Friday, September 21, 2018

"The Wimpy Way Out"

2nd Thessalonians 
3.8-10 NKJV

“…nor did we eat anyone's bread free of charge, but worked with labor and toil night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, not because we do not have authority, but to make ourselves an example of how you should follow us. 

For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.

Money is a powerful tool to accomplish your dreams, fulfill your desires, and fix whatever ails you. There is no particular virtue in poverty. Money can be a great blessing but “the love of money is the root of all evil” (1st Timothy 6.10 KJV). Money represents the things you can buy. Those things and your motivation to own them reveal the condition of your heart. Your level of devotion to material possessions indicates the depth of the evil resident within us.

“If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.

Paul’s work ethic could be restated for our spend-happy culture:

‘If anyone has no money, neither shall he buy.’

Wimpy, in the original Popyeye cartoon series, was a ‘hamburger-aholic.’ He was fond of promising, “I’ll gladly pay you tomorrow for a hamburger today.” Apparently Wimpy did not have enough cash on hand to satisfy his hankering for a burger. St. Paul would have clarified things for Wimpy: ‘Wait until tomorrow to eat the hamburger when you have the money to buy it. Go to work today. Earn the money. Let your hunger spur you on to productive some labor, then come back and buy your burger.”

The difference between a man and a boy is… a boy won’t wait. A man can delay gratification. Wimpy looked like a man, but he was apparently still a boy. Wimpy was a wimpy man.

There are many things I want, feel I deserve, and could easily justify owning like a vacation, for example. The truth is... I could take a vacation right now if I wanted to. I have a credit card! Saying “no” to self is painful. The little boy within me threatens a tantrum. He’s screams to spend money I don’t have. The man in me believes I can wait and delay my own gratification. The man in me realizes the best vacation I’ll ever take is the one that’s paid for before I take it.

Will I delay gratification like a man or will I take the “Wimpy” way out?

Thursday, September 20, 2018

"Finding Comfort"

2nd Thessalonians 2.16-17 NASU

“Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us eternal comfort and good hope by grace,... ...comfort and strengthen your hearts in every good work and word.”

Ministries of excellence are accompanied by periods of discouragement. If you are a giver, prepare to suffer. In the midst of your suffering, be strong and keep giving. Jesus promised to “comfort and strengthen your hearts.”


True servants of “every good work and word” share what they have. You cannot keep what you possess. It’s not for you alone. You have been honored with an unusual abundance and unlimited access to the Word of God. Pass it on. Like every disciple of Christ, you are called to be His hands and mouthpiece.

“And as you go, preach saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’
Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons.
Freely you have received, freely give.”
Jesus, Matthew 10.7-8 NKJV


Your offering of “every good work and word” may be met with resistance, suspicion, criticism, or (worst of all) apathy. You may wish to stop giving, but you can’t. You’re stuck between the ‘rock’ of God’s calling and the ‘hard spot’ of closed doors. The pressure is profound, sometimes nearly unbearable. You are reduced to tears and pushed to your knees. Will you continue to give away what you have? Will you cast yourself upon the Lord and rely solely upon Him alone for the comfort and strength to remain in the impossible situation?

You are not alone. Paul described his dilemma (and yours) 2,000 years ago...

“…this body of ours had no rest, but we were harassed at
every turn — conflicts on the outside, fears within. But God,
who comforts the downcast, comforted us…”
2nd Corinthians 5.6-7 NIV

Be strong. Find comfort. You serve a living Savior who promises to “comfort and strengthen your hearts in every good work and word.”



______________________

The dandelion image called "Wisp Away" is by Amandaw whose photo albums you may view at Photobucket.  

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

"Highway to Hell"

2nd Thessalonians 1.7b, 10 NIV

“This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels…. on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed.

This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you.”

Have you ever known a thing to be true but your attempt to convey the truth was met with suspicion and skepticism? You made eye contact. They listened politely but were not moved. You rallied your powers of persuasion but the audience remained unconvinced. You stated the facts, told the truth, and expressed conviction. You believed what you said. Why didn’t they?

You did not fail. Not everyone will believe your testimony. Some believe the truth about Jesus. Most will not.

“You can enter God's Kingdom only through the narrow gate.
The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide
for the many who choose the easy way.
But the gateway to life is small,
and the road is narrow,
and only a few
ever find
it.”
Jesus, Matthew 7.13-14 NLT

Your role is to be a witness of truth and nothing more. You simply provide testimony. Those who hear it will form their own opinions which may surprise, delight, or dismay you. Continue to witness to the truth. Persevere in sharing your testimony whenever possible. That’s all that is expected of you.

Join God’s highway construction crew. Post detour signs and flag down motorists. Warn them of the travel hazards ahead. Offer directions for a better route on a smaller road with less traffic. Inspire them to consider a superior destination. Do all you can do to get them off “the highway to hell.” 

When you die and go to heaven, you may be surprised to discover that some people are there for only one reason... they “believed [your] testimony.” 

__________________

The "Route 666" graphic comes from a sermon series at Jubilee Fellowship Church located in Lone Tree, Colorado. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

"Reach for the Bleach"

1st Thessalonians 5.23-24 NIV

May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.”

We made a mistake when we built our home. My wife and I ordered white tile and white grout for our kitchen countertops. The tile stayed white but the grout collected dirt like a magnet. We bleached it back to its original white again and again but it always turned very dark, very quickly. After speaking to a host of homeowners and tile professionals and attempting every known remedy, I eventually concluded it was time to tear it out. No amount of sealing, scrubbing, cleaning, or bleaching would provide a lasting solution. We decided to replace our tile with Formica, Corian® , or a slab of granite.

Clorox® did the trick... temporarily. The bleach solution seeped into the filthy grout, killed the bacteria, and whitened the space between the tiles. Interestingly, the tile grime became most noticeable just before the arrival of guests, a condition which always inspired us to reach for the bleach.

I’m glad God never stops working to whiten the dirty grout in my soul. He apparently thinks I’m worth saving and has no intention of replacing me with someone of superior granite-like character. He never compares me to the Formica Christians who clean up better than me. The flaws of my past are deep and evident to all. They don’t easily polish out in like the superficial marks on a Corian® surface. I’m a regular tile and grout kind of believer. A real maintenance nightmare. I work to keep clean, yet while I attract sin like a magnet, the blood of Christ seeps into every crack and crevice of my dark being and restores me to like-new standards.

One future day, according to the Bible, I will be fully sanctified. “He will do it.”

“…for it is God who is at work in you.”
Paul, Philippians 2.13 NIV

“Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.”
Jesus, John 17.17 NASU

“May God himself… sanctify you through and through.”
Paul, 1st Thessalonians 5.23 NIV

“The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.”
Paul, 1st Thessalonians 5.24 NIV

None of my faculties remain immune or hidden from the bleaching action of His cleansing work... my spirit, soul, heart, mind, will, emotions, conscience, intuition, and body. God is sanctifying all of me “through and through.”

One day, by God’s grace, I will be “blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” What a day that will be!

Monday, September 17, 2018

"Excel Still More"

1st Thessalonians 4.1 NASU

“Finally then, brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk), that you excel still more.”

“Excel still more.” God expects me to be who I ought to be and walk as I ought to walk. This is good but not good enough. I must...

“Excel still more.”

Having achieved a particular level of maturity in Christ, I am apt to discover new levels that stretch and test my faith. There are new advances I must make and countless rungs on the ladder of spiritual growth.

“Excel still more.”

I have not ‘arrived.’ I am on a journey. The destination is heaven and the path is long and crooked. The way is difficult but Christ is with me. I must follow Him and remain determined to...

“Excel still more.”

“The gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Jesus, Matthew 7.13-14). There is no other option than to...

“Excel still more.”

Jesus is my Teacher but He’s so much more. He is also my Savior having redeemed me by His blood. Now I am saved but still there’s more. Complacency is an ever-present enemy. It is too easy to stall in the comfort of my theological position or the recollection of past exploits. That would be a mistake. Instead, I must choose to...

“Excel still more.”

Driven by forces I do not fully understand, I am growing in my love for Christ and the body of Christ. Jesus in me may be challenged, misunderstood, or even rejected. Regardless of the outcome, I must remain steadfast in my resolve to love others and in that endeavor...

“Excel still more.”

Six plus decades of learning is not enough. There’s more. Christ is just now composing the preface of the book of my eternal life. There are untold numbers of chapters to come and new insights to glean from “the Author and Perfecter of [my] faith” (Hebrews 12.2). He is transforming my story... and my soul! Jesus expects me to…


“Excel still more.”
_____________

The photograph "Mace Climbing Ladder" is by visual designer and musician Robert Andersen. You can view his interesting photographic talent at http://www.flickr.com/photos/thetwilitekid/.

Friday, September 14, 2018

"This"

1st Thessalonians 3.3c-4 NASU

“…these afflictions; for you yourselves know that we have been destined for this. ...when we were with you, we kept telling you in advance that we were going to suffer affliction; and so it came to pass, as you know.”

The Bible tells me what I am destined for. My destiny is “this”.

“…we have been destined for this.”

The “this” of which Paul spoke was the “affliction” he suffered. Paul experienced the trials he predicted. He later acknowledged these persecutions after the fact as evidence of the destiny he somehow knew was his. He warned everyone “this” would happen and it did.

“…we kept telling you in advance… and so it came to pass.”

Paul’s destiny was fulfilled before his eyes. What he saw was the destiny he got. It was his “this.”

“…we have been destined for this.”

Destiny is a big-sounding word. I thought mine would be bigger than it is. My “this” is not all I imagined. Apparently, what I see is what I get. Waiting and hoping for something bigger, grander, or more significant is a waste of time. “This” is my life and I “have been destined for this.”

My acceptance of what and where I am in life is the first step in making the most of what’s left. Time is running out. I am “just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away” (James 4.14b). Tomorrow, I could be gone; I could be with Jesus, and my dear Adonica. I better get on with the acceptance of my lot in life. I spent the first half of my existence dreaming of how big I would be. I suspect the second half will be devoted to learning to accept how small I am. 

I well remember the dreams I had five, ten, twenty, and forty years ago. Some of my dreams may yet to be achieved. Some are simply unachievable, no matter how hard I try, how much faith I muster, or how badly I want them. I can have an impact and effect some change, but I cannot force-fulfill a destiny. Mine is what it is. What I thought would be matters little. What matters much is right in front of me. I was “destined for this.” My “this” is the destiny I have. I must accept, settle into, make the most of, and learn to love “this.”

“…we have been destined for this.”

God had and continues to have a special plan for my life and “this” is a part of that. I “have been destined for this” and my “this” is good!
___________________

"This is My Life" image above is a T-shirt logo design by Katie Campbell. T-shirt purchases may be made at http://www.threadless.com/product/3733/This_is_My_Life.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

"God Still Speaks"

Sometimes God actually speaks to me through His living and written Word, as in 1st Thessalonians chapter 2, verses 4, 7, 9, and 11-13 below:


“...we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who examines our hearts.”

“Seek to please Me, and Me alone. Do not look for the approval of others. Their approval is not necessary to fulfill My purpose in your life. Only My approval matters. Say everything I have placed on your heart. Proclaim it without fear. Be bold. I will do what I have told you I will do.”

“But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother 
tenderly cares for her own children.”

“Be kind, compassionate and understanding with all people. Warmly embrace my children. Love them exactly as they are.”

“…working night and day so as not to be a burden to any of you,
we proclaimed to you the gospel of God.”

“Dedicate yourself fully to the work I have called you to do and perform it with energy, enthusiasm, imagination, and love. Always be honest, hard-working, and ethical in your business. Earn the trust and confidence of clients, co-workers, and vendors.”

“…we were exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one of you as a father would his own children, so that you would walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you...”

“Treat everyone you meet as a prospect for My kingdom, encouraging all to follow Jesus. Seek the lost, strengthen the weak, offer hope to the faint-hearted. Love everyone. Lead them by word and example. Be strong and never quit your calling to reach the world with My gospel.”

“…the word of God, which... performs its work in you who believe.”

“Trust Me and know that I am God. My word shall never fail. Believe the good work I began in You will continue to accomplish the purpose to which you have been called.”

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

"Dare to Shut Up"

1st Thessalonians 1.8 “The Message”

“The word has gotten around. Your lives are echoing the Master’s Word, not only in the provinces but all over the place. The news of your faith in God is out. We don’t even have to say anything anymore – you’re the message!

A good preacher knows how to stand up, speak up, and shut up! Abe Lincoln reportedly said, “It is better to be quiet and thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt!” Solomon observed, “Even a fool, when he keeps silent, is considered wise” (Proverbs 17.27). There is most certainly “a time to be silent” (Ecclesiastes 3.7b).

I know how to stand up and speak up. My acute, well-defined, finely-tuned (and usually self-motivated) sense of justice sees to that. However, I could use a little help learning to shut up. Paul invested himself so completely into the lives of his Thessalonian converts that they began to imitate Paul and the Lord. This, of course, was Paul’s goal.

“You became imitators of us and the Lord.”
1st Thessalonians 1.6 NIV

Eventually the Thessalonians graduated from just being imitators of Paul. They became models of the faith.

“And so you became a model to all believers in Macedonia and Achaia.”
1st Thessalonians 1.7 NIV

This evolution of understanding in the church at Thessalonica became the apostle’s cue to stop talking. As a disciple-maker, Paul was so successful he made himself obsolete. He worked himself out of the preacher’s job. He no longer had to say anything. The people of God in the church at Thessalonica became Paul’s message.

The gospel is not an opportunity to hear ourselves speak. Anyone armed with even a little Bible knowledge can easily over-sermonize. Oatory ad naseum is not hard to do. The goal is to re-create ourselves by inspiring imitators of Christ who model our faith. These people become our message and eliminate the need for us to talk at all. Their lives say it so we don’t have to. 

We can… dare to shut up.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

"Which Door?"

Colossians 4.3-4

“And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should.” NIV

“…open up to us a door for the word.” NASU

A door is a two-way mechanism. It both grants an entrance and ushers an exit. Doors provide a way to new, next experiences and offer an escape when those experiences become unpleasant.

Locked doors offer security but may also imprison the soul. Sometimes doors are tightly bolted for way too long and opportunities on both sides are forever lost.

Paul asked his friends to pray that God would “open up… a door for the word.” He was speaking of political doors and spiritual doors and all doors in between. He had every intention of speaking the word of the gospel at all opportune moments. Paul was ready, willing, and able. All he needed was the open door. When the Lord asked, “Whom shall I send?,” like the prophet, Paul was eager to perform:

“Here am I. Send me.”
Isaiah 6.8

For Paul there was only one door… the door of opportunity. For me, there are two… my door and opportunity’s door. Paul’s words remind me that I can never enter the door of opportunity until I first exit my own front door.

“Open up… a door for the word.”

May God open for me many doors to share Jesus today in meaningful ways as I step through the one door that holds me back… my own.

Monday, September 10, 2018

"Take a Seat"

Colossians 3.1-2 NIV

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.

Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”

Where Jesus Christ? The popular evangelical Sunday School answer claims “Jesus lives in my heart.” However, the Bible teaches Jesus is somewhere else. He is “above” and “seated at the right hand of God.” According to Colossians 3.1, it may be more biblically correct to get my heart to where Jesus is than to try to get Him in my heart!

“...set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.

Have I set my heart “on the things above where Christ is” as the Bible commands? Or, do I flounder in the rubble of circumstance whining at my Maker with complaints that always reduce to one useless question: “Why me?” Will I continue to scratch and peck in the dust of less-than-optimal conditions like a flightless barnyard bird? Or, will I set my heart “on the things above” and soar like an eagle beyond the chaos…

“…those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings
like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”
Isaiah 40.31

Can you imagine an incredulous Jesus standing at heaven’s edge horrified at the continuous string of stupid human tricks occurring every eternal moment? Does He rant at the world He created, shaking His fist in disbelief at the crazy humans who messed it up? No. He is not standing. Jesus is “seated” next to God, existing “above” every petty, earthly circumstance. He has everything under control.

I should learn to relax and take a seat next to Jesus.

___________________

The beautiful oil painting of the rocking chair is called "Throne of God" is by artist Gwen Meharg and used here with permission. You can find her art at http://www.drawneartogod.com/default.asp#top/.

Friday, September 07, 2018

"The Communion of Saints"

Colossians 2.5 NASU

“For even though I am absent in body, nevertheless I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good discipline and the stability of your faith in Christ.”

I am a member of the body of Christ, the Church Universal. “I believe in...

...the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church,[1]the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. Amen.”

There exists in the realm of the Spirit a relationship between every believer in Jesus…
  • of every race, color, and national origin
  • of every gender, age, and vocation
  • of every generation past, present, and future

With or without our recognition, acceptance, or approval, the Universal Church of Jesus Christ exists. It is. This “communion of saints” transcends our comprehension by virtue of its sheer breadth. Its expanse and reach boggle the mind. I am, by God’s design, connected “in spirit” to every other Christian. We are family. Every single devoted follower of Jesus is the brother or sister of all other Christ followers.

I have a friend. His name is Larry. I’ve never met Larry and I know very little about him. He lives in Texas, teaches a Bible class, and is my brother. We have corresponded by only by email. Larry and I have never met, but “even though I am absent [from Larry] in body, nevertheless I am with [him] in spirit.” This reality is as true today as it was when Paul first penned the statement in his letter from a prison in Rome to the believers at Colossae nearly three hundred an fifty miles away.

I lost my best friend and wife of twenty years on August 30th, 2015, just over three years ago. Tomorrow would have been her 54th birthday. Leukemia took her life and she is now in the loving arms of Jesus. The kids and I still feel the pain. We miss her and, although I can still cry when I consider the depth of our loss, I am aware that she is member of the Universal Church of Jesus Christ. Robert, Rachel, and I are also members. We are followers of Jesus and still connected with our wife and mother, Adonica. We will be reunited, and that will be a day of unspeakable joy. 

It’s good to know we’re not alone, isn’t it? We who profess Christ by faith belong to a family, the family of God. I am “surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12.1). The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, all the angelic hosts, departed saints including St. Paul himself my dear wife, as well as every living believer… this entire “great cloud of witnesses,” while “absent in body” is nevertheless together “in spirit.” Amazing! 

“I believe in the communion of saints.” I am never alone.

___________

[1] The term “catholic” in this last section of the “Apostles’ Creed” does not refer to the Roman Catholic Church, but to the larger, universal church of Jesus Christ.

The incredible artwork pictured above are 2 of 25 tapestries depicting 135 over life-sized female and male saints of all ages, races, and vocations from the 1st to 20th century the world over. This collection of tapestries is called "Communion of Saints" and displayed in the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, in downtown Los Angeles (http://www.olacathedral.org/, see the Art/Tapestries tabs). The theme, according to the artist John Nava. is one of hope. He wishes those who view the tapestries "to see the humanity of these figures and feel a sense of connection to themselves."

Thursday, September 06, 2018

"I Qualified!"

Colossians 1.12 NKJV

“…giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light.”

If I found a home I wanted to purchase, I would first determine if I qualified to own it. I’d ask a reputable lender to pull my credit history and analyze my credit score. His underwriter would investigate my income, review my W-2’s and bank statements, verify my down payment, and consider my debt to income ratios.

If I qualified, the lender would issue me a certificate of qualification and I would make an offer on the home. If the offer was accepted, I would exercise due diligence to verify the home was in good working order and appraised at value. Loan documents would be drawn and sent to a title company whose escrow officer would assist all parties in signing the necessary papers to transfer title and make payment to the seller. The transaction would close when my name was permanently recorded on the deed at the county courthouse.

Jesus promised me a new home in heaven…

“In my Father's house are many mansions:
if it were not so, I would have told you.
I go to prepare a place for you.”
John 14.2 KJV

“…we have a building from God,
an eternal house in heaven”
2nd Corinthians 5.1 NIV

I qualify to own my heavenly home because…

1. My credit checked out:

“God will credit righteousness — for us who believe
in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead.”
Romans 4.24b NIV

2. I received the income necessary to make the purchase:

“For you know that God paid a
ransom to save you from the empty life….
He paid for you with the precious
lifeblood of Christ, the sinless,
spotless Lamb of God.”
1st Peter 1.18a, 19 NLT

3. My name was recorded on the deed:

“I will never blot out his name from the book of life , 
but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels.”
Revelation 3.5b NIV

The house I got is fantastic! It’s brand new construction and never needs repair or maintenance. It’s on a street of pure gold lined with trees always bearing fruit. It’s a waterfront property on a river as clear as crystal. My new home is in a gated community but the gates are never shut. It’s never dark there. No one ever gets sick, or mourns, or dies. You can read all about it in the Declaration of Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (CCR’s) recorded in the book of Revelation, chapter 21. 

You would love it here. Believe me, if I qualify for a home in a classy place like this, so would you!

_______________

I was privileged to list and sell above pictured homes when I was an active Realtor® a few years ago. These homes are located in Beaverton, Wilsonville, and Hillsboro, Oregon.

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

"A Little-Known (or Appreciated) Secret"

Philippians 4.19 NASU

“And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

This is a wonderful (sounding) promise, but what does it mean? What exactly is being offered? What are the “needs” Paul promised his God would supply?

The Easy Life?

Has the Lord promised the easy life? A life of comfort in the Paradise of Eden where all my needs (and a whole lot more) are always and fully met with no effort or exertion from me? A life without work, rules, sin, or death, and days filled with fun and unfettered freedom? No misunderstandings, no disease, no pain? Is this the kind of life God guaranteed me? Of course not. Utopia existed on earth for a brief historical moment... then Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit.

A Life of Relative Ease?

Do I deserve the blessings I have learned to enjoy? Wonderful family, a strong income, an expensive house, a 401K, two nice cars, a couple dogs, and a piano? I’m not sure. I worked hard for all this stuff and I routinely (and sincerely) thank God for my station in life. But do I need what I have? Probably not. I find it somewhat difficult to believe that maintaining my ‘life of relative ease’ is what Paul meant when he promised God would “supply all [my] needs.” Truthfully, my “needs” of this kind are way more than met.

The Stripped Down Version of the Good Life?

What if it was just me, God and the bare essentials?
  • Enough food (but no salt or dessert)
  • Water (but no soda, beer, coffee, or Gatorade)
  • Air (to breathe)
  • A bed (to sleep on)
  • A roof (to sleep under)
  • That’s it! Nothing more!
No family, no vacations, no television, no toys, no extras. Would I be content with only my basic needs? Would I acknowledge that God had supplied all my needs “according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesusor would I begrudge the absence of the good life? I think I know the answer.

Real Suffering?

What if some of the absolute essentials were taken away from me for even a day or two and I was forced to go without a meal, sleep in the street, or endure physical abuse? Could God possibly be credited for anything good at all in a situation like that? Paul lived that way and yet still claimed, “I have learned to be content” (Philippians 4.11). Would I be as accepting and content?

Nothing Left?

What if God took it all away and even survival was not a realistic option? I watched my wife slip into the hereafter on her ambulance gurney three short years ago on August 30th, 2015. Her brief fifty years vanished in the time it took to exhale a final breath. Can I say that God did not supply my dear Adonica’s needs in her last moment on earth?

I have no idea what my needs are. Thankfully, God does and I can trust Him to “supply [them] according to His riches [plan, way, timing, and purpose].” I am still having a very hard time without the love of my life. She was everything to me, and now she’s gone. It hurts, badly. Someday, I hope to return to the land of the living. I hope to discover the little secret Paul learned while in prison at Philippi... 

“…I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances
I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how
to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance

I have learned the secret...

of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering
need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”
Philippians 4.11-13 NASU

Paul’s secret was not about how to achieve success, survive loss, or endure suffering. His secret was about learning to be content in any and every circumstance. I desperately need God’s grace to learn that little secret.   

_______________________

The exceptional drawings above are used by permission of Ben Heine, a political cartoonist from Brussels, Belgium. The cartoon "Money Rules Man" reminds me of the futility of a life without contentment. "The Poorest of the Poor" illustration inspires me with compassion and hope. You may see Ben Heine's photostream at http://www.flickr.com/photos/benheine/.

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

"Hang Up My Glove? Not Yet!"

Philippians 3.13b; 16

“…forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead.”

“…let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained.”

I respect my son Eric. He had a good run in sports. Starting with T-ball at the age of seven, he never stopped performing as an athlete. He was a three-sport Varsity starter (point guard, wide receiver, and short stop) for his last two years of Beaverton High School. At graduation ceremonies, Eric was named “Athlete of the Year” as the top pick of coaches from all High Schools in the Beaverton School District. He played for the Knights, Nike’s elite baseball team and went on to become a Hilltopper for Western Kentucky University’s D-1 ball club. After college Eric played independent ball for the Joliet Jackhammers, Kansas City T-Bones, Ainslie Gungahlin Bears (Austrailia), Yuma Scorpians, Tijuana Cimarrones (Mexico), and the Edmonton Captitals (Canada).

I closely followed twenty consecutive seasons of my son’s athletic career and loved every minute of it. Eric hoped to break into the majors but he never did. Eventually, Eric did what every athlete must do... hang up his glove (or jersey). It was painful for me when my son announced, “Dad, it’s over.” I did not want it to stop. I enjoyed the combination of Eric and sports far too long to easily give it up. 

Here’s what I especially liked about my son’s infield achievements... when Eric bobbled a ball he never looked back. It appeared to have no effect on him. He had a strong history of amazing plays and contributed heavily to many winning teams. So, when he made an error he never lost confidence. Eric just kept his eye on the goal of the win.

I bobble the ball on occasion... say the wrong thing, regret a decision, irritate a friend, jump to conclusions, lack sensitivity, act without grace, behave selfishly, choose self over others, etc., etc. It’s hard to make a comeback after an error. But Christ commands me to forever forget “what lies behind and reaching forward” go for the big win “ahead.” Until then I must “keep living by the same standard” of faith and performance to which I have already “attained.” 

It doesn’t help the team if I quit or throw my glove down early. The game’s not over yet. There are still crucial innings left to play. I must keep my head in the game. It’s not yet time for me to hang up my glove.