Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Going Against the Flow

The story is told about a woman who called her husband on his car phone as he was on his way home from work and she said, “Honey, you need to be careful. I just saw on the news that there’s some nut driving the wrong way on the Interstate.” Her husband said, “There’s not just one nut, there’s hundreds of them!”

Have you ever felt that way? Have you ever felt like trying to do God’s will makes you go the wrong way down the road? All the traffic’s coming the other way. Have you ever thought, “If everybody’s going this way, it’s so hard to go against the flow. Would God really mind if I just turned around for a little while?”

An article in The London Times a couple of years ago reported that there are currently about 200 million Christians in over 60 countries who are being persecuted for their faith. Because we have freedom in the United States to worship God, those of us who live here sometimes we forget just how many people in this world live under oppression – by Communist authorities or Muslim authorities, or authorities who simply oppose God and the people who follow God.

And even if you don’t face governmental oppression, there are no doubt many of you who live with oppression – in your home, in your workplace or at your school – oppressed by a family member or boss or teacher who makes it difficult on you as a Christian. More and more, we all are living in an anti-God culture. We live in an environment that makes it difficult at times for us to stand up for God.

We must remember the words of Paul: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:2)

No matter which way the crowd around you is flowing, may you have the courage to travel the direction that God would have you to travel.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Put It To Death

"Mommy, my turtle is dead," the little boy, Freddie, sorrowfully told his mother, holding the turtle out to her.

The mother kissed him on the head, then said, "That's all right. We'll wrap him in tissue paper, put him in a little box, then have a nice burial ceremony in the back yard. After that, we'll go out for an ice cream soda, and then get you a new pet. I don't want you...." Her voice trailed off as she noticed the turtle move.

"Freddie, your turtle is not dead after all."

"Oh," the disappointed boy said. "Can I kill it?"

Using the mind of a child, it's easy to see why Freddie felt that way. In his immature mind, the "blessing" of an ice cream soda more than made up for any loss suffered through the death of a pet.

There is a sense, though, in which the benefits of death far outweigh any sadness we might feel. The apostle Paul frequently wrote of the need to "put to death" the sinful behavior that once characterized our lives. We're well aware of what he's talking about because we constantly struggle with temptation. Just when we think we've given our sins the death blow, they resurface with new life. Putting them to death is not an easy thing to do. It helps to be reminded of the benefits of doing so:

"For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live." (Rom. 8:13)

The thought of "living" with God far outweighs any sadness I might experience from putting to death those "deeds of the body."

Father, as I look at my sinful behavior which resurfaces from time to time only to hurt and disappoint you so much -- that behavior which you hate even more than I do, enough to sacrifice your only Son -- I have only one question: Can I kill it?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Passing of Time

The rules at a particular university were such that if the professor were not present in the classroom by 15 minutes past the hour, the class was considered a "walk" and the students were free to leave -- with no penalties for missing a class. The rooms were equipped with the type wall clocks which "jumped" ahead each minute, in a very noticeable fashion. These clocks were also not of the most sophisticated construction. Some enterprising student discovered that if one were to hit the clock with chalkboard erasers, it would cause the clock to "jump" ahead one minute.

So, it became almost daily routine for these students to take target practice at the clock (as it would have it, this particular professor was not the most punctual). A few well-aimed erasers, and lo, 15 minutes were passed, and class dismissed itself.

When the day for the next exam rolled around, the professor strolled into the room, passed out the exams, and told them "You have one hour to complete it."

The professor then proceeded to collect the erasers from around the room and gleefully took aim at the clock. When he had successfully "jumped" the clock forward one hour, he closed the class and collected the exam papers.

We'll all been in situations where we would like for time to jump ahead and move faster than it does. But, as we get older, we become aware than time is moving quite fast enough on its own, without any help!

"My days are swifter than a weaver's shuttle..." (Job 2:6)

"Now my days are swifter than a runner; They flee away....They pass by like swift ships, Like an eagle swooping on its prey." (Job 9:25-26)

"For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away." (James 4:14b)

The Bible speaks often about how quickly life passes, not to depress us, but to bring us to the realization that we had better be preparing now for the eternity that lies beyond this life.

If you find yourself watching the clock at work today, wishing the time would pass faster, be careful! It will be gone before you know it.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Remember the Scars

John Gordon was a respected general for the South in the Civil War. After the war, he was running for the United States Senate, but a man who had served under him in the war, angry over some political incident, was determined to see him defeated. Everyone knew this man would fight Gordon's bid to become a senator.

During the convention, he angrily stamped down the aisle with his anti-Gordon vote in hand. As he saw Gordon sitting on the platform, he noticed how his once handsome face was disfigured with the scars of battle -- marks of his willingness to suffer and bleed for a cause he believed in.

The old soldier was stricken with remorse. Overcome with emotion, he exclaimed, "It's no use; I can't do it. Here's my vote for John Gordon." Then, turning to the general, he said, "Forgive me, General. I had forgotten the scars."

What a difference it makes in our lives when we remember the scars! With so many things to distract us, we don't often take time each day to reflect on what Jesus went through on the cross for us. But, when we are tempted to stray, it is a remembrance of Christ's sacrifice that has the power to draw us back to him.

"He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon him, and by his stripes we are healed." (Isaiah 53:5)

May I encourage you this morning to take a moment to pause and "remember the scars".

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Is There Anyone Who Thinks He Can Whip Me?

The following story comes from Robert Norris (via Reader's Digest):

"My brother and I arrived at boot camp together. On the first morning, our unit was dragged out of bed by our drill sergeant and made to assemble outside. 'My name's Sergeant Jackson,' he snarled. 'Is there anyone here who thinks he can whip me?'

"My six-foot-three, 280-pound brother raised his hand and said, 'Yes, sir, I do.'

"Our sergeant grabbed him by the arm and led him out in front of the group. 'Men,' he said, 'this is my new assistant. Now, is there anyone here who thinks he can whip both of us?'"

That humorous story reminds me of our relationship with God. As we look out at the world, our pride and our sense of independence may cause us to feel that we can take on anything life has to throw at us. But life will let us know very quickly that we are no match. The trials of life have a way of beating us down and causing us to feel helpless at times.

But God stands by our side and suddenly our confidence is renewed, because there truly is no one or nothing strong enough to defeat us both.

"What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Romans 8:31)

"You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world." (I John 4:4)

"Be strong and of good courage; do not be afarid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go." (Joshua 1:9)

May you find your confidence this day not in your own strength, but in the strength of the One who stands by your side.