Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘witnessing’ Category

“Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy (I Peter 2:10).”

Want to see a microcosm of the world community? Take a plane trip overseas.

As I write this, I am sitting in a foreign airport. It’s the middle of the night.

Some people in this terminal are sleeping. Others, like me, are up reading, snacking or whacking on their computers.

I have been traveling for over 30 hours now, and I have seen and heard people from all over the world. As I sat in a major European airport earlier today during a long layover, the races, languages and cultures of most of the major groups of mankind were represented.

In this globalized age, people’s jobs take them to far flung nations. I listened on my first leg as the man and woman behind me talked of their employment in the Middle East.

They also talked of their personal lives. Both were engaged to be married, and both had fiancees that lived on different continents than they did.

As I sat in with a mass of humanity in the terminal during my long layover, a man with a South Asian accent told the young Canadian woman he was talking to that he was an electrical engineer from Philadelphia. She was a white videographer on her way to Africa to record the work of a charity.

This woman explained to her fellow conversationalist that she just loved her work.  She told him that she had wanted to be a doctor until in high school she was editing some video and under pressure found that she would rather complete that task than the chemistry and biology assignments she had due.

This woman’s job included working with celebrities who do charity work. The man from Philly told her the obvious: “you have an interesting  job!”

It may seem like it, but globalization isn’t new. One of the ancestors of Jesus Christ, a woman named Ruth, also found herself working abroad, except her job wasn’t as glamorous as some of the people I heard today.

Ruth was basically a social welfare recipient in her new land of Israel and participated in their version of a welfare-to-work program. She went out to glean leftover grain in fields. This was a provision made by the Israelites for poor people.

In those circumstances, a lot of things could have gone wrong for Ruth. In Chapter Two of the biblical book named after her, it is made clear that as a poor foreign woman, she was subject to abuse.

God took care of Ruth in her new country, though. He led her to the fields of a righteous man named Boaz who just happened to be one of her and her mother-in-law’s guardian-redeemers.

A guardian-redeemer was a person in Israel who by law was responsible for caring for needy relatives. Ruth and her mother-in-law Naomi, both poverty-stricken widows, surely qualified for receiving the help from a person of this ilk.

Boaz did more than the bare minimum under the law for Ruth and Naomi. He not only let Ruth glean in his fields, but he also insisted upon it for her protection.

Boaz also gave her instructions how to be efficient in her work, and provided water for her (Ruth 2:8,9). However, he didn’t stop there.

Boaz personally invited Ruth to sup with him, she just a poor worker and he the owner of the operation! In addition, he made it clear to the other workers that they were to take care of her abundantly as well (Ruth 2:14-16).

While Boaz may have been a kindly older gentleman who took pity on a young poor woman, there was something else at work here. Boaz had heard of the godly reputation of Ruth and her treatment of Naomi and wanted to reward her(Ruth 2:11-12).

God use Boaz to recompense Ruth for her integrity. He saw to it that when the chips were down that she and Naomi would be taken care of.

In my present circumstances I can garner a lot of personal application from the story of Ruth and her guardian-redeemer Boaz. Like Ruth, I am a person who has hit on hard times and has had to move overseas to make a living, leaving my people and my own family behind.

Anytime you do something like this kind of move on a shoestring budget, it is a gamble. Things could go very well, or they could go very wrong. 

I am encouraged that God cares for His people in such circumstances. As I proceed by train to my final destination in a few hours, I will take this encouragement with me. It is clear that God is willing and able to take care of me in my dire straits.

However, I can also learn from Ruth’s actions as well. If anyone deserved such treatment, it is her.

Indeed, Ruth could have stayed back in her home country, but she loved Naomi so that she moved with her. Love prompted her packing her bags.

Ruth not only loved Naomi, but she loved her God, too. She  sought to  run to God for refuge in her own circumstances instead of to some other empty source of help. (Ruth 1:15-18; 2:12b). She was not a member of the Israelite community, but she wanted their God and believed His power.

One other aspects of Ruth’s conduct in her circumstances stands out,also. As she received the care of Boaz, she carried herself with  a humble and grateful attitude and gracious words(Ruth 2:13).

Ruth communicated to Boaz that she knew he was doing her  a favor and hoped his disposition toward her would remain! She also let  Boaz know that he had given her emotional rest through his kindness and understood how wonderful this was since she was not exactly a paragon of success in Israelite society.

I hope and pray to God that I behave as well as Ruth did under such circumstances.  I know I have little else to give the Lord and those assisting me but my thanks, but if that is all I have, then it should be offered!

I also pray my actions would be holy in this new environment. God deserves to be glorified for his goodness to me in providing this post for me and my family.

The people God leads to help me deserve a loving disposition from me, too. They don’t need the attitudes and actions of a curmudgeon and a grouch in response to their own goodness.

Just as Boaz was an ambassador of the people of God to Ruth, I am one here, also (II Corinthians 5:20).  As God shows me mercy in this new land, even through some of them, it is my task to reflect it back.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.  Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field’ (Matthew 9:36-38).”

The World Cup women’s championship game this weekend went back and forth. One team went ahead, it seemed for good.

Then, a defender for the winning team gave the other squad a gift. She kicked it right to her opponent standing in front of the goal.

Of course, the alert opponent obliged. She kicked the ball into the net and saved her team from a sure defeat.

With the score now tied, the team that had given away a goal scored again. They were jubilant and seemingly on their way to victory.

However, with time running out the losing side scored again. Once more, the teams were tied.

As the rules required, the game was decided on a shootout. The team that had outplayed their opponent on paper most of the game unbelievably missed most of their penalty kicks.

As they had the whole match, the team that had been outplayed took advantage. They made the needed shots in the shootout. They were world champions.

The emotions on the faces of the losing team told the whole story. During the game, as they made one key mistake after another, the ladies’ expressions reflected shock, sadness and heartbreak.

The British TV announcer during all this mayhem described the game with one of the cleverest statements I have ever heard during a sporting event. He called the happenings of this championship  a “19th nervous breakdown”.

This reporter got this phrase from a hit of the 1960s by the Rolling Stones. It describes a girl who is flighty and unstable due to a terrible childhood.

In his novel “Bleachers”, John Grisham describes a gathering of former high school football players who remember their own past glories on the field. They show up in their old home town because their old football coach is on his deathbed. They hold a vigil in the bleachers at their old field, now named after there coach, Eddie Rake.

Rake put their small town of Messina on the map. In 34 years as coach, his Spartans won hundreds of victories and many state titles.

However, Neely Crenshaw, the main character of the story and the quarterback of one Rake’s best teams, wishes he had never seen a football. Playing for Eddie Rake was a nerve wracking and even physically harmful experience.

Rake finally was fired after one of his players died during a practice after Neely Crenshaw had graduated. The coach had pushed his players to run the bleachers on an extremely hot day and the boy, Scotty Reardon, died of heat stroke.

While sitting in the bleachers reflecting, one of Rakes’ old players produces a radio broadcast of the state championship game in which Neely Crenshaw had played.  Many of Rakes’ former players gather around to listen.

They skip the first half because their school was behind 31-0. The broadcast they listen to begins after halftime.

The broadcaster notes two key points. First, he expresses his belief that in all of his years of doing the team’s games, he doesn’t remember them ever being so far behind at the half. Second, he points out that the team’s coaches are nowhere around.

As the men listen, during the second half the Spartans slowly come back. The game is full of bone-jarring hits, astounding plays and extreme excitement.

What is curious is that Neely Crenshaw doesn’t throw one pass. While he is on the sidelines, his throwing hand is in an ice bucket.

Crenshaw replaces his coach as the field general since the man is absent. He calls running play after running play.

With seconds left and his team behind by a touchdown, Crenshaw leads the Spartans down the field. On the final play of the drive, he falls into the end zone and wins the state championship for his team, sans coaches.

What doesn’t come out until later is that the team had played so hard because they were enraged at their coach, Eddie Rake. He had come in at half time and hit Neely Crenshaw so hard that he had broken his nose.

Crenshaw retaliated on the spot. He slugged Rake right in the face and knocked him cold in the locker room.

One of the defensive players, an extremely brutal player named Silo, mades the coaches leave. They show up in the vicinity of the field only as the game is coming to its conclusion.

The fictional state championship game of the Messina Spartans was similar to this week’s women’s World Cup in drama. The whole episode was one big “19th nervous breakdown”.

For 15 years Neely Crenshaw has harbored bitterness toward Eddie Rake. Even though Rake visited Crenshaw in his hospital room after a career-ending injury in college, and asked his forgiveness, Neely has refused to let what the players call an “altercation” go.

At Eddie Rake’s funeral, a message from the coac is read to the huge crowd. In it, he tells of two regrets.

One is the death of Scotty Reardon. He has already sought and been granted the forgiveness of the family, and has been buried next to the boy.

The second regret is his actions toward Neely Crenshaw during the state championship game. In the message he apologizes and asks for the team’s forgiveness.  

Crenshaw is surprised that he is one of three former players to be asked to read  a short eulogy. Struggling with his feelings toward Rake, he finally tells the crowd he has now forgiven the coach.

This is a watershed for Neely Crenshaw because he himself needs forgiveness, which he has found hard to come by. He is divorced and estranged from his ex-wife, whom he misses.

In addition, Crenshaw is kicking himself that he dropped the love of his life in high school for a promiscous fling with a loose girl. On the visit to Rakes’ funeral, he has sought forgiveness from the girl, Cameron, with only a small result.

Cameron was devastated for 10 years because of what Crenshaw did to her. However, she has moved on and is happily married and a mother. 

Crenshaw, though, is full of regrets. He calculates the life expectancy of Cameron’s husband, and tells her that when he dies, to give him a call.

The Bible is full of such messy stories. One is that of Jepthah, a judge in Israel.

Jepthah’s origins are a little awkward. His father Gilead, the tribal sheikh, fathered him via a prostitute.

When Jepthah comes of age, his brothers, the sons of Jepthah’s wife, throw him out. Jepthah, the Bible says, begins to hang out with a group of scoundrels.

However, Jepthah may be a bastard, but he is quite a fighter. Thus, when Israel needs someone to take on their enemy the Ammonites, they call on Jepthah.

 Jepthah responds as you might imagine. “Oh, before you had no use for me, but now you need my help when it’s convenient. Take a powder.”

The leaders of the Gilead clan  finally convince him to take on the role of leader of his people. He does so, and gives the Ammonite king a history lesson.

The Ammonite king claims Israelite land, indicating that Israel took it from him. Jepthah reminds the Ammonite leader that Israel had been peaceful toward his people, but were provoked. In addition, he refreshes him in the fact that what took place occurred hundreds of years ago.

None of this matters to the king of the Ammonites. He ignores Jepthah.

Jepthah talks big, but he doesn’t seem to have much confidence. He is about to  have his “19th nervous breakdown”.

Before taking on the Ammonites, Jepthah makes a rash vow to God. He tells the Lord: “If you give the Ammonites into my hands,  whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites will be the LORD’s, and I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering (Judges 11:30,31).”

After Jepthah defeats the Ammonites, who should greet him at his door but his flighty teenage daughter, dancing with a tambourine in her hand. She can be best described by the opening lyric to the Stones’ song “19th Nervous Breakdown”:

You’re the kind of person
You meet at certain dismal dull affairs.
Center of a crowd, talking much too loud
Running up and down the stairs.
Well, it seems to me that you have seen too much in too few years.
And though you’ve tried you just can’t hide
Your eyes are edged with tears.

You better stop
Look around
Here it comes, here it comes, here it comes, here it comes
Here comes your nine-teenth nervous breakdown.”

Her father is distraught.  Jepthah obviously loves his daughter, his only child, but  tells her the bad news that she is to be a sacrifice.

Jepthah’s daughter consoles her father, but asks for two months leave to go off on a camping trip with her BFFs so she can reflect on her life. He grants her this request.
 
When she returns, Jepthah does the deed. In those days, the girls of Israel held a 4 day backpack trip each year to remember her.
 
Now, being a male and a father, I can imagine Jepthah playing the blame game over all of this. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards wrote a lyric for him in “19th Nervous Breakdown”:
 
Oh, whose to blame, that girls just insane.
Well nothing I do don’t seem to work,
It only seems to make matters worse. oh please.
Au contraire, Mr. Jepthah Gilead. James Dobson notes the empty headedness of today’s girls in a recent letter to his constituents, and puts the blame where it belongs.
 
Introducing his thoughts about today’s girls, Dobson desribes how a Christian leader was invited to a high school football game after he retired, but snuck away at halftime. He was so “profoundly burdened” over the kids around him that he went home to pray for them.
 
Dobson writes:

We see evidence of this vacuity among the girls who contact us to seek advice. They are very different from those who wrote us twenty years ago. Teens used to inquire about the “right” thing to do, which usually reflected a Christian foundation of some variety. Even those who had no faith seemed to know that some things were simply wrong. That has changed dramatically. A significant number of the teens who ask for our counsel now are not interested in what is moral but rather how they should deal with the messes they are in and whether or not they should act on their impulses and desires. Not all adolescents think this way, of course, nor do the majority of them. But we are hearing from more and more youngsters who are greatly influenced by moral relativism. For them, absolute truth does not exist. There is no reliable standard of right and wrong because they acknowledge no God who can define it.

This is why so many young people today are pursuing alien theologies and pleasures, such as New Age nonsense, the “hookup culture,” substance abuse, and raw materialism. They are searching vainly for something that will satisfy their “soul hunger,” but they are unlikely to find it. Meaning in life comes only by answering the eternal questions that are addressed exclusively within the Christian faith. No other religion can tell us who we are, how we got here, and where we are going after death. And no other belief system teaches that we are known and loved individually by the God of the universe and by His only Son, Jesus Christ.

Moses instructed parents to talk about these spiritual truths continually at home. This is what he wrote to the Children of Israel more than 3,500 years ago.

Dobson goes on to offer several suggestions concerning what parents can do to introduce their children to Jesus Christ.

Life is messy and we humans are a mess. We are constantly having our “19th nervous breakdown”.

Too many of us parents are creating our own Eddie Rake and Jepthah stories. Too many of us are no better than Gilead or Neely Crenshaw.

Is it any wonder that among the last words of Jesus was the statement,”Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”

Dads, we’d better stop, and look around. It’s halftime boys. 

 
 
 

Read Full Post »

“For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people (I Timothy 2:5,6a).”

What’s wrong with this picture? A headline from today’s newspaper reads: “Happiest Places Sometimes Have Highest Suicide Rates”.

Utah, for example, is ranked number 1 for people who have a high sense of well being, yet it is ranked high in suicides, coming in at number 9.  On the othr hand, New York is ranked number 45 in the area of well being, but even lower when it comes to people taking their own lives.

The people who did the research theorize that the results could be due to unhappy people offing themselves because they become even more miserable living around content folks.  Others say it may be more complicated, suggesting that things like isolation in rural states may contribute to the suicides.

I’ve seen this phenomenon before. I lived in a country which in many surveys is rated the best place to live in earth. Yet, it also ranked at the top in suicides. Go figure.

While such studies are interesting I suppose, they really don’t mean much in day to day life. There’s more to life than being happy, for example.

For the Christian, what is more important is loving and being loved. The apostle Paul pointed this out, rebuking the Ephesians for engaging in trivial pursuits instead of moving God’s plan ahead (I Timothy 1:3-7).

Paul noted that there were some requisite inner characteristics for a person to engage in loving others. He outlined these attributes as a “pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith (I Timothy 1:5)”.

One of the problems with the Ephesian lovers of minutiae was that they posited themselves as teachers, but didn’t know what they were talking about (I Timothy 1:7).  As a result, they looked somewhat foolish when people in the know, like Paul and Timothy, came around.

Sometimes, raising a ruckus is the wrong strategy. I have learned this the hard way.

Once you get a reputation as a rabblerouser, especially over non-essentials, it is hard to gain a hearing when things really matter. People interpret your communication through their grid, one  based on their previous encounters with you.

I recently had occasion to send out what I thought was a normal report to some people. However, I was shocked when I was told I was being disrespectful.

In reflecting on this, I determined that I had paved the way for this result by some previous unwise written comments. I figure I now have a reputation for dissing people in my communication.

When the people you are dissing happen to be folks with authority, you put yourself in a dangerous position. Paul, the apostle sent from God,  jettisoned a couple of men who he determined were abusive with their words. 

What God desires instead of reviling communication is an environment of peace.  Paul wrote that we should be praying for our authorities, not slamming them (I Timothy 2:1-4, 8).

I saw a comic in the paper this morning which said,”Sometimes it is more important to be nice than to he right.” When it comes to setting an environment whereby the good news of Jesus Christ gets communicated, this should be a mantra.

If I have a comment, concern or issue with people, sometimes it is best to let it lie.  I don’t have to go to the mat on everything.

If I want to battle, let it be over the important things in life, like faith, hope and love. The rest I should leave in the hands of my loving Savior Jesus Christ.

Read Full Post »

“Light in a messenger’s eyes brings joy to the heart, and good news gives health to the bones (Proverbs 15:30).”

Carter Chambers and Edward Cole are an odd couple. Edward is a billionare businessman, while Carter is a struggling African American mechanic.

However, they are linked together because they are engaged in the same fight: a battle against cancer which is sucking the life out of them.

They are roommates in the same hospital when they both learn that they have less than a year to live. As a result, they develop a list of things they want to do before they “kick the bucket”, a “bucket list”.

In the movie of the same name, the two men leave the cancer ward and begin to check things off their lists, using Edward’s money to fulfill their dreams. They jump out of airplanes, drive souped up cars around a race track, and visit exotic locales.

Along the way, they engage in a discussion over the meaning of life. Edward’s thinking is “we live, we die, and the wheels on the bus go round and round.” 

When it comes to faith, Edward doesn’t get it. He tells Carter, “I envy people who have faith, I just can’t get my head around it.”

Carter replies, “Maybe because your head’s in the way.” Carter, unlike Edward, is a man of faith.

Overlooking the Pyramids, Carter tells Edward:

“You know, the ancient Egyptians had a beautiful belief about death.  When their souls got to the entrance to heaven, the guards asked two questions.  Their answers determined whether they were able to enter or not.  ‘Have you found joy in your life?’  ‘Has your life brought joy to others?’”

For Carter, this joy is found in meaningful relationships. As the two men do the items on their bucket list, he realizes more and more how important his wife Virginia and family are to him.

On the other hand, Edward’s focus is on fulfilling the list itself. When Carter attempts to reconcile Edward and his estranged daughter Emily, Edward becomes angry. He lashes out at Carter:

” This trip was supposed to MEAN something to me? Like it was gonna change ME? How did you see it playing out Carter, I knock on the door, she answers, she’s surprised and angry, but I tell her how much I love her and miss her, and OH, by the way, I’m gonna be dead soon so I’m reaching out to you because I don’t wanna die alone?”

Carter replies,” Everyone’s afraid to die alone.”

Edward, walking away in anger, tells Carter, “I’m not everyone! This was supposed to be fun. That’s all it ever was.”

 The trip ends. Carter is dying with joy because he has hope, while Edward has neither joy nor hope.

Carter’s view of life is more akin to that of those who put their faith in Jesus Christ. Christians understand that they can be joyful because of their trust in the work of Jesus on the Cross.

We have peace with God because of what Jesus did for us. Not only that, we are being saved through His life. Indeed,  perseverance and a godly response to suffering (such as that of cancer) empowered by the life of Christ in us actually produces hope for us (Romans 5:1-9).

Despite the  argument which results in a bad end to their trip, Edward rushes to Carter’s side as the end approaches for the latter. As Carter is dying, Edward is given a letter to read from him. It reveals the mutual benefit they gained from each other:

 “Dear Edward, I’ve gone back and forth the last few days trying to decide whether or not I should even write this. In the end, I realized I would regret it if I didn’t, so here it goes. I know the last time we saw each other, we weren’t exactly hitting the sweetest notes-certain wasn’t the way I wanted the trip to end. I suppose I’m responsible and for that, I’m sorry. But in all honestly, if I had the chance, I’d do it again. Virginia said I left a stranger and came back a husband; I owe that to you. There’s no way I can repay you for all you’ve done for me, so rather than try, I’m just going to ask you to do something else for me-find the joy in your life. You once said you’re not everyone. Well, that’s true-you’re certainly not everyone, but everyone is everyone. My pastor always says our lives are streams flowing into the same river towards whatever heaven lies in the mist beyond the falls. Find the joy in your life, Edward. My dear friend, close your eyes and let the waters take you home.”

Edward heeds Carter’s last words to him. He reconciles with his daughter and meets his lovely granddaughter.

More importantly Edward seems to have found faith in God. He speaks at Carter’s funeral of his friend’s influence on him:

“I hope that it doesn’t sound selfish of me, but the last months of his life were the best months of mine. He saved my life, and he knew it before I did. I’m deeply proud that this man found it worth his while to know me. In the end, I think it’s safe to say that we brought some joy to one another’s lives, so one day, when I go to some final resting place, if I happen to wake up next to a certain wall with a gate, I hope that Carter’s there to vouch for me and show me the ropes on the other side.”

As a result of his new faith, Edward seems to have died in hope. Carter narrates the end of the movie:

“Edward Perryman Cole died in May. It was a Sunday in the afternoon and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. He was 81 years old. Even now, I can’t claim to understand the measure of a life, but I can tell you this: I know that when he died, his eyes were closed and his heart was open..”.

The lives of Edward and Carter in “The Bucket List” teach us that true joy is found in Christ.  This joy brings us hope for this life and the next (Romans 15:13).

This joy and hope we have found in Jesus shouldn’t be hid away for ourselves. Like Carter, we ought to be bringing joy and hope to others by directing them to faith in Christ and the benefit of loving relationships.

We can also learn from Edward’s generosity toward Carter in helping him fulfill his dreams of this life. He used his  riches to help another man find some joy and provide some inward healing in the process.

 There is joy in Christ, and there is joy in living (I Timothy 6:17,18). As believers, we ought to spread that joy around as much as we can.

Read Full Post »

“I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness (John 12:46).”

Every year our president gives his State of the Union message. It’s supposed to tell the country how we are doing and outline some plans for the future.

Here is a column I ran across in the Washington Post right before President Obama gave his talk to Congress and the American people:

The state of Obama is strong

By Jonathan Capehart

“The President Obama you see tonight will be different from the one you saw on Nov. 3. That Obama was a little glum and introduced into our political lexicon the now-worn-out gerund “shellacking” to describe the beat-down he and the Democrats suffered at the polls in the midterm elections. No, the Obama you will see tonight will be strong. Really strong.

Folks were pronouncing Obama’s presidency pretty much dead for the next two years on Nov. 3. Heck, I even worried the president might not be able to get it together before the 2012 sweepstakes got underway in less than a year. But as John Heilemann reports in a fascinating must-read New York magazine piece, Obama recognized he and his administration were in trouble and started shoring things up before the actual reality struck in November. And the string of accomplishments in the lame-duck session are testament to a more focused, hands-on and assertive chief executive. You know you’re doing something right when your arch-nemesis, Charles Krauthammer, spends two columns complimenting you, including dubbing you “The new comeback kid.” Yeah, the compliments were all backhanded. But they were compliments all the same.

And now Obama has the surging job approval ratings to back up his strength and Krauthammer’s grudging admiration.”

 I too admire the fact that Mr. Obama woke up from the tar and feathering he took in November and decided to do something about it.  He could’ve run and hid, but he didn’t. He “manned up” and took action.

Whether you agree with his politics or not, you would have to agree that our president took his drubbing to heart. Mr. Obama got up off the mat and began to restore his status with the American people.

The last I checked his approval ratings had moved up to over 50 per cent. This is quite  a rise from the low 40s, even upper 30s, where they were recently.

Sometimes we get a wake up call that makes us do a turn around. This happened to the apostle Paul.

Here he was, minding his own business, walking along a road to Damascus in order to roust out some Christians and persecute them, when Jesus Himself appeared. Paul was blinded by an extremely bright light and heard a voice.

Paul fell to the ground. Jesus told him to stand up, and commissioned him for service (Acts 26:12-18).

The last few years I feel as if I have taken a shellacking myself. Life has been rough in many ways. Among my most recent problems is a serious illness.

As a middle-aged man, moving into the status of old age pensioner no too far down the road, I have been looking at my mortality. I realize I may have only a few years left. In fact, none of us are even guaranteed tomorrow.

The beatings I have taken in life have led me to a thought here at the new year, though.  Like Mr. Obama, instead of finding the next corner to hide in, I am ready to take it to the next level.

Whether I meet Jesus through passing into the next life, or by His sudden appearing, I want to be ready. I don’t want to be like the five foolish virgins in the Bible.

You remember them. Jesus told a story about these girls. They fell asleep waiting for the bridegroom to the wedding they were supposed to attend.

However, these ladies didn’t bring enough oil for their lamps, and when the bridegroom did show up in the wee hours they were off buying some. They missed the bridegroom and the wedding entirely. They weren’t prepared (Matthew 25:1-13).

Likewise, Jesus told a story about a wicked and lazy servant. What made this man receive such monikers?

Well, he received a bag of gold from his boss. Instead of doing something with it while waiting for the boss to return, he hid it in the ground.

He was too afraid and fearful to make a move with the money.  The boss returned and verbally whipped up on him.

I can relate to the women with the empty lamps and the employee with the gold. I’m tired, too. I’m also a little fearful of the future.

Despite my fatigue and fear, I think the answer is not to bury my head in my  pillow or become a recluse. Jesus wants more from me than that.

He told Paul when he commissioned him to reach out to the Gentiles:”I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me (Acts 26:18).”‘

I believe Jesus still wants me to have a vision for reaching people for Him. If I am to meet Him soon, I ought to have some people follow.

There’s something else that Jesus discussed which is really pricking at me right now. Here’s what He said:

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne.  All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

   “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,  I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

   “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

   “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

   “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.  For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

   “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

  “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

In addition to meeting people’s need for Jesus and his salvation, I it appears He desires that I do practical things for the lonely, the poor and the sick.

I have to make a choice. I can either be an old goat until the end of my days, or a sheep with a spring in his step.

I haven’t fleshed out Jesus’s vision for me this year. However, I do know ministering physically and spiritually begins at home, and flows from there. I also know I have a group of men who will help me get some perspective.

Yes, I have had something of an epiphany. Jesus may have me burn out instead of  flicker out. At least He wants me to stay fired up.

Read Full Post »

“Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible…I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings (I Corinthians 9:19,23).”

As a teacher, I know I can’t please everybody. I can only do the best I can, and hope for the best.

Some terms are better than others in that regard. Sometimes I have classes that really seem to go for what I am teaching them. Other times, well..you know.

Regardless of the consequences, I need to remain consistent. This is not easy to do when people are opposing you.

It is easy to become discouraged in such circumstances. It is easy to want to throw in the towel.

The main question to me is if I am where God wants me to be. If I am, then I have to put up with the good times and the bad.

I can’t expect pats on the back in my job. I may get them, but they probably will be the exception rather than the rule.

People are more apt to criticize rather than to compliment. It’s just the way we humans are.

Job was one of the godliest men of all time, but when times got tough with him, even he was mocked and spat upon. To him, attitude was everything.

Here’s what ol’ Job said in his plight;

 “God has made me a byword to everyone,
   a man in whose face people spit. 
My eyes have grown dim with grief;
   my whole frame is but a shadow. 
The upright are appalled at this;
   the innocent are aroused against the ungodly. 
Nevertheless, the righteous will hold to their ways,
   and those with clean hands will grow stronger (Job 17:6-9).”

Job stuck to his guns, and tried to go stronger in the storm. So did the apostle Paul.

He was out their preaching the truth, but he wasn’t always received with open arms. However, sometimes he was.

Some people listened to Paul and received his Savior, Jesus. Others made it so hot for him he had to get out of town (Acts 17:1-15).

Some men in Athens even called him a babbler. Others asked him to come again because they wanted to soak up his teaching (Acts 17:16-21).

Paul knew who he was. Yet, he subjected himself to the whims of others for the sake of the  gospel (I Corinthians 9:1,12).

Paul really deserved financial support. But he purposely declined it so that he could preach the gospel free of charge. He gave up his rights (I Corinthians 9:15-18).

As far as getting applause on the job, it would be nice, but in reality I shouldn’t expect thanks.  And unlike Paul, I am getting paid!

Any other attitude smells of pride. Jesus told this story on the subject of expecting thanks when carrying out our duties:

 “Suppose one of you has a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Will he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’?  Won’t he rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’? Will he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do?  So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty (Luke 17:7-10).’ ”

What’s the old saying about servanthood? It goes something like this: you can tell what kind of servant”s heart you have by the attitude you have when you are treated like one.

Thus, if I am indeed in my workplace by the will of God, and my employer and my “customers” treat me like a dog, then I had better start lapping. Yes, I know. I don’t have to be a doormat. But I should have the attitude of a slave even though I know I am not one.

I shouldn’t expect “thank yous” from the masses. Even Jesus only got a 10 percent “thank you” rate when he healed some lepers (Luke 17:11-18).

Even as I write, the frustration of wanting plaudits and not getting them is rising in my chest. I don’t think I should hold my breath if I expect them from my students.

On the other hand, serving Jesus with a thankful heart and ministering to those young men and women in the midst of opposition will warm His heart. I can at least expect a “well done” from my true Lord at the end of the day.

Read Full Post »

“But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear.  For truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it (Matthew 13:16,17).”

Yesterday I took my son to a professional football game, his first. I was excited that he would have the opportunity to witness one our favorite teams play in person.

As we sat there in our seats on this wintery day, the atmosphere was fun.  Our team was playing out the string (they’re not very good) and the stands were half empty, but I was still excited to be there, especially for my son.

Not long after we sat down, some fans of the opposing team parked themselves right in front of us, having moved to empty seats from their previous location. Both male and female, and all young, they were in various states of inebriation.

One fellow in particular started to get on my nerves. He used profanity, was lewd and ran his mouth continously about the lack of virtues of our team.

I finally had had enough of this guy and said to him,”How many championships have you won?” His reply was, “How many have YOU won?”

It was there, during that conversation, that we somehow found common ground.  We both learned that we were from the same area and were fans of another team.

After that, we got along fine. In fact, I began to enjoy these raucous fans from the other side.

One guy I talked to began to compliment me and the other fans of our team for even being there to watch such a lousy team during such bad weather. “You’re real troopers”, he said.

He didn’t stop there, though. He began to berate the fans of his own team, telling me they did not really support it.

I told him that I thought the fans I saw there were indeed supportive. He told me,”Yeah, that’s because we’re winning.”  His inference was that. generally, his fellow rooters were fair weather fans.

A man behind us really drove me crazy, though. He poured beer all over himself. He threw a beer can where others could potentially step on it and stumble. He was so drunk, he was lost in himself.

With him I made no attempt to have a meeting of the minds.  He was so out of it, I knew there would be no discussion of any kind except a drunken babbling.

The one man I got along with fine was the one next to me. This young fellow hardly said a word, just smiled and laughed when I commented about the nature of the other team’s fans, and even picked up my program for me when I dropped it.

The reason I got along so well with this fellow was easy to determine. We were both fans of the same team.

Jesus interacted with everyone, but he really only had common ground with the people on his own team: His disciples.  When he spoke, he knew these guys would be the only one who had a hope of relating to what he was saying,

The supporters of the other team, led by Coach Satan, He spoke to in hard-to-understand parables.  He knew these folks had no desire to understand the truth because they weren’t fans of His (Matthew 13:11-15).

Jesus interacted with the fans of evil, and even loved them. However, unless they came around to His view of things, He knew there was no hope for them.

Two leading followers of Jesus who came immediately after Him also tried to reach out to the other side. However, there was always a point when Paul and Barnabas either came to a meeting of the minds with these people or cut them loose.

When those to whom they were sharing the good news of Christ rejected it, or even opposed it, these early disciples took a stand for their side. In fact, they did it demonstratively.

One man who was outright opposing Paul and Barnabas was  stricken with darkness. This was rather appropriate since his viewpoint also made him spiritually blind as well (Acts 13:6-12).

Some people with whom they had common ground initially ended up abusing them. These Jews, who had the same background as Paul and Barnabas, obviously had an inferiority complex.

Paul and Barnabas told them,”We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles (Acts 13:46).”

Paul and Barnabas refused to have anything more to do with those who rejected them. They had a rousing cheer they used to reflect this. They shook the dust off their feet (Acts 13:50-51).

Those of us who believe in Jesus Christ only really have common ground with each other. We live in the same world as the people around us who do not have faith in our Lord, and have to communicate and deal with them.

However, ultimately we don’t agree on the most important thing on earth: who Jesus Christ is and what He wants of us. At this point, we separate ways.

The fan of the other team at the stadium yesterday for whom I had the most compassion was the one who saw his condition. He thought his fellow fans were a bunch of losers. He told me he himself had been drunk for the last 12 hours.

There might be some hope for this man if he sobered up. He was thoughtful and had a quest for truth. Perhaps had I gotten to know him better, we could have had a meeting of the minds.

Jesse Jackson once gave a speech espousing the view that Americans had commong ground within their diversity. This common ground was the need for all of us to survive economically.

Jackson said during this speech:” Tomorrow we’ll challenge to move to higher ground.”

We might have something in common with our fellow human beings, and can relate to them on that. Ultimately though, we need to challenge them to move to the higher ground offered through Jesus Christ.

They have to leave their state of inebriation and want that higher ground though. Here’s hoping they will want just that.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »