Archive for August, 2011
On a recent trip to Florida, I heard someone commenting on the traffic problems in Orlando. This person cited a study which indicated that the congestion was caused by the number of people who aren’t sure where they’re going.
This is an apt description of the world in general. I would say that many problems arise because people don’t know where they are going. Everyone seems to be in a hurry to get somewhere, but few seem to know where they are headed.
In a story about Jesus, recorded by one of his apostles named John, we read this: “Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.” (John 13:3-5)
In Jesus’ day, people traveled largely by foot on dusty roads and dirty city streets. They wore open-toed footwear. When they ate, they often reclined around low tables, with one person’s feet near another person’s head. Foot washing wasn’t a luxury; it was part of basic hygiene.
It was also a task that was performed by the lowest of the low, the slaves who did the dirtiest deeds. How could Jesus bring himself to perform such a filthy, humiliating task?
He knew where he was going. He knew who he was, where he had come from and where he was going. He wasn’t defined by that task nor any of the tasks that he performed while on this earth. He was going somewhere.
We can be like Jesus in that regard. We can know who we are. We can know where we are going. And that knowledge can free us to do whatever needs doing in this world.
Let me tell you more. Write to me at email@example.com. Or check out the four numbered steps on the www.hopeforlife.org website. Life is so much better when we know where we are going.
It was a headline made to grab my attention, and it worked. This was what I was looking for: a way to be fit and fat. Or fat, but still fit. It seemed to promise an easy way to health without much effort on my part. Then I saw the pictures. The two people in the ad did not have an ounce of fat between them. They looked nothing like me. In fact, I am fairly confident no one in real life has ever looked that way. So now I was confused.
I wonder if that is the way we Christians have advertised the Christian life. Have we invited people to a life that promises a spiritual walk with Jesus while letting them still live life on their own terms? Do we try and offer the “best of both worlds”? Christianity that requires little effort and will not inconvenience anyone. The image we show is of a life with no problems, no worries, and no pain. So do people see the image and become skeptical? Do they realize that something in that view of the Christian life does not add up?
I think a more honest health ad would be a picture of a real person sweating on a treadmill with a caption that talked about months of hard work to lose a few pounds. Maybe it would even declare that there are no shortcuts and that the way to real health involves a commitment to a lifestyle of exercise, proper rest, and a reasonable diet. Deep in my heart I know that is the only way to look and feel better. There are no shortcuts. The image ad is not really fooling anyone. They know it, and I know it.
Christianity works that way too. It is a call to a lifestyle that is radically different. Honestly, it is an invitation to a life that will still have trouble in this world. But it is an invitation to be in a relationship with the One who has overcome this world. So to follow Jesus is not easy. It is not without pain and it is not without struggle. It does, however, work. It gives purpose and meaning in a world of confusion. It is real.
She approached cautiously and her eyes never left it. When her hands touched it, it was a caress, not a grab. Then she bowed, not to me but to the book. I was just the holder; she knew the importance of the gift itself. And I watched as she gently took the Bible in her native language of Swahili and cuddled it against her chest. Then as she sat, she began to read because she wanted to know what was written there. A young woman in Mbeya, Tanzania, not having a Bible before, hungered to know for herself what God says.
We have access to numerous Bibles, different versions, different styles. At times it seems that we more often read books about the Book, consult blogs offering opinions as to what the Bible is implying, listen to people with initials after their names as if only they understand the depth contained within the covers.
The contrast is striking, a young woman who had only heard what scripture says wants to read and understand it for herself. We who have those same words readily available seemingly would rather rely on someone other than God to tell us His thoughts. Do we really want the message of God homogenized and filtered by someone else?
The Apostle Paul reminded Timothy that:
…From childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
II Tim. 3:15-17
To know what God says we must, like the young woman in Tanzania, read the Bible. We must become people of the Book, again.
So let me pose the questions and most don’t want to answer:
Do you really believe that the Bible is God’s word and thus the guide for our lives?
What is the basis of your thinking? How do you know?
How do you reconcile how you behave with what you believe?
It was a sunny August morning. For me, it was THE sunny morning. I couldn’t remember when everything had seemed so bright. The whole world around me felt clean. I felt clean.
The day before, I hadn’t felt that way. I was wrestling with a decision, a decision that would change my life forever.
I was a teenage boy at a church camp. I had heard a man from a church, a judge, describe things he had seen in his line of work, particularly cases of troubled young people. I came from a good home, but those stories made me take a hard look at myself. And I knew that I wanted a change.
I wanted to be clean. I knew that there were things in my life that weren’t right. I knew that I had done things I shouldn’t have. Above all, I knew that I was living a life focused on me. That way of living had left me stained and dirty.
If someone were to look at me from the outside, they would have seen a good kid. But I knew there was more to the story. I wanted to be right with God, and I knew that I wasn’t good enough to be right with God. I needed His help to be clean again, to get rid of the stains my past had left.
So on a dark August night, I stepped forward and said that I wanted to be born again. I wanted to be baptized into Christ. I was lead into the Central Texas waters of Lake LBJ, cold water that made me shiver. I remember being lowered into the water, seeing it close above my head. Then I came out of the water, a changed person, a new creation as the Bible says. I had been born again into the family of God.
That dark August night led to the bright August morning. Where I had felt stained, I now felt clean. Where I had felt weighed down, I now felt nothing but freedom.
The night was gone. The sun was shining. And I was right with God.
If you haven’t experienced the wonder of new birth, merely reading about it isn’t enough. You need to live it for yourself. Go to the front page of this site, read the four steps there, then let us help you get right with God.
I was helping clean up my sister-in-law’s yard after a recent wind storm when it happened. The neighbor’s dog got me. I knew he was not happy with the chain saw, the activity, and the work going on. After all, he kept barking at us. I was carrying a load of wood to the back gate, walking about one foot inside the fence. All of a sudden, out of the corner of my eye, I catch a glimpse of this dog trying to jump over the fence. As I jumped sideways, he managed to extend his head over the fence and catch my arm.
There was not any lasting damage. My arm was swollen and stayed bruised for a couple of weeks. The dog was as surprised as I was. My father-in-law worried about whether the dog should have gotten shots. Ha, ha. The neighbors were apologetic. The yard got cleaned up, and we all stayed several feet away from the fence.
And I thought about how much like life this was.
We all know there are dangerous things in this world. There is war, crime, and evil. People steal, lie, gossip, and murder in our world. We just do not expect it to happen to us. Until it does. Tornados, fires, hurricanes, and tsunamis occur around the globe. We assume those things happen to other people, not us. Until it does. We even know intellectually that people get sick, sometimes even sick enough that they die. We just do not think it will happen to us. Until it does.
Hard things, bad things, tough things happen. They happen unexpectedly. Sometime it is our fault. Sometimes it is someone else’s fault. Sometimes it is no one’s fault. Life happens. Life goes on. So how do we cope? How do we survive? How do we find hope, peace, joy, and purpose in a world like this?
I have found the answer in God, and so have millions of others throughout the ages. He will get me through anything this life throws at me. He has, and He will. He gives my life hope, peace, joy, and purpose. And He gives me life forever. He has done this through His Son Jesus.