Mary was in the process of leaving physical therapy in her car in a parking lot. She looked to her right and saw nothing but didn’t look to her left. As she began to pull out the oncoming driver laid on the horn letting Mary know her displeasure. Mary quickly realized her mistake and put up her arms to acknowledge her error and rolling down her window told the other driver, “I’m sorry.”
Later as Mary was pulling into a fast-food restaurant she noticed the woman she had almost cut off was in line in front of her. When it came time for Mary to drive up to the window and pay for her food the attendant said the woman in front had paid for her meal!
Job 6:24—Teach me, and I will be silent. Help me understand what I did wrong.
As the manager of a midsize division, Lu was responsible for millions of dollars of merchandise and about a hundred employees. The CEO was impressed by her tenacity and creative mind in fixing problems. The board saw her as a rising star so almost everyone was shocked when she resigned. She gave her new boss Calvin virtually no advance notice of her intentions and left at a time of major restructuring. Lu had accepted the offer of a smaller division within the same company but located in another state. She felt the job, though less prestigious, was a better fit for her skill set and it was much closer to her family.
Across the parade field spanning more than the length of a football field, flags of every unit fluttered in the breeze. Though the July temperature was chilly, the sun broke through as if to announce this was a joyous occasion. Soldiers moved in unison to snappish bugle commands. The crisp roar of measured cannon fire honored the presence of I-Corps' three-star commander. When the band played it was not hard to sit up straighter and admire the formations of men and women sworn to defend their nation's Constitution.
What Christian is not frustrated in trying to live a godly life? Why is it so hard? For starters, we are flawed. We enter the world dripping wet with a sin nature and from the very outset need God’s grace. A baby’s temper tantrum was not learned behavior it was already ingrained. We grow up enamored with the world’s offerings—what man is not drawn to lust after a sensual woman or woman drawn to the need for security? We are stubborn, preferring to do what we want. It is completely counter-culture to pursue holiness. There is nothing easy about achieving purity and we are quickly frustrated by adversity, failure, and the clever attacks of Satan who will do all he can to disrupt us from fellowship with God.
Isaiah 66:1,2—This is what the LORD says: “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. Where is the house you will build for me? Where will my resting place be? Has not my hand made all these things, and so they came into being?” declares the LORD. “These are the ones I look on with favor: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word.
In his book, Follow Me, Pastor Jan Hettinga wrote, “Has your ‘right to yourself’ felt the ax? That’s what salvation is designed to accomplish. True repentance and faith ego-proof us. Our independent self-rule is broken at the cross.” Humility can be measured by the air we exhale. Self-focused leaders constantly inflate their glory balloons. If they are not puffing up, they blow away any who might disagree or question them. Their need for grandeur is always tethered to insecurity.
Paul and I were together several times the past month. I discovered he loves billiards so I asked if I could join him when he went out at night to the local pool hall. I am a weak pool player but he is both a great teacher and a patient competitor. While conversing, Paul revealed that he is an agnostic. One evening the topic of death came up and I mentioned the emptiness of dying only to end up as worm food. He countered that life was still valuable if we contributed to the betterment of others—even if they too had nothing more than the grave to anticipate. As our discussion deepened, I asked him if would not be much better to contribute to people’s lives and then have eternal life with God to enjoy. He agreed and at that point, I felt led not to force the conversation further with my fellow officer.
The difference between a strike and a split is but a matter of inches. If the bowling ball hits the center pocket correctly, all ten pins fall down. But if the ball veers just slightly off its intended course all kinds of crazy formations can appear to include the dreaded split where pins are left standing on opposite sides of the lane. I had my share of splits last night as the bowling ball just missed the strike zone!
As the Apostle Peter neared the end of his life he wrote powerful words of instruction to those who were leaders of God’s people. Coming alongside special men, Peter urged them to shepherd God’s flock. Then he carefully defined what their motives and attitudes should look like. Those same penetrating words of truth ring applicable to us today.
I met Russ in the Joint Reserves Officer Course we are both taking. We went to church on Sunday and had lunch together—both missing our families on Father’s Day. Russ is a Captain in the Navy and a Delta pilot. He and I found we shared many things in common. Our time fellowshipping was quite enjoyable.
I’m sure you have noticed that the news seems to be getting worse by the week. Tonight I ate dinner with Ken and Brenda and their sons in Charlottesville, Virginia. They were telling me about all the people who have lost jobs in the Richmond area and how thankful they are Ken still has his job. Ken said it hasn’t been this bad in this area since the early 70’s.
Recently, I spoke to about 400 men on the topic of unwinding. I could not find the word unwind in Scripture, but its synonyms relax and rest are plentiful throughout God’s Word. There is a strong theological foundation for rest. Did you know that God modeled unwinding? Genesis 2:2—“ By the seventh day God completed His work that He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work that He had done.”
Part of me is lost and I don’t like it. If I could skip this day in time or have never lived it I know I would be the worse for it but at least I would not sense this absence that came too fast and . . . heartrending and heartbreaking are too strong in meaning for what I’m feeling. Perhaps in this poignant period a more apt description is heartmissing. The good news is she is only three and a half hours away. The bad news is there are 206 miles between us.
What in life truly matters? Imagine if God placed you in a huge glass pot in the middle of a giant plaza where hundreds of thousands of people walk by you. He turns a dial that sets in motion transforming heat from coils underneath the container on which you stand. All that you have and represent on earth, as a Christian, is about to be melted down into the pure essentials which define and determine your worth. What crystalline object will the world see? All you have lived for and what characterizes you is about to emerge in some distinctive shape.
Dick played in my soccer league years ago. I hadn’t seen him in at least five years. So I was surprised twice on Sunday morning when I received a call from Young’s Funeral Home informing me that he died and that he had listed me as his minister.
In twelve years of living in Tigard I don’t ever recall a snowfall that lasted more than two days. This is day five and the yard is still covered! Roads are slushy and in parts treacherous. Of course our cousins in Minnesota and North Dakota laugh at our frailty. They live with such conditions for months at a time. In the newspaper I read a woman’s bewildered commentary. Her husband was cursed and mocked by many passersby for shoveling the driveway—a time honored tradition in the Midwest. Evidently snow and ice bring out the best and worst in Oregonians.
It’s not hard to feel inadequate. In the middle of an intersection I zeroed in on what John was asking me. I didn’t see the silver Nissan approaching from the right. He couldn’t swerve in time or stop to avoid me. Bang!!! In one unceremonious crunch our Plymouth Voyager was totaled. With one lapse of attention I joined the other side—the team of drivers in accidents because they were talking on cell phones. The best intentions don’t erase crumpled metal. Fortunately, no one was hurt and the other car suffered only minor damage.
We must have looked funny to the children and women watching us. Here we were, six men—each of us incapable of separating two plastic buckets. We tried twisting and pulling to no avail. One man used his pocket knife. I tried dropping the buckets on the floor. We could bend the plastic but we could not get one orange pail free from the other. It was like someone had super glued each set of buckets together. It felt like our manhood was on the line—this was getting embarrassing!
Morning comes and Chris is tired. He spent a restless night battling the accusations of people who disagree with him. His character has been questioned. His actions are constantly scrutinized. His leadership is eroding and he feels angry. So, he contemplates how he should defend himself. Rather than talk to God about His pain, Chris reviews the weaknesses of his detractors and how he can prove them wrong. No longer can he minister effectively for his motives are based on a personal agenda.