Looking Good

It seems that most Christians in American believe that a person should not bother God with small problems. They reason that having a problem makes us strong; so, very likely, it is God’s will for us to put up with them. Also, if we endure problems patiently, it makes God look good.

It does make God look good when His followers show the peacefulness of faith when everyone else is anxious … when they do not take offense at insults … when they persist in living by the Bible even if it costs them their current jobs. It takes the grace of God to behave well under pressure.

But there are some things, which – if we put up with them patiently – do not make God look good.

Let’s consider this idea of using problems to develop character. Wise human parents help their children become mature and responsible by insisting that they finish their homework, do certain chores around the house, and save their own money for a special toy.

Bu what would you think of parents who decided not to take their asthmatic child to a doctor because struggling with this infirmity would be the best way for their child to become strong? If  the child endures that affliction with a good attitude, he will look mighty good. Nothing about this scenario makes his parents look good.

When Jesus was on earth, He healed every sick person who came to him. (If it is sometimes God’s will for us to stay sick, then Jesus frequently disregarded His Father’s will!)

The Father expects many things of us. As we do them, we grow up to be responsible and persistent. But the Father is not unkind or neglectful. He freely provides basic needs such as health, nutrition, and finances. He makes sure His children are well-equipped for life. He also blesses them with many things to enjoy. (See 1 Timothy 6:17.)

Have you endured a nagging problem for years, thinking God wants you to put up with it? He is a good Father. Go to Him. Ask Him for what you need.

Jesus said, “Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete” (John 16:24 NIV).

He also said, “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified” (John 14:13 NIV).

He wants you to ask, because He wants you to be joyful. 😊

And, guess what? When the Father takes good care of you, it glorifies Him. In plain English: it makes Him look good. 😊

Rocket Science

At a recent Women’s Bible Study meeting, Kelli and Kathy, a young woman and her mother, shared a song written by Kelli’s grandma. The song told the story of a time that she left the house to run errands and returned to find the door locked – and her house key apparently locked inside. So, she asked the Lord to unlock her door for her. When she turned the knob again, the door opened!

Some people say, “It’s easy for simple people to have child-like faith.” The implication seems to be that intelligent, self-reliant people can figure out how to handle a situation like this. Only people who don’t have a clue what to do (for something as simple as this) actually turn to God.

The fact of the matter is, most “intelligent and self-reliant” people don’t have this level of faith in God, and Kelli’s grandma did. So, she was not “simple” in her understanding of God and supernatural things. She was a rocket scientist  in the area of supernatural living.

One day I shared with a group of sixth-graders this Bible verse: “The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple” (Psalm 19:7 NIV). A boy in the back of the room looked wistful and uncertain. I recognized his dilemma. He was a very intelligent boy and wasn’t sure this promise was for him. So, I said, “And God’s laws make wise people even wiser.” Relief flooded the boy’s face.

We can be mature in natural matters and spiritual matters. That’s when we really become rocket scientists.

SUPER Solutions

skyscraperThere are solutions, and then there are SOLUTIONS. If you have a problem right now, you’d probably prefer a SOLUTION.

So did a blind man called Bartimaeus, whose story appears in the Bible. One day, while he was hanging out by the side of the road begging, a noisy crowd came his way. When he found out the Rabbi Jesus was in the crowd, he began to shout out to him. Long story short—Jesus stopped and asked him what he wanted.

Motorboats and Rowboats

Most people desire a satisfying religious faith. However, most of us have been Motorboatimmunized–if you will–against taking God and faith very seriously. For example, there is a concept out there that only lazy or incompetent people rely on God very often.

Considering boats–motorboats and rowboats–gives me a different picture of God-dependent people.

Let me liken rowboats to totally self-reliant individuals who propel themselves through life by their own energetic rowing. Motorboats, then, are like people who spend their time in a boat fishing–or whatever–and allow the motor to get them where they want to go.

This brings us to a question: What is the purpose of a boat? To wear you out? Or to get you somewhere?

Some boat owners may opt for a motorboat because they’re lazy, but most people own them because they can do more with them. Have you ever seen a rowboat pulling a water skier? Have you ever seen a commercial fishing vessel powered by several dozen rowing men?

I can achieve a lot with my natural abilities and hard work, but “I can do ALL THINGS through Christ” (Philippians 4:13).

What I Admire About MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.

MLKToday I re-read Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. I was captivated again by the rich imagery that magnifies his message.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we’ve come here today to dramatize a shameful condition. . . .

But Dr. King did not ascend the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to deliver a lament. He had faith for a better future.

But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we’ve come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.

He was a motivator.

We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.

He was a spiritual leader.

But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

He was an orator, repeating the refrain “I have a dream” until the hearts of his listeners–even today–catch the beat of this vision.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

 

What do you admire about Martin Luther King Jr.?

NEW YEAR’S EVE: Holiday Celebrations

CelebrationOn a TV morning show today, the talk was all about counting down t0 the greatest New Year’s Eve celebration ever. It triggered thoughts about holiday celebrations in general–and how much the same they are.

Yes, each one has its own flavor–for example, the Fourth of July is about fried chicken and fireworks, whereas Thanksgiving is about turkey and dressing and–maybe sleigh rides? Depending on the climate where you live.

The thing they all seem to have in common is that the original meaning of them tends to get lost in the shuffle of “Yeah! A vacation from work and school! A time for family,  presents, and parties.”

What if, on the Fourth of July, for example, we got together with family and friends and listened to–or, better yet, recited–the first paragraph of the Declaration of Independence? What if we  actually caught the spirit of the men who had to “hang together” to birth a new nation, because, if they didn’t, they would “hang separately”? (Wasn’t it Ben Franklin who said that?) What if we were filled with thankfulness for our freedoms and opportunities? What if we were so mindful of the great gift given to us by our forefathers that we personally resolved, as  Abraham Lincoln urged, “that these dead shall not have died in vain – that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” Wouldn’t that be a true celebration of Independence Day?

Believe me, I’m not knocking taking time off work to relax, spend time with loved ones, and enjoy seasonal festivities. Hurrah for holidays! But each one is based on a significant event, and–I don’t know about you, but–I feel cheated when that is glossed over.

That’s why I love New Year’s Eve celebrations with my church family. Last year, after a fabulous meal, and several rousing praise songs, our pastor and several associate pastors preached ten minutes each on what the Lord had shown them about the upcoming year. At midnight, I was full not only in stomach but socially, emotionally, and spiritually.

Oh, it’s 7:00 PM. Two hours until this year’s celebration. It will probably be the best New Year’s Eve celebration ever!

 

CHRISTMAS: On Earth As It Is in Heaven

Heaven-sun rays

Your kingdom come.

Your will be done

On earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10)

 

When Jesus came to Earth as a babe in a manger, he brought with him a kingdom.

During his public ministry, Jesus taught more about his kingdom than he did anything else. Yes, he came to make it possible for us to be forgiven and go to heaven, instead of hell, when we die. But that was just the beginning of his purpose for mankind. The forgiveness and reconciliation he won for us is the doorway into his kingdom.

He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love (Colossians 1:13).

What is this kingdom Christians ask for every time they recite the Lord’s Prayer? It is a heavenly realm that now exists on Earth–a realm people enter when they believe on Christ–a realm in which God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven.

That raises another question: what is his will? Jesus demonstrated the will of God everywhere he went. He healed all the sick who were brought to him. He stopped storms from terrifying his disciples or keeping them from arriving at their destination. He reversed untimely deaths.

His every action showed that it was his will that people live long, healthy lives in a world that is safe for humans. If, as some say, it is not always God’s will to heal people, then Jesus went around opposing God’s will in a big way–because he healed all who came to him.

So if it is God’s will for us to live thoroughly blessed lives, why is there still so much evil and oppression in the world–even for believers?

In one of his parables, Jesus compared the kingdom of heaven to yeast which is mixed into dough. It causes the dough to expand–and expand and expand. Likewise, the blessed realities of life under Jesus’ benevolent rule gradually take over in those who pray, “Your kingdom come.” That is, if they understand and mean what they’re saying. And if they love and cooperate with the King.

If they do, then the will of God–for everything to be healthy and good–will be done in their corner of the earth, as it is in heaven.

Will Power

My life used to be based on will power. Holding things together by the force of my will. Keeping things under control by forethought, planning, and skill. But I was in a fairly regular pattern of anxiety and burnt out.

Jesus’ invitation is to a different kind of will power: ”I will” power. Saying “I will” in response to His leadership.

I still think ahead. I still plan. I still acquire and use skill. But now I know to take the time upfront to worship and catch His vision. And I am learning to stay tuned all along the way for His guidance and enablement.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, 
And lean not on your own understanding; 

In all your ways acknowledge Him, 
And He shall direct your paths (Prov. 3:5-6 NIV).

When I say, “I will,” in response to the Lord, I accomplish more with less “sweat.” I am beginning to live the way Jesus invited us to live:ballerina

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly” (Matthew 11:28-30 MSG).

Who Is Smarter?

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imarcade.com

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:9 NIV).

Why do you think it is that many Christians say that God’s thoughts are higher than our thoughts, but then they think and live as if they know more than God. I mean, when they read something in the Bible that doesn’t make sense to them, they ignore it or explain it away.

If they really believed that God’s thoughts are higher than theirs, wouldn’t they say, “Well, of course this passage doesn’t make sense to me. My mind isn’t on the same wavelength as God’s–not yet! But I’m going to ponder God’s words until my mind is renewed to think like His”?

 

Volcanoes and Geysers

GeyserIn the previous post, “Let It Begin with Me,” I mention the disheartening segment in the movie Lawrence of Arabia in which a larger-than-life British officer and his unlikely coalition of Arab sheiks achieve a brilliant military victory but could not successfully rule over the city they had captured. Their weak characters could not sustain their victory.

But not to worry–it doesn’t have to be that way.

Simon Peter is great example of a person whose character became able to sustain–everything. Triumphantly.

When he signed on as a disciple of Christ, his character left something to be desired. He was eager and loyal but impulsive and unreliable.

Jesus saw unusual potential in Simon because He singled him out, along with James and John, for closer mentoring. However, from Day One, Jesus hinted about a change that needed to happen in him, by nicknaming him Cephas. In the Greek-speaking world of the day, that translated to Petros, which means “rock.” It was a promise of what Simon would become.

Centuries earlier, the Lord had appeared to a timid man named Gideon and called him a mighty man of valor. Well, Simon, Jesus’ disciple, might have considered himself a mighty man of valor, but the Master’s nickname told him what else he needed to become—a rock of strength and stability.

And it happened—somewhere between the Last Supper and the Day of Pentecost. At the Last Supper, Peter boldly proclaimed he would defend Jesus to the death. But when Jesus was arrested, Peter denied he even knew Him.

Fast-forward fifty days to the Day of Pentecost. That afternoon, the disciples came out of hiding. Peter stepped forward and announced to all Jerusalem, “Let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah” (Acts 2:36 NIV).

Who, Peter? The wannabe hero who behaved like a coward? Yes, his unstable character was now rock-steady.

One sign of his new stability was that he was able to focus on others. Jesus had asked him to “feed my sheep.” In 1 Peter and 2 Peter, his letters to the churches, he encourages those fearful of persecution, explains God’s ways to the immature, and even instructs believers to treat the heathen around them with concern and respect.

Was he all mellowed out? No! Read his epistles. Intertwined with the fatherly counsel and instruction are glad passages of power and glory.

The passion that Peter had always possessed continued to break out, wherever he went. But it was no longer the random, destructive erupting of a volcano. Instead, it sprang up, at the right times, like a geyser of life-giving water.