I Love YouTube

YouTube geralt via pixabay

I like to watch flash mob proposals and acapella singing groups and funny movie clips. But what I really love about YouTube is the chance it gives me to watch great sermons, new and old, by pastors from all over the world. I watched one recently by Philip Yancey called Rumors of Another World, delivered at the University of California Veritas Forum several years ago. You can find it here:  Let me re-tell my favorite story from that talk, though, the one that struck me most. 

A group of high ranking US health officials met to discuss the greatest threats to long life and well-being here in our country. They made a list of the top problems, including the seven listed below.

·                Smoking and tobacco use

·                Obesity and poor dietary choices

·                Drug addiction

·                Alcohol abuse, including drunk driving and fetal alcohol syndrome

·                Stress based hypertension

·                Sexually transmitted diseases

·                Violent crime

As they pondered solutions to these life threatening and life altering issues, one member of the think tank shed a very different light on the subject. That man was Dr. Paul Brand, a physician who spent years in India working with those who suffered from leprosy. Dr. Brand explained that, while the list I’ve just shared with you is perfectly valid in the US, a similar committee in India would come up with a very different threat roster. That list would include: 

·                Malaria

·                Leprosy

·                Polio, until very recently

·                Smallpox

·                Yellow Fever

“If I went to that group,” Dr. Brand said, “and declared ‘I can get rid of those problems,’ they would say, ‘Wonderful. Then we would live in paradise!’” 

How blessed we are here in the United States! We’re virtually free of all those dreaded diseases. But what have we done? We’ve replaced them with a whole new set of problems that we’ve brought on ourselves. To this, Philip Yancy says, (my paraphrase) “I’ve come to see that, if God designed this planet and our bodies, he did it to give us life to the fullest…I used to think of God’s way, his definition of sin, as a way to keep us from having fun. Now I see that it’s a way to keep us from hurting ourselves. The church teaches us the best way to live.”

So, today, I challenge us all to take a look at that list of US problems and begin, by God’s grace, to eliminate any still lingering in our lives. God’s way IS the best way, and he means for us to take care of ourselves as we live in obedience to him.

Photo by geralt via pixabay.com

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Wise Guy

bible proverbs wise guy Luis Quintero via unsplash

I’m reading “The Message” by Eugene H. Peterson. Yes, I know, it’s a somewhat controversial book. Some say it makes the Bible easier to understand. Others decry it as too far afield of the translations we’re used to reading. Let’s set those arguments aside and see The Message as, at the very least, the work of a learned man who loved the Lord and wanted his congregation to get into the Word. You can check it out at Biblegateway or YouVersion . Today, though, I’d like to share an edited excerpt of Peterson’s introduction to the book of Proverbs. You won’t find it on either of the sites listed above. I own a kindle copy and read it there.

“Wisdom is the art of living skillfully in whatever actual conditions we find ourselves… A college degree is no certification of wisdom…Wisdom has to do with becoming skillful in

  • honoring parents
  • raising children
  • handling money
  • conducting our sexual lives
  • going to work
  • exercising leadership
  • using words well
  • treating friends kindly
  • eating and drinking healthfully
  • cultivating peace.

Threaded through all these items is the insistence that the way we think of and respond to God is the most practical thing we do. In matters of everyday practicality, nothing, absolutely nothing, takes precedence over God.”

This passage drives home yet again the need to see the Bible as our Manufacturer’s Handbook. Those of us who neglect its wisdom—or kid ourselves into thinking there’s little current wisdom available within its pages—do so at our own peril. On the other hand, by keeping our noses in that Book and applying what we find there, we often discover that smoother sailing can indeed be ours.

I’d like to know your favorite Proverb, or a tale of how following Biblical instruction helped you out in a “worldly” and practical way. Three dear friends have gotten the ball rolling below:

Paul: “As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his foolishness.”

(Perhaps this the proverbial way of saying that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Or maybe Paul was just messing with me.)

Nadine: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6).

(This one gives me more peace than any other when I’m faced with a big decision.)

Lorri: “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1).

(Oh, how different the world would be if we all followed that bit of advice!)

And now, how about you? What’s your favorite proverb? Has following it helped?

Photo by Luis Quintero via Unsplash.co

A Simple Life

photo-1510333337682-fdd0eba357a4 Robert Nyman UnsplashI attended a women’s conference a few weeks back. I had my notebook ready, and captured all sorts of wise words and valuable lessons. One stood out from all the rest.

“Someone asked the question, ‘What are you doing with your life?’
The answer I heard was, ‘I’m following Jesus. How about you?’”

Is life really that simple?

Yes, I think it is. My college chaplain used to say, “Few things are necessary, really only one.” (More about that here.) Our one thing is following Christ. Simple doesn’t mean easy, though. In order to follow Jesus, we have to see where he’s leading us. That requires time and effort and a good deal of going against the flow of our culture. It takes:

Knowing him: spending time in prayer, taking time to read the Bible, immersing ourselves in teaching about who he is and what his will looks like.

Listening to him: limiting distractions that crowd out his still small voice with clamor and confusion, asking him to speak and looking for his leading.

Opening ourselves to others: letting true fellowship take the role of godly counsel at times when we aren’t sure what following Jesus looks like.

Stepping out in faith and courage: taking action in some situations, while waiting patiently in others. When we don’t yet know the path that’s right, and can’t keep waiting to make a decision, we have to seek our Lord’s will and trust that, as we step out in faith, he will keep us going in the right direction. When we do know what following Jesus looks like in a particular circumstance, we still need the strength or courage to follow through.

But at its core, the life we’re meant to lead is one of simply following Jesus. When I’m discouraged or confused, I take comfort in the fact that Jesus wants me to follow him. And he knows I want to do just that. My prayers for guidance are absolutely 100% within his will, and 1 John 5:14-15 says, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.”

Photo by Robert Nyman via Unsplash.com

Be Careful of Your Calling

 

photo-1533154613417-407cfcf6abb2 king castle jonny caspari @jonnycpic via Unsplash

Years ago, I saw a movie called “The Man Who Would Be King.” It was based on a story by Rudyard Kipling and, as I recall, (spoiler alert) things didn’t turn out well for the men who sought royalty. Many of us, at one time or another, have dreamed of a fiefdom, a castle, or eight-year rights to Air Force One. The book of Judges provides a different perspective on high positions, though. It says,

“One day the trees went out to anoint a king for themselves. They said to the olive tree, ‘Be our king.’

“But the olive tree answered, ‘Should I give up my oil, by which both gods and humans are honored, to hold sway over the trees?’

“Next, the trees said to the fig tree, ‘Come and be our king.’

“But the fig tree replied, ‘Should I give up my fruit, so good and sweet, to hold sway over the trees?’

“Then the trees said to the vine, ‘Come and be our king.’

“But the vine answered, ‘Should I give up my wine, which cheers both gods and humans, to hold sway over the trees?’” (Judges 9: 8-13),

God made some to be rulers, yes, but he made many of us for humbler tasks, just as he made the olive tree for oil, the fig tree for sweet fruit and the vine for wine.

Do you ever look at your life and find it lacking some element of grandeur you expected in your youth? Perhaps you’ve missed your calling. More likely, though, you’ve simply honed your calling and, hopefully, come to see the importance of simple tasks. We each need to ask ourselves only this question:

“Am I doing what I believe God would have me do right now, today, living the way he has called me to live?”

If your answer is yes, press on, knowing that you are giving glory to the King of Kings. (None of us were ever meant to heap up glory for ourselves anyway.) If, on the other hand, your soul searching leads you to believe you have sidestepped your calling, please don’t look back. Instead, look forward, asking God how he would have you proceed as you re-commit yourself to following him.

And if you’re willing, let me know your calling and commitment. I will pray for your strength, your courage, and your direction.

 

Photo by  jonny caspari @jonnycpic via Unsplash.

Bother to Obey?

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Why, when it can be so hard, do we bother to obey the Lord? This (with a good bit of editing and updating) is the answer Hannah Whitall Smith gave over 100 years ago:

“When we choose obedience, we bring joy to our Lord as well. Our deep love for him is perfectly reasonable, but the fact that he loves us so deeply is truly amazing! What does ‘loving him back’ look like? For one thing, it looks like obedience. Jesus told his disciples that the first and greatest commandment is to ‘love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength’ (Mark 12:30). That commandment leads us to ask ourselves:

  • Will we make him our greatest love?
  • Will we follow him, even when there’s no apparent reward, even if following him leads to a life of separateness or suffering?
  • Will we let him have complete control of all we are and all we have?
  • And what if our Christian friends don’t agree with our level of devotion?

“Say, ‘Yes, Lord, yes!’ to each of these questions. Pour out all your devotion on our Lord. Give him your enthusiastic surrender, even if it upsets some of the more moderate Christians around you. Why should you care if some don’t understand your choice? An intimate friendship with Christ is both your duty and your joy. When Christ makes his ways known to us, we have the great privilege of walking in them.

“Your whole-hearted devotion is precious to the Lord. Perhaps others don’t approve, but he does, and that’s enough. Don’t hold back. Lay your whole life open to him and say each morning, ‘Lord, help me to live this day in a way that pleases you. Give me spiritual insight to discover your will. Guide my every step.’ Don’t let a day, or even an hour, go by in which you aren’t consciously following him.”

I’ve loved Hannah’s words for years. They challenge and console me. How do they strike you today?

 

Photo by Jon Tyson via Unsplash.com

Ambassadors

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I wonder what it would be like to be an ambassador to some foreign place. I suppose at times I’d feel quite important, having been commissioned as an official representative by the leaders of my country. Other times, I expect I’d feel a bit lonely and lost, living in a place that wasn’t my home. Above all, I think I’d carry with me a sense of great responsibility, wondering who was listening, watching and assuming that my daily choices were typical of my countrymen.

The Apostle Paul considered himself to be Christ’s ambassador even when he was in jail. And in 2 Corinthians 5:20, he commissioned us, saying, “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.”

This is an important calling! It’s issued not by leaders of our country, but by the Creator of our universe via his servant and messenger, Paul. Our ambassadorship isn’t an option. We represent Christ, every day, wherever we go and in whatever we’re doing—or not doing, “as though God were making his appeal through us.” God speaking through us is a heady thought.  How do we react to disappointment or mistreatment? What do we do with our spare time? What do our facial expressions convey when we don’t think anyone is watching?

Do you ever feel a bit lonely or lost in this world? A bit out of place? That’s to be expected, and Paul tells us how to handle it—be reconciled to God. It’s only through a closer walk with the Lord who loves us that we can fulfill our calling. When we’re trusting him in all things, we can get through the muck and mire that the world tends to dish out. Our response to trouble ought to be an immediate cry to our Lord for perspective, protection and direction—as long as we’re reconciled to him. If we’ve allowed our relationship to grow cold, to be walled off—perhaps by sin or selfishness—it’s easy to forget that he’s right there ready to help.

Most of us will never be asked to go live in some foreign place and represent our country. We’ve been commissioned, though, to an even greater calling. When you head out today, imagine yourself wearing the badge of a diplomat. (Okay, maybe they don’t wear badges, but you get my drift.)

Let your light so shine!

 

(Photo from Pixabay)