night.
You're a tree replanted in Eden,
bearing fresh fruit every month,
Never dropping a leaf,
always in blossom.
4-5 You're not at all like the wicked,
who are mere windblown dust—
Without defense in court,
unfit company for innocent people.
6 God charts the road you take.
The road they take is Skid Row.
The article gives no explanation nor reasoning for his insistence to remain in prison. Under German laws, though, they cannot force him to leave. Why would someone refuse the freedom that is his? Afraid that, left to his own devices, he will return to bad habits? Unwilling to accept forgiveness for his past mistakes? Unable to forgive himself? Perhaps he has grown accustomed to the jail in which he is held. Maybe he has lost all sense of what true freedom is. Maybe it's been so long that his vision is nothing more than a cell, bars, and three meals a day. Maybe, even when he was free, he didn't really feel free or enjoy freedom. Maybe his present situation has become all he wants.
Interesting to think about ... and how does this apply to us in our lives on the outside?
I woke up with a lot of pain. I hobbled around the corner from the Chicago Hilton where we were staying for a grande hazelnut latte and a pumpkin scone but, by the time I got back from Starbucks, my knee was really, really hurting. The coffee and scone helped me feel better but not my knee.
My co-worker and I met later that morning in the hotel lobby to head over to McCormick Place for the show. I had to ask him to help me out by getting the car, driving it to the convention center, and dropping me off as close as possible to the exhibit hall. I conisdered just driving home at that point. I knew it wasn't going to be a pleasant few hours at the show but I thought I could manage. I was excited about this trade show and didn't want to miss it. I enjoy meeting and talking with folks and trying to con ... excuse me ... "talk" them into our products. (LOL, though I can slip into a pretty salesy mode when I want to.)
However, about half-way to our booth, it felt like something burst in my knee. I nearly crumpled to the floor but was able to grab hold of a table and steady myself. I rested a bit, gritted my teeth and walked to our booth where I sat down. I am not quite sure how I made it because, by the time I got there, I could put no weight at all on that knee. When I was a child, I used to have dreams of showing up at school (usually in my pajamas for the first dose of humiliation) and then not being able to walk once I got there, having to use my arms to pull myself around on the floor. Over the years, a lot of my dreams, or nightmares, have consisted of being powerless in terms of not being able to walk. Unfortunately, yesterday in McCormick Place, it was not a dream.
My co-worker, Luke, showed up at the booth a short while later after parking the car. I explained to him my predicament. There was no way I would be able to walk out of the convention center. We thought of different options ... wheelchair, paramedics, Green Peace, National Guard, crawling, finding really strong people to carry me ... my main intent was to get home. If I could get to my car, I could then drive home which was where I really really wanted to be. I knew that I didn't want to drink any liquids because I didn't think I'd be able to make it to a restroom by myself on the way home.
So, the best solution we came up with was for Luke to go buy crutches for me. I had seen a drug store not too far from the convention. He was gone about an hour and, druing that time, I hoped seriously that he hadn't just decided to leave town. Anyway, he showed up with the crutches and then, in a whole lot of pain, I had to try to figure out how to use them. I looked and felt ridiculous. I think I looked like a fish trying to use crutches, dragging my tail behind me. I would highly suggest to everyone that, just for the heck of it, you practice using crutches sometime so that you can learn how to use them while you're well rather than when you're in pain. Seriously -- think about it.
I sort of alternated between hopping and dragging myself on my crutches through McCormick Place. It felt like I was chasing the crutches. But I made it to the car, and I managed to stop at a restroom on the way.
Driving was not easy. Especially getting my foot up off of the gas pedal and onto the brake when I needed to. Unfortunately, the Dan Ryan Expressway, leading out of Chicago, was under construction and traffic was bumper to bumper on it so, for an hour, I had to reach down with my arm and keep repositioning my leg between the accelerator and the brake pedal. I tried braking with my left foot but that was even more awkward. I am not sure how my parents, both two-footed drivers, do that. I just kept hoping and praying that nothing would happen that would require me to switch quickly from the gas to the brake. That would have been disastrous I am afraid.
It was a long, painful drive home. I called Lisa and a friend of mine and they both offered to drive up and get me but I figured that would just make the whole ordeal take even longer so I was determined to drive home on my own. I stopped a couple of times to rest my foot but I didn't dare stretch things out too long or I would have to get into a restroom somehow. I went through a Wendy's drive-thru and got one of my current favorite comfort foods -- their new ham and cheese. I wondered if there is much difference between a frosty and a soft drink in terms of pee production. Probably not but I was going to play it as safe as I knew how so I chose the frosty.
I did make it home, with a pretty full bladder. I had thought about going straight to the ER but my wonderful wife wanted to go with me. I was very grateful for that. So, mom came down to be with Evan and Lisa and I headed to the ER.
As I expected, the x-rays they took showed nothing. The doctor was very kind and ultimately agreed with my own diagnosis that this was all fibromyalgia-related. As he said, doctors "just don't know what the hell to do for people with fibromyalgia." Something very similar happened to me a couple of years ago and there wasn't anything I could do but wait it out. This time, the doctor talked about giving me a cortisone shot in one of the particularly painful areas of my knee. That sort of bothered me because I felt that the trauma from a shot could worsen things dramatically. So, he sent me home with a couple of Vicodin pills for the evening plus prescriptions for Vicodin, Celebrex and a sleeping pill.
I woke up Saturday morning still in a lot of pain but it did seem that things were some better. Now it's Saturday afternoon and I can get around on just one crutch.
But, here's the point of my story ... I still feel helpless. I cannot do much for myself. I am having to rely on Lisa. I hate being a burden on someone though and it is driving me nuts. She is truly Jesus' hands and feet for me. I do not like feeling helpless but perhaps this ultimately is a lesson for me ... a lesson in abandoning my will and instead relying on others ... and on God.
This weekend, my girlfriend and I celebrate 18 years of marriage. 18 years of always having the person by my side who can make me smile, who can make me see the silver lining, who can keep me looking forward and not in reverse, who encourages me and loves on me, who takes care of me, who puts up with me. What a huge gift from God Lisa has been for me. And, as I journey through life, I realize more each year just how God meant her for me and for the life I have. Without her, I would be a heaving, sobbing mass of insecure, very worried jello.
It didn’t take me long to know that Lisa was the one for me for life. I’d never really felt so comfortable and connected to anyone before the way that I did with her. We were in high school at the time and, being young, I had no clue what I was in store for in life. And, of course, we never really know what the future will bring. But, now, looking back on our 18 years of marriage and seven years of togetherness before that, I see how Lisa was exactly the one for me … the one who God ordained for me and for my life.
Sweetie, I love you and thank God for you. You are the greatest and, each day, I am brought joy, happiness and hope from you … from our life together.
There’s some irony to all of that with his name looking Japanese but probably actually being German. You see, he graduated from high school in 1942, just a few months after the attack on World War II. After graduation, still a boy really, he immediately went into the Navy and spent the next four years aboard the USS Saratoga, an aircraft carrier based out of San Diego patrolling and fighting primarily in the south Pacific and Indian Ocean. This very much shaped the man he was to be for the next 60 years of his life.
He was an Aviations Specialist (or something like that) which meant he was riding in the plane on many bombing raids, providing guidance. I remember hearing of him suffering horrible nightmares for many years after he returned from the war. He also suffered from hearing loss which, I am sure, was from his time around the deafening aircraft of that day. Shortly after returning from the war, he was one of a few soldiers chosen to be flown to Hollywood and play small parts in a film about World War II.
His uniqueness and stature as a man continued when he returned stateside and met my great aunt. At the time, she had a young daughter who had been born out of wedlock, something which, back then, I think often got you sent far away for a quiet abortion or, at best, adoption of the baby immediately after birth. Marrying a single, never-married mother would have bothered many men back then a great deal I suspect. While God extends grace, much of the world is often operating in a grace-free zone I'm afraid. I believe that it says a lot about my uncle that it didn’t bother him. He and my aunt married just a few years after he had returned from the war.
He did what many returning veterans did. He went to work in a factory. Of course, I should say that he was incredibly fortunate, given what he did in the Navy and his length of service, to have even come home at all, much less all in one piece. I cannot imagine the horrors he suffered as a very young man. I am sure that being a wartime soldier is never fun but I think that these guys who went in to the serve right at the height of World War II, when our country was really scrambling to protect itself, really had it bad. Never once, though, do I recall hearing my uncle talk about the war. There are stories of a few times when he opened up and talked about it to certain relatives but I believe that just trying to close the door on that period of his life, the best he possibly could, was his way of dealing with it all the best he knew how.
He had an incredible knack for fixing things. He did a lot of large appliance repair and actually, I always thought his factory job involved appliances. It wasn’t until his funeral that I learned it didn’t. He built a nice life for his wife and daughter over the years. There was never any question of his obvious loyalty to and love for them. They ended up with a nice home that was always meticulously well-kept. It was probably the first “modern” home that I remember any of my relatives ever having. He loved to fish and he and my aunt usually owned a large travel trailer which they would pull behind a truck. After his retirement, they would take off in their camper for weeks and even months on end, going to mainly northern places where they could get away from it all. Again, I think it was his way of dealing with painful memories of wartime experiences. They spent a couple of summers in Alaska with their trailer. One summer, they took my grandparents with them on a long trip across the USA and back. I remember my grandparents talking of my uncle standing on the beach at San Diego and staring out over the Pacific Ocean for a very long time. Staring at the place where four of the most impressionable and difficult years of his life had been spent. I cannot imagine the emotions he would have felt.
In talking about him as a “greatest generation” member, you may have the impression that my uncle was some big, strong hulk of a man. That isn’t the case though. He was always thin, of rather slight build and average height. Nothing spectacular about him on the outside. He didn’t strive for personal glory or fame. He worked his life for his family. Like I said earlier, very salt-of-the-earth.
While he was working in the factory and building a life for his family, he somehow stumbled across antique clock repair as a hobby. He would buy up old antique clocks, usually from the 1800s, at auctions and then repair and restore them. At one time, their home had upwards of 400 clocks in it of all shapes, sizes, styles, types and chimes. It was a wondrous place for me as a kid to visit. Eventually, people started bringing their clocks to him for repair. It allowed him to retire relatively young as I recall, giving him more time for fishing and travel. There was talk at one time about his maybe teaching clock repair to me but unfortunately that never happened. It’s sort of a dying art I believe. Lisa and I have one of his clocks. From the late 1800s, it actually has a bit of cool art deco style to it. An oak wall cabinet clock with some neat cut glass on the front. Just like his hearing was never the greatest, his eyesight wasn’t either and it always amazed me that he could see well enough to work on those small clock pieces.
He had his workbench in their basement, with all sorts of small tools and gadgets about. They had an old diner-style booth in their basement, too, where we used to play as kids when we visited them. They had a pool table in their basement which was neat but I didn’t k now what to make of it when I was young. After all, “pool” starts with “P” which rhymes with “T” which stands for “trouble.”
I think that what made his generation so great was its selflessness. They seemed far more concerned with building a better world and providing a better life for their children than with their own needs. My aunt worked in a factory, too – sort of a Rosie the Riveter thing. Sometimes I wonder if that generation’s selflessness and provision for future generations didn’t lead to our own materialistic world today in some odd way. Could their selflessness have paved the way for our selfishness?
It’s unfortunate, though, that Evan will only have very small memories of folks from my uncle’s generation. They’re leaving this world quickly. My uncle’s health declined radically in recent years and my aunt worked valiantly to keep him at home up until his final few months. Her devotion to him was huge. She truly lost her best friend when he died. In many respects, I suppose he was also her savior here on earth, restoring her dignity after having a child out of wedlock. It was hard to imagine my uncle’s decline in health from what he was as a WW II vet, slipping into Lewy Body Dementia in recent years. We know that he is better off than all of us now and we take great courage, hope, and joy in that. He was indeed a great uncle … and a great example of the greatest generation.
John 16:33, “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world." (NLT)
It seems the longer I live, the more I realize that this life was just not meant to be easy. Each time I’m faced with a trial or difficult situation, I think to myself, “Oh, when this is over things will be so much simpler!” Unfortunately, one trial ends and it seems there is a new one to take its place. Does your life ever seem that way? How do you cope with it?
We lost our sweet dog, Poppy, over a year ago. Poppy had been with us for fifteen years and she was such a wonderful and loving member of our family. The worst part of losing Poppy was not that she was gone, it was how she left. We were expecting Poppy’s life to end soon. Her health had been declining and she was definitely showing strong signs of an aging dog ready to go. One day, I was outside and Poppy was with me. I was cleaning patio furniture and she was lying in the grass, sunning herself. She loved to do this. I remained busy for the remainder of the day. We all went about our normal routine that day, doing homework, eating supper, spending family time together, and going to bed.
Around 11:00, I sat straight up in bed. My husband asked me what was wrong. “Where’s Poppy? I think I left her outside and I don’t remember seeing her tonight.” Jeff assured me that she was probably inside, under a bed or something. “She’s always been a very quiet dog anyway, she’s probably fine,” he reasoned. We got up to look for her.
We searched for Poppy all night long. We never found her. I cried and prayed for hours. Feeling guilty and responsible, I knew the worst was yet to come. I had to tell the kids. I did that as soon as they woke up for school. We continued to search for days. It became more hopeless with each passing day that we would ever see her again. My family was grief stricken over not knowing what had happened to her. I can’t even write the images I had in my mind as each night passed. Did she feel alone, scared, abandoned? I was convinced she did. There are still tears today over these thoughts, not to mention guilt.
Now, I have to tell you that I could rationalize this whole situation. She was old. She probably went away to die, like some animals do, I’m told. Maybe so, but even more healing and restoring is to consider the truth. What do I believe? How do I get through any tough situation in my life? How can we as a family get through this? I know the answers to these questions and they all point to God.
About a month later, we decided to “give” Poppy to the Lord. No, we never found her, but thoughts of her, searching for her, and crying over her had taken over our lives. We prayed for her and finally did what we believed. You see, we believe that God works all things together for good. We believe that God cares about every creature that He’s created and meets their needs. We believe that He has a plan and sees the big picture even though we can only see our little part of it. We trust God with what happens today and what will happen tomorrow, even though we have no idea what will come our way. We believe that worrying will not add a day to our lives, but only keep us from living our lives to the fullest. We knew it was time to live out our faith by believing that it would be alright because God’s in charge. That’s what trusting God is all about. It’s not easy, but it is possible.
Here it is, a year later, and our family has faced many more trials. My grandmother died, Dylan (my eight year old son) had a playground accident that required surgery, my dad had heart surgery and was diagnosed with Parkinson’s, my good friend’s daughter is dying, my computer crashed, and my sister moved to Rochester (far away from me). This is what Jesus meant when he said, “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”
No matter what we are going through, big or small, God cares and He is with us. He wants to hold our hand throughout it all. He doesn’t want us to give up. We are never alone. No, we don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow, but in Christ, we can be sure that it will be alright in the end. You’ve got to believe.
My Prayer for Today:
Dear Lord, Sometimes I get so caught up in fear and worry over things that are out of my control or what’s going to happen tomorrow. Your Word tells me I don’t need to feel this way. Please help me to trust You with my life and the circumstances which surround me. Help me to live in peace because it will be alright in the end. Help me to believe. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
What are you struggling with these days? Are you feeling guilt over something you’ve done? Is there a situation in your life that is out of your control? Are you dealing with what seems like a hopeless situation? Try writing a letter to God. Tell Him everything and be honest. Then commit the next week to spending some time in God’s Word daily. Listen as God speaks to your heart and brings comfort to your restless soul. You can start by looking up the power verses in this devotion.
Are you living out what you believe?
Do you trust God completely?
Do you believe that God’s plan is best?
Is there someone in your life that you can encourage with this message?
John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (NIV)
Jeremiah 29:11, "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." (NIV)
Romans 8:28, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (NASB)
Matthew 6:26-27, “Look at the birds. They don’t need to plant or harvest or put food in barns because your heavenly Father feeds them. And you are far more valuable to him than they are. Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? Of course not.” (NLT)
Psalm 55:22, “Give your burdens to the Lord and he will take care of you. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall.” (NLT)
Here's something written by Steve Troxel of God's Daily Word Ministries. Enjoy.
Paul was returning to Jerusalem at the end of his third and final missionary journey. By this time in his ministry, Paul had been a Christian for nearly twenty years. Twenty years since Jesus called Paul, "My chosen instrument to carry My name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel" (Acts 9:15). Twenty years of faithful service, and now... "In every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me" (Acts 20:23).
Paul was returning home, but his life was not going to be easy. He knew there were many trials ahead, but his life had a purpose far beyond his immediate surroundings.
Acts 20:24 "I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me - the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace."
It was several more years before Paul wrote; "I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation" (Philippians 4:12); yet here, when facing certain hardship, Paul showed he had already learned the secret. The particular circumstances in Paul's life had become of minor importance. He knew his contentment was not based on current events, but on bringing glory and honor to God. His life had a wonderful purpose even in the face of great adversity and harsh conditions.
We were all created for the same purpose as Paul - we were created to bring glory and honor to God! Our specific tasks may differ and change from time to time, but we each have the same unchanging purpose - everything we do, say, and think should bring glory and honor to our Heavenly Father!
God's race is run in the deepest part of our heart - not in the flurry of activity. Running well is not defined by doing more; rather, we run a "successful" race as we do every little task we are given with the complete and absolute devotion of our heart.
His race is long and often difficult. There are many distractions which seek to slow us down and even pull us from the track, and at times we may even wonder why we're running. But being a participant in God's eternal race is infinitely more rewarding than standing on the sidelines and simply watching! He has called us to run - and to run well!!
We must run the path God places before us with all the strength He provides - and within the sure and calming protection of His grace. Let's run with the motivation of bringing Him glory and honor by loving Him with ALL our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Let's continue to run well, and with a burning desire to finish the race.
John the Baptist would never get hired today. No church would touch him. He was a public relations disaster. He “wore clothes made from camel’s hair, had a leather belt around his waist, and ate locusts and wild honey” (Mark 1:6). Who would want to look at a guy like that every Sunday?
No, John would never get hired today. His tactics lacked tact. His style wasn’t smooth. He made few friends and lots of enemies, but what do you know? He made hundreds of converts. “All the people from Judea and Jerusalem were going out to him. They confessed their sins and were baptized by him in the Jordan River” (Mark 1:5).
Look at that. “All the people of Judea and Jerusalem.… ” How do we explain such a response? It certainly wasn’t his charisma or clothing. Nor was it his money or position, for he had neither.
Then what did he have?
One word. Holiness.
John the Baptist set himself apart for one task, to be a voice of Christ. Everything about John centered on his purpose. His dress. His diet. His actions. His demands.
He reminded his hearers of Elijah. And he reminds us of this truth: “There is winsomeness in holiness.” You don’t have to be like the world to have an impact on the world. You don’t have to be like the crowd to change the crowd. You don’t have to lower yourself down to their level to lift them up to your level.
Nor do you have to be weird. You don’t need to wear camel’s-hair clothing or eat insects.
Holiness doesn’t seek to be odd. Holiness seeks to be like God.
You want to make a difference in your world? Live a holy life:
Be faithful to your spouse.
Be the one at the office who refuses to cheat.
Be the neighbor who acts neighborly.
Be the employee who does the work and doesn’t complain.
Pay your bills.
Do your part and enjoy life.
Don’t speak one message and live another.
Note the last line of Paul’s words in 1 Thessalonians 4:11–12.
Do all you can to lead a peaceful life. Take care of your own business, and do your own work as we have already told you. If you do, then people who are not believers will respect you.
Anyway, these friends told us this hilarious true story involving some friends of theirs. The problem is that, for their friends, it no doubt is a pretty painful story. It's killing me because I'd love to write about it and post it here but I just can't, for fear these folks might someday stumble across my blog and be upset to read this story about themselves.
So, this is one story that you'll never read here though, if I see you in person someday, I might be convinced to tell it to you, with the names changed to protect the guilty, of course. Of course, there is a part of me that is really bothered by finding so much humour in others' pain. That really bothers me. But, if I ever tell you the story, I assure you that you will laugh.
I come from a pretty long line of farmers. And they talk about the weather ... a lot. The weather, it seems, makes or breaks a farmer's year. And they really hate it when it breaks their year. In my business, there are several things which make or break the year but one of the most significant is the price of aluminum. I just don't talk about it every three seconds. (There's that passive aggressive side of me showing again! Sorry.)
Anyway, this morning farm report guy used to talk about his old rooster, Abner. Abner's attitude toward life (meaning his willingness to get up and crow that morning) had a lot to do with ... you guessed it, the weather.
I thought of Abner this morning when I got up and saw that it's only 35 degrees outside. This is one of those days when Abner probably would have just wanted to stay in the woodshed rather than get up on the fencepost and crow like crazy at the first sign of the sun.
I'm feeling a bit like Abner this morning. But, I suppose I'd better venture out and head to work eventually. I need to check the London Metal Exchange for the latest price on aluminum first though.
Anyway, that has nothing to do with this post.
Have you ever seen a small bird, or perhaps two small birds chasing after a much larger bird as they fly through the sky? We've all seen that probably. I wonder what the small birds' goal is. I guess that a part of me admires their big thinking regardless.
But this morning, I saw something pretty different. There was a large flock of about 150 little birds chasing after one big bird. They would catch up with it and surround it and then it would swoop or dive and break free for a second or so. Then this would repeat all over again. I watched them for as long as they stayed in my view and this pattern of events just kept repeating again and again with the big bird being caught up by the small ones, breaking free, and being caught again. I imagined the emotions of the big bird. I wondered how it was able to repeatedly break free but then be caught up again in the whirling frenzy of 150 small, noisy birds that appeared to be seeking its demise. It was quite a scene of aerial combat. Whenever the big bird would break free, I so wanted to see it keep building speed and momentum and just soar on far ahead of the small birds. But, again, for as long as I can see it, it couldn't break free ... not permanently.
I suspect that it would use a burst of energy to get free from the vicious flock but then, the second the small birds were out of its vision, the big bird would feel cocky, rest on its laurels, and slow down a bit, just to be overtaken and again caught up in the fracas and the frenzy.
What is it about human nature that makes us so often go through this same cycle? As soon as we think we're free of the noise of this world or the cares and worries of our life, we let up on our focus on the One who brings us that peace and security, laying ourselves prone to be caught up all over again. How I long to always be in the peace that is only found in God. To consistently be in this world but not of this world.
Key Verse:Ephesians 4:32 "Be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you." (NLT)
After putting his wife on the flight for a visit to her parents, Ken made his way back to their car, remembering her smile. She had lingered for their final embrace.
When he reached the car, he noticed a letter. He opened it and could scarcely believe the words were real. She was leaving him! It was a note of farewell. She said she no longer loved him -- or God. Two years of marriage evaporated right before his eyes.
Memories suddenly had a double edge. Bewildered and confused, he drove to an empty home. Ken knew that he needed to forgive, as Christ would. But what did that really mean in the reality of this shocking situation?
Somehow, through the blurry reality of his hurt, God's Word became clear. "Be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you" (Ephesians 4:32, NLT).
Thankfully, that is exactly what Ken decided to do -- to obey God in spite of his terrible pain.
I wish I could report a positive ending to the story about this marriage. However, tragically, Ken's offer of forgiveness and reconciliation to his wife was spurned, and a divorce followed. The marriage was not repaired.
Reconciliation was available to Ken and his wife, but another route was chosen. Reconciliation always takes two parties, and only one was willing in Ken's case.
Still, the choice of forgiveness is available to all. Those who choose to forgive find freedom. Those who choose to have an unforgiving spirit experience bondage. They think they are hurting the other person by holding a grudge when in fact, they are hurting themselves.
Others simply can't forgive themselves. They suffer emotional imprisonment due to guilt over some wrong thing they did. They may even believe that God can't forgive them of this sin. In both situations, the person held hostage by an inability to forgive doesn't understand God's divine pardon.
Paul tells us in the Bible that God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8) That means while we were God's enemy, doing bad things against Him, He forgave us. Those who receive God's forgiveness through Jesus Christ find no condemnation. In other words, there is nothing you can do that God won't pardon.
Having received Christ's forgiveness, we should do likewise and pardon others as well. Matthew explains why it's wise to follow Christ's example. "If you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins (Matthew 6:15).
Forgiveness is for our benefit. Doing so brings freedom from guilt, sin and harbored resentment. Your situation may not change, but your heart eventually will. Peace replaces bitterness as the chains of bondage are broken through our obedience to forgive, show kindness, and strive toward reconciliation.
When you and I are faced with similar situations, whether in marriage, business, or other relationships, we should always be ready and willing to seek reconciliation. We need to forgive others as Christ forgave us.
Prayer for Today:
Dear Lord, thank you for pardoning me. Out of a grateful heart and in obedience, I choose to forgive those who have hurt me. I trust that you will work in my heart so that I may let go of the pain and be set free from the burden I carry. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
If you're able to do so, go to the person you need to forgive and tell them you have let go of the past. No matter what their response may be, this action will help you heal.
Is there someone you need to forgive today?
What has been the benefit of holding on to your resentment?
What can you gain from being willing to forgive?
If God has forgiven you completely, then why not forgive yourself?
In Christ, there is no condemnation.
Matthew 6:14, "For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you." (NIV)
Matthew 18:21, "Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?" (NIV)
Luke 6:37, "Do not judge and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven." (NIV)
Luke 17:3, "So watch yourselves. If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him." (NIV)