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Archive for the category “Christian Living”

The Window Cleaner

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Imagine that you have rented a room in a skyscraper as a get away vacation.  The view was advertised as miraculous and the place immaculate.  After unpacking your bags you decide to open the curtains to see the great view.  When you do you are furious because the window is a dirty mess and you can barely see out.  The sun that should make a glistening clear picture is hurting your eyes and illuminating the dirty window.  Wouldn’t it be awful if the view from these magnificent buildings were hidden by a grimy mess on the windows?

Now imagine that you are on that same vacation.  You open the curtains to see the magnificent view.  Instead you encounter someone looking right back at you.  Your reaction might be to scream as the surprise is likely to scare you.  Then you realize that it isn’t someone who will harm you or steal from you, it is a window washer.  They are trained to go to new heights to keep the windows clean.

Obviously windows need to be cleaned once in awhile.  In a big city with all of the stuff blowing around in the air they need to be done even more often.  The job is a little different from cleaning your windows at home.  Professional equipment is used of course, but the main difference is being situated many stories above the ground.  It reminds me of a tight rope walker.  Even you and I could probably be trained to walk a tight rope if the rope is hung one foot over the ground.  Attempting it like they do in the circus hundreds of feet in the air would create all kinds of fears and anxieties.  Sometimes in the circus a safety net is provided that can calm fears because if they mess up they just fall to safety.  Window washers have safety equipment too.

Tragically in the old days the window washing job was far more dangerous and many fell to their death.  Today with modern equipment the window washers can do their job with much less worry.  A typical window cleaner’s equipment consists of a rope protector, a safety rope, a rope-grabbing tool, a descent mechanism, lanyard and suction cups. These tools not only protect workers from any unfortunate incidents, but also help them clean a building’s facade at a rapid speed with great efficiency.

While working on the outside of a building, the worker is attached to an anchor, that is mounted on the roof. This anchor enables the workers to clean windows as they descend vertically. You might have noticed that window cleaners don’t descend smoothly; their journey to the next, lower floors makes it appear as though they are ‘dropping’ through each floor one at a time. The height of a single drop – the measurement of one vertical cleaning operation from the roof to the floor below – varies according to the buildings windows they are working on.

Our walk through life can be compared to the adventures of a window washer.  The good news is that God has given us all that we need to complete our mission.  Like the window washers equipment and precise settings, God will put you and me exactly where we are supposed to be if we will only trust him.  We should never be afraid because he is our anchor and our safety net.

Someone asked a window washer if they ever looked down?  The answer was no but it wasn’t for the reason I would have guessed.  They said that they just concentrated on the job they were there to do.  They concentrated on the next window on their mission.  It reminds me of the story of Peter walking on the water.  In Matthew 14 verses 25-31 the story is told.

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25 Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.

27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

29 “Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

You see Jesus doesn’t want us walking in fear.  As long as Peter had his mind on Jesus and the mission at hand he was fine.  When fear and doubt crept in he sank.  The lesson from the window washer profession is the same.  As long as they keep their mind on the mission at hand, knowing that their anchor and ropes are in place there is nothing to fear.

So Jesus is our anchor but he is so much more.  The buildings windows could represent eyes.  The view could represent the beautiful view that God has offered us.  Most people are looking at that view through grimy windows.  Our job is to introduce them to Jesus so that he can clean up their view of life.  When they open up that curtain they won’t dwell on the ugly sight they used to see, but on the beauty that they see now!

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A Good Light

Flip Wilson the great comedian of years gone by had a saying he used to say while dressed up as Geraldine which was very funny.  “What you see is what you get”, he would proclaim in a high pitched voice.  It was a statement that all of us can attest to because we all have our faults.  It’s foolish to expect perfect people and it is foolish to think and act like we are perfect.  Yet in our day and age it is sometimes important to hide our flaws.  It might be in the makeup we wear or the hair piece that hides the thinning.  It might be in the clothes that we wear that help hide our extra poundage.  These things can help us look our best and better than what we really are.  There is nothing wrong with trying to look our best.  In fact God is looking at us through a good light.

Have you ever heard it said about a picture “That picture doesn’t reflect you in a good light?”  How many times in years past have we had our picture made for a drivers license and totally cannot stand the picture?  We are looking weird or our hair isn’t just right or our eyes are closed, or we are not looking at the camera.  These pictures do not show us at our best.  That is the beauty of something like Facebook.  We can post only our favorite photos that put us in the best light and can discard the ones that we don’t like.  In that way we put the best light on ourselves and are happy with the results.

One of my work insurance benefits is having my eyes checked every two years.  The thing I don’t like about the examination is when they dilate my eyes.  The process is quite painless as they take a solution and put it in my eyes.  After a little while they are able to see the back my eyes to make sure nothing weird is going on.  The problem I have is the bright light after the examination.  They give me these sun glasses to wear because my eyes are extra sensitive to the light.  Without the glasses on it would be so bright that it wold actually be painful.  It would feel like the equivalent of looking directly into the sun.

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When I was a kid my dad sometimes took me outside to help him as he worked on the car.  He would give me the flashlight to hold on the part that he was working on from above the engine as he was under the car.  After awhile with my mind drifting I invariably would move the light where it wasn’t shining on the place he needed it.  Of course my attention was quickly pulled back to the job at hand as dad hollered and I realized that my light was shining on everything but what it was supposed to.

In Matthew 5 verses 14-16 Jesus said

14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

It is very important to shine our light but we must realize that we can shine it the wrong way.  We can shine it on things that we are not supposed to like I did with the car.  We can shine it in such a way that it is painful to someone else as the bright light is as painful as looking into the sun.  We can put a bad light on people that emphasizes seeing them at their worst.  These are not God’s intentions of how we are to use our light he has given us.  It is not God’s will for us to expose someone in our light in such a way that we put them in a bad light even if it is true.

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In John chapter 8 Jesus was teaching in the temple when the scribes and pharisees brought a woman to him that they said was caught in the very act of adultery.  They wanted to know if they should stone her like it is required in the Law of Moses?  Actually they were trying to trap Jesus because however he answered they would have something against him.  However Jesus told them something they didn’t expect.  He told them to go ahead and stone her but only the one without sin among them could cast the first stone.  Slowly they dropped their stones and left.  When they had all left Jesus turned to the woman and asked Where are your accusers?  Has no one condemned you?  She answered “no one Lord”, and he said neither do I.  Go and sin no more.  Jesus chose to not shine a light on all of her sins.  Instead he chose to shine his light on the future instead of the past.  He refused to put her in a bad light even though the charges against her were true.

The will of God in us is to shine our light for all to see.  We are to look for good in people and not expose things that would put them in a bad light.  That is called forgiveness and love.  We cannot love others when we are talking bad about them.  Love is slow to anger and quick to forgive.  When you are tempted to say something bad about someone think about this question.  Am I a perfect person?  Would I like it if someone revealed something about me that put me in a bad light?

When shining your light that God has given you shine it directly on Jesus for he is our example.  You can do this by following his example of not blaming or condemning people for their faults.  Remember that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.  Remember that if we cannot forgive others God cannot forgive us.  Make it a way of life to say nice things about others and overlook their faults.  Do unto others as you would have them do onto you, not as they do unto you.  In that way God will be pleased with the good light you are shining!

 

 

 

Never Ever Say Never Again

He was who you went to the movie to see!  When he first made his appearance his debut was the same.  As a way of uniquely introducing himself he presented his card and said in his familiar voice “Bond, James Bond”…It was his signature statement and when we heard it we knew that action was soon to follow.  When confusion and depression about what happened  set in James Bond brought hope with those three little words!

Sean Connery played the first James Bond and did it for many years.  From 1962 to 1969 Connery played Bond in 7 movies. He defined Bond in how people thought of him.  His Bond had a Scottish accent and he had a mysterious masculinity about him  He also had many sides as he dressed in his work suit for business and his tuxedo for more formal parties.  Connery was also a quick wit who could bring fear to his enemies and love from the opposite sex.  The whole package with Connery was known when you saw his movies and his character. How he adjusted to different cases varied depending on how he decided to solve the mysteries.  Connery was very popular doing James Bond.  He had a good thing going it seemed but there was a problem.  Increasing tension between him and the producer was bringing him stress on and off the film set.  After awhile it just wasn’t worth it in his eyes.  He announced that he wouldn’t be doing Bond anymore and a replacement was brought in.  The actors name was George Lazenby and he did not fill the giant shoes that Connery had stepped out of.  In 1971 two years since Connery had played his last James Bond film, he was  persuaded to make one more James Bond movie.  It would be “Diamonds are Forever” and Connery made it clear that after this one he would never play Bond again.

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Sometimes it can be a dangerous thing to say never.  I have a friend named Jeremy who is also my pastor that faced the temptation of saying never but didn’t succumb to it.  Not only is Jeremy our pastor but he is the lead singer of his band and every year they make a tour to England.  This tour through the years has resulted in many people giving their lives to Christ.  Since the trip takes several hours it is very taxing on their bodies but they make that sacrifice in hopes of reaching the lost.  One trip Jeremy was telling us about was an even more unpleasant trip than usual.  You see Jeremy was in the back of the plane right by the bathroom.  Apparently the toilet overflowed and sewage water flooded the back of the plane.  Jeremy was in the middle of all of that sewage and not only did his feet get wet but the smell was almost too much to take.  Although temptation came Jeremy would not say the words “I’ll never go on this trip again.”  His experience was totally unpleasant but he looked at the mission over his comfort.  He also preferred to look at the positive and the good results over this bad experience.

There are times in every day life when people say never.  It may be an isolated experience such as I experienced earlier this year. I was eating at a Japanese Restaurant with my son and a close friend.  I had never eaten at a Japanese Restaurant before and the food was delicious.  It was so good that I was trying everything on the plate and decided to eat this green stuff with a pudding like texture.  It stuck together and I ended up putting the whole portion into my mouth.  I discovered soon after what an awful mistake I had made.  I started gagging as my mouth and throat were on fire.  I had some water handy and tried to cool them off by gulping down the water.  The water seemed to make the burning increase and I was literally coughing uncontrollably as the tears started running down my cheeks.  It took a minute or two to finally recover.  I later found out that this dish that I had so quickly stuffed in my mouth was one of the hottest things you can eat.  It is called Wasabi and it is a Japanese horse radish. It’s name comes from the Wasabi tree that is grown in Japan. It was intended to be used for dipping very sparingly on the sushi part of my  meal.  This unpleasant experience could have made me say never again and I do think that never again will I eat Wasabi like I did.  However I can see us going back to this restaurant.  The food was delicious and I didn’t let the Wasabi incident ruin an otherwise delightful meal!

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In Matthew 21 verses 29 through 31 Jesus told a parable involving two sons.   21:28 “What do you think? A man had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ 21:29 The boy answered, ‘I will not.’ But later he had a change of heart and went. 21:30 The father went to the other son and said the same thing. This boy answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but did not go. 21:31 Which of the two did his father’s will?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, tax collectors and prostitutes will go ahead of you into the kingdom of God! 21:32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him. But the tax collectors and prostitutes believed him. Although you saw this, you did not later change your minds and believe him.” — NET Bible

This story tells us in short that actions speak louder than words.  Many of us in the past have stated that we will never do something again.  Often it could be warranted as my Wasabi incident would be.  Instead of stuffing the whole portion of Wasabi into my mouth I would be better served eating the stuff in small portions as it was intended.  Jeremy may have thought “never again” as he was breathing in the disgusting smell of sewage for hours on his trip.  He never let that experience overcome him and his desire to bring others the love of Jesus.

Sean Connery made his supposedly last Bond movie in Diamonds are Forever.  The movie was a huge success as Connery brought back the Bond character that was so endearing! True to his word he sat on the sidelines as others filled the Bond role.  After 12 years Connery had a change of heart.  I imagine that the enormous money deal he received was tugging at his decision.  That alone couldn’t have been his only motivation however.  He had turned down wealth before in refusing to play Bond again.  The truth is that things had changed on the set and his attitude was completely different.  The film was called “Never Say Never Again.”  The title was based on Connery’s own statement about playing the role.  The movie was a massive success and Roger Ebert in reviewing the film said it best!  “It has been 12 years since Sean Connery hung it up as James Bond, 12 years since “Diamonds Are Forever,” and Connery’s announcement that he would “never again” play special agent 007. What complex instincts caused him to have one more fling at the role, I cannot guess. Perhaps it was one morning in front of the mirror, as he pulled in his gut and reflected that he was in pretty damn fine shape for 53. And then, with a bow in the direction of his friend Roger Moore, who has made his own niche as a different kind of Bond, Sean Connery went back on assignment again.”

Never Say Never Again Movie Poster

Many of you reading this have made the never statement about forgiveness.  “I will never forgive them for that!”, you might have said.  It’s true that whatever happened might have had a stench comparable to Jeremy’s situation.  However, when we use the never word we resign ourselves to limited thinking.  It is not in God’s will for us to be unforgiving people carrying grudges.  It is his will for us to let things go and let people off of the hook.  The results are better for the wrong doers in our lives but more importantly they are better for us!  Now we can live in peace with the love of God moving freely in our hearts.  In the past you may have proclaimed the old never again slogan.  You may have meant it and are on a path to take unforgiveness to your grave.  Just because you said it though doesn’t mean it has to be forever.  A change of heart is far more powerful than to change your mind.  Words can come from an emotional hurt but heartfelt love  controls our actions going forward! When God tells us what to do our first response might be NO.   The blessings come when we do it anyway!

 

 

 

 

How To Prevent A Heart Attack

Every year about this time I go in for my annual health assessment.  It is a program at work where someone checks my blood pressure, finds my cholesterol levels, and measures my oxygen intake.  I also get weighed and measured to find out what my body mass index is. All of these tests are very important measurements in determining how healthy I am and what changes I need to make.  The results are compared to the previous year and I find out if my numbers are getting better or worse.  Life choices are talked about and healthy life choices are encouraged.  What foods am I putting into my body?  How much exercise am I getting?  Without these tests I might feel that I’m getting away with something.  I might get into the habit of eating the wrong foods and not getting adequate exercise.  Whatever I am doing the numbers don’t lie.  The cholesterol test intrigues me.  Originally I thought all cholesterol was bad.  I thought my cholesterol levels should always be low.  The fact that there is good cholesterol and bad cholesterol surprised me.  Our good cholesterol level should be high and our bad cholesterol level should be low.  Basically in non medical terms the good cholesterol protects our heart and the bad cholesterol hinders our heart.  The bad blocks things up around our heart and the good protects that from happening.   Anyway I’m no doctor and if the explanation gets too complicated it leaves my head spinning.  However, I think that I have that concept right.

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After my assessment advisor measures all of my results she talks to me about healthy eating habits.  The foods that I put into my body can reduce the bad cholesterol levels and increase the good ones.  Vegetable intake is encouraged and fast food is discouraged.  Eating too much salt or sugar in my diet is discouraged and having fiber is encouraged.  Although I’m not expected to be a perfect eater I am made aware of the problem and it is in my mind even if I sometimes get off track.  The fact that this test was coming up inspired me to do a little bit more exercising. It is good to be accountable to someone and the health assessment offers that someone.

Just as letting good foods into our bodies and keeping bad foods out is important it is also important in our spiritual life to let good things in and keep bad things out.  Proverbs 4:23 tells us to “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.”  So what does it mean to guard your heart?  It means that just like the cholesterol thing in our physical bodies we need to prevent things from dwelling in our spirit.  We need to identify what is good and what is bad and let the good in and dismiss the bad.  So what is the good that we should let in?  Paul in Philippians 4 verse 8 puts it this way  “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things and the God of peace will be with you.”  Wow, the God of peace will be with us.  That would be the Holy Spirit who gives us peace in our heart.  That is like going to the doctor and knowing that you have been doing all of the right things and the doctor confirming that because he sees  we are in good shape!

Much like the bad food we are tempted with we are also tempted spiritually by bad spirits.  Let me list some of the spirits to stay away from.

the spirit of fear
the spirit of anger
the spirit of depression
the spirit of doubt
the spirit of hate
the spirit of doom and gloom
the spirit of burden
the spirit of gossip
the spirit of offending
the spirit of getting even
the spirit of rebellion
the spirit of arguing

Notice that all of these are spirits.  Most people don’t think of them as spirits.  We have to realize that we are in a spiritual world.  Yes we have bodies and most people when they think of us think of what our bodies look like.  Actually though it is the unseen spirit that controls our actions and what we do and how spiritually healthy we are.  If you doubt this consider a funeral.  When we go to a funeral the body is there but it has no life because the spirit is gone.

So how do we keep these spirits from entering our bodies and controlling what we do, say, and how we feel?  The first thing we need to do is accept Jesus Christ into our lives.  That is a simple thing but is oh so powerful.  When we ask Jesus to come into our hearts he gives us his Holy Spirit which is the spirit of peace we talked about earlier.  The Holy Spirit is like all of the good vegetables and fiber we are encouraged to eat.  He is good for our well being and he gives us assurance with peace that we are going in the right direction.  Most people don’t realize however that even with the Holy Spirit in our lives we can and do let in spirits that shouldn’t be there.

Since God is a God of love he always gives us a choice.  We can choose which spiritual food we let in even after we accept Christ as our Lord and Savior.  So how can we stop these spirits from entering?  Some people might point out that they couldn’t help it, they were just overcome with a spirit.  Sometimes that spirit comes in when we have been hit by tragedy.  The spirit of grief is actually a good thing.  It is like the good cholesterol that helps us.  At the same time if we stay in that spirit over a period of time it turns into a bad thing.  It goes from a spirit of grief to a spirit of depression.

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We have to realize that these bad spirits that we let in are a choice.  They are much like that cake or fast food burger we are not supposed to eat.  Let’s analyze that situation.  We are trying to watch what we eat but someone at work brings a cake in.  Or we happen to have a cake at home and decide that one piece won’t hurt anything.  This is the time that we are making a choice.  In the same way we are making spiritual choices.  So something happens and we have a choice.  Without God people usually let these spirits take control.  But with God the same thing can occur.  Remember that Bible verse that said to guard your heart?  There are times when our heart is unguarded.  Let me give you an example in the spirit of depression.  Before we get depressed we have a limited time to think about it.  We have a choice of being depressed or turning to the Spirit of God, much like when we have the choice of eating that cake or walking away.  In order to make the right choice we need to realize what is happening.  We need to be accountable much like the health assessment example.

There are times we have our spiritual health assessment exam and find out that we have let in things we shouldn’t have.  We have ate the wrong things and the results are showing.  As Christians we can ask Jesus to take these bad things out of there.  We can ask him to give us a pure heart free from things that will clog it up.  Once these things are purged it is important to be on the alert for situations where these impurities try to get back in.  That depression scenario can be nipped in the bud with this prayer.  Lord, I feel this spirit there but I’m not going to accept it.  I affirm that you love me and that my happiness and well being is what you want for me!

When I was done with the health assessment I felt better.  Not because my results were great but because I was in a plan.  I knew what I should and shouldn’t do.  I knew that things I let in my body affected how healthy I would be.  That is how it is in the health of our spirit too.  It is far more important than our bodies health because our body will eventually die, but our spirit lives forever.  Letting the good in and leaving out the bad will keep our spirits strong and peaceful.  My health assessment advisor said something very interesting that I took with me.  In her own life and food intake she said “I’ve learned that everything is a choice.”  To be happy I conclude we should always choose the good and leave out the bad.

My Spiritual Exam

by Lewis Hamilton
from the book “The Gardener and My Garden” c1997

Just like I need a physical
to find out how I am
It’s time for me to ask my Lord
for a spiritual exam

He’ll ask me many questions
Can I be honest with myself?
Thinking that I’ve got it made
could be harmful to my health

Is my gear shifted into drive
or is it stuck in park?
Does my light shine on others
or do I leave them in the dark?

Is my salt being poured out
or is it all for waste?
Does it flavor when it’s poured
or has it lost its taste?

When he gives me the vision
to see how I can be
will I make excuses
or let the Lord use me?

Will my spirit be broken
so my life he then can mold?
Or have I pushed the button
to put the Lord on hold?

When I leave the great physician’s room
will I be better than I came?
Or have I made my mind up
to keep my life the same?

“…I desire to do your will, O my God,
your law is within my heart.”

Psalm 40:8

In The Silence

With Christmas coming soon I’m reminded of one of a songs lyrics we will hear often.  Silent night, holy night!
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon Virgin, Mother and Child
Holy Infant so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace

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When Jesus first made his appearance in human form there was not a lot of fanfare.  Jesus came in a very humble way.  In fact as the song states it was a silent night.  In our hectic world today the last thing we usually get is silence.  Cell phones ringing or buzzing, the TV blaring, traffic making noise all around, these are the sounds of “busy” people.  We’ve grown so accustomed to the noise that when we don’t have it we turn the radio on in the car or the TV at home.  It seems to be the first thing we think about doing when we enter the house.  Have you ever had the experience of you or someone else being so involved on what is being said on their TV that they or you don’t hear anything someone else is saying?  It is very hard in our world today to put our minds on two or more things at once.  We sometimes make our attention choices on what is the loudest tone in our ears.  Have you ever been on a car trip with a few people?  Sometimes on those trips I have been on there is dead silence.  People can get lost in their thoughts and that’s OK.  However it seems that one person usually tries to break the silence by saying something to fill the air.  There is an old saying that goes “silence is golden” and very often it is so true!

You have probably heard of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.  They were the astronauts who first walked on the moon during the Apollo 11 mission.  Did you know the mission had another astronaut?  His mission might have been even more important than the other two.  His name was Michael Collins and his job was to navigate the command module around the surface of the moon three times during the 22 hours Armstrong and Aldrin were jumping around on the moon.  Three times for 47 minutes each Collins found himself on the dark side of the moon with no contact between earth or his fellow astronauts.  The news outlet described his dilemma.  “Not since Adam has any human known such solitude as Mike Collins is experiencing during this 47 minutes of each lunar revolution when he’s behind the Moon with no one to talk to except his tape recorder aboard Columbia.”  Upon returning to the earth Collins described the feeling that he had as he was literally all alone.  I don’t mean to deny a feeling of solitude. It is there, reinforced by the fact that radio contact with the Earth abruptly cuts off at the instant I disappear behind the moon, I am alone now, truly alone, and absolutely isolated from any known life. I am it. If a count were taken, the score would be three billion plus two over on the other side of the moon, and one plus God knows what on this side.”

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With most cars today they have a GPS tracker.  It tells when to make a turn and when to get off of an exit etc.  For most of the time especially on longer trips the GPS is silent.  How many times do we think “am I still going the right way?”  Wouldn’t it be nice if the GPS voice would encourage us.  You are on the right road, don’t worry just keep driving.  Wouldn’t that be comforting when we have that fear that somehow we have gotten off of the path?

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God works in the same way as that GPS tracker.  Many times we panic when we don’t hear from him.  When he tells us what to do we need to have faith to carry out that mission unless he tells us differently.  We as humans would like to have the Moses experience where God is speaking audibly in a loud voice.  That is not how God usually works in our world today.  It is with a still small voice in the quiet times that he can talk to us.  Those are the times that he can tell us exactly what we should be doing!  It is like getting instructions from our boss.  If you or I were getting special instructions on doing a job would we have our headphones on?  Would we be playing with our phone or have our TV on so loud that we couldn’t possibly hear?  Or would we cut all of the competing noise off so that we could hear exactly what to do?  The answer is obvious but the next question is Why don’t we give God the same kind of attention so he can instruct us?

Collins had already received his instructions before his mission.  He knew precisely what he was supposed to do.  If he wasn’t prepared the silence would have brought fear and doubt.  Many of us are not like Michael Collins the astronaut.  We have not been in front of God with closed mouth and open ears.  It is in these times that God can and will talk to us.  It is in these times that the silent night will have a still small voice breaking the silence. When we decide to silence the world’s activities and seek him God will talk to us and give us his instructions.  Then with his help we can execute our mission while we are here.  Christians everywhere question what their purpose in life is.  “What is God’s plan for me?”, they will ask.  The answer can be found but it won’t be with countless voices talking to us.  In the silence we find our mission and in the silence many times we carry it out.  That is what faith is.  Like the GPS we are to assume that if we are given a mission and we are carrying it out God will break in if we have gotten off track.

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Somehow Collins was able to stay focused and keep his module on course through the enormous silence.  Three times he had to endure the blackout and each time he put his faith over his fear.  After the third trip around the other astronauts docked with his module and they were shortly on their way home.  Some day our missions will be over too and the silence of faith will be replaced by joy, love, peace, and jubilation!

 

 

Pete Maravich: The Interview

Pete Maravich was a basketball magician who was voted as one of the 50 greatest players in NBA history.  Yet deep down all through his playing career he was lost.  He tells about having large sums of money and yet wanting to kill himself.  Pete only lived 40 years but the last few were his most joyous.  He met Jesus Christ and his life was never the same!  You will be moved by his living testimony that is still so powerful long after he has gone to receive his higher reward!

 

You Can’t Shake Hands With A Crocodile!

Has there ever been somebody in your life that you cannot please no matter how you try?  Someone who might be nice to you to your face but talks bad about you to others?  Do you try really hard to make them like you and only get frustrated?  Jesus had groups of people who had that attitude toward him.  They were called the Pharisees and the Sadducee’s.  They sat and listened to Jesus and plotted ways to kill him.  Their whole agenda was to bait him and used innocent sounding questions with traps all through them.  Matthew chapter 22 verses 15-17 states:

15 Then the Pharisees left the place where Jesus was teaching. They made plans to trap Jesus with a question. 16 They sent some of their own followers and some men from the group called Herodians.a]”>[a] These men said, “Teacher, we know that you are an honest man. We know that you teach the truth about God’s way. You are not afraid of what other people think about you. All men are the same to you. 17 So tell us what you think. Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”  Now what was the purpose of this question?  Was it a friendly question to help them love God more?  NO, It was designed and probably mulled over for hours as a question to ask Jesus to trap him.  If he said to not pay their taxes they could turn him over to the government on charges of treason against their country.  Jesus knew what they were trying to do and his wisdom was amazing!  In verses 18:22 he answers

But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? 19 Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, 20 and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?”

21 “Caesar’s,” they replied.

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Then he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

22 When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.

Notice how they complimented Jesus to try to get his guard down.  Notice also how the compliments led into their trap.  Jesus knew that these people were against him and didn’t fall for their trap.  He didn’t hang out with these fake followers with their fake questions.  While they were concerned about their appearance in society, he looked at their hearts.  He saw that their hearts were evil.  He saw that these were not his friends.

Jesus also looks at our heart.  He is looking for a heart of love, compassion, and forgiveness.  That is in effect the heart of God.  We are to have that kind of heart.  He told us to love our enemies.  In Matthew 5:43-48 he states 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbora]”>[a] and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.Image result for love your enemies photo

The fact that we are called to love our enemies means that we will have enemies. Many Christians will read the  passage above and conclude that they need to not only be nice to people who are against them but constantly try to change how they feel about them.  They may feel that forever trying to please them is a way to change their attitude.  A lot of energy is wasted by Christians trying to change what only God can. The old saying is true “you can’t please everyone.”  Yes, it is true we need to love our enemies.  That doesn’t mean we have to constantly be around them.  It means that in our heart we do not harbor hate and that we have a loving attitude toward them.  It means that we truly care about them no matter how they feel about us.  What it doesn’t mean is that we have to waste energy and time being what they want us to be.  We must be ourselves and follow our Godly principles and if they hate us so be it.  The old saying “Like water off of a ducks back”  applies here.  Like a duck when they feel the water hit them we need to quickly shake it off.  Common sense tells us though that it isn’t safe going over a waterfall.

You Can’t Shake Hands With A Crocodile
By Lewis Hamilton

The Crocodile is strong
and will do you harm
They have a mouth
as long as their arm

They may act friendly
but here is the deal
If you get close enough
You’ll be their next meal

Crocodiles are cunning
They live where it’s wet
They will drag you and drown you
Now that’s a safe bet

So why would you go there
and offer your hand?
Has your head forever
been trapped in the sand?

You won’t have an arm
to use or to bend
If you continue to desire
Crocodiles as your friends

So stop trying to travel
the extra furlong or mile
and quit shaking hands
with those Crocodiles

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Footnote: There used to be a guy at the church I attended who gave the hardest handshakes.  I dreaded shaking hands with him because he always crushed my hand and it was painful.  One day I talked to a friend and told him the situation and he gave me some sound advice.  When shaking his hand take the initiative and get deep into his hand with yours.  That will lesson the force he can apply to your hand.  Maybe that is the kind of advice we need for this story.  Be aware of the danger your enemies present and have a plan.

The Trophy Wife

The year was 1976 and Jeremy was a high school senior.  An announcement that he recently had heard gave him a vision.  His school Portage Northern High School was having a talent show and Jeremy wanted to be in it.  The only problem was that Jeremy was a shy introverted kid.  At that time he had written over 400 songs but they sat there in his basement.  Jeremy’s vision was to play one of his songs at the talent show.  From an early age Jeremy was exposed to music.  He learned the piano and the guitar was soon to follow.  Jeremy grew up loving the Beatles and his sound was inspired by them.

Open Your Heart

Jeremy loved playing the guitar and singing but he needed something else.  It was the approval of his peers.  He dreamed of getting done with his song and winning the trophy that went with the first place honor.  What he really wanted though was for people to appreciate his music.  He would like his fellow classmates, even people he didn’t know, to pat him on the back and tell him he did a great job.  That would legitimatize all of the practice he had put in to acquire the skills he had developed.

Jeremy was also a Christian and he had faith that maybe God would allow him a break through moment.  Perhaps somehow he could glorify God with his singing and what better way than to be recognized as the winner of the talent show contest?   All of these thoughts had left his mind as he was walking on the stage with his guitar.  He had picked a song that he wrote called “Fading Away” but as he walked out on stage he felt like he was the one fading.  He was literally shaking as he started his song.  As Jeremy kept playing he began to relax a little bit.  Still it was different than anything he had attempted before.  Though he was uncomfortable, he was still able to sing his song flawlessly with expression and feeling.  When he finished his fellow students gave him a warm round of applause!

Now the waiting began.  Who would win the prize and the recognition that came with it?  Jeremy knew he did his best and felt confident.  When the judges made their decision however it was two other acts that took the honors.  First place went to a guy who did a drum solo playing “Wipe Out.”  Second place went to a two girl dance team who did a dance to one of the songs from the Jesus Christ Superstar Rock Opera.

Jeremy was heartbroken.  He wondered why his dream didn’t happen like he thought it would.  One of his teachers who happened to be a contest judge wanted to talk to him.  It was Mr. Gianunzio, his English and Creative Writing teacher.  “I want you to know”, Mr. Gianunzio began, “that I voted for you.”   “That other act did not show any creativity like yours did.”  Mr. Gianunzio’s words were a welcomed compliment from somebody Jeremy truly respected.

A black and white trade ad for the 1965 Rolling Stones' North American tour. The members of the band are sitting on a staircase with either their hands clasped, or arms folded, looking at the camera. From left: The front row contains Brian Jones, Bill Wyman; the second row contains Charlie Watts and Keith Richards; the third (and final) row contains Mick Jagger.

I’m reminded of a song not by Jeremy’s favorite group The Beatles but by the Rolling Stones.  The chorus states that you can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometime, you just might find you get what you need.  With God it isn’t us trying it’s us being in his plan.  If we love him and put him first in our lives he will meet our needs and give us the desires of our heart.  Proverbs 3:5 tells us to Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and lean not on your own understanding.  Isaiah 55:8-9 states, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways.  As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts to your thoughts.”

Sometimes when we feel like things are not going our way it is hard to remember these simple verses.  Could it be that God has a different plan for us when our plan fails?  Often God has a way of setting us up for blessings.  Since he can see our future doesn’t it make sense to trust him with it?

Besides Mr. Gianunzio there was another person who comforted Jeremy in his pain.  One of the girls from the second place team named Kathy sought Jeremy out after the results were made known.  Kathy had talked to her partner and they both agreed to give their trophy to Jeremy.  They really felt in their heart of hearts that Jeremy deserved the honor.  Jeremy was humbled by the kindness of Kathy and her partner.  It was an act of selflessness that is rarely seen.  Still Jeremy would not accept their trophy.  He wanted them to have it because they won it.

Through that chance meeting Kathy and Jeremy became close friends.  It was three years after that initial meeting that they were married.  Today 5 kids and 4 grandchildren later Jeremy and Kathy are still going strong!

I was re-telling this story to my son the other day  and he said something that I hadn’t thought of.  When I told him that Kathy wanted Jeremy to have the trophy he smiled and stated, “She’s just the kind of person that would do that!”  I hadn’t thought about that angle of the story.  You see God was not only working in Jeremy’s life but he was also working with Kathy.  The act of kindness that she displayed showed just the kind of person she is and just what Jeremy needed.

As I sat there hearing Jeremy share the story in church tears welled up in my eyes.  You see Jeremy is the pastor of our church and his wife Kathy is right by his side helping everything go smoothly.  It was a match made in heaven literally!

The second place trophy was kept by Kathy’s partner.  Somewhere in a closet or her basement somewhere it may still exist.  It’s too bad that Jeremy and Kathy don’t have it.  Seeing it would bring back tremendous memories.  Come to think of it they don’t need the trophy to remember the beginning.  All Jeremy has to do is look at Kathy.  After telling their story he concluded by saying “and that’s how I met my trophy wife!”

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Peace In The Storm

We’ve all been through big storms.  The rain comes down hard, the thunder is loud and darkness is all around.  The sun is nowhere to be found and the only light that we see is periodic lightening brightening the sky.  If the electricity is still working we hear news of thunderstorm or tornado warnings.  We may be directed to enter a safe place in our home until the system passes us by.  All of these factors can be very alarming.  Yet I have been through numerous storm warnings in my life and I am sure you have too.  The best way to get through the storms is to get to a safe place, and stay there until the storm passes.  The main thing we must remember is to stay calm because then we can think straight.  We won’t panic and make decisions based on our panic state.  Knowing that we have been through hundreds of storms before and each one went away helps us to live through yet another one.

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In our Christian walk we are going to go through storms.  Nobody said that once we become a Christian storms will automatically pass us by.  The disciples of Jesus were in a boat one time and a sudden storm hit.  All of the sudden they were fearing for their lives.  The waves were beating heavily on the boat and the boat was rocking from side to side.  In the midst of the storm Jesus was in the back room of the boat sleeping.  Scared out of their mind the disciples woke Jesus.  “Jesus”, they said “Don’t you care that we are going to parish?”  Jesus got up and the first thing he did was admonish them.  “Oh ye of little faith”, he said.  Then he commanded the storm to calm and the storm was no more.

It’s interesting the words ye of little faith that he used.  In our daily lives when the storms hit us we tend to panic like the disciples did.  Just like in their case where Jesus was in the boat he is in our boat too if we have asked him into our heart.  With Jesus on board there is no reason to fear no matter how scary the storm is.

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So I ask you this question today.  Do you have little faith or big faith?  Little faith is faith that everything is OK as long as everything is going well.  Big faith is faith that everything is OK no matter what the circumstances are.

When Jesus comes into our hearts he gives us a peace that passes all understanding.  The problem that we have is that we don’t always live in that peace.  We can be like ten of the twelve spies in the Bible who came back and reported that the enemy was too big.  They were looking at the problems instead of the promise.  Isn’t that what we do when we get all upset because all we see is the obstacles?  So how do we keep the peace even through the tough times?  How do we go through the storms with big faith?

We will keep the peace if we are honest with everyone.  We cannot be at peace inside when we are not truthful.  II Corinthians 10 verses 4 and 5 tell us to Cast down imaginations and everything that exalts itself against the knowledge of God.  When we don’t believe that God will get us through a situation aren’t we not casting down these imaginations?  Have you ever heard that 95% of the things we worry about never happen?

When you are in the storm remember who is on the boat with you.  Remember all of the storms that you have been through in the past with his help.  Find the peace that only he can give.  Lean on the Lord and seek his peace above all else.  Remember that whatever you are going through will pass.  After it is over you will have a story to tell.  You see without a test we have no testimony.  The weather in our heart can be sunny and warm even when the storms on the outside are at their worst.  Always remember who is the center of our peace with this saying “No Jesus, No Peace—Know Jesus, Know Peace!”

The Weather of My Heart

by Lewis Hamilton c 1997 From the book “The Gardener and My Garden”

We call the weather line
it’s such a big concern
will rain ruin our weekend
or will the weather turn?

Is there a storm brewing?
It’s very important to me
Turn the TV on right now
and switch to channel three

The weather alert is flashing
there’s a “W” on the screen
The “W” stands for warning
what kind of warning could it be?

We plan our daily activities
from data we have found
wanting to make good decisions
from information that is sound

Do you ignore the weather
that goes on inside?
Is the river of your heart at peace
or is there a high tide?

Are your insides dark and cloudy
and is there always strife
from winds racing out of control
every day of your life?

You can see the forecast on your TV
the screen’s within your eyes
Are they raging from tornado winds
and seas about to rise?

Do you ignore the inside storm
denying that it’s there,
or should you take some action
to show you really care

The Lord saw my stormy inside
and said he’d calm my sea
He’d make my sun shine all the time
his peace he’d give to me

Now my inside weather’s peaceful
although outside it may rain
I’ve discovered who can control
my inside weather vane

I know now just as I’m concerned
what the weather report will be,
It’s more important what the weather is
deep inside of me

For Jesus spoke to my sea that day
He called, Peace be still
There is sunshine every day for me
as I live now in his will

An Audience Of One

When Carson Wentz star quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles came into the league he wanted to start a Foundation.  His agent and others advising him advised against it.  “Most players coming into the league wait four or five years to do that”, they told him.  Carson didn’t want to wait.  Then again he wasn’t like most guys coming into the league because he thought quite differently than the average 24 year old.  He considered their advice but then a thought entered his mind.  I have no idea where I will be in four or five years.  Hopefully I will still be playing this game but nothing is for certain and it is no given I will be in Philadelphia still.  He wanted to make a difference in the lives of people and so a simple question popped into his mind “Why wait?”

Carson Wentz starts AO1 Foundation to help the less fortunate

The Carson Wentz AO1 Foundation

was launched in 2017 and its mission is to “demonstrate the love of God by providing opportunities and support for the less fortunate and those in need.”

Carson’s Foundation has three major objectives. To provide shelter, food and education for underprivileged youth; to provide hunting opportunities for disabled people; and to provide service dogs to those who need them  So where does this drive in a man so young to help people in need come from?  Maybe part of the answer can be found in his AO1 Foundation mission statement.  “To demonstrate the love of God by providing opportunities and support for the less fortunate and those in need.  In that statement we see “the love of God” and therein lies the drive in Carson’s life.  That and a tattoo that he has on his wrist “AO1” which stands for “Living for an audience of one, Jesus Christ.”

Wentz found the Lord while in college at North Dakota State. He went to church weekly growing up but it wasn’t for spirituality as much as it was for his family.  It was something that he thought was a good thing and went without a deep commitment.  In college all of that changed.  He joined a prayer group with some of his teammates.  Again it seemed like the right thing to do as he built relationships with guys on the team.  As a freshman he was approached by the senior quarterback on the team named Dante Perez.  As they were stretching during a practice Dante asked him if he ever reads the Bible?  Wentz first thought was that the guy was bringing his religion to the wrong place.  After all we were at football practice not church.  Then they ended up meeting and Dante mentored Carson in his faith for about a year.

“I remember just having some college mentors, some former teammates kind of just help walking me through the Word,” he added. “And I ended up reading the whole New Testament of the Bible in the first three months of my freshman semester, and it just became real to me.”Carson Wentz

 That realness grew the remaining years of his college experience.  At the time of the 2016 NFL Draft Carson was rated as one of the top Quarterbacks coming out.  But something far deeper was on his mind.  I just remember praying almost every day. ‘Lord I don’t know where I’m going to be, but just put me in a place where I can grow closer to you.’ He came through big time,” Wentz said.  As the number 2 pick in the NFL Draft Carson was off to Philadelphia where he found the perfect fit!
In his rookie year Carson was named the starting Quarterback when Sam Bradford was unexpectedly traded to the Vikings.  The team originally planned to have Carson sit and learn his first year.  Obviously his practices changed plans as the Eagles traded their starting quarterback and named Wentz their quarterback for 2016.  Wentz did not disappoint.  He became the first rookie quarterback since 1970 to win his first two games of the season and not throw an interception. Carson started all 16 games and the Eagles finished with a 7–9 record.  He threw for a league-record 379 completions by a rookie. His 379 completions also set a single season franchise record.  The Eagles were very happy with their first year quarterback and the future looked bright!  But nobody could have predicted how unbelievable the 2017 season would be!
 Philadelphia Eagles v Los Angeles Rams

In the first 5 games of 2017 Wentz threw for 1,362 yards and 10 touchdowns against only 3 interceptions.  NFL insiders and reporters mentioned him as a Most Valuable Player candidate.  Week after week Wentz led the Eagles.  They didn’t win every game but they were winning most of them.  The Eagles fans had been waiting for years for a quarterback that could lead them to a Super Bowl win.  Since their last championship in 1960  several had taken them to the cusp only to disappoint in the end.  13 years ago another young quarterback named Donovan McNabb started the season 8-1 just like the Eagles record with Wentz after 9 games.  That team finished with a Super Bowl appearance but they lost the big game.  The Eagles fans were hopeful that Wentz could take the team one more step and win the Super Bowl.  This feeling left a Philly fan to be quoted as saying in a recent ESPN the Magazine article that the Philly fans were “cautiously hysterical.”

As much as Wentz and his teammates were stirring up the Philly fans Wentz was also stirring up the Philly clubhouse.  His vibrant faith led to some of his teammates wanting a relationship with God that he had.  What they saw was expressed by the words of Carson himself “I’m very open about my faith,” Wentz said. “I’m not going to hide from it or back down. I also like to try to walk the fine line in being too much and hitting people over the head with the Bible – that’s not what I’m about.

Prior to their October 12th game against the Carolina Panthers, wide receiver Marcus Johnson requested to be baptized at the team hotel. “Seeing how they’re living, how they’re committed to it, I felt like it was God just pushing me, like, ‘look, you can’t keep making excuses anymore. You’ve go to make that decision. Are you going to take that next step in your faith, or are you going to continue to make excuses?”

The Eagles have formed a band of brothers who have Bible Study together and pray together.  They have several members of the team in the brotherhood.  The significance  of their faith as it relates to football was best expressed by linebacker Jordan Hicks.  “When you find something or someone to play for, and you’re not just playing for yourself, naturally it will make you play harder and give you a purpose,” Hicks said. “We play to honor Jesus Christ. That’s what we play for. It takes [the pressure] off our shoulders. Honestly, it makes us play harder in a sense, just understanding the humbling fact that it’s not about us, it’s about him, and glorifying his name.”

It was late in a week 14 game against the Rams. Carson and his team were near the Rams end zone and Carson went back to throw.  Nobody was open so he started to run.  As he neared the goal line he got sandwiched between two Ram players.  He scored the touchdown, which was called back because of a penalty, but Carson was hurt.  He stayed in the game and threw the ensuing  touchdown pass but something was wrong with his knee.  An MRI showed that his ACL was tore and would need surgery.  His season was over and apparently the hopes and dreams of the Eagles and their fans. usa-nick-foles-eagles.jpg

A Christian brother on the team named Nick Foles stepped into Carson’s role.  He was a veteran quarterback who was disillusioned with the sport he loved only 18 months earlier and questioned whether he should stay in the game.  He decided to sign with the Eagles and back up Wentz.  Little did he know the circumstances that would come about.  Now he was depended on to lead the Eagles the rest of the way.  In a fairy tale ending the Eagles led by Foles advanced through the playoffs and into the Super Bowl  Foles was brilliant against the powerful New England Patriots and Philadelphia had won their first championship since 1960.  Their fans were hysterical and the city of Philadelphia was proud of their Eagles! 

When the game clock showed the game was over the Eagle players celebrated on the field.  The Super Bowl trophy was presented to the team in a special ceremony and smiles and high fives were everywhere.  It is a time when many winning team members of the past would go out and celebrate their victory with drinks.  That is why the unusual scene that took place in a little room was so nice to hear about.  It came from a twitter tweet from Tony Dungy (the ex NFL coach).

After all the celebrations and confetti Justin caught up with the 3 Eagles QBs Nick Foles, Carson Wentz & Nate Sudfeld along with Zach Ertz who scored the winning TD. They were in a room by themselves—praying and thanking God. It was great for him to see that.

Many of the Eagle players were soaring.  Yes it was wonderful winning the Super Bowl and making thousands of Philly fans happy.  But there was a more powerful force working on the team and in the community.  Jesus had become real to an Eagle team that will be remembered for their faith long after their Super Bowl glitter fades.  When Carson Wentz found out his season was over he tweeted Proverbs 3:5-6.  The Bible verse Wentz cited reads: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart / And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.”  Clearly that path is heading straight in the game of life no matter what happens in the game of football.  His audience of one is surely pleased!

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