Be a Do-Gooder

www.bible.com/72/1th.5.15.hcsb

Ugh. I really don’t like that word. A “Do-Gooder” just seems bland and cliched. In he same vein, a “goody two-shoes” comes to mind, which I found out last week was an actual person, and now used as a paragon of virtue, an example for others to emulate and point to. Be again, it smacks of cliche and unreality. Real people have bad days, difficult times where they slip. A real human being has real human problems, which seem so unlike the stellar phrases above.

And yet here is this text stating back at us. Do good. Always seek to do good, and do not repay evil for evil. If I may, I understand this to be an instruction to us, do good rather then evil, especially when evil is expected. I am human. Because I am human, I more often am prone to react in anger when threatened or wronged. This comes with a choice. I can choose to react violently and “fly off the handle” or I can choose not to, and do something else. I used to not have that choice. Because before I started to follow Christ and received His Spirit into my life, I didn’t have that check on my temper. But now, however brief a time I experience it, it is there, and my renewed conscience comes back into play, so that I am now conflicted. I want to react in evil, hurting the one who hurt me. I know better. And that has made all the difference. This verse reinforces that which I know to be true, but I still need to hear it. I hope it has helped you today too.

God bless!

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It’s not all Puppies and Rainbows

www.bible.com/72/jas.1.12.hcsb

Sometimes it is trials and suffering. Sometimes it takes a longer perspective than what I am enduring in the moment. Long suffering isn’t just a circumstance, it is a life perspective. Why? Because this world is not our home. The minute we think it is, we’ve been deceived. Oh sure, it’s a nice place to visit. /’c we have many good memories here, but it isn’t home.

Had the conversation yesterday about suicide. Some people will tell you that they have a plan and a means to kill them selves. Those are the folks that need need immediate attention. But then there are the faithful believers who tell you that they don’t mind dying, and that they are ready to go. They are not suicidal, they are simply prepared to die. There is a difference.

As a Christian, you know there is a better place for us, and this world loses its appeal. We look forward to what lay ahead because He is waiting for us. That makes death an unwelcome but necessary transition. And we get that. And that becomes our perspective.

So when you encounter various trials, you don’t like it, but you know the testing of your faith, since you have been found worthy to be tested, will benefit you, and you will see the benefit once the trial is over. Even more, a crown, the sign of victory, waits for you at the finish line. We endure these temporary, light afflictions, light compared to the glory to come. For when we’ve been there a thousand years, the 80 odd years we suffered here will only be a memory.

I grieve with those whose only life here is suffering, and I pray that God will give them glimpses of joy. Help us to know Lord that all of this we endure is worth the price of victory. Help us extend our joy to others. Father this world is so dark, sometimes it is hard to see your purposes, the good that you’ve promised. Help me be light to someone today.

God bless you in your walk with the Lord today. May you shine brightly in this world as a beacon of hope. May others see Him in your eyes.

Devastated but Hopeful

www.bible.com/72/hab.3.17-18.hcsb

My life is in shambles, like a tornado ripped through and left me with debris. In 2012, a powerful tornado whipped through our sister community of West Liberty and many echoed this statement. A church was completely destroyed, along with several downtown businesses. The town was leveled.

Habakkuk reflects upon the devastation that results from agricultural failure. The olive trees, the crops, even the stalls for livestock are all empty. For someone living in sixth century BC Israel, this was a fate akin to death. When the crops don’t come in and there is nothing on the trees, you are done. Habakkuk knew this well and cried out to God. But in the midst of the cry was a note of hope. That despite all of the physical evidence that as a nation, we are finished, God is still a God of salvation.

It’s hard to praise when there is no blessing. It requires a perspective that acknowledges the now, but anticipates eternity. While we suffer in the present, this isn’t all there is. Though the world around us is destroyed, He is not. It is the ability to see past our circumstances.

The people of West Liberty rebuilt their town, but even today you can see the scars. You too can be rebuilt, but there will be scars. If you are suffering today, know that you are not alone. Perhaps God is using this time to draw you closer to Himself. The rich young ruler was told to sell all of his possessions and follow Jesus. Will your faith be in jeopardy if you lose a few things? I would like to say, “Absolutely Not!” But I can’t tell I wouldn’t be shaken either.

We all need a note from Habakkuk today, both to be grateful for the blessings we have (knowing they can be taken away at any moment) and for praying that we don’t follow Jesus for the blessings themselves. God help us.

And may God bless you today. Thanks for reading.

What’s New?

www.bible.com/72/isa.43.19.hcsb

Are you in the winter doldrums? Stuck in the gray and the depressing that is constant winter storm and overcast clouds? Yeah, winter can be a pretty depressing time of year. You’ll get no argument from me. That’s why I keep a calendar of beaches from around the world to remind me that the sun is shining, somewhere.

The verse today is also such a reminder. When God have this message to Isaiah, Israel was in a funk. They had faced down Assyrian invasion and were getting beaten up by their neighbors. God has warned them continually to change their ways or they would be destroyed as a nation. It seemed pretty dark for a while. But then comes a promise of brighter days ahead. “I am about to do something new.” He was referring of course to the coming of His Son, something new indeed, for Jesus is absolutely unique. He is the only begotten Son of God, and there will not be another. In fact, the person of Jesus would be the first unique creation since the beginning, that combination of the eternal Second Person of God in unity with a created human being. God made flesh. This is something new.

And this was hope for a people besieged by darkness. This One would be light to them, and show them the Way to joy again. But the promise isn’t just to Israelites, but to you today. Jesus Christ is still the light to those trapped in darkness, especially the darkness of the soul.

I encourage you today to pray for light, both to clear the clouds away and to receive the light of the Son. Brighten your day with joy. Allow yourself to feel joy today. Let God in.

Sounds easy too easy, doesn’t it. It does. If you are waiting until you deserve it, you’ll never get it. No one deserves this kind of peace that God offers. You don’t. I don’t either. Instead, He doesn’t deal with us according to our worth. He deals with us according to His love. Yes, despite everything you’ve done, He still loves you. And He doesn’t just love us from afar, He sent His Son. He sent His Son into our world to demonstrate His love for us. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may have everlasting life.” That’s what He offers you today, life! See what new thing He is bringing to you. Life, not death.

I want to encourage you today. Talk to Him. Shout at Him. Tell Him what is in your heart. Let it out so you can let Him in.

God bless you today.

Feeling Overwhelmed?

bible.com/72/mat.6.34.hcsb

All of us, at one time or another, can confess to being overbooked, overstressed, and anxious for the future. I’ve been having a season like that lately. Faced with yet another stack of things that needed to get done, I felt anxious at first, but then remembered that God sees the future. God knows what coming before I do, and He’s already prepared a way forward. I put my faith in that, even though I couldn’t see far enough ahead to know it. Just knowing I have a loving Father who knows what I can handle, who wants me to grow and be challenged, I know that the path ahead will be difficult, but He will walk the path with me because He already knows the way through. Thank You Lord that I have to only worry about today. Help me be prepared for what’s coming, but appreciate you in the now for the joy and beauty you bring.

What’s Your Number?

IMG20073

In my line of work, I deal with families who lose loved ones, sometimes without warning. In the process of treatment, utilizing all of our knowledge to resuscitate using drugs, physical techniques (like CPR) and others,  we connect patients to heart monitors, which count their heartbeats per minute. Usually 70 is a good heart rate but at those times, any heart rate is preferred to none.

But it struck me that the number of beats our heart makes is a definite number. It has a definite beginning, and a definite end. It begins when our little hearts begin in our mother’s womb, and end, sometimes on an E.R. treatment bed. If a person truly wished to discover this number, it is probably possible. But it is a number God already knows.

Let that sink in. God knows the number of beats your heart will make, He knows how many you have left. He also knows what you’ve done with each of them. If God numbers our hairs (Matthew 10:30) would He not know our heartbeats? Consider the following:

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.”
(1Sa 16:7)

I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.”
(Jer 17:10)
And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us,
(Act 15:8)

When I witness an unexpected death, I grieve with the family. None of us know when our beats come to an end.  Many times we can’t predict it, let alone prepare for it. I am reminded of a movie, called “In Time” that came out in 2011. In the film, people stop aging at 25, but have a clock on their arm to tell them exactly how much time they have left. They work for time, and barter time to pay for things, instead of using money. Though the movie failed to perform at the box office, it pointed out the innate human desire to know our time. If we knew when we would die, don’t you think we would be better prepared for it? Or if we knew our death was near, would we go out and run up our credit cards and live like royalty?  Could you imagine a world where you knew exactly how much time you had left to live? Seems to me this is information we are better off not knowing. Besides, I believe we have something better.

I think about the impact my death would have on my family, or theirs on me. Death can come so suddenly and destructively, it just leaves devastation in its wake. That’s why I praise God that I serve one who conquered death, that rose from the grave, and offers me hope for the same.

I know that when my number comes up, He will be standing there, arms outstretched, saying, “Welcome Home!” For when I die, eternity is laid out before me, and I will never die again. “For it is appointed unto men once to die, and after that, the judgment.” (Hebrews 9:27) “For there is now no condemnation for those who are in Jesus Christ.” (Romans 8:1) “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (Joh 3:16)

It is that hope that helps me help others in the midst of their tragedy. And I am grateful to God for His indescribable gift!

Fearful No More!

IMG20053We consider our homes, our castles, inviolable. Sometimes, with a false sense of security, we leave our homes unlocked, if only for a short time, so that we can run errands. We live in a “safe” community, don’t we? It is while we are away that the enemy creeps in and steals. This particular enemy favors cash and drugs. No one knows his name, or, if they do, they are unwilling to share it. They say, “I’m glad it wasn’t me.” Thus, home after home, church after church are victimized, and ransacked for valuables. It is he, the enemy that seems to be invulnerable, not our homes and families.

We church-folk are fond of saying, “Jesus is the answer!” But how does Jesus become the answer in a community plagued with crime and criminals?

First – Christ enables us to call this behavior what it is: Wrong! This is an evil committed in our community, not someone’s poor upbringing, not a result of poverty, using drugs, sickness, or mental instability. Very clearly the Bible states: “You shall not steal!” There is no cause to make excuses for theft.

Second – Christ will exact justice. “Vengeance is mine saith the Lord” and of the established government;“if you do that which is evil, be afraid; because he does not bear the sword in vain.” (Romans 13) Jesus, whether through an agent like the government, or personally through disease or sudden death, will exact a penalty for the crimes committed in our community. No one escapes God.

Third – Christ reminds us in our suffering that He alone should be our Rock and our Fortress. (Psalm 46) “Cast all your anxious care on Him, because He cares for you.” (1 Peter) We put our trust in Him, for He cares for us. He may not hinder the free-will of the burglar, but He will enable us to bear the loss. Jesus also says “love your enemies; bless them who curse you; do good to them who hate you; and pray for them who arraign and persecute you; that you may be children of your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5)

Our chief objective as people of God is to pray for those who are our enemies. Therefore:

“Our heavenly Father, you have seen fit in this community to allow an individual, or group of people to raid our homes, our churches, or lives. Lord if we have committed sin to warrant such discipline, we pray Father for Your forgiveness. We repent of our sins, and pray for the grace, which you pour upon all men liberally, to be felt and filled within our hearts.

Our Father, we pray for these who so casually enter homes and steal without thought to consequence, either to themselves, or to the others whose medication may be vital to their lives. We pray for these few who victimize the many, and bring a similitude of fear upon our community. We know dear Lord that perfect love casts out all fear. Therefore we pray Father that we face these criminals fearlessly. That Father these robbers will be brought to repentance, if not to justice this side of Heaven. We pray that they will be influenced by godly and Christian neighbors, so that they give up this thoughtless and hopeless life, and give themselves to Christ Jesus, for Your glory. In Jesus Name, Amen.”

Let’s pray this prayer, and mean it.