15 May 2018
Have You Listened to the Music?
“The greatest wonder is not the music itself but the Musician, not the creation but the Creator. He is beautiful.” –Steve DeWitt
You’re familiar with the old saying, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” We all view and interpret art differently, but in any of its forms, art is always an expression of the artist. It’s intended to speak to us.
Consider God’s masterpiece. A quick read of the first chapter of Genesis reveals the phrase “God saw that it was good” (Genesis 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25) punctuates the creation account.
At every step in the process, God determined each element was good and made a meaningful contribution to the whole. The pieces fit nicely together. There was interdependence among them. His ideal was coming to pass.
At the end of the creation account, we read: “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good,” (Genesis 1:31). Notice the adverb—it was very good.
It thrilled God to see all the systems and order he created revealed to creation. It thrilled God to see his image and likeness—a resemblance—in us. This is a beautiful picture of the beginning of it all.
The Psalmist declares creation as God’s first book to mankind, a chance to see God’s glory in clarity.
“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the earth,” (Psalm 19:1-4).
God’s handiwork—all we see around us, and even the very pulse within our wrists—declares Him. It pours forth a testimony which cannot be missed, a song that is audible to everyone, everywhere.
Often we get so busy with the schedules and minutiae of life we miss the concert which is God’s masterpiece all around us.
Plan a short break in the routine this week. Take a walk. Soak in some sunlight. Observe life all around you. Allow your senses to drink deeply of this spring. Listen to God’s masterpiece as it sings, “Hallelujah!”
My prayer this week – Father, help me to slow down and take notice of the beauty of your creation all around me. Will you help me to see your hand in life’s seasons, recognize your presence in life’s stories, and sense your wisdom and power in life’s systems and order? Lord, I not only want to hear the Hallelujahs—I want to join the chorus!
08 May 2018
Do You Believe?
“Faith is the strength by which a shattered world shall emerge into the light.” –Helen Keller
Did you know an African Impala can jump over an obstacle ten feet tall, and can leap a distance of 30 feet, yet can be kept in an enclosure in any zoo by nothing more than a three-foot wall? The animals will not jump if they can’t see where their feet will land.
Sometimes the things of this life loom so large they stagger us. The loss of a job, a strained relationship, a worrisome diagnosis—so many things—can shake us to the core. We stare over the precipice and we can’t see or even imagine where our feet will land.
For a parent, nothing is more devastating than a crisis in the life of one of their children.
There’s an example in Mark’s gospel. A dad brought his troubled son to the Lord, hoping Jesus would deliver the boy from years of suffering. An evil spirit often threw the boy into fits, sometimes into a fire or a body of water.
This dad was desperate for the well-being of his child. He pleaded with Jesus, “’If you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.’ ‘If you can?’ said Jesus. ‘Everything is possible for one who believes,’” (Mark 9:22-23).
This dad’s response paints one of the most honest and gut-wrenching scenes in the Bible: “Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, ‘I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!’” (Mark 9:24)
The writer of Hebrews defines faith this way: “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see,” (Hebrews 11:1). This is so difficult to process when what we do see is so overwhelming.
In the story from Mark’s gospel, we get a glimpse of this father’s head and heart colliding— cognitively he believed Jesus could help, but emotionally he had lived with this burden and heart-concern so long, his son’s healing seemed too good to imagine.
How do we pray in desperate times? When troubles conspire to erect a wall around us, blocking our view of what’s next—where we’ll land—may the definition of faith and the example of this father’s earnest and honest prayer, speak to our hearts!
My prayer this week – Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief! Will you use this life’s most challenging obstacles as a means of growing my faith? Assure my heart that although I cannot see where my feet will land, you can—and that’s all that matters.
01 May 2018
Chasing After the Wind?
“Don’t be swayed by the false values and goals of this world, but put Christ and His will first in everything you do.” –Billy Graham
Solomon, long considered one of history’s wisest men, testified, “Meaningless! Meaningless! Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless,” (Ecclesiastes 1:2).
He worked tirelessly to obtain labor’s sweet rewards: success, wealth, and possessions.
He accumulated enough wealth to build huge homes and plant beautiful vineyards, gardens, and parks. He employed many servants. He surrounded himself with all the worldly pleasures imaginable. What did he conclude?
“Yet, when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind,” (Ecclesiastes 2:11).
True satisfaction eluded him.
There is an old story about a rich business mogul who walked past a fisherman, sitting beside his boat, relaxing in the afternoon sun.
The mogul asked, “Why aren’t you out catching fish?” The fisherman replied, “I’ve caught enough for today.”
The rich man persisted, “Why don’t you catch more fish than you need? You could make money. You could use it to buy a bigger boat, nylon nets, and go out deeper and catch even more fish. Then, one day, you could have a whole fleet of boats!”
“Then what would I do?” the fisherman asked. “Well, you could sit down, relax and enjoy life.” The fisherman replied, “What do you think I’m doing right now?”
Solomon seems to have come to a similar conclusion.
“What do people get for all the toil and anxious striving with which they labor under the sun? All their days their work is grief and pain; even at night their minds do not rest. This too is meaningless. A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment?” (Ecclesiastes 2: 22-25)
The sage’s experience taught him toiling in pursuit of more only robbed him of the comfort and enjoyment of what he had.
Hard work, in balance and perspective, has its rewards in this life—and they are to be enjoyed as a gift from the hand of God. Apart from this realization, no one can find satisfaction.
Jesus asks, “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world and yet forfeit their soul?” (Mark 8:36) When it comes to recognizing what’s most important, sometimes we miss the forest through the trees.
My prayer this week – Lord, thank you for the many blessings you’ve bestowed upon me through my work, its remuneration, and rewards. Will you help me to balance my priorities, to accomplish work in its appointed hours, and to wisely employ and enjoy its benefits as a blessing from your hand?
24 Apr 2018
Am I A Grateful Leader?
“Gratitude is the fairest blossom which springs from the soul.” –Henry Ward Beecher
Historians tell of an incident involving the Persian king Xerxes. After his victory over the Greeks at Salamis, the king and many of his men boarded a Phoenician ship for home when a terrible storm came upon them.
The captain of the ship advised the king, unless the ship’s load was lightened, they’d all perish.
The king turned to his men and said, “It is on you that my safety depends. Let some of you show your regard for your king!” Several of his men threw themselves overboard.
The ship made it safely to shore. King Xerxes had the captain rewarded, placing a crown of gold on his head—and then promptly ordered him beheaded for causing the death of so many Persians. So much for gratefulness!
Gratefulness is one of the most important characteristics a leader can possess. While team members look to you for vision and direction as to where you’re headed, the atmosphere you create in getting there is every bit as important.
Not only is gratefulness great in the work environment, it’s good for us!
Studies have shown being grateful improves our physical and emotional health. It boosts our immune system and increases blood supply to our heart. People who have kept a gratitude journal report increased alertness, enthusiasm, and improved sleep. What’s not to love about being grateful?
But gratefulness doesn’t come naturally to us. There’s a story in Luke’s Gospel which paints the picture.
On his way to Jerusalem, Jesus approached a village where he met ten men suffering from leprosy. In Jesus’ day, nothing was as pitiable as leprosy.
“Anyone with such a defiling disease must wear torn clothes, let their hair be unkempt, cover the lower part of their face and cry out, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ As long as they have the disease they remain unclean. They must live alone; they must live outside the camp” (Leviticus 13:45-46).
This explains why Luke introduced them as he did: They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” (Luke 17:12-13)
Jesus heals them.
He sends them to the priest—as was required by the law—so they could officially be deemed clean. It’s not a stretch to say Jesus gave these ten men new life—restored to family, community and the practices of their faith, all of which leprosy had deprived them for years.
But the story continues: “One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?” (Luke 17:15-17)
They’d obviously moved on into their new lives, no time to be grateful.
Gratefulness isn’t just a good idea. It’s a command: “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). It’s good for you, and it’s great for those around you.
My prayer this week – Lord, will you cultivate a more grateful heart in me? Will you make me a grateful leader? Will you help me to recognize those around me and express my gratefulness to them?
17 Apr 2018
Are We There Yet?
“Faith is taking the first step, even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” –Martin Luther King, Jr.
If you’ve ever had the pleasure of a long trip by automobile with young children, you remember the oft-repeated refrain: Are we there yet? How much longer? When are we going to be there? Are we almost there?
It’s a good thing Abram didn’t have any children when God called him to set out on a journey: “The Lord said to Abram, ‘Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to a land I will show you’” (Genesis 12:1).
It’s interesting to consider what’s missing in this instruction—no destination or directions are given!
If you look closely at the calling God gave Abram, while it’s void of step-by-step and turn-by-turn directions, it’s absolutely full of promises! What God did say: “to a land I will show you” (emphasis added).
Read on. “I will make you into a great nation; I will bless you; I will make your name great; I will bless those who bless you; I will curse those who curse you” (Genesis 12:2-3 emphasis added).
God’s call is framed by promises of the role he will play—what He will do.
Abram’s journey unfolds over the next several chapters of Genesis. It was anything but smooth sailing. The story is replete with obstacles and hurdles—some self-inflicted as Abram tried to “help” God bring his promises to pass.
There were many opportunities for discouragement along the way. The land God was leading them to—it was inhabited by Canaanites. The place they found to settle—a famine set in and forced them down to Egypt.
Because of Sarai’s beauty, Abram worried Pharaoh would kill him, so he said she was not his wife, but his sister—and then Pharaoh married her! Are we there yet? How much longer?
It was quite a journey between the initial call to Abram and when he became Abraham—the father of the faithful!
Remember all those ‘I wills’? At every juncture, at every impasse—even on those occasions when Abram foolishly acted on his own—God was at work behind the scenes. He promised “I will” and he did!
The writer of Hebrews tells us, “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going” (Hebrews 11:8).
Abraham’s journey, messy as it sometimes was, is summed up as an example of faith. There were occasions of discouragement, doubt, uncertainty and even folly—all the while God was at work behind the scenes.
Abraham stepped out in faith, and stumbled along after God. Faith is like that. But we can be assured the destination is in God’s capable hands.
My prayer this week – Father, it is my desire to follow after you in faith, on those days when it’s easy and especially on those days when it’s hard. Would you remind me often it is you who calls, you who wills, and you who will complete the good work you’ve begun in me?
10 Apr 2018
Consider it Joy?
“Let me embrace thee, sour adversity, for wise men say it is the wisest course.” –William Shakespeare
Biologists have discovered, as strange as it seems, habitual well-being is not advantageous to a species. Life without challenge takes its toll on every living thing.
Consider animals in a zoo. Zoo animals have a trouble-free shelter and environment constructed for them, food and water delivered to them, all while they lie around and get fat. Their survival instincts and their spirits are dulled. They can never be set free.
Or consider trees in a rain forest. Because water is so readily available, their root systems don’t extend more than a couple feet below the surface. They’re so shallowly anchored they can be easily toppled by a gust of wind.
Contrast this with the wild fig trees in the arid region of South Africa. Their root systems are forced to sink some 400 feet into the earth to reach moisture and nutrients. As a result of their being solidly anchored, there isn’t a wind that can harm them.
Nature shows us: an unfriendly habitat actually contributes to stability and vigor. The same is true of our spiritual lives.
The apostle Peter addressed a letter “To God’s elect, strangers in the world, scattered …” (1 Peter 1:1). The Jews of the dispersion, they were called.
Persecution and trials were their everyday norm. Peter reminds them, they and the adversity they endured, were deeply rooted in the sovereign will of God—and were bringing forth fruit.
Concerning trials they faced, he offers: “These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed” (1 Peter 1:7).
James, of course, set the trials and adversity of this life in proper perspective when he urges, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance” (James 1:2-3).
These passages call on us to consider adversity and trial from the vantage point of confidence in God’s sovereignty. He’s accomplishing something in us. When suffering, “Do not be frightened. But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord” (1 Peter 3:14-15).
We are to fix our eyes on Jesus. We may not completely understand, but with roots of faith sunk deeply in our God, life’s strongest gales won’t topple us. Rather, they’ll further contribute to our stability and vigor. Oh joy!
My prayer this week – Father, thank you for the many things you use in my life to grow my faith—even trials and adversity. Would you help me to bring a heavenly perspective to my struggles this week? Will you grow my faith—deepen my roots— in you?