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Archive for October, 2009

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).”

The day started smoothly enough.  I had gotten out of work a little early and decided to pursue my idea of visiting a major landmark about 3 hours away. My students and I are reading a book involving one of the architects, so I thought it would be interesting. I also knew the drive took me by a beautiful mountain gap I really wanted to see again.

Then things started to get frustrating.  The mountain gap was completely shrouded in fog, even though it was just the middle of the day.  Visibilty was about 50 yards. I shrugged it off, though, and crossed into the state of my destination. However, shortly after doing so I was stuck in bumper to bumper traffic on the interstate.  Road work. This delayed my trip even more.

Soon the traffic moved again and I prepared to turn off onto the highway that would take me to where I intended to go. But before I made the turn I saw a sign about a rock slide on that road, and when I turned on to it there was bumper to bumper traffic again. 

I stopped to get a bite to eat and evaluate at this junction. I wasn’t that far from a place I used to live and thought it would be interesting to see it. So I just headed south instead of west.  I am now writing this from a town where I spent about 8 years of my life.

I don’t think this was all an accident. As a believer in Jesus Christ, I know I have the Spirit of God living in me. His role is to guide me and keep me in touch with the Father (John 16:13).  In fact, this is His main role. As any good father, God has his plans for me and I may be frustrated at the time, but they are for the best. If I  go my own way and don’t consult Him, I will suffer for it. I may also suffer if I go His way, but that particular suffering will ultimately lead to good. My choices won’t (Romans 8:18=39).

I enjoyed looking over some old stomping grounds yesterday. But I have no idea why I am here. I may never know.

The rock slide that caused me to redirect turned out to be in another part of the road. But  I love and follow Jesus and I know He loves me. As I thought and prayed about it at the time, I thought this destination was where I should be. So here I am and I can trust Him with that.

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“Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness. The voice of the LORD is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the LORD thunders over the mighty waters. The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is majestic (Psalm 29:2-4).”

I was passing through a town of an old friend I hadn’t seen in at least 25 years recently.  I picked up the phone in my motel room and called him.  As we chatted, he said to me, “Good to hear your voice.”

Our voice is the instrument God gave us to express ourselves, and it is distinct.  It conveys our emotions, thoughts, attitudes and state of mind.  It tells others a lot about us.  So when my friend told me that hearing my voice was a good thing, it was a signal that he was glad to reestablish contact.

God has a voice, too.  If we make the effort to listen to it, we learn a lot about Him and not only that, we make a connection with Him. We build a relationship with Him all our own. 

Unfortunately, we came into this world with the communication lines with God severed.  Once we learn about Him, many of us want to establish a relationship. However, sin gets in the way. When that happens, trying to listen to the voice of God is like trying to talk to someone on a cell phone with a bad signal.  We either get static or we don’t hear at all.

So if we want to communicate with God, we have to deal with our sin.  One of the reasons we have so much trouble doing that is that we focus too much on personal holiness instead of desiring a relationship with God.  When we read through passages like Romans 6 we pay a lot of attention to the exhortation to be holy, but ignore the reason for it. We are to seek holiness because it is the means to a relationship to God in Jesus Christ (Romans 6:10,11).

Hearing the voice of God is a wonderful thing. It is much more exciting than sin.  Avoiding sin to be in contact with God is well worth the effort.

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Plenty to rejoice about

“The LORD is my strength and my shield;  My heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song (Psalm 28:7).”

There is something about suffering that keeps us on the straight and narrow.  The previous decade was an era of good time rock and roll, with people making money hand over fist in the stock market.  America had a president who was a bit of a rogue, and the people loved him anyway.  The Cold War was over.  Life was good.

Then September 11 hit us square in the face.  It was like cold water to the senses. We were shocked, but awakened.  People flocked to the churches and had prayer meetings.  Flags flew everywhere and patriotism was demonstrated on bumper stickers.  A few years after September 11, however, it seems we have forgotten the lessons of that day and have once again gone forgotten God.  When the suffering ended, we returned to our old ways.

The Bible says that suffering brings us character and this leads to hope in God.  We not only don’t forget Him, but we rejoice in Him.  We even rejoice in our sufferings because they lead us to God (Romans 5:1-11).  It is through God that we “reign in life” (Romans 5:17).  We get grace from Him to live the way He wants us to, which is the best way to journey through life.

We get it all backwards though.  We think the suffering is meant to punish us or is to be shunted away.  Somehow if we could just look past the suffering to the grace of God and rejoice in Him, we would be all right.

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Faith in the workplace

“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?…  Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear;  though war break out against me, even then will I be confident (Psalm 27:1,3).”

In these tough economic times it is easy to get discouraged and doubt our self worth.  I personally have lost my full time job this year, and I know others who have been fired for one reason or another. Even if a firing is purportedly due to budget issues, there still may be a lingering feeling that maybe our performance had something to do with our dismissal.  It’s not a nice feeling, especially since American culture values performance and production.

We work for wages.  They’re not a gift, but an obligation of our employer to compensate us for doing our duty. We’re all human, however, and make mistakes.  It’s possible that a lack of performance will lead to trouble in the workplace.  Our boss may feel we haven’t done our duty, even to such a degree that we get fired as a result and lose our paycheck.

This is why it is nice that God doesn’t reward us based on our performance.  Instead, he gives us a credit card.  We are given credit based on our faith in Him (Romans 4:1-8). God is the Lord of all life, including our jobs, so ultimately if we are believers in Jesus Christ, we are working for Him.  So even though our employer may grade us on performance, the criterion for pleasing God is our faith, including in the workplace.

So when our employer criticizes our performance, rightly or wrongly, we know we have a refuge.  We still get credit from God for believing in Him there.  This doesn’t mean we don’t try to do a good job. Again, we are working for God and he tells us to be diligent in caring for what He has given us to do for work on this planet (Proverbs 27:23-27).

But if we fail to perform, there is still the credit card of faith.  I’d rather carry this around in the workplace than depend on my own human efforts to be successful there.

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“Show me your ways, O LORD,  teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long (Psalm 25:4,5).

One of the toughest places to function in human existence is the workplace. If we are fortunate, we have friendly colleagues who even become our  friends over time.  If we are not so blessed, we have coworkers who are rude, controlling, unfriendly, angry and manipulative.

It is not surprising that we encounter people at work with the latter characteristics. After all, the apostle Paul wrote in third chapter of Romans that “there is no one who is righteous” (v.10), “there is no one who does good” (v 12).  Paul describes their speech as coming from an “open grave”, being like snake poison, and full of “cursing and bitterness” (v.13-14).  To sum up, he says they are miserable and ruinous people who do not know how to obtain peace (v. 15-17).  No wonder we run into nasty people at work!

It helps to gain perspective on what we are dealing with in such people. We shouldn’t expect grace from those who haven’t received it themselves.  But how do we handle them?  It helps to think that outside of Jesus Christ we would have the same characteristics.  If we are in Christ, we have received grace and can give it to those folks.

It also helps to trust God every minute of the day as we interact with them.  Keep asking Him what to do and watch Him work!

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Sweetness

“Eat honey, my son, for it is good;  honey from the comb is sweet to your taste.  Know also that wisdom is sweet to your soul; if you find it, there is a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off (Proverbs 24:13,14).”

In the film Marley and Me, journalist John Grogan is a writer of a column about everyday life, much of it centered around the actions of his dog.  But  John grows unhappy with the column and takes a job in another state as a reporter.

But writing hard news doesn’t fit John.  His boss complains that his writing has to much of “you” in it, and tells John to stick to hard facts.  But John soon realizes that he was made to write columns with a personal touch. His wife Jenny tells him that when she reads his columns she sees him in them, that they ARE him. When she reads them, she says she gets “5 minutes with him”.  So John suggests to his boss that he be allowed to write columns again.

We belong to God and He made us and the world we live in (Psalm 24:1).  When we are ourselves, and do what God created us to do as individuals, we fulfill His purpose for us.  It is not unreasonable to suggest that doing anything other than what God made us for is disobedience to Him, and we won’t be happy unless we obey Him and use the talents He has given us.

There are a lot of obstacles to doing what we were made to do. Other people oppose us.  We don’t think we can succeed. We lack the money. But we have to find a way to make it happen, with God’s help. We will be true to ourselves and God, and life will be much sweeter.

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“Now I know that the LORD saves his anointed;  he answers him from his holy heaven  with the saving power of his right hand.  Some trust in chariots and some in horses,  but we trust in the name of the LORD our God (Psalm 20:6,7).”

I got on the ramp this morning, the wrong one as it turns out, and headed in the wrong direction.  Thankfully  I still had plenty of time to get to work, and as I looked at the nature around me I just decided to relax and enjoy it. I moved to this area for the beautiful mountain ridges I was looking at.  They were particularly gorgeous on my drive because of the autumn colors. I got a great tour because the next exit was about 10 miles down the road. But  I didn’t mind.

What I began thinking  as I turned around and headed in the right direction was how anyone could look at what I was looking at and not understand that there is a God.  The intricate beauty of these mountains could not be the result of happenstance.

The book of Romans explains why people don’t acknowledge God despite the creation around them (Romans 1:18-32).  They prefer their wickedness to knowing God. Like several alchoholic beverages, people’s bad behavior acts to dull their awareness to the truth.  They want it that way.  For some reason they think a satisfying life can be obtained outside of a relationship with Him.

By the end of the day, I had reached a milestone in my move here.  It was still beautiful as I drove to my lodgings, so I stopped off at a coffee shop to celebrate. I enjoyed the sunset, warm weather and beautiful nature. God gets all the credit.

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