|Posted on June 12, 2021 at 10:30 AM||comments (0)|
My sweet old dog Sissie has been under the weather lately. Nothing specific beyond the ravages of time. At 18 she’s deaf, nearly blind, has arthritis in every joint, and just generally wants to sleep and eat more than anything else. In spite of all that, she has moments of real joy, and I know that in her mind she’s still a puppy running through the fields with her big brothers.
But while I was researching some things to make her more comfortable, I came across a vet’s article about deafness in our pets. The Doctor said we need to remember that our animals don’t have any idea what hearing loss is, so they don’t realize they can’t hear us anymore. They just think we’ve quit talking to them. That makes me incredibly sad.
But it also made me realize that there are many times in life when we become deaf. Not physically, although it seems time has that on the agenda for us eventually, but spiritually. When the pain in our body or in our situation seems unbearable and we feel like we’re screaming out to God for relief, we start to ask ourselves WHERE IS HE? And if we don’t hear from Him immediately, we start to ask ourselves why He’s not responding - why He’s quit hearing us.
The reality is that God never stops listening, is never unaware of our cries, and never stops responding to us with loving words. We have simply become so wrapped up in the pain we are deafened by it. Our spirit becomes defeated, and head down tail tucked between our legs, we can no longer hear His voice.
With Sissie I’ve learned to spend time every day with my arms wrapped around her. I hold her close and whisper into her ear, just as if she could hear my voice. She may not be able to make out the actual words, but I know she feels the vibration and senses that I’m holding her and loving on her. In those moments, she remembers what safety is.
I have this picture in my mind of God doing the same with us. Just when we’re feeling the most isolated and lonely He stops and wraps His arms around us, stilling our agitation and whispering into our souls. We may not always hear the Father’s words, but we can rest assured that He is there. And His loving arms are available even when we don’t feel any need at all.
Psalm 23 says “thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.” He is always there trying to keep us on the right path. That rod isn’t a stick that He’s just waiting to beat us with. It’s there for directing us even when we walk through those shadowy canyons that are filled with death and evil.
In 1 Kings 19, the Prophet Elijah was looking for an answer from God. In Verses 11-13 he was told to “Go out, and stand on the mountain… The Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rock into pieces… but the Lord wasn’t in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord wasn’t in the earthquake; and then a fire, but the Lord wasn’t in the fire… but after the fire a still small voice.” And that is where Elijah finally heard God.
We can spend so much time looking for the big manifestations and miracles, we forget that God is present in our everyday moments. He is not just for us – He is with us. We get so accustomed to His presence in our lives we start to think that we’re doing everything on our own. Then some big disaster happens and we realize we haven’t heard from God in a while. But it’s really not that we haven’t heard from Him, as that we haven’t heard Him. Spiritual deafness.
I was watching a television program about 911 Dispatchers. One seasoned veteran said, “Can you imagine if everyone in the world had your number and they only called on the worst day of their life?” I can’t help but wonder if God doesn’t feel that way sometimes. He never leaves us, but we tune Him out so much we simply can’t hear Him even when He’s speaking words of love to us. Then something happens and we wonder why we don’t recognize His voice in our lives.
Our relationship with the Lord isn’t one that was created to only be developed and honed in our moments of great need. Our knowledge of God’s real character and love must be grown by recognizing His presence in the everyday moments. And acknowledging Him keeps us attuned to the sound of His whispered words.
Our real growth as Christians will come when we hear His voice in our daily lives, our biggest triumphs, and in our most profound needs. Remember, it’s not always a roar – sometimes it’s a whisper.
Be blessed my friend, God is on the throne!
|Posted on June 5, 2021 at 10:10 AM||comments (0)|
Needing to get a minor medical procedure done, I’ve spent a considerable time in various waiting rooms this past week. First there was the multiple appointments prior to deciding to do the procedure, then pre-registration several days before it, and finally the wait on the day of. I can tell you, each waiting period felt significantly different than the last because the circumstances were changed.
Everything we experience here in the natural is a reflection and a learning tool for the things that we should understand in the spiritual. So, though you might get tired of hearing it from me, I can’t help but wonder what these life lessons mean in our overall lives.
Oh, maybe the waiting wasn’t spent in an actual room, but it sometimes seems like most of our time here on earth is accomplished with bated breath, wondering what is coming. Given the circumstances of the past year or more, I’m sure that many felt like what they were waiting for was the next disaster.
As young people, the pauses can seem to be interminable. All we want to do is get onto the next big thing. With age comes wisdom (hopefully), and the experience to know that sometimes the adventure isn’t all we’d hoped for. Eventually, as time seems to speed up, it’s difficult to not look wistfully back rather than anxiously ahead.
The problem with living in a constant state of anticipation is that it can be exhausting. And the older we get, with our inevitable sense that time is starting to slip through our fingers, the more anxiety-producing it can be. Still so much to do, but so little time to get it accomplished.
If we’ve lived our lives trying to please ourselves then it’s no wonder we feel unsatisfied. Our sinful make-up causes us to believe that no matter what we have we’ll always need more. Despite success or comfort, we feel like what we really need is going to be around the next corner. And that, of course, is a moving target.
And even when we’ve tried to live our lives pleasing God we can feel unsatisfied. You’d think we’d have a better grasp on what “well done good and faithful servant means.” If we’re doing all we can - maybe not every minute, but more often than not - you’d think we could give ourselves a bit of a break. But no. We still feel a sense of something missing.
Maybe the question we need to ask is if we might be trying to please God more for ourselves than for Him. In other words, are we just trying to fulfil a mandate that we think will bring us future reward? Because that could be why satisfaction is so elusive.
You see, there’s a difference between ‘pleasing’ God and ‘trusting’ God. If we don’t completely trust in His perfect work in our lives, we will find ourselves getting farther from His will as we struggle and work to achieve some impossible goal. When we move down a path, even if it’s a road God has led us to, we have to keep our focus on the fact that it must be His way and His timing, and not our own.
Hebrews 11:6 tells us that “without faith it is impossible to please God.” The word “’faith’ as it’s used here is the noun form of the words believe or trust. In other words, we’re being told that pleasing God is only the result of trusting God.
We can work ourselves up into a lather trying to do all the right things when what He’s really asking is for us to wait and let Him use us in whatever way He needs to. And, by the way, we need to trust that we are completely safe and sheltered in the Father’s loving will. We just have to keep our listening ears on.
So it’s no wonder we spend a considerable amount of time in waiting rooms. It’s a good and safe place to be, because if we’re moving just for the sake of motion, we keep ourselves too occupied to even hear what God needs from us. One thing about those waiting rooms… they can be very quiet. And they are often a critical step in being prepared for what comes next.
Psalm 46 has one of the most quoted passages in all scripture. It says, “be still and know that I am God.” We intrinsically understand what that means and try to rest in the security of the words. But we first need to back up to the start of that beautiful chapter which says “God is our refuge and strength, a tested help in times of trouble. And so we need not fear even if the world blows up and the mountains crumble into the sea.” It’s much easier to wait when we remember who is in charge.
If we spend our lives trying to find satisfaction, we will likely go to our graves exhausted and wondering what we could have done better. But if we trust in the strength and love of our Heavenly Father, we can spend those necessary hours in the waiting room, taking the rest He’s offering and safe in the knowledge that He will work everything out for our good.
Be blessed my friend. God is on the throne!
|Posted on May 29, 2021 at 10:15 AM||comments (0)|
As my body ages, I’ve started to contemplate the wisdom of that “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” button that is available to us seniors. You know the one. It’s an unattractive piece of hardware that you wear around your neck in the unfortunate circumstance that you might trip over some unexpected hazard and find yourself in a situation you can’t escape from on your own steam.
Sadly, we never anticipate that we’ll be in a position where we’re completely helpless. Really, it’s almost a blessing that we have the ability to fool ourselves into believing that our reliable bodies will continue to perform just as they always have, in spite of evidence to the contrary. If you think about it though, the aging process is preferable to the alternative which would be death. Don’t get me wrong, I’m ready for heaven… just not this minute.
I read a health column once that said, “if you want to stay healthy as you age, don’t fall!” I suppose that’s good advice at any age really. But the truth is, we know that we will fall – and not once, but many times in our lives. And by fall, I don’t just mean succumbing to the effects of gravity.
Sometimes we end up on our backsides in more than just the physical. It can be a slow slide or a sudden and unexpected tragedy that brings us down, but life will surely throw all it can at us to get us off our feet. I don’t care how healthy we are physically, mentally, or spiritually. There are going to be times when we are weakened by the curve balls being lobbed at us.
And Satan? Whew! That’s a whole other battle. He’s going to make sure we are feeling confused, tired, and ineffective. The more we spin around trying to keep our balance, the easier it is for him to keep us from being focused on what we need to be looking at. And the more the enemy keeps us weakened, the more opportunity he has to stir the pot and knock us off our feet.
But being off our feet isn’t a terrible place to be. Because that’s where our lifeline, our miracle button if you will, comes in. In Matthew 11:28 Jesus said “Come to me and I will give you rest—all of you who work so hard beneath a heavy yoke. Wear my yoke—for it fits perfectly—and let me teach you; for I am gentle and humble, and you shall find rest for your souls; for I give you only light burdens.”
We can struggle through life trying to bear the weight of the world on our shoulders, thinking we are really stepping up and living the way we should be. But if we do that using our own strength, no matter how talented, able, fit, or capable we are, we are going to fall under the burden.
Eventually we will find ourselves needing rest. Some of us will try and find it in retail therapy or the bottom of a bottle, some in rage and despair -- but if we’re carrying the load in our humanness, we’ll likely look for the comfort we need in a human solution. It’s. Never. There.
But if we just stop and approach the Master, hand it all over to Him, He will refit the yoke to one we can bear – because, as Jesus said, ‘it fits perfectly.’ Jesus will teach us to manage, show us how to cope, and most importantly, He will carry the load we can’t manage.
It’s more than our bodies that need rest, it’s our very soul. We need to lay down whatever it is we think we need to drag around and allow God to do the heavy lifting. That doesn’t make us weak, it makes us faithful. 1 Thessalonians 5:24 says “God, who called you to become His child, will do all this for you, just as He promised.”
Our confidence, our magic button, rests in the very nature of God. When everything around us seems unreliable and we feel like we just can’t put one foot in front of the other, we can count on Him to complete the work He begins. And that work is you and me.
Be blessed, my Friend, God is on the throne.
|Posted on May 22, 2021 at 10:50 AM||comments (0)|
The last month or so has been a bit of a transportation challenge for me. My reliable and fully loaded little Acura is down for repairs, and because the parts are coming from China it’s going to be a minute before I get the fix completed. So, in the meantime, I’m driving my faithful 21 year old Ford Ranger, whom I’ve lovingly named Tank.
Tank is a great vehicle, and I’m blessed to have him, but he was built before all the bells and whistles were incorporated. Good old Tank doesn’t feel compelled to let me know when I’ve left my lights on, or the keys in the ignition. He doesn’t give me a 3 gallon warning when my gas tank is low, or provide guidance through GPS. Worst of all, there’s no back-up camera so I’m re-learning where to park and how to back up. Oh… and did I mention he’s a stick shift?
It’s not that I don’t appreciate the transportation, but I realize I’ve become extremely complacent in my appreciation of the little luxuries provided by my Acura. All the things that I quit thinking about, like when I last gassed up and where the spare key lives, have a renewed importance.
I’ve come to realize that the situation is not unlike our walk with God. We can become complacent, counting on Him to do all the heavy lifting in our lives. If we’re not careful, we can end up driving through life without even paying attention to the road. Don’t get me wrong. God wants us to trust and depend on Him completely. But Him not wanting us to be anxious, doesn’t mean He wants us to be comatose.
James 2:14 asks the question “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works?” Now the word ‘faith’ here isn’t being used in the sense of our saving faith, or salvation. Salvation is a gift that we cannot earn and surely don’t deserve. It’s ours even if we drive down the road of life with a blindfold on.
The faith we’re talking about is the unwavering loyalty that is the response to that very salvation. Because we’ve been given such a precious gift, we should crave the opportunity to pay it back by our discipleship. To use the words of the great John Calvin, “people are justified (declared righteous before God) by faith alone, but not by a faith that is alone.”
Being a disciple, as you’ve heard me say before, is a choice. It takes hard work, can be painful and unpleasant, and doesn’t always give us the reward we think it should. But it’s what we’ve been asked to do – and it demonstrates our believing loyalty to God, shows our faith that He will provide, and spreads His gift of forgiveness and grace to everyone around us. Shouldn’t it be reward enough to know that we’re being obedient to the one who sacrificed literally everything for us?
God is happy for us to ride through life in our fully loaded Acura’s, but He still expects us to keep our eyes on the road and be aware of what the Holy Spirit is directing us to do. If we keep that stereo up too loud, drowning out His voice and taking for granted the many blessings in our life, we might find ourselves in a 5-speed pick-up truck for a season. But either way, God is faithful to keep us moving on down the road. We just can’t allow ourselves to expect the blessings instead of being grateful to the One who blesses.
Being a Disciple is going to require us to move out of our comfort zones and drive into unknown territory. As long as we follow His GPS, God’s Perfect Strategy, we’ll be just fine. That unknown road will be the one that brings us to spiritual maturity. In James 1:2-4, the apostle wrote, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson said “Life is a journey, not a destination.” Let’s make sure we keep moving in a way that is not so ‘comfortable’ we forget to listen when God speaks, change gears when He directs, and fill up our tank with His Word.
Be blessed, my Friend God is on the throne.
|Posted on May 15, 2021 at 10:45 AM||comments (0)|
Am I showing my age when I mention the classic Steinbeck novel, “Of Mice and Men?” This book is named loosely for a poem that says in part “the best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men. Gang aft a-gley,” or translated, the best laid plans of mice and men can still go wrong.
The poem, “To A Mouse” was written by one of the most famous writers of all times, Robert Burns. He was often called the Scottish Shakespeare. The point of the piece is to apologize to a mouse who had spent a lifetime building his nest, only to have it destroyed by a farmer who was plowing his field – building his own nest.
I don’t know about the life of mice, but I know that no matter what my motivation or plan is, things can quickly go from promising to a pit, especially when I’m operating on my own steam. For the most part, our human motivations are fairly pure. I don’t think we ever really want to hurt someone else, but it can happen nevertheless.
The parallel between the Steinbeck novel and the poem seems remote until you read between the lines of the text. Set in Depression-era America, it’s the story of two men, Lennie and George, who have nothing except a dream of one day owning their own small piece of ground and building a house on it. Lennie has some kind of mental disorder, and George has apparently been protecting him from trouble for a very long time. Just when they have landed a job on a good ranch, a step to fulfilling their own dream, Lennie accidently kills the daughter-in-law of the man who owns the farm. They run, and George feels compelled to end Lennie’s life to save him from what will he knows will happen at the hands of the imperfect justice system.
I know! Great required reading for a high school student, right? But it was an amazing piece of work, and rightly called a literary classic. By the end we have a sad sense of the different ways our lives cross, and how our plans can be so fleeting. “The best laid plans…” Both George and that little mouse had everything taken away in one split second, as did Lennie and the girl he accidently killed.
These days, many of us have been left with the feeling that the things we’ve worked incredibly hard for have been stolen from us. Although we are now seeing a light at the end of the tunnel, we can’t help but wonder if it’s breakthrough or a train. And it can cause us to ask if there’s any point in struggling to come back from the loss.
A lot of people had amazing plans for 2020 that may never happen now. Our High School and College students didn’t get to have the grand graduation they were looking forward to, or a real start to their adult lives. Businesses closed, shattering the dreams of many, and we weren’t able to celebrate milestones or mourn the myriad losses.
Our current mantra seems to be “stuff happens” or “it is what it is”… a variation of the old “best laid plans of mice and men” theme. But if we shift our thinking a bit, even though it can be hard to look past what’s been happening to us, and think more in terms of God’s big picture, those sayings no longer fit. It’s not what it is right this minute, it’s what He says it will be.
He knows what the whole plan is, and how everything works out. We only see our little piece of property. In Jeremiah 29:11 the prophet is comforting the exiles whom an evil king had pushed into bondage. He’s passing on God’s word on the subject, writing: “As soon as Babylon’s seventy years are up and not a day before, I’ll show up and take care of you as I promised and bring you back home. I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for (MSG).
God always takes care of us. We may have to go through some stuff, but if we allow His plan to be our plan we can count on the outcome. In the parable in Matthew 7, we’re told that if God is the solid rock we build on, no matter what comes… storms, rain, floods (pandemic, unemployment, civil and political unrest, global warming) He will support us and keep us solid and safe. We can build our house on that foundation.
That doesn’t necessarily mean we don’t walk in some amount of fear. It’s natural to fret about the future, worrying for our family and our security. Sometimes the news all seems bad, and that’s where we must override our fear and walk in faith. But, as the scripture in Jeremiah 29:11 says, God has a plan… a hope… and it’s for our future.
Be blessed, my Friend, God is on the throne.
|Posted on May 9, 2021 at 12:45 AM||comments (0)|
“How can I help?” In times of our greatest need, those are sometimes all the words we really need to express. When someone we love has died, there isn’t anyone here on earth who can undo the pain of that separation. When the diagnosis is cancer, whether or not there is the opportunity for some kind of treatment the abject fear won’t be minimized by retail therapy or even good conversation.
There are times when what someone is feeling is so deeply rooted in their hearts that they may not even know the source of the sadness. Have you ever just woken up feeling a little blue – an expression my mom loved? There can be no discernable reason for it – it’s just a part of you.
I know that God will place a burden on our hearts for others. There are times when I just feel troubled for a friend or my children and I don’t even know why. I’m not sure what to pray for, but I feel a sense that there is something in their lives that may be troubling them – maybe even something serious.
My son and I call it ‘mom-dar.’ That niggling little ping when he’s got something going on that needs momma’s special touch and fervent prayers. The world would label it Extra Sensory Perception (ESP), but we know it’s Holy Spirit discernment and a powerful weapon in the war we are waging against the Enemy.
In John 14, Jesus told the disciples that He was leaving them (and us) with a Comforter. We often think of this term as someone who might provide comfort (or ‘counsel’ as some bible translations read) to us in the traditional sense. But the root of the word is from the Greek parakletos, which comes from the verbal root that describes someone who comes alongside another, or someone who speaks in another’s defense. So, think legal counsel as opposed to a therapeutic counsellor.
And, in an amazing turn, we are promised this Counsellor will not only be with us, guiding our steps and our actions, but He will be in us. In John 14:15-17, the Message bible reads “… I will talk to the Father, and He’ll provide you another Friend so that you will always have someone with you. This Friend is the Spirit of Truth. The godless world can’t take Him in because it doesn’t have eyes to see Him, doesn’t know what to look for. But you know Him already because He has been staying with you and will even be in you.”
Pay particular attention to the fact that Jesus said the Father would be sending ‘another’ Paraclete. As much as we can trust the first – Jesus – we can trust the One who has been sent to us. He is the Spirit of Truth in a world where we just don’t know what to believe. When we develop a relationship with, and learn to depend on, the Holy Spirit we have a light in the darkness that the world simply doesn’t have. That’s truly a superpower.
But in case we get overly cocky about our specially gifted advantage, let’s remember that Jesus taught that humility and an open heart was the only way to be certain our own sinful nature wasn’t beginning to creep into our thinking. It can be all too easy to replace our own thoughts with the direction of the Holy Spirit.
So how do we know whether the pinging of our innate radar is just our own suspicions or the prompting of our Counsellor? It comes by letting go of our own pre-conceived notions of a situation, prejudices we have formed throughout our lifetime, and our stubborn need to control every situation.
Romans 8:26-27 TLB says “And in the same way—by our faith—the Holy Spirit helps us with our daily problems and in our praying. For we don’t even know what we should pray for nor how to pray as we should, but the Holy Spirit prays for us with such feeling that it cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows, of course, what the Spirit is saying as He pleads for us in harmony with God’s own will.”
There’s an old country song that simply states, “you say it best when you say nothing at all.” So “how can we help?” Only by prayer and seeking God’s will can we really know what we’re supposed to do. There is nowhere in scripture that we’re taught to judge someone else, condemn them for their weaknesses, or insist on them allowing us Christians to be the ‘expert’ at fixing every situation.
But we do have a superpower – and it resides inside of us. If we’re quiet and willing, we can be used to stand alongside others and help them through the toughest situations of their life. That doesn’t mean we steamroll over someone with our loving advice or take every problem on our own shoulders. Sometimes our ‘help’ is best expressed silently – quietly waiting for the Spirit of Truth to speak.
Be blessed, my friend. God is on the throne.
|Posted on May 1, 2021 at 11:40 AM||comments (0)|
This week Worship Team practice got pretty silly. We were having a bit of a struggle with the sound system, and even the songs weren’t coming together like they usually do. The pressure was on since we were working on a special event that was coming up quickly.
But instead of getting stressed and worried, my amazing team began to joke and play. We started singing some really retro oldies, laughing and teasing each other, and before you know it everything started to come together on its own.
I say on its own… but I really mean that the Holy Spirit began to intervene in what we were doing. You see, worship isn’t just about the perfect chord structure or playing all the notes right. It’s not even about a talented singer or dedicated worship leader. Real worship is pure JOY.
We’re told in Genesis 1:27 that God created us in His own image. We know from those same Scriptures that God shows a wide range of emotions from anger to love. The difference is that our feelings can lead us to sin and despair, while His are righteous and come only from a place of love – there is no sin in Him.
So worship is, in part, a way to harness those very emotions in a godly and productive way. There is no better antidote to the uncertainty and pain of life than simple joy. Psalm 37:12 says that the “Lord laughs at the enemy for He sees his day coming”. God isn’t afraid or concerned, just busy trying to keep us on track. As His children we can have that same confidence. And there’s no better way to build it up than to laugh at the things that trouble us, even when we don’t feel like it.
We’re told over and over to practice joy. It seems counterintuitive to try and feel happy when we’re frustrated, afraid or angry, but I promise this is not just some psychobabble formula. From the depth of my own grief and pain I have found God waiting for me in the littlest moments of hilarity. Abraham Lincoln said “I laugh because I must not cry, that is all, that is all.” Smart words!
And if we can’t believe those words because our own pain is too great, we just need to turn back to the one place we know we can always find truth.
Psalm 100: Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth. Serve the Lord with gladness; come before Him with joyful singing.
Galatians 5: Joy is a fruit of the Spirit. But the Spirit is love, joy, peace…
Psalm 63: For You have been my help, and in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy!
Psalm 30: His anger lasts only a moment, but His favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.
There are all kinds of things they tell us to practice these days. Mindfulness, intention, positive thinking… I say it all boils down to a single thing -- practice joy. It may not always be our ‘go-to’ emotion, but it is the one thing we can always count on.
If we must work a job we hate, doing it with a spirit of resentment won’t make the time go by any faster. But doing it with joy and a sense of humor will give us perspective. Responding to a bully with the same kind of anger they are showing won’t de-escalate a bad situation but showing the softness and love that comes with joy – that will take the wind out of their sails.
When someone mistreats us or life seems unfair, we can make the choice to wallow around in self-pity and pain, but that’s not going to make it any easier to get through. In fact, all that nasty muck can just get us stuck. Great, right? Just what we need. To stay prisoner to the painful emotions a little longer. But choosing to find the joy in spite of the situation is what will begin to move us through the mess.
Just like at that worship team practice, our response – our choice – can be to find the little bits of joy even in the most agonizingly painful moments of life. There’s no shame in tears, and God understands our hurt and anger. He feels those emotions too, and I know God mourns with us whether our pain is random, caused by another, or self-inflicted.
But we have the power to decide if the inevitable hurt of our human existence is permanent or if we will grab ahold of the promised joy that will “come in the morning.” Let’s practice choosing joy. Let’s choose it together.
Be blessed, my Friend, God is on the throne.
|Posted on April 11, 2021 at 12:05 AM||comments (0)|
This week I heard a quick news brief that said that California might be “opening back up” by June. That was such exciting news! I know we’ve all looked forward to everything around us returning to what we’ve always called normal. I mean, who really likes change?
But it got me to thinking. Before Covid, I could hardly wait for a little vacation. I would run from one task to another, craving the opportunity for a little ‘alone’ time, or a day when I really didn’t have to go anywhere or do anything.
As much as I love church, if I’m completely honest there were Sundays that I just yearned to sleep in a bit and ‘watch’ a great teaching on television – in my pajamas! And let’s face it, a few weeks off work was really not a great ordeal, aside from the pay thing.
I would certainly be lying if I said my house had ever been cleaner than it was about three weeks into the quarantine. All my closets were shipshape, my garage looked amazingly organized, and there was not a single dust bunny anywhere!
But then what? It’s true -- the grass is always (we think) greener on the other side of the fence. That old proverb, traced back to the poetry of Publius Ovidius Naos (43 BC-17 AD) actually means ‘the harvest is always more fruitful in another man’s fields.’ It’s interesting that this saying is popularly quoted in nearly every culture and language, and it has different meanings to different people. But the overall concept explains so much about human nature.
The reality is, we are always yearning for what we don’t have, and chasing after something we are convinced will make us happy. And we’re much more alike than we think. Whether what we want is a new car or bigger house, or just another goat added to the herd. It’s not, as we sometimes think, just a matter of wanting to keep up with everyone around us or even being envious of what someone else has. Many times our discontent is deeply embedded in our own hearts, regardless of the circumstance of our life.
It’s not a problem developed in this fast paced and competitive world of today. In Philippians 4:11-13, Paul writes “… I have learned how to get along happily whether I have much or little. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of contentment in every situation, whether it be a full stomach or hunger, plenty or want; for I can do everything God asks me to with the help of Christ who gives me the strength and power.” He’s thanking the church for their gifts and support but placing the glory squarely where it belongs – with God.
Paul had sacrificed greatly to further the gospel. He was writing this letter from prison, likely knowing that the eventual outcome of his choice to follow Christ could cost him his life. Greco-Roman thinking of that day emphasized the belief that one should rely only on oneself – not unlike today’s culture.
But Paul knew that his satisfaction and happiness was not limited by his human capability or frailty. His very survival, his every need, was placed where it belonged… on Christ. And that wasn’t just a statement of material or physical desires. Paul realized what we all should, that our contentment and our emotional fulfilment rests solely and safely in our dependence on God.
Galatians 2:8 tells us that Paul was called to be an apostle to the Gentiles. His assignment was to work in hostile territory, among those who didn’t share his faith or his mission. Even as he seemed to be successful in spreading the message of Christ, Christianity was outlawed and Paul was re-arrested. But even in his last days before being martyred at the hands of Nero, Paul spoke of contentment.
In 1 Timothy 6 he simply says “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction… flee from all of this and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith.”
Pandemic or no, social distancing or not, in isolation or out, we must keep our eyes focused firmly on the fact that our happiness and our true contentment is never going to be satisfied by anything available to us in this world but only on the grace of our loving and ever-concerned Father. And we are in good hands because that is the secret to contentment!
Be blessed, my friend, God is on the throne.
|Posted on April 3, 2021 at 2:30 PM||comments (0)|
Springtime is here! This is a time of renewal and regeneration, so when better to celebrate the biggest change that happened for us? Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and His triumphant victory over death didn’t just free His earthly body, it freed us as well. The blood of Jesus paid the price and broke the tie of sin that had caused us to forfeit our place in heaven with the Father, and our own birthright of eternal life. The very moment Christ walked out of the tomb, our lives were forever altered.
The question is, what do we do with that gift. Salvation isn’t the end of the story, it’s just the beginning. We aren’t simply called to be saved from the ties of our flesh, we are called to be disciples. And that is a completely different thing.
Salvation is a gift. Discipleship is a choice. We know that choices can be painful, and they can cost us. But we were designed to be more than just sojourners here on earth. God’s plan was for us to be leaders, motivators, movers and changers. We can travel through life, salvation intact, never being noticed or making waves but that only serves us. We can hang onto the gift of salvation and hoard the blessing, but it is not what we are commanded to do. Jesus told us to “share the good news.” But we can’t do that if we’re so consumed with religious zeal that we leave no room for the encompassing love that we should be showing to those around us.
In Matthew 22:36 Jesus told us that the most important command was to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind.” But He didn’t leave it there. He told us the second command was similar: “love your neighbor as much as you love yourself.” Not only should we value the gift of salvation, but we should honor it by spreading the news of its availability to everyone around us.
We must love even our unloveable neighbors enough to yearn for them to know the peace that we have found. We can’t beat someone over the head with the bible and expect them to understand the beauty and simplicity of the promises it contains. But we can love them into fellowship and discipleship.
We have to get our eyes off the craziness of our temporary homes and learn to have an eternal perspective. It’s a hard pill to swallow, but when we don’t share the gospel, we are taking the chance that we are condemning someone for eternity. If we don’t reach out a hand to the world, who will? There is no commandment that gives that responsibility only to the brave and well spoken. God calls us all to be His mouthpieces – His disciples. That means speaking up for what’s right, living a life of integrity and proclaiming the gospel.
And we must live in a way that is a constant reminder of the love of God. Not just in the big gestures like going out on the mission field, giving a big offering, or evangelizing to huge crowds, but in the everyday little moments of our life. Every action is a witness, and that’s where the choice (and sometimes the burden) comes in.
But there is no gray area in discipleship. 2 Timothy 2:19 tells us that “a person who calls himself a Christian should not be doing things that are wrong.” We have a greater responsibility because we’ve been given such an amazing opportunity. Christ’s sacrifice was the start of the story, but He left us with a job to do.
This is the time of year we are celebrating Jesus’ triumphant victory over death. Let’s take this opportunity to share that victory with others and rebuke the curse of death on their lives. As we move from an earthly perspective to one that looks to eternity, we have to open our eyes wide to the possibilities that God is placing in front of us. There is no better time than now, to be spreading the Good News!
Be blessed, my friend, God is on the throne.
|Posted on March 27, 2021 at 11:15 AM||comments (0)|
We can talk about changing our lives, our attitude, our habits, our lifestyle, our thinking and our world, but real and lasting change is hard! That’s why new years resolutions are so fleeting. We have a vision of the transformation we want, but as Jesus said in Matthew 26:41 “the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.”
The problem is, we try to make changes on our own steam. Let’s face it, there’s just not enough human ‘juice’ to get the job done for any sustainable length of time. Most who have been successful will tell you that breaking the cycle of addiction is only achieved when we give up our will up to that of a “higher power.” No matter how much we want to lay down whatever harmful thing we’ve become chained to, healing comes when there is recognition that we are incapable on our own. Something bigger and more powerful than us has to be in the mix. And we know that higher power is only God.
We think of Jesus’ words in Matthew 26, and have learned to use it as a kind of ‘funny’ excuse when we don’t do what we should, or fail at some task we've set ourselves to. But they were uttered to the disciples as a desperate plea in His darkest and most vulnerable moment.
Just before Jesus’ arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, and knowing the agonizingly painful time He was facing, Jesus was praying and trying to find peace. Hoping for support and comfort, He looked over to see His friends sleeping. All Jesus wanted was for them to stay awake and join Him in prayer but “their eyes were heavy” and they kept falling asleep. In fact, if we read verse 41 in its entirety, we see that Jesus had asked them to “watch and pray” with Him. Instead, they slept right up until the armed mob came and grabbed the Savior up and took Him to be slaughtered.
Because of the weakness of their flesh, they were caught unawares in the garden that night. The Greek word for flesh as used here, means the human body and nature, with all its moral and physical weaknesses. But the Greek word for “spirit” in this verse is pneuma and refers to the soul or mind of a person. They wanted to do the right thing but they couldn’t overcome the pull of their human nature.
So many times we stumble around doing our best to behave ourselves, have a good attitude and live life in a Christ like way. Our spirits know that’s what we need to do. We even say we want to make a change for the better in our world -- we want to ‘be the change.’ But the same old mess keeps happening. Not just day by day, but century by century.
If we’re honest with ourselves we must acknowledge that we are completely incapable of meaningful change on our own. In order to create lasting transformation in our lives and in our world, we must do as David did after he had committed adultery and completely subverted God’s will for his life. In Psalm 51 we hear his prayer of abject repentance.
First, he acknowledges his wrongdoing, then asks the Father to “create in him a clean heart, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” [V 10]. Not only does David confess to the weakness, but he admits to the fact that his very soul – his pneuma – his mind – needs to be remade. He’s not saying, ‘let me repent and make restitution.’ He’s saying ‘change me because I can’t do it on my own’.
I think the most beautiful part of that passage is towards the end. In Verses 16 and 17 he says “You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; you do not delight in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart—these, O God, you will not despise.”
We can’t ‘behave’ our way into God’s favor. He doesn’t love or reward us for our ability to bulldoze ourselves into right thinking. When Christ was on the cross, we were already on His mind, as the old song says. Romans 5:8 tells us that “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Our hearts should remain broken for this broken world we live in. White-knuckled sacrifices and living life trying to mold our human thinking into submission will never work. Our minds are willing, but our flesh is so very weak. The real solution is not asking to be the change but to be changed.
Be blessed, my friend, God is on the throne.