the LORD delivers him in times of trouble.
2 The LORD will protect him and preserve his life;
he will bless him in the land
and not surrender him to the desire of his foes.
3 The LORD will sustain him on his sickbed
and restore him from his bed of illness.
4 I said, "O LORD, have mercy on me;
heal me, for I have sinned against you."
5 My enemies say of me in malice,
"When will he die and his name perish?"
6 Whenever one comes to see me,
he speaks falsely, while his heart gathers slander;
then he goes out and spreads it abroad.
7 All my enemies whisper together against me;
they imagine the worst for me, saying,
8 "A vile disease has beset him;
he will never get up from the place where he lies."
9 Even my close friend, whom I trusted,
he who shared my bread,
has lifted up his heel against me.
10 But you, O LORD, have mercy on me;
raise me up, that I may repay them.
11 I know that you are pleased with me,
for my enemy does not triumph over me.
12 In my integrity you uphold me
and set me in your presence forever.
13 Praise be to the LORD, the God of Israel,
from everlasting to everlasting.
Amen and Amen.
We spent time riding bikes and playing various games. Seems like we were outside constantly during the summers. I remember a couple of summers, probably when I was about 9 or 10 years old, that we spent a lot of time listening to a small transistor radio. It ran on a 9-volt battery so we could take it outside. We could pretty much only get one or two stations on it and the one we listened to was the "pop" station out of Lima, Ohio. It seems like they always had one of those contests going where you were trying to be the tenth caller or something in order to win something. We spent a lot of time running inside the house to dial the phone but we never got through.
Three songs really stick in my mind from back then. "Band on the Run" by Paul McCartney. "Seasons in the Sun" by Terry Jacks. And "Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree" by Tony Orlando and Dawn. Sure, I can remember many other songs if I try but those three really stick out in my mind.
A song about running from the law, one about going to jail, and one about getting out of jail. Wow. The 70s were special times.
I wonder what songs Evan will remember from his childhood. I don't listen much to today's popular music. I may not even recognize it if I hear it. Especially if Snoop Dog getting arrested for the umpteenth time yesterday is any indication, I suspect that some of the songs have the same subject matter as those I recall from my childhood. But definitely to a different beat.
And the Lord said, "Who will entice Ahab into attacking Ramoth Gilead and going to his death there?" One suggested this, and another that. - 1 Kings 22:20
There are few times we get a glimpse of what goes on in Heaven. Here is one instance when the angels were conferring with the Lord about the judgment of King Ahab for his sin and who was going to set up Ahab for this judgment.
If God wanted to use you to impact your world for Jesus Christ, what circumstances would have to be created in order for you to respond to His call? Would prospering you materially encourage you to this end? Would a major change in what you are presently doing be necessary? What would your response be should God and the angels conclude that the only way to move you into a position of fulfilling God's purposes was to remove some things that might be very dear to you? Would you agree with their plan if you knew this would be the only way you would achieve the purposes for which God made you? Hard questions, aren't they?
This is the very thing God does in many who have been called for a special mission. Moses had to be stripped of his royal position in the family of Egypt and sit in the desert for 40 years. The apostle Paul had to be knocked to the ground, blinded, and receive a personal visitation from Jesus. The 12 disciples had to leave their jobs for three years to follow Christ. Imagine what kind of disruption this had on their lives. There are many examples of God bringing major upheaval in the lives of those He called for His purposes. Why?
The reason is that we do not seek God with a whole heart in times of prosperity and comfort. Prosperity and comfort tend to breed complacency and satisfaction. It is rare to find the man or woman who seeks God with a whole heart who does so simply from a grateful heart. We often must have pain or crisis to motivate us. Eventually, that crisis bridges us to a new calling, and we embrace that calling if we are open to the Holy Spirit's work in us. We can actually thank God for the change that was required to get us to this place, but it is not without anguish of heart.
Would you be willing to sit in the strategic planning session for your life and agree with the plans God has for your life? Could you give God complete freedom to implement that plan, no matter the cost? Ask God to give you the grace and trust in His love for you to say "yes."
Lisa immediately reached for the phone. Because I was thinking the plunger would be better at unclogging the drain than the telephone, I asked her, “What are you doing?”
“I’m calling Ed,” she said.
“Ed!?! Do we have to?” I whined. You must understand, Ed is a good plumber. I will give him that but he is extremely rude. He’s always saying mean things to me – usually implying that if I was a “real man” I’d be able to do my own plumbing. He also, well, whenever he bends over to get under the sink, he, well, he breaks wind. It’s really quite repulsive. There’s one more thing you need to know about Ed and that is that he’s a very short man. We call him the “elf plumber” in fact. But not to his face. Of course, his stature is probably handy in that he doesn’t have to bend down real far to get under the sink.
So, Lisa went ahead and called Ed. As always, he promised to be right over and, again as always, he showed up in just a couple of minutes, marching in the back door and into the kitchen saying, “You know, Todd. I am not sure why that sweet little lady of yours puts up with you. Any man should be able to do his own plumbing.”
I replied “But we just love supporting you, Ed.”
So, he set to work and, of course, he ripped a big one as he bent down to get under the sink. But, fortunately, Ed works fast. Within just a couple of minutes, he had the drain cleared and everything was in order. “I’ll send you the bill, Todd. It needs to come out of your paycheck, not Lisa’s though,” he said.
We followed him out to his truck and chatted some along the way. Well, Lisa and Ed chatted. I stayed quiet. Once he was in his truck where he couldn’t see us, I proceeded to say a few things about what I really think of Ed. Lisa stopped me, though, and said, “I know he's not the most pleasant man but one thing you have to admit -- that Rude Elf There – Ed - Knows Drain, Dear.
and I feel weak. 13Please show that you care and come to my rescue. Hurry and help me! 14Disappoint and confuse all who want me dead; turn away and disgrace all who want to hurt me. 15Embarrass and shame all of those who say, "Just look at you now!" 16Our LORD, let your worshipers rejoice and be glad. They love you for saving them, so let them always say, "The LORD is wonderful!" 17I am poor and needy, but, LORD God, you care about me, and you come to my rescue. Please hurry and help.
I replied, “I am doing very well, how are you?”
They said, again practically in unison, ”We’re very happy to be here. These mint shakes McDonalds is selling at Christmas are delicious.”
I said, “Oh, are they? I must try one. Is that what all of those empty cups are from, too?”
"Yes, yes," they said. "We really like these milk shakes."
A bit intrigued, I asked them, “Is that all you’re doing, sitting here drinking mint milk shakes?”
And they replied, “Oh, yes, that is pretty much it. We, we chew!”
I said, “What do you mean, you chew?”
And they again said, more insistently, “We, we chew!”
“Really, now,” I said. “You don’t chew a milk shake, you drink a milk shake.”
I was about to tell them that the old McDonalds shakes did have a gritty texture, which I always liked, and that you could sort of chew them, when they again said “We we chew!”
So, finally, I said, “I just don't get it. Milk shakes are something you drink, not chew!"
To which they replied “Yes, yes. But, we we chew a Merry Christmas!”
and not sin in what I say.
I will hold my tongue
when the ungodly are around me.”
2 But as I stood there in silence—
not even speaking of good things—
the turmoil within me grew worse.
3 The more I thought about it,
the hotter I got,
igniting a fire of words:
4 “Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be.
Remind me that my days are numbered—
how fleeting my life is.
5 You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand.
My entire lifetime is just a moment to you;
at best, each of us is but a breath.”
6 We are merely moving shadows,
and all our busy rushing ends in nothing.
We heap up wealth,
not knowing who will spend it.
7 And so, Lord, where do I put my hope?
My only hope is in you.
8 Rescue me from my rebellion.
Do not let fools mock me.
9 I am silent before you; I won’t say a word,
for my punishment is from you.
10 But please stop striking me!
I am exhausted by the blows from your hand.
11 When you discipline us for our sins,
you consume like a moth what is precious to us.
Each of us is but a breath.
12 Hear my prayer, O Lord!
Listen to my cries for help!
Don’t ignore my tears.
For I am your guest—
a traveler passing through,
as my ancestors were before me.
13 Leave me alone so I can smile again
before I am gone and exist no more.
Isn't the old saying "starve a cold and feed a fever"? If so, then I am in luck because I have come down with a nasty cold here at the start of the two-day period of prayer and fasting for Evan's school. (If the old saying is actually "feed a cold and starve a fever," then I have a problem on my hands.)
This is the first time I have ever fasted for spiritual purposes. If I have ever before gone without food, it has been for, shall I say, intestinal purposes. We had a prayer meeting this morning at the school to kick things off. My stomach was making absolutely horrible noises the entire time. Not because of hunger but because of all the post nasal drip I have going right now. Of course, the others there praying didn't know that. I did share with them that this is the first time I have ever fasted. I can just imagine, as they listened to my stomach sound like a caged wildcat, they were probably thinking "Poor Todd, he's not going to make it two hours with this fasting thing, let alone two days!"
Changing subjects, here's another recent sunrise photo.
On Monday and Tuesday (November 27 and 28), the Christian Academy Schools board has committed to two days of prayer and fasting for the school. This is done in order to bring us into focus and in deeper touch with God as we embark on a 6 – 9 month process of seeking and implementing His ongoing vision for the school. The school has been truly blessed over the years and at this point, with record enrollment and ever-increasing programs, we believe that God is calling the school to that next step of faith and that next bit of growth, all for building His kingdom.
I personally do not believe that a Christian-based education is for everyone. In fact, I believe that we’d be really missing the boat if all Christian students were in Christian schools. However, I do know that it is the right choice for many families and students; it has been for our family. I also believe that many strong Christian leaders of tomorrow are being molded in Christian schools today. That is why the mission of CAS has become so important to me. I know that the school is having an impact on our community (as well as the greater world as our students go on to college and careers) today and will in the future as well.
I will covet your prayers for the school during this time – please pray for the board, the administration and staff, the students and their families, and our larger community. Please pray that, together, we will discover God’s vision for the school and have the faith and courage to pursue it.
Thank you so much.
The last few mornings, I have been up and able to enjoy some quiet time watching the sun rise. Usually, I am hurrying around and racing for work at that hour but, with Thanksgiving, that hasn't been the case. Over the past three days, I have been blessed with three beautiful sunrises. Each one different in terms of color and cloud formation. The first was a very foggy morning and you could see the colors, diffused and mixed, breaking through the clouds. The second morning was clear and the colors were distinct. At one point, a distinct V-shape formed in the sky unliked anything I've ever seen before. And, on the third day, the colors were their most glorious ranging from reds to orange and yellow along with blue, gray, and turquoise.
It made me think some about how the sun is always rising somewhere. Across the globe, at every second, someone is enjoying the beauty of a sunrise. And, of course, someone else is enjoying the beauty of a sunset.
I do need to read the Bible more. As in the story from John 6 of the boy's few loaves and fishes which Jesus used to feed 5,000 with plenty left over at the end, God has given us so much to go on in our journeys. Yes, oftentimes it is just one step at a time that is revealed to us but there is always so much there for us in His Word and His majestic creation. So much to feed and inspire us if we only take the time to stop and feast in all that is His.
1-4After this, Jesus went across the Sea of Galilee (some call it Tiberias). A huge crowd followed him, attracted by the miracles they had seen him do among the sick. When he got to the other side, he climbed a hill and sat down, surrounded by his disciples. It was nearly time for the Feast of Passover, kept annually by the Jews.
5-6When Jesus looked out and saw that a large crowd had arrived, he said to Philip, "Where can we buy bread to feed these people?" He said this to stretch Philip's faith. He already knew what he was going to do.
7Philip answered, "Two hundred silver pieces wouldn't be enough to buy bread for each person to get a piece."
8-9One of the disciples—it was Andrew, brother to Simon Peter—said, "There's a little boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But that's a drop in the bucket for a crowd like this."
10-11Jesus said, "Make the people sit down." There was a nice carpet of green grass in this place. They sat down, about five thousand of them. Then Jesus took the bread and, having given thanks, gave it to those who were seated. He did the same with the fish. All ate as much as they wanted.
12-13When the people had eaten their fill, he said to his disciples, "Gather the leftovers so nothing is wasted." They went to work and filled twelve large baskets with leftovers from the five barley loaves.
14-15The people realized that God was at work among them in what Jesus had just done. They said, "This is the Prophet for sure, God's Prophet right here in Galilee!" Jesus saw that in their enthusiasm, they were about to grab him and make him king, so he slipped off and went back up the mountain to be by himself. (John 6:1-15 The Message)
1 Do not fret because of evil men or be envious of those who do wrong;
2 for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away.
3 Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
4 Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.
5 Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this:
6 He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.
7 Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.
8 Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil.
9 For evil men will be cut off, but those who hope in the LORD will inherit the land.
10 A little while, and the wicked will be no more; though you look for them, they will not be found.
11 But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace.
12 The wicked plot against the righteous and gnash their teeth at them;
13 but the Lord laughs at the wicked, for he knows their day is coming.
14 The wicked draw the sword and bend the bow to bring down the poor and needy, to slay those whose ways are upright.
15 But their swords will pierce their own hearts, and their bows will be broken.
16 Better the little that the righteous have than the wealth of many wicked;
17 for the power of the wicked will be broken, but the LORD upholds the righteous.
18 The days of the blameless are known to the LORD, and their inheritance will endure forever.
19 In times of disaster they will not wither; in days of famine they will enjoy plenty.
20 But the wicked will perish: The LORD's enemies will be like the beauty of the fields, they will vanish—vanish like smoke.
21 The wicked borrow and do not repay, but the righteous give generously;
22 those the LORD blesses will inherit the land, but those he curses will be cut off.
23 If the LORD delights in a man's way, he makes his steps firm;
24 though he stumble, he will not fall, for the LORD upholds him with his hand.
25 I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread.
26 They are always generous and lend freely; their children will be blessed.
27 Turn from evil and do good; then you will dwell in the land forever.
28 For the LORD loves the just and will not forsake his faithful ones. They will be protected forever, but the offspring of the wicked will be cut off;
29 the righteous will inherit the land and dwell in it forever.
30 The mouth of the righteous man utters wisdom, and his tongue speaks what is just.
31 The law of his God is in his heart; his feet do not slip.
32 The wicked lie in wait for the righteous, seeking their very lives;
33 but the LORD will not leave them in their power or let them be condemned when brought to trial.
34 Wait for the LORD and keep his way. He will exalt you to inherit the land; when the wicked are cut off, you will see it.
35 I have seen a wicked and ruthless man flourishing like a green tree in its native soil,
36 but he soon passed away and was no more; though I looked for him, he could not be found.
37 Consider the blameless, observe the upright; there is a future for the man of peace.
38 But all sinners will be destroyed; the future of the wicked will be cut off.
39 The salvation of the righteous comes from the LORD; he is their stronghold in time of trouble.
40 The LORD helps them and delivers them; he delivers them from the wicked and saves them, because they take refuge in him.
will never be noticed. Words gutter from his mouth, dishwater dirty. Can't remember when he did anything decent. Every time he goes to bed, he fathers another evil plot. When he's loose on the streets, nobody's safe. He plays with fire and doesn't care who gets burned.
5-6 God's love is meteoric, his loyalty astronomic, his purpose titanic, his verdicts oceanic. Yet in his largeness nothing gets lost; Not a man, not a mouse, slips through the cracks.
7-9 How exquisite your love, O God! How eager we are to run under your wings, to eat our fill at the banquet you spread as you fill our tankards with Eden spring water. You're a fountain of cascading light, and you open our eyes to light.
10-12 Keep on loving your friends; do your work in welcoming hearts. Don't let the bullies kick me around, the moral midgets slap me down. Send the upstarts sprawling flat on their faces in the mud.
Attack my attackers!
2Shield me and help me.
3Aim your spear at everyone
who hunts me down,
but promise to save me.
4Let all who want to kill me
Chase away and confuse
all who plan to harm me.
5Send your angel after them
and let them be like straw
in the wind.
6Make them run in the dark
on a slippery road,
as your angel chases them.
7I did them no harm,
but they hid a net
to trap me,
and they dug a deep pit
to catch and kill me.
8Surprise them with disaster!
Trap them in their own nets
and let them fall and rot
in the pits they have dug.
9I will celebrate and be joyful
because you, LORD,
have saved me.
10Every bone in my body
"No one is like the LORD!"
You protect the helpless
from those in power;
you save the poor and needy
from those who hurt them.
11Liars accuse me of crimes
I know nothing about.
12They repay evil for good,
and I feel all alone.
13When they were sick,
I wore sackcloth and went without food. I truly prayed for them, 14as I would for a friend
or a relative.
I was in sorrow and mourned,
as I would for my mother.
15I have stumbled,
and worthless liars
I don't even know
surround me and sneer.
16Worthless people make fun and never stop laughing.
17But all you do is watch!
When will you do something?
Save me from the attack
of those vicious lions.
18And when your people meet,
I will praise you
and thank you, Lord,
in front of them all.
19Don't let my brutal enemies
be glad because of me.
They hate me for no reason.
Don't let them wink
behind my back.
20They say hurtful things,
and they lie to people
who want to live in peace.
21They are quick to accuse me.
They say, "You did it!
We saw you ourselves."
22You see everything, LORD!
Please don't keep silent
or stay so far away.
23Fight to defend me, Lord God,
24and prove that I am right
by your standards.
Don't let them laugh at me
25or say to each other,
"Now we've got what we want!
We'll gobble him down!"
26Disappoint and confuse
all who are glad
to see me in trouble,
but disgrace and embarrass
my proud enemies
who say to me,
"You are nothing!"
27Let all who want me to win
be happy and joyful.
From now on let them say,
"The LORD is wonderful!
God is glad when all goes well
for his servant."
28Then I will shout all day,
"Praise the LORD God!
He did what was right."
I am thankful for Lisa and Evan, for other family members, for wonderfully inspiring and encouraging friends (who I grow to appreciate more each day), and for all of the "stuff" and "things" which make my life so incredibly comfortable. But, most of all, I hope that I am thankful for God's promise and for His unending faithfulness to me.
How do we live out such thankfulness that, as richly blessed as we are, ought to permeate every cubic inch of our beings? Words are one thing -- words of thankfulness, and of praise. But talk is cheap as they say. Words can either be empty and hollow with no substance nor action to back them up or they can be sincere, rich, and full, backed up by actions.
Serving others is the best form of thankfulness for blessings that I can possibly imagine. This is a hurting world. Opportunities for service abound. I pray that I can live a life of service, showing love to others, responding to God's call, even down to things like picking up litter in the street when I see it. But, it is so tough. Keeping an eye on our thankfulness -- keeping that in front of us all year long instead of just at Thanksgiving -- provides the inspiration and the drive to serve. Again, it's unfortunate that our calendar only has one official day of reminder for thankfilness each year. We must make it last throughout the year.
In trying to relay this to my co-workers recently, I contrasted Ego with Self Esteem. Let me try to paint a picture of the difference and then we will look at it in more detail. Here is my analogy of Ego vs Self Esteem
I am friends with a former professional wrestler. He was a “good guy” of wrestling and he is not at all this way in his personal life but, the fact is that professional wrestling is all about Ego – huge, huge Ego. That is what they are all about. The whole professional wrestling schtick represents the very worst of what Ego is – they must destroy others in order to build themselves up.
On the other hand, we recently went to see the Moscow Ballet perform The Nutcracker Suite and, I am telling you, those guys who will put on white tights and dance ballet in Swan Lake, The Nutcracker, or the like? Now THAT is Self Esteem. They get up there and dance around in something that they really ought to wear a skirt over because they know that their worth as individuals is inherent -- God given. Unlike Ego, what they have is NOT something that others have to give to him
Anyone could go into the steel cage with tons of noisy fans, be the intimidator, and have the world revolve around them for a few minutes as they ride on their ego. But get up on a stage and dance around in skintight tights – showing your religion as they say -- that requires something else! Self Esteem. That sense of feeling good about yourself and about everyone around you because of each individual’s innate worth as a human being.
Let’s look further …
What marks Ego?
Convinced that others don’t treat you right
The inability to come alongside others as an equal
Desire to always have a pecking order
Does not take suggestions or criticism well
Always seeks compliments and approval from others
Very much into titles and hierarchical structure
Never at peace – always upset with someone or something
Always feels “put upon”
Gains personal worth by putting others down
End result: Ego’s ultimate focus is on “self,” not team performance
Ego is a bad thing – unhealthy for any team
Let’s contrast Ego with Self Esteem:
Personal peace comes from within
Realizes and respects the inherent worth of all individuals
Takes suggestions well
Does not see others as a threat
Recognizes that others help them and wants to help others in return
Will come gently alongside others to help them, not to belittle them
Celebrates the accomplishments of others
Focuses on team performance not on their “self”
A good thing – healthy because of team focus, not self focus
To me, there’s a funny thing about Ego – it usually involves the pot calling the kettle black. I told my co-workers that, if they’re thinking that they don’t have an ego issue (but perhaps everyone else does), I suggest they set aside some time for some serious self-reflection. If, on the other hand, they really are involved in self reflection and thinking about whether they carry excessive Ego, they probably have Self Esteem and not a high Ego. Folks with self esteem spend time reflecting on themselves and keeping that Ego in check.
I told everyone that we simply do not have space for big egos at Team Classic. We must work and perform together as a well-functioning team at all times. To put it bluntly, I asked them to spend some time thinking about this. If Ego drives their behavior, I feel that they have two choices. They can either check their ego at the door when they come to work each day (in which case they are welcome to take it back home with them each night if they wish) or, please, for the sake of all of us, they can find someplace else to work. I closed with instruction to buckle down and focus on working as a team, not as a bunch of individuals who like to finger point or walk around with hurt feelings.
I was serious about everything I said but, after the meeting, I could immediately tell that those who, in my experience, do cause issues with team dynamics due to their Egos, certainly did not take to heart what I said. However, I am going to start a series of “team talk” meetings with small groups of team members over the next several months. Hopefully, during the course of that, we can start to live out a little more introspection on the part of all of us.
1 I will praise the Lord at all times.
I will constantly speak his praises.
2 I will boast only in the Lord;
let all who are helpless take heart.
3 Come, let us tell of the Lord’s greatness;
let us exalt his name together.
4 I prayed to the Lord, and he answered me.
He freed me from all my fears.
5 Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy;
no shadow of shame will darken their faces.
6 In my desperation I prayed, and the Lord listened;
he saved me from all my troubles.
7 For the angel of the Lord is a guard;
he surrounds and defends all who fear him.
8 Taste and see that the Lord is good.
Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!
9 Fear the Lord, you his godly people,
for those who fear him will have all they need.
10 Even strong young lions sometimes go hungry,
but those who trust in the Lord will lack no good thing.
11 Come, my children, and listen to me,
and I will teach you to fear the Lord.
12 Does anyone want to live a life
that is long and prosperous?
13 Then keep your tongue from speaking evil
and your lips from telling lies!
14 Turn away from evil and do good.
Search for peace, and work to maintain it.
15 The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right;
his ears are open to their cries for help.
16 But the Lord turns his face against those who do evil;
he will erase their memory from the earth.
17 The Lord hears his people when they call to him for help.
He rescues them from all their troubles.
18 The Lord is close to the brokenhearted;
he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.
19 The righteous person faces many troubles,
but the Lord comes to the rescue each time.
20 For the Lord protects the bones of the righteous;
not one of them is broken!
21 Calamity will surely overtake the wicked,
and those who hate the righteous will be punished.
22 But the Lord will redeem those who serve him.
No one who takes refuge in him will be condemned.
it is fitting for the upright to praise him.
2 Praise the LORD with the harp;
make music to him on the ten-stringed lyre.
3 Sing to him a new song;
play skillfully, and shout for joy.
4 For the word of the LORD is right and true;
he is faithful in all he does.
5 The LORD loves righteousness and justice;
the earth is full of his unfailing love.
6 By the word of the LORD were the heavens made,
their starry host by the breath of his mouth.
7 He gathers the waters of the sea into jars;
he puts the deep into storehouses.
8 Let all the earth fear the LORD;
let all the people of the world revere him.
9 For he spoke, and it came to be;
he commanded, and it stood firm.
10 The LORD foils the plans of the nations;
he thwarts the purposes of the peoples.
11 But the plans of the LORD stand firm forever,
the purposes of his heart through all generations.
12 Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD,
the people he chose for his inheritance.
13 From heaven the LORD looks down
and sees all mankind;
14 from his dwelling place he watches
all who live on earth-
15 he who forms the hearts of all,
who considers everything they do.
16 No king is saved by the size of his army;
no warrior escapes by his great strength.
17 A horse is a vain hope for deliverance;
despite all its great strength it cannot save.
18 But the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him,
on those whose hope is in his unfailing love,
19 to deliver them from death
and keep them alive in famine.
20 We wait in hope for the LORD;
he is our help and our shield.
21 In him our hearts rejoice,
for we trust in his holy name.
22 May your unfailing love rest upon us, O LORD,
even as we put our hope in you.
"I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6).
I was passing through immigration in a small Central American country this week and became rather intrigued with their random selection process in customs. As you approach the customs exit, there is a large signal light that looks exactly like those at traffic intersections.
After the customs officer finds your papers to be in order, he instructs you to press a button below the light. If it turns green, you are free to go, but a red signal puts you in an inspection line for a rather comprehensive review. I had watched the process for about ten minutes while I stood in line. I was trying to figure out a pattern and there was none.
It might flash red three times in a row and then green for the next ten times. I gave up trying to figure out how I would fare. It was an exercise of chance, totally beyond my control, so I relaxed and waited my turn.
I thought about that's how it will be when I reach the pearly gates, only it won't be an exercise of chance, as the outcome will have been predetermined by me before I leave this good old earth.
I also noticed, as I stood in line, that the customs lights were missing one thing usually found at an intersection... a yellow light. Yep, it was red or green with no in between, with no time to make a made dash to beat the red light. It was all or nothing. Either you were in or you were out. There was no middle turf or time to make up your mind.
I don't believe that God's heavenly admission lights have a yellow or caution light either. When your case comes up for heavenly review, either you're on or you're out. And, it's not a matter of chance either. It's a matter of grace. And, I won't push the button.... God will, as the decision is His, but his decision is based on my earthly acceptance and the forgiveness of my sin. Paul writes in Romans that if I confess with my mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in my heart that God raised Him from the dead, I will be saved. That sounds like a plan to me.
As I drove away from the airport I thought about the heavenly process, I did so with an assurance that I have already arranged for a green light. It won't be a game of chance. It is a done deal ...... signed, sealed and delivered.
And, oh by the way, if you are wondering how I fared in the customs line, I got a green light and was out in no time. This green light was good luck, but the one waiting for me in heaven is good theology.
1 Count yourself lucky, how happy you must be— you get a fresh start,
your slate's wiped clean.
2 Count yourself lucky—
God holds nothing against you
and you're holding nothing back from him.
3 When I kept it all inside,
my bones turned to powder,
my words became daylong groans.
4 The pressure never let up;
all the juices of my life dried up.
5 Then I let it all out;
I said, "I'll make a clean breast of my failures to God."
Suddenly the pressure was gone—
my guilt dissolved,
my sin disappeared.
6 These things add up. Every one of us needs to pray;
when all hell breaks loose and the dam bursts
we'll be on high ground, untouched.
7 God's my island hideaway,
keeps danger far from the shore,
throws garlands of hosannas around my neck.
8 Let me give you some good advice;
I'm looking you in the eye
and giving it to you straight:
9 "Don't be ornery like a horse or mule
that needs bit and bridle
to stay on track."
10 God-defiers are always in trouble;
God-affirmers find themselves loved
every time they turn around.
11 Celebrate God.
All you honest hearts, raise the roof!
1 In you, O LORD, I have taken refuge;
let me never be put to shame;
deliver me in your righteousness.
2 Turn your ear to me,
come quickly to my rescue;
be my rock of refuge,
a strong fortress to save me.
3 Since you are my rock and my fortress,
for the sake of your name lead and guide me.
4 Free me from the trap that is set for me,
for you are my refuge.
5 Into your hands I commit my spirit;
redeem me, O LORD, the God of truth.
6 I hate those who cling to worthless idols;
I trust in the LORD.
7 I will be glad and rejoice in your love,
for you saw my affliction
and knew the anguish of my soul.
8 You have not handed me over to the enemy
but have set my feet in a spacious place.
9 Be merciful to me, O LORD, for I am in distress;
my eyes grow weak with sorrow,
my soul and my body with grief.
10 My life is consumed by anguish
and my years by groaning;
my strength fails because of my affliction,
and my bones grow weak.
11 Because of all my enemies,
I am the utter contempt of my neighbors;
I am a dread to my friends—
those who see me on the street flee from me.
12 I am forgotten by them as though I were dead;
I have become like broken pottery.
13 For I hear the slander of many;
there is terror on every side;
they conspire against me
and plot to take my life.
14 But I trust in you, O LORD;
I say, "You are my God."
15 My times are in your hands;
deliver me from my enemies
and from those who pursue me.
16 Let your face shine on your servant;
save me in your unfailing love.
17 Let me not be put to shame, O LORD,
for I have cried out to you;
but let the wicked be put to shame
and lie silent in the grave.
18 Let their lying lips be silenced,
for with pride and contempt
they speak arrogantly against the righteous.
19 How great is your goodness,
which you have stored up for those who fear you,
which you bestow in the sight of men
on those who take refuge in you.
20 In the shelter of your presence you hide them
from the intrigues of men;
in your dwelling you keep them safe
from accusing tongues.
21 Praise be to the LORD,
for he showed his wonderful love to me
when I was in a besieged city.
22 In my alarm I said,
"I am cut off from your sight!"
Yet you heard my cry for mercy
when I called to you for help.
23 Love the LORD, all his saints!
The LORD preserves the faithful,
but the proud he pays back in full.
24 Be strong and take heart,
all you who hope in the LORD.
My school always had two classes for each grade. Very few students actually lived "in town" like we did. Most students lived on farms in the surrounding area. Generally, I was with the same kids every year but there was a little bit of mixing each year. I suspect that the teachers cast lots over which students they had in their class each year. I am sure that some students were sought after and others, well, not so much. I won't say which camp I was probably in. :-) I like Evan's school because there is only one grade for each class. The kids really become very close to one another. That is fun to watch.
My third grade teacher was Miss Guthrie. She lived in town, next door to my grandparents in fact. She was the quintessential 1950s elementary teacher. Nevermind the fact that I had her in 1972. She had taught for about 30 years before I had her and I know she taught for quite a number of years after as well. We didn't damage her too much I guess.
Each day in Miss Guthrie's class would start with two things. The Pledge of Allegiance and The Lord's Prayer. Yes, The Lord's Prayer. In a public school. That was a pretty neat way to start each day and, no, the ACLU wasn't pounding on the door demanding that Miss Guthrie be burned at the stake. During the course of the year, each student had one week during which they led the Pledge and the Prayer.
My week was when I had stage fright. For the life of me, on Monday of my week, I could not remember how to start The Lord's Prayer. There I stood at the front of the class, all of my classmates facing me. Miss Guthrie, too, in the back of the room. I stalled. I waited for all of the kids to be quiet and very still, attempting to appear like I was trying to strike up a certain reverence for the moment. Fact is, I was speechless. I knew how The Lord's Prayer started but darned if it was coming to me. I debated whether, if I just made some indistinct guttural sound, everyone wouldn't start praying and then I'd be just fine. But I stood there in silence. Finally, realizing my apparent predicament, Miss Guthrie started the prayer and we all followed. I didn't have any problems the rest of the week.
I guess that's my third grade story. Sort of meaningful as I think of Evan being in third grade and in a school where formal group prayer is a regular part of their day. I like that. Someday I will reminisce about the "poofy shirts" I wore in second grade. Yes, I think Jerry Seinfeld stole the idea from me. And, maybe next year, I will talk about my fourth grade disaster with basketball. Good stuff.
Today, as I travel around, I encounter many cities which have evening or night-time "ghost tours." Often walking, carriage, or bus tours, these tours take the curious past buildings that are supposedly haunted by tortured souls mourning over lost loves, tragic lives, or grave injuries. I see this most often in eastern seaboard cities. I guess because they have old buildings and one can imagine old buildings having well, old ghosts.
I guess I am curious, do you believe in ghosts? While I believe that across time and space there are dimensions we cannot even begin to imagine, and I believe that God can and sometimes does send angels to earth, I don't think I quite buy into the stories of tortured ghosts roaming around old buildings at night opening and closing doors and walking up and down steps. If they were really around, I think they would have at least discovered late night cable by now and be spending their nights watching infomercials for cleaning agents and cheap jewelry.
Someday, though, maybe I will ask God whether ghosts really did haunt old buildings in eastern seaboard cities. And perhaps He'll prove my current thoughts wrong and respond, "Oy Vey! You try dealing with a couple of billion souls and see if you don't have one get stuck somewhere now and then. Now, I remember back in our "expansion" of 1863, we were having to stick them everywhere because we just didn't have enough space. I intended to retrieve them all but, I guess, a few got forgotten here and there. What's a guy going to do? I'm not as young as I used to be, you know!"
That brings up a question, do you, like me, think of God as having a funny accent? I can't get over that. But it's an improvement over my old view where He was just this judge sitting on His very tall throne who we'd all have to parade in front of as he dealt out our judgments. "... deal, deal, no deal, definitely no deal, deal, sorry about your luck, Chuck, deal, no deal ..."
Now, I see the gates into heaven more like immigration into Mexico. As you pass through, you either get a green light meaning you can go ahead or a red light meaning that you have to stop and have your baggage examined. (Just kidding ... well, sort of.)
1 I will exalt you, Lord, for you rescued me.
You refused to let my enemies triumph over me.
2 O Lord my God, I cried to you for help,
and you restored my health.
3 You brought me up from the grave, O Lord.
You kept me from falling into the pit of death.
4 Sing to the Lord, all you godly ones!
Praise his holy name.
5 For his anger lasts only a moment,
but his favor lasts a lifetime!
Weeping may last through the night,
but joy comes with the morning.
6 When I was prosperous, I said,
“Nothing can stop me now!”
7 Your favor, O Lord, made me as secure as a mountain.
Then you turned away from me, and I was shattered.
8 I cried out to you, O Lord.
I begged the Lord for mercy, saying,
9 “What will you gain if I die,
if I sink into the grave?
Can my dust praise you?
Can it tell of your faithfulness?
10 Hear me, Lord, and have mercy on me.
Help me, O Lord.”
11 You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing.
You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy,
12 that I might sing praises to you and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever!
1) My expectations of the world change when I maintain a positive attitude. I will see the good in things that otherwise would have seemed only very negative to me. I will recognize God at work even in the midst of chaos or tragedy.
2) My attitude will have a positive effect on those around me, bettering their lives and making them have a better attitude when they're around me.
Anyway, I think we all have witnessed the power of positive thinking. Now, it's just a matter of consistently living it out.
It occurs to me that, if you're able to read this blog (meaning that you have computer access and can read), then you are truly among a very select group -- the most blessed to have ever walked this earth. It is so important for us to not put our trust in and gain our comfort from the blessings of this world but instead from our Lord. But how hard is that? How often do I run to pleasures of this world (family and friends, comfort food, travel, a good book, a good movie, recreation time, etc.) rather than God when things are stressful? It's a scary thought.
Did you notice from my post yesterday, though, that The Message translation talks about the camel "galloping" through the eye of the needle rather than just "going" through it? Now, I suspect that The Message took far greater liberty with its translation but it did get me to thinking a bit. Whereas a whole, living, breathing, and mobile camel indeed could not gallop through the eye of a needle, a camel that has been melted down, and broken into little pieces -- a camel that has died to this world in order to live for another -- could indeed pass through the eye of a needle.
God calls those to whom much has been given to give more of themselves and their resources. As I said before, we are truly among the richest and most blessed to walk this earth today or at anytime in the past. We must hold fast to our faith in God, and seek our comfort in God, not in the things of this world. We must give up what we have in this world, and treat one another with lovingkindness and compassion. We must be broken down and poured out, dead to this world. Then, even as the world's most blessed, we can go through the eye of the needle.
I pray that I can continually make progress in living that kind of life.
"Do you have any idea how difficult it is for the rich to enter God's kingdom? Let me tell you, it's easier to gallop a camel through a needle's eye than for the rich to enter God's kingdom." -Jesus to His disciples in "The Message," Matthew 19:23-24 (Eternal)
ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.
2 Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name;
worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness.
3 The voice of the LORD is over the waters;
the God of glory thunders,
the LORD thunders over the mighty waters.
4 The voice of the LORD is powerful;
the voice of the LORD is majestic.
5 The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars;
the LORD breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon.
6 He makes Lebanon skip like a calf,
Sirion like a young wild ox.
7 The voice of the LORD strikes
with flashes of lightning.
8 The voice of the LORD shakes the desert;
the LORD shakes the Desert of Kadesh.
9 The voice of the LORD twists the oaks
and strips the forests bare.
And in his temple all cry, "Glory!"
10 The LORD sits enthroned over the flood;
the LORD is enthroned as King forever.
11 The LORD gives strength to his people;
the LORD blesses his people with peace.
I realized today that I have developed a fear of talking on the phone. For many years, I talked on the phone a lot at work. I think there were points where I figured that I was on the phone about 75% of my time at work. Then, we had other team members join us and take a large amount of that load and, particularly as the business grew, I took on other responsibilities. my phone time lessened.
Over the past year or so, I have developed an intense dislike of both placing and receiving phone calls. It does at times paralyze me and limit my effectiveness at work. I am spending time now trying to figure out what is at the root of this.
I have discussed before that I have a fear of conflict. However, relatively few of the phone calls I might make or take during the course of my typical day are even remotely related to conflict. There is the occasional call which may involve conflict and, of course, I avoid those calls at all costs.
I think, though, that I have developed a fear of people asking me to do things and then, for one reason or another, I won't be able to do them. Whether it's lack of time or other resources or just that circumstances will not permit what they're asking, I have a fear of disappointing others.
I go back to my screensaver ... "Fear God, not man." With every ounce of my body, that makes complete sense to me and it is how I want to lead my life. But, instead, there are obviously things built into my psyche, presumably because of past experiences, which bind me in fear of others and, in particular, of disappointing others.
I am sure it is in part a pride thing -- I want others to think well of me. I'd sooner avoid them altogether than end up in a sitiation where I might disappoint them. I probably also have some unrealistic thoughts in my mind of what their reaction might be. That further adds to the paralysis when I know that I need to pick up the phone.
There is so much more for me to understand about myself. I pray that God will strengthen me and give me courage and help me to work through this.
1) Is "servantship" a better word for "leadership?" If so, how often have you really seen that lived out?
2) Leadership is just as much about what you don't say as it is about what you do say and do.
If all I get from you is
I'd be better off
in the Black Hole.
2 I'm letting you know what I need,
calling out for help
And lifting my arms
toward your inner sanctum.
3-4 Don't shove me into
the same jail cell with those crooks,
With those who are
full-time employees of evil.
They talk a good line of "peace,"
then moonlight for the Devil.
Pay them back for what they've done,
for how bad they've been.
Pay them back for their long hours
in the Devil's workshop;
Then cap it with a huge bonus.
5 Because they have no idea how God works
or what he is up to,
God will smash them to smithereens
and walk away from the ruins.
6-7 Blessed be God—
he heard me praying.
He proved he's on my side;
I've thrown my lot in with him.
Now I'm jumping for joy,
and shouting and singing my thanks to him.
8-9 God is all strength for his people,
ample refuge for his chosen leader;
Save your people
and bless your heritage.
Care for them;
carry them like a good shepherd.
I don’t have the Biblical knowledge or theological training unfortunately to put my fingertips on a lot of scriptural references to support my thoughts. However, I am going to put these thoughts out here and perhaps those of you smarter and better trained than I (which would be anyone who reads this) will want to weigh in with your thoughts as well.
I believe that God blessed us with freewill and, while I do think it’s highly likely that somehow across the continuum of time and space, in a different dimension that I cannot even begin to imagine, God knows ultimately how everything turns out – who amongst us will spend eternity with Him and who won’t – I do not think that God controls our every action and thought from minute to minute. If that goes for me and for those around me, therefore, it is hard for me to be highly expectational of life on earth.
I think that God brings people into my pathway who face choices of how they respond to the Holy Spirit calling them, just as he blesses me with similar opportunities. Their choice ultimately will depend largely upon where they are in living out the call God places on all our lives but their choice may also be impacted by many other things – the weather, how they are feeling, their attitude, my attitude, and possible third party intervention from those around us. If I always expect those around me to be able to follow through and live out being “Jesus with skin on,” I am going to be disappointed … frequently … because they simply are not always going to fulfill that role. That is why I say I am not highly expectational in my faith. All kinds of garbage is going to happen in life, regardless of my faith, and that is just how it is.
I am, of course, expectational in terms of the faith I have in God that He is always with me and He gives me the power to do what the Holy Spirit calls me to do but that isn’t so much “expectation” as just a knowledge that God truly is always faithful to us, is it?
Expecting others to always reflect Christ’s love is just setting oneself up for disappointment after disappointment, isn’t it? My reward, or my happiness and joy are not to come from those around me in this life but instead from what lies ahead of me. The joy is not in the receiving of blessings but in the service of being there for others.
As a case in point, I wrote recently of my airplane experience sitting next to the woman who was very, very afraid to fly. As soon as she expressed that to me, I knew the Holy Spirit was calling me to respond to her with lovingkindness and try to put her fears to rest. I did my best to respond to that call. Honestly, I don’t know if she felt blessed by my presence. I hope that she did but perhaps she just found me to be annoying. I have that effect on people sometimes. In the end, though, I was truly blessed by the interaction I had with her. I walked away from that plane ride with the encouragement of having seen someone live up to and face her fears in a very courageous way. I was inspired by that in a way that will impact me forever.
Of course, a lot of my experiences in this world are affected by how I see God in the things happening around me. As I have grown deeper in my faith, there is no doubt that my reaction to the world has changed. I am calmer and at far greater peace because I know that God is with me and with us. I still believe that freewill on the part of all of us determines exact circumstances and situations, but ultimately I believe that, in all situations, at some point, we will be able to see where God was at work, where there were individuals responding to the Holy Spirit and being Jesus to others, and where things did end up fitting into a greater plan. In other words, don’t sweat all the “noise” in life; God is there and He is at work despite all the crazy stuff that our freewill as humans causes to happen.
So, while I am not expectational of exact circumstances and situations, I am trusting in God’s faithfulness to and love for His people. That will always prevail. Doing my best to respond to Him and remain confident in His faithfulness to us is all I really need to do.
I will probably have more on this later but feel free, please, to weigh in if you wish!
1 The LORD is my light and my salvation—
whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold of my life—
of whom shall I be afraid?
2 When evil men advance against me
to devour my flesh,
when my enemies and my foes attack me,
they will stumble and fall.
3 Though an army besiege me,
my heart will not fear;
though war break out against me,
even then will I be confident.
4 One thing I ask of the LORD,
this is what I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD
and to seek him in his temple.
5 For in the day of trouble
he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle
and set me high upon a rock.
6 Then my head will be exalted
above the enemies who surround me;
at his tabernacle will I sacrifice with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make music to the LORD.
7 Hear my voice when I call, O LORD;
be merciful to me and answer me.
8 My heart says of you, "Seek his face!"
Your face, LORD, I will seek.
9 Do not hide your face from me,
do not turn your servant away in anger;
you have been my helper.
Do not reject me or forsake me,
O God my Savior.
10 Though my father and mother forsake me,
the LORD will receive me.
11 Teach me your way, O LORD;
lead me in a straight path
because of my oppressors.
12 Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes,
for false witnesses rise up against me,
breathing out violence.
13 I am still confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the LORD
in the land of the living.
14 Wait for the LORD;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the LORD.
My parents bought my first bicycle in about 1970. And, might I add, it was a very 1970s bicycle. It was from Sears. We bought a lot from Sears back then. For young families, Sears was the WalMart of today. They sold just about everything. Of course, I don’t remember when they sold house kits but you could certainly buy your kitchen sink from them back then. And bicycles. They had lots of bikes, all carrying the Sears name, sitting in racks back near the automotive department.
My first bike was beautiful. It was a 20” bike, “stingray” style, painted purple and complete with a metallic purple banana seat. Evan tells me that today purple is a “girl’s color.” I am not sure that was the case back then. At least I hope it wasn’t because it was the color I really, really wanted. Perhaps I was more eclectic back then than I now realize. I don’t think I have ever again seen a purple bike. I used to wash and wax it regularly, even before I figured out how to ride the darned thing. I wish I still had it today because I suspect it would be quite the collector’s item but I sold it when I got my next bike.
My parents also bought my next bike and that was in about 1976. It was a used bike from about 1972 and it was one of the most unusual bikes I have ever seen. It was a Schwinn Stingray, painted green and with the high raised handlebars. It came with a green metallic banana seat which didn’t seem to be anatomically correct for my male body so I replaced it with a standard-shaped seat. It was what I would call a “grandma” seat today but no one made fun of it back in 1976. It was sort of a tan color and really didn’t look good on the bike. Anyway, the most distinguishing feature of this bike was that it was a five speed and the shifter was located on the center bar, sticking up and looking much like the gear shift in a car. It was incredibly unique. Again, maybe I was more eclectic than I realize.
I bought my next bike and I traded the green Stingray in on it. This was in 1978 and I used money that I had earned babysitting one entire summer. Actually, I was more like these peoples’ slave but that is a story for another day. Let it suffice to say that I kept care of their kids, did the laundry, cleaned the house, and fixed lunch and dinner for them. I believe the bike cost about $175 less about $15 they gave me for the trade-in. That was a whole lot of money for a bike back in 1978 – pretty much my entire summer’s earnings.
It was a Schwinn Traveler III. Most kids were riding the entry-level Schwinn Varsity 10-speed but my bright red baby was about three steps above the Varsity. It was still just a 10 speed which was state-of-the-art back then. I don’t think I ever used more than 2 or 3 gears anyway. In comparison to the Varsity, it had a better Shimano shifting mechanism and center pull brakes rather than side pull brakes. I still have it and it’s not in bad shape for 28 years old. It has some rust on the rims which happened when I had to store it outside during college and the couple of years Lisa and I lived in an apartment. These days, it sits in the garage. I pull my car in next to it every evening and have to be careful to not knock it over when I get out of the car. It pretty much just takes up space. Every spring I pump up the tires and usually take it for a quick spin but then I never ride it after that. It looks pretty old fashioned today but not enough so to have any collector value.
Remember the unique green 5-speed that I traded in on it though? It is worth about $400 – $500 today. Wow. I should have hung onto that. I will never have that bike again but, if Wonder Years reruns ever come on the television, I sure will be reminded of that bike and the happy carefree days of my youth as a child of the 70s.
But, on the way out, I was truly blessed by something. I had the opportunity to sit next to a woman who was bravely facing a major fear in her life. She had not flown since the Flight 103 crash over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988. Prior to that, she had flown a lot but something changed inside her with that event and, for the past 18 years, she had lived with a huge fear of flying ... until this past Monday when I was blessed with the opportunity to watch her overcome that fear.
She was forced by her employer to be on the flight this past Monday. She was unhappy about it but she had done her research. She knew that the type of plane we were on had a reasonably good history and had even had some modifications made to it for safety. Her husband is a private pilot and he flies all the time, including internationally. He is wanting her to go with him on an international flight in the next year or so in fact. He has told her many types how safe it is to fly, how many times she'd have to fly before being at any real risk of being in a crash. But still her fear lingered.
I quickly dug to find some commonalities with her that we could talk about during the flight. She is a professional writer. That was neat. Though she works at a place that employs 3500 people, she had heard of a relative of ours that works there. That was good. Her husband is a trumpet player and professional musician. Bing -- I had plenty of fodder to stimulate conversation during the flight as well as during the delay time we had on the ground before taking off.
Before our scheduled take-off, I could see her wiping her eyes. This was real fear. I engaged her in conversation and by the time we actually did take off, she was doing very well.
Fortunately, it was a smooth flight and we landed in Philadelphia in good shape. I congratulated her for doing so well and wished her a good business trip.
Yet the memory of her facing her fear will stay with me forever. This was a huge 18-year-long fear she was harboring. I have written before about the fears that I have when dealing with people who I don't know real well. It can be just as paralyzing as her fear of flying. She will forever be an inspiration to me.
So, even though Monday was a very odd day and we never made it to Toronto, I can clearly see God's blessing and His plan for me on that day. Wow.
I've thrown in my lot with you, God, and
I'm not budging.
2 Examine me, God, from head to foot,
order your battery of tests.
Make sure I'm fit
inside and out
3 So I never lose
sight of your love,
But keep in step with you,
never missing a beat.
4-5 I don't hang out with tricksters,
I don't pal around with thugs;
I hate that pack of gangsters,
I don't deal with double-dealers.
6-7 I scrub my hands with purest soap,
then join hands with the others in the great circle,
dancing around your altar, God,
Singing God-songs at the top of my lungs,
8-10 God, I love living with you;
your house glows with your glory.
When it's time for spring cleaning,
don't sweep me out with the quacks and crooks,
Men with bags of dirty tricks,
women with purses stuffed with bribe-money.
11-12 You know I've been aboveboard with you;
now be aboveboard with me.
I'm on the level with you, God;
I bless you every chance I get.
Barnabas played an essential role in Paul's ministry. He boldly introduced Paul to the apostles in Jerusalem (Acts 9:27), and then searched for Paul when he had fled Jerusalem to his home town of Tarsus (Acts 11:25-26). After taking Paul to Antioch, Barnabas remained with him for several years while they encouraged the church...and each other.
Being an encourager was a way of life for Barnabas. His name was originally Joseph, but prior to even meeting Paul, the apostles had begun to call him "Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement)" (Acts 4:36). Barnabas was able to evaluate other people according to their ability in Christ - an ability determined by His strength and not hindered by past failures. This allowed Barnabas to see great potential where others saw only weakness, and to encourage when others had given up.
Barnabas went with Paul on his first missionary journey where they jointly proclaimed the name of Jesus wherever they went. Another young man, named Mark, began this first missionary journey but then turned back. This apparent lack of perseverance bothered Paul so much that when he began his second missionary trip he refused to take Mark along.
Acts 15:37-39: "Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus."
Barnabas saw the Christ-given potential in young Mark and encouraged him as he had done with Paul many years before. As a result, Mark matured in his ministry and faithfully continued in his service to Jesus. He ministered along side the Apostle Peter (2 Peter 5:13), was reunited with Paul (Colossians 4:10, Philemon 24), and later wrote the earliest account of the Gospel - the Gospel of Mark.
The early church faced many difficulties - many opportunities for discouragement - but God used Barnabas to strengthen those who had been called to the front lines of battle. We can't all stand up and preach in front of large crowds or travel as missionaries to foreign lands, but we ALL have the ability to encourage those who God places in our path.
The world is full of people crying out for someone to care and believe in them. Individual lives can be changed, families can be restored, entire communities and even nations can be turned toward God, if each of us will encourage others to draw closer to our Heavenly Father, to love Him more, and to trust Him with all their heart. Let's share the love of Jesus and effectively minister by seeing others, and then taking action, as a Son of Encouragement.
Fortunately, with Evan only being eight, we have not resorted to using these lines … very often. However, as I watch other parents around me struggle with their teenage children who have made poor choices or who are going through some of the tough times of life, I really am not looking forward to being in that position someday. I can’t imagine the pain that a parent endures through all of that.
When our children are born, they are so sweet and innocent. (Aside from the occasional screaming outburst or gastronomical occurrence when we’re convinced that they must be an alien from outer space, that is.) We can view the life ahead of them through rose-colored glasses, fantasizing about how “perfect” it will be, how we will protect them from the pains of life and from the bad choices that we went through.
As they start school, our prayers for them really kick in. Prayers for physical and emotional safety and protection. Prayers for guidance in the decisions they make. Prayers for others to come alongside them in a positive way during the though times. Prayers for God’s direct intercession as they make friends and discover their life calling.
But then, somewhere in the pre-teen and teen years, reality must set in. They’re going to make some wrong choices. No matter how much we pray, no matter how much we protect them, they’re going to sometimes feel the pains of rejection, embarrassment, and confusion. They’re going to occasionally follow paths that we believe to the very core of our beings are wrong choices. As an outsider, it may be easy to tell a parent that “it’s just a phase” or “this is a learning experience for them” but, as the actual parent who has spent many years wanting the best for their child, praying and agonizing over their protection, these have to be horribly painful things to go through.
How do we, as parents, deal with that? How do we cope with this “baby” of ours, despite all of our prayers and best wishes, making what we see as bad choices? Didn’t God hear our prayers? Doesn’t he love us and our children? Isn’t he protecting our children the way we have begged him to? Did we make mistakes along the way that sent the earth off kilter and caused our kids to do insane things? What went wrong?
Part of the answer to this questioning is in realizing and embracing the fact that God does answer our prayers, just not always in the ways we expected and often not in ways that we can immediately see. How is it that we get to that point though? Certainly, faith in God’s protection and grace are imperative parts of turning our kids over to Him. The ability to later look back on difficulties and see where His hand was at work is hugely impactful. It occurs to me that if we fully and faithfully follow God’s call in our lives as parents, we will naturally carry the faith and trust that He truly is in control.
Ultimately, I think that most parents do the best we can when raising our kids. The best we can -- given the resources we have, the examples we have seen, and the paradigms we come from. We try our best to provide for them and teach them right from wrong. Are there parents who get way off track in that process? Absolutely. But I still believe that an innate sense of love that all parents have for their children along with a natural recognition of right and wrong carries us a long way.
One thing I wonder is whether we are teaching our kids the basic tenets of faith and “followship” which will carry them through life. We talk about being “in the world” but not “of it” but what do we often teach our kids? Get good grades, go to college, get a good job that you will be happy at. All things very much "of" this world. How often do we teach more than that? By these types of teachings, are we not almost guaranteeing that, in search of the shiny things "of this world," they are going to go down some wrong paths and make some poor choices?
On the other hand, are we teaching the greater things to our children?Are we teaching them to seek their “God call”? Are we teaching them that you don’t necessarily have to have a college education to do your all and give your all for Jesus? Are we teaching them that standing up for their faith is more important than anything? And most importantly, are we modeling that?
Just as an example, are we talking to them enough about possible work in various mission fields, both domestic and overseas? I read recently that, of 56,000 active missionaries outside the US right now, 20,000 are expected to retire within five years and we don’t know where the new ones are going to come from to fill the ranks. Are we encouraging our kids in ways to think about the mission field?
As the parent of an elementary student, I am realizing what an important role I need to play in setting the stage so that he will seek and find God’s call on his life. It will still pain me to see him go through the inevitable trials, and pitfalls of growing up but if I do all I can to help prepare him for his life and encourage him to be in the world but not of it, then I will pass through this world knowing that Evan is in a position of yielding to the One who is in control. And from that I will gain great parental peace.
If one ‘trains’ and disciplines his faculties and his whole being, it is in order to deepen and expand his capacity for experience, for awareness, for understanding, for a higher kind of life, a deeper and more authentic life ‘in Christ’ and ‘in the Spirit.’ The purpose of discipline is not only moral perfection (development of virtue for its own sake) but self-transcendence, transformation in Christ ‘from glory to glory, as by the Spirit of the Lord.’ The death and crucifixion of the old self, the routine man of self-seeking and conventionally social life, leads to the resurrection in Christ of a totally ‘new man,’ who is ‘one Spirit’ with Christ. This new man is not just the old man in possession of a legal certificate entitling him to a reward. He is no longer the same, and his reward is precisely this transformation that makes him no longer the isolated subject of a limited reward but ‘one with Christ’ and, in Christ, with all men. The purpose of discipline is then not only to help us ‘turn on’ and understand the inner dimensions of existence, but to transform us in Christ in such a way that we completely transcend our routine existence. (Yet in transcending it, we rediscover its existential value and solidity. Transformation is not a repudiation of ordinary life but its definitive recovery in Christ).
1 O Lord, I give my life to you.
2 I trust in you, my God!
Do not let me be disgraced,
or let my enemies rejoice in my defeat.
3 No one who trusts in you will ever be disgraced,
but disgrace comes to those who try to deceive others.
4 Show me the right path, O Lord;
point out the road for me to follow.
5 Lead me by your truth and teach me,
for you are the God who saves me.
All day long I put my hope in you.
6 Remember, O Lord, your compassion and unfailing love,
which you have shown from long ages past.
7 Do not remember the rebellious sins of my youth.
Remember me in the light of your unfailing love,
for you are merciful, O Lord.
8 The Lord is good and does what is right;
he shows the proper path to those who go astray.
9 He leads the humble in doing right,
teaching them his way.
10 The Lord leads with unfailing love and faithfulness
all who keep his covenant and obey his demands.
11 For the honor of your name, O Lord,
forgive my many, many sins.
12 Who are those who fear the Lord?
He will show them the path they should choose.
13 They will live in prosperity,
and their children will inherit the land.
14 The Lord is a friend to those who fear him.
He teaches them his covenant.
15 My eyes are always on the Lord,
for he rescues me from the traps of my enemies.
16 Turn to me and have mercy,
for I am alone and in deep distress.
17 My problems go from bad to worse.
Oh, save me from them all!
18 Feel my pain and see my trouble.
Forgive all my sins.
19 See how many enemies I have
and how viciously they hate me!
20 Protect me! Rescue my life from them!
Do not let me be disgraced, for in you I take refuge.
21 May integrity and honesty protect me,
for I put my hope in you.
22 O God, ransom Israel
from all its troubles.