He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Psalm 40:3a

Monday, January 26, 2015

A Leap of Faith

God made children the measure of faith.   He said to come unto him like these, yet we often question how much they can understand.  We often separate ourselves from the little ones when we want a serious discussion with another Christian.  We send them to “children’s church” while the preacher gives the sermon, certain he is going to be speaking way over their heads.  We question their understanding when they tell us they’ve accepted Jesus as Savior if we think they are too young.  I wonder, are we missing the mark?

 Recently in a church service that includes a “children’s object lesson” I was delighted with the way the leader developed the idea of faith, a word we use a lot in the Christian community.  This demonstration was the best I’ve ever seen.  He asked a boy, about ten years old and about sixty-five pounds to step up on the stage.  Climbing the four steps he waited while the leader had Paul, a man probably in his late-thirties and about 180 pounds stand at the base of the steps.  He asked the boy to back up and then run into the waiting arms of Paul.  They each agreed this could be done since the boy completely trusted the waiting arms of his friend.  The mission was completed as expected, and faith was demonstrated.

 The leader then asked another man, Scotty, in his mid-forites and approximately 200 pounds to replace the boy on the stage, while leaving Paul, who easily caught the boy, at the base of the steps.  Scotty took his position at the back of the stage just as the boy had.  Looking at the man on the stage and then the children, the leader said, “This is going to be a real test of faith.  Watch while Paul catches Scotty!”

Needless to say, there was a good bit of giggling even from the children!  Neither of the grown men were willing to “test faith” this way.  Yet isn’t that exactly what we’re supposed to do when we ask Jesus into our hearts?  We are supposed to trust just as that little boy did and leap into the Father’s arms, even when our issues seem oversized. 

I wonder what keeps us from having childlike faith?  Do we get caught up in the logic our minds try to make of it?  We’ve been educated,  and as adults are supposed to make intelligent decisions based on facts we can prove as true, like we would a scientific experiment. Yet what concrete evidence can we provide those who doubt us? We have God’s word and the evidence within our lives.  I find particular satisfaction when Science proves the Bible right!  But of course there are those who are going to say, all that happens in our lives is pure happenstance, nothing supernatural and certainly nothing to do with God.  You can’t see Him, so how can He be real and do dynamic things in our lives?

 Another enemy of faith is satan, himself.  He and his demons are as real as the God we serve.  His sole purpose is to deceive and hinder our relationship with God.  He uses every opportunity we open to him, and sadly, he's good at it and it works.

 So I encourage you to take that leap of faith into the Father’s arms and then with wide-eyed, childlike curiosity, search the scriptures, find out everything you can about the Lord you now serve.  Get close to Him every single day; experience the joy that can only be obtained from knowing Him; and hold Him close. Then no matter what air you feel beneath your feet, you know God is going to catch you in his arms.


Monday, January 19, 2015

Roads Traveled

         Before our meeting we all shared our little happenings and frustrations we'd dealt with the week before.  A widow raising a teenage son would often say to our group, “You just can’t understand my point of view.  You’re all married, with husbands who care and help you every day.  I don’t have that.  It’s different for me.”  We all felt comfortable sharing just how we felt about things.  In some ways we seemed closer than family.

            Our Bible study group was stunned many weeks later when we heard the news that a regular member of the study group had gone through a lengthy separation from her husband and was nearing divorce proceedings.  We had been with her every week, sharing with each other and still we did not know.  It didn’t seem possible.

            As I looked back over the preceding year, I considered our many conversations singularly and within our group.  We were all so wrapped up in our own little occurrences such as everyday problems with children, disagreements with our husbands or other family members or work, we didn’t really take the time to listen with our heart.

            There were little things I vaguely remember one friend sharing during that time that haunted me for sometime afterwards.  I asked myself, “Why didn’t I pick that up?  How could we have let her go through that ordeal without the support of others that loved her?  Why did she choose to not tell us outright about her situation?”

            Could she have possible felt like Job did in Job 19:147?  “My kinsfolk and my close friends have failed me….”  (RSV)  I don’t know that I have the answers to those questions but I did learn something from the experience.  We, as humans, are often quick to say, “You can’t possibly understand what I’m going through,” as another participant did at some of our meetings, and as we each did in our own given circumstances.

            While none of us knew of the crisis at the time, it demonstrates that sometimes people have problems they don’t share and it’s up to us as Christians to be mindful of another person’s feelings and needs.  We should listen not only with our ears, but with our hearts so that we might pick up weak signals another might be sending.

            I also discovered the strength my friend had.  I was amazed at how long she had kept her situation to herself.  She dealt with this personal, emotional upheaval and with her children through strength she could have only gotten from God.  It took a lot of courage and strength, even after a year, to tell the world, “my marriage is over.”  Most people, like myself, who knew her, didn’t even know there had been a problem.

            Complaining to each other over petty things that irritate us or upset our day, I’ve learned, is unnecessary.  Taking our little concerns to Christ is what we need to do.  Being thankful that we have little concerns, instead of large ones, is also essential.

            The roads we travel are as varied as our lives.  There is much in our lives we share, and much more that we are careful others do not see.  So I challenge you this week to listen with your heart as others share theirs.  It’s entirely possible they are telling you something you won’t otherwise hear.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Grilled Cheese

         “I’m mad,” my four-year-old stated simply.  “I wanted grilled cheese.”  I watched while he ate the lasagna I gave him for lunch.  Even though lasagna was normally a favorite dish, he ate it slowly and with very little pleasure.

            Christians sometimes find themselves in a similar situation.  We participate in an activity, hold an office, or even do a helpful act with less than a small amount of enthusiasm. It takes all the energy and will power we have to complete what is before us and often not without a bit of “murmuring” on the side! 

A small child may go to Sunday school because his parents insist.  He doesn’t really dislike the class, but would much rather be doing something else.  There were times when I heard my eight-year-old not only wishing, but asking if he could stay home to watch cartoons on Sunday morning, which was never been permitted.

            Teenagers may find themselves in a similar situation during the worship service or even during youth fellowship time.  There is nothing really wrong with either activity, but being somewhere else seems so much better.  A visit to the mall to shop for clothes, or even the chance to sleep in after a busy week, seems much more appealing.

            These situations are the same my son found himself in at the lunch table.  He really didn’t mind lasagna, but he would have preferred grilled cheese, so he didn’t eat it with much enthusiasm. We, as humans, often believe things are better on the other side of the fence.  Even though we want to do right by God, our feelings and emotions sometimes misdirect us. 

            We are called as Christians to obedience but it’s difficult to be obedient or enthusiastic when it means doing something we’d rather not be doing.  Sometimes it takes prayer to feel committed to a job or activity when you feel little or no enthusiasm.  Sometimes God gives us a task out of our comfort zone to prepare us for something else!

            In today’s world it’s easy to wish we were doing something else, instead of what we’ve been given.  There is so much else available.  But if you can give your all and put your heart in what you’re doing for God, there are bound to be blessings.  By serving with obedience and enthusiasm, no matter what venue: church, youth fellowship, a fund drive or any other God given ministry you will be guarding what has been entrusted to you by God.  It is here you’ll be able to enjoy both your “lasagna and grilled cheese!”

So I challenge you this week; prayerfully consider your role in church, at work and your daily life.  Are you “volunteering” for something you don’t want to do?  Have you prayed about it? Is there a way you could change circumstances so you could do it (or another task) with more enthusiasm?  You might even consider asking God to show you how you could use the talents He gave you in yet another way.  Be creative, even as you serve, and serve with a happy heart!

Monday, January 5, 2015

On The Fence

“It's been a tough week” said my friend not long ago.  “They say things come in threes....and it did for me!  I received a scathing email from some one close to me, angry with me over things for which I had absolutely no control; followed by another message from someone I hardly know over something she completely misinterpreted; and watched as a child I love implored her mother to please take her somewhere other than my home because she didn't want to be there.”

Where do we go or what do we do with circumstances like this?   Do we want only to hide until the pain goes away, or would we rather retaliate and cause harm to those inflicting pain on us?  I suggest the answer to that question is partly determined by the kind of personality you have, and your belief system.

I have one friend who, when offended, would like nothing more than hit back, hit hard, and where it is going to do the most damage.  Another friend, who is a bit more like me, would rather take the abuse inflicted, turn away and avoid confrontation; just try to maintain peace.

I don't know that either method is right. just different.  I would contend, however, that injuries or offenses should be dealt with, although not in a hostile way, because left unattended, anger does have the potential to become a cloud burst. 

I heard a conversation recently where an angry man told his friend, "You need to get off the fence about this and choose a side."   His friend's response is the way I'd like to think I feel.  He said, "I don't need to get off the fence or take a side.   I need to figure out a way to take down the fence so everyone can get along!"  That isn't always easy and in some cases an impossible solution.  But I still prefer this idea to breaking someone's legs or bringing a person to their knees to get their attention!

Our lives are made up of decisions every day.  To make good ones takes the heart, mind and attitude of Christ.  I believe how we respond is a demonstration of what we believe. When behavior is un-Christ like, aren't we setting someone up to fail or choose a different lifestyle if they are watching us as a beacon of Christ; especially if it's someone on the "fence" about accepting Christ as Savior?

We are told to live a life of Christ; like Christ!  When we display bad behavior, I don’t think we are living Christlike.  Does that mean we can’t get angry?  Oh my, no!  Anger is a human characteristic and even Jesus got angry.  It’s what we do with that anger that matters. 

Sometimes we do need to choose sides, rather than sitting on the fence.  When our “side” will demonstrate our faith--- or not – it’s incredibly important to choose a side; Christ’s side.  Because when we don’t “choose” to honor Him, or share the Gospel, or acknowledge our faith when around other people, aren’t we in effect choosing to “deny” Him? 

I challenge you to consider what fences you sit on.  Would you be better off choosing sides or tearing the fence down?