Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Scaredy Cats Go First

But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars – their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.  Revelation 21:8

“Have a little hell fire and brimstone to start your day off with?”

“No thanks, don't mind if I pass.”

Messages of this sort don't rank high on my fav's list to listen to, let alone write about. I'm more comfortable looking into God's grace and mercy. Still it's important to heed all of God's Word, even those parts that make us squirm and feel uncomfortable.

Revelation 21:8 lists the Who's Who of Hell. Just in case you haven't heard, there aren't any parties there. A good time won't be had by anyone.

Ask many people, Christians included, who will go to hell and they'll probably get most of those on the list except the first two. Those leading the charge to make hell “Home Sweet Home” aren't the usual suspects. It isn't the mass murderers, the Robber Barons and the child molesters who are first in the pool. It's the scaredy cats that lead the way. Christians fall into the trap of accepting cowardice and unbelief as part of life. Let's not call them sins shall we? They are however, the top two on the list. Ouch! I've walked in those shoes and they can feel quite comfy.

God's got a problem with cowardice – He doesn't like it at all.  Unbelief, the kissin' cousin of cowardice, is fear based and opposed to faith. Faith is what pleases God, Hebrews 11:6.

I've heard reference to the 365 instances of fear not” in the bible; one for every day of the year. It is a nice thought but inaccurate. Fear and its derivatives appear 314 times. Jesus used the word fear about ten times. There may not be a fear not” for everyday of the year but if Jesus only said it once, that’s sufficient.

Maybe cowards go first because cowardice is the root of all the rest. Fear puts us in a self-preservation mindset. Unchecked, it drives individuals to extremes in order to protect themselves, their lifestyles, their stuff and so forth. Fear is the main reason we accomplish so much less than we were designed for. Ouch again!

Cowardice isn't ok with God. Speaking for myself, it will not hold up as an excuse. Fear is not an acceptable response – faith is. When we walk by faith we please God. He likes it when we imitate our Father. When we act just like Him it's a sign that we really get it.

Ok, now I need to get rid of the mental image of the cowardly lion from the Wizard of Oz at the head of the Going to Hell line. I also need to ruthlessly admit to and confront the fears in my own life. They're not ok. Hanging onto them hasn't done me any good in the past and that's not going to change in the future. Lord, help us all to face what frightens, even terrifies us and break it's stronghold off of our lives, in Jesus' name. Amen.

Photo from Google Images

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The "All" Word

Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the King. 1 Peter 2:17

There's the all word again. Life would be easier if Peter had written something else instead of all. I could live with that. There are folks, in my humble opinion, who don't deserve honorable treatment.

In the Greek, honor always has the connotation of good attached to it. Praise, glory and of a divine quality are some of the word's meanings. If all people deserve honor would that list include:
-those who are different than me? I don't mean they like coconut that makes me gag. I  talking about the weird, super weird, off-the-charts-weirdos;
-those whose political persuasions and aspirations are opposite of mine? Do I include 
 those  I believe are bent on dismantling our nation or worse, my beliefs;
-those who are blatantly corrupt, evil, greedy and so forth;
-those who treat God, His Word, His principles and people who believe and abide by    them with contempt?

These are some just to name a few. Honor them? Yes, according to Peter. Ouch! I don't like this scripture. I'll just rip it out of my bible and pretend it never existed.

If I did that every time I found something that challenged my thinking and behavior I'd have a very skinny bible. The more I’ve grown spiritually the more things I found acceptable in the past I now call into question. I have fewer and fewer sure fire answers and a lot more questions. I'm learning I'm not as smart as I thought I was.

When the bible says to honor all people it means all. I don't have to agree with them but I'm not free to take pot shots at them either. I can respectfully disagree without demeaning or devaluing them personally. That's no fun, but if I want to obey God I've got to follow His Word.

As elections approach can you imagine how different the process would be if this was the standard adopted? Perhaps we'd hear more well thought out ideas and dialog and a lot less mud slinging.

We can inflict damage with our words and actions. Before we speak and act we need to remember the law of sowing and reaping. What kind of harvest in our lives do we wish to reap?

Giving honor to those I feel don't deserve it is being Christ-like. It is what Jesus would do in our situation. Duct tape makes an excellent gag. I better keep plenty on hand in case of an emergency – there's probably one waiting right around the corner.

Photo - Google Images

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

It's Not "All In Your Head!"

Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? Matthew 6:27

It can be all in our heads Unless we act, nothing happens. How and where we focus our thoughts and actions affects our lives, positively and negatively. For circumstances to change and improve we need to do more than just think.

Visualizing and daydreaming are not the same things. Athletes use visualization to prepare for a peak performance. They mentally rehearse what they’ve practiced. Learn something the wrong way and you’ll fail. Practice doesn’t make perfect; perfect practice makes perfect. Many professionals envision executing with precision. They engage all their senses and their imagination to create a vision of attaining their goal flawlessly. Then they replicate in reality what they’ve already seen themselves achieve through visualization.

It’s easy to dream grand and glorious dreams but that alone produces nothing. The missing ingredient is hard work. Thomas Edison said, Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like hard work.”

Michelangelo’s Pieta and frescoes on the Sistine Chapel ceiling are legendary. A gifted artist, he spent years developing his skills. Michelangelo could look at a piece of marble and see the sculpture contained within its mass. In reference to his ability to produce masterpieces he said, “If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery it wouldn’t seem so wonderful after all.”

If you long for your life to count for something, stop just dreaming and do something. If you wish to see God’s kingdom come to earth, put action to your faith and engage in your world. Go until God says “Stop.” Success may not be instantaneous, that’s normal. Perfect practice makes perfect and will prove it really isn’t all in your head.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

A Monumental Failure

Who redeems your life from destruction…Psalm 103:4

Hillside Monument Company was located in the low rent industrial section of town. Specializing in grave markers, decorative cornerstones and other construction needs, most business was transacted off-site. The office was small, unpretentious and adequate for accommodating the occasional customer that stopped in. Jim Forest, the owner, was busy finalizing the delivery of some materials when a stranger entered. Dressed in work clothes, Jim assumed the man was looking for a job, not to make a purchase.

“Can I help you?” Jim asked.

“I hope so.” The man walked over to Jim’s desk. “I’d like to buy a monument.”

Grabbing the binder of photos tastefully displayed in plastic sleeves, Jim motioned to the chair next to the desk. “You’ve come to the right place. Have a seat. What’cha got in mind?”

“Something truly grand and glorious, you know…monumental.”

Jim’s mind raced furiously. Normally customers only wanted modest grave markers. Other than the mausoleum he’d done years before for the Holten family, most pieces his company produced were relatively small. Thinking hard Jim couldn’t recall anyone of prominence who had recently died and whose passing would warrant an elaborate edifice. The man standing before him didn’t exactly look the prosperous type.

“It has to be large,” his customer continued. “I don’t want anyone to miss it.”

“Well,” Jim responded, “this must be to honor someone very special. Is the departed a close friend or relative?”

“Oh no,” the stranger laughed, “no one died. This is a monument about me!”

“I see.” He really didn’t but Jim needed to say something. This guy’s an egomaniac, he though. “Let me guess. You just received a job promotion? Wait, don’t tell me. You’re celebrating an anniversary with a special someone.”

The gentleman smiled and shook his head no.

You’ve finally got the kids grown and out of the house on their own. In this economy that is a feat worth celebrating.”

“No, nothing like that.”

“I got it! You just won the Mega-Million Lotto drawing and now you’ve got more money to squander than you ever dreamed possible?”

“Wrong on all counts,” the stranger happily answered.

“Ok, I’m stumped. I give up. What’s this all about?”

“Actually,” the man began, “my life’s in shambles. I didn’t get a promotion. After twenty years of loyal service my company let me go. My spouse threw in the towel and left. Our marriage is over. My finances are quickly evaporating. The kids are still at home and there’s no end in sight on that front. Everything that can go wrong has.”

Jim stared at the man, flabbergasted. He could hardly believe what he was hearing. “Correct me if I’m wrong. This is what you want to memorialize?”

“That’s correct,” the man replied quickly. “I’m going to erect a monument to failure.”

Jim was beginning to think he had a nut job on his hands. He patted his pant’s pocket to confirm his cell phone was there. “Geez, I hope I have bars,” he thought to himself.

Speaking slowly and carefully Jim queried the stranger. “I don’t mean to be rude. People normally hide their mistakes and showcase their accomplishments. They’d rather be remembered for their successes.”

“Very true,” the affable stranger agreed. “I want people to see a celebration of my biggest defeats.”

Jim shook his head. “I’m confused. You want a monument that highlights the lowest point of your life. Why?”

“Elementary my good man, when people see how far down I fell they will truly appreciate how high God raised me up when He restored me. This isn’t about glorifying my mistakes and failures but magnifying God’s ability to turn things around and redeem lives from destruction. This monument marks the beginning of my comeback. When people see what a mess my life was and how God reversed my misfortunes, they’ll have hope that He can do the same for them. As an act of faith I’m memorializing my comeback before it ever happens.”

“Now I get it,” Jim exclaimed. “This is to commemorate the death of a monumental failure. It should be grand and glorious. Let me suggest granite or even marble….”

Over the course of the next few hours the two men finalized the design of a memorial that would give those facing defeat and at the lowest point of their lives a tangible starting place to begin their own journey of restoration.

When our backs are to the wall and we’re facing the greatest difficulties of our lives it’s time to build a monument. Those experiencing similar situations will more easily relate to when we were down then to when we got our lives back together again. Our marker will remind them that God is able to redeem any life from destruction and what He did for us He’ll do for them.  Celebrate in your defeats; build a memorial to monumental failure. It’s all uphill from here!