Candy and I spent most of the morning writing back and forth about questions regarding the definition of Christians and evangelicals and current events that troubled her. While we may not have the same political leanings that does not prevent us from having honest and prolonged discussion. She ended our time with kind words and greetings to my family. Candy is one of the most warm-hearted persons I know and it is always a privilege to be around her.
We sang in worship this morning a song that included a desire to present to God an inside that was both clean and committed. It reminded me of the words of another song, “Cleanse my heart O God.” I’ve probably sung that song a hundred times without dwelling on the fact that unless my focus is heart-centric cleansing is superficial at best. In any area that I have not surrendered to God from the core of my being, I continue to struggle. For example, I know that when my wife is talking to me I should listen. Yet, because I am intent on getting my work done or enjoying my activity, I do not give her my full attention. Mentally I ought to be able to fix inattentiveness and focus on what Kathleen is saying but without a surrendered heart it is just not so. The problem at the core is I am more concerned with my things than with her things.
The day Arthur was born his father left his mother for another woman. So, along with his siblings, the young boy was raised by his resilient mom. And then she became very ill. Calling her son to her side, she began to share final instructions as she was dying. The devastated young man cried out, “Mama don’t die, you can’tdie.” And even though he was not a Christian, knowing that there must be a God, he prayed and asked the Lord to save her because they were too young to be without a mother. Graciously God immediately healed her and extended her life for many more years.
Colossians 3:5,8,12,13—Therefore, put to death what belongs to your worldly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desire, and greed, which is idolatry . . . But now you must also put away all the following: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and filthy language from your mouth . . . Therefore, God’s chosen ones, holy and loved, put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience, accepting one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a complaint against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive.
I want to know You. Let Your Spirit overwhelm me. Let Your presence take over my heart. Repeatedly the worship leader led us in singing those seventeen words that if analyzed meant far more than we could imagine.
Recently for my quiet time I read from 1 Samuel 24. It records the story of King Saul in pursuit of David whom he viewed as a threat to his throne. In God’s providence, David was hiding with his men deep in a cave that Saul entered alone. David had an easy opportunity to kill Saul and was encouraged to do so by his men but he refrained from killing the ruler the Lord anointed. After Saul left the cave, David followed and shouted, “My lord the king!” Getting Saul’s attention, he alerted him to the fact that God had put him in his hands and yet he spared his life. David strongly challenged King Saul even reminding him of an old proverb, “From evildoers come evil deeds.” Saul was so stricken by David’s words, that he ended up crying. He confessed that David was the better man and pronounced a blessing upon him as well as recognition that David would indeed be given the throne and would be a successful leader. Shortly thereafter, the king departed with his army for home but David and his men went back to their stronghold.
Recently, I met with a man whose marriage is tottering towards collapse. He feels alone and unwanted in his own household. His wife seems more devoted to his children than to him. He seemingly cannot do enough to please her and he is ready to give up. When I asked Him how his relationship with God was doing, he shared that it is anemic. He grew up without a loving father which has effected how he views, relates to and trusts his Heavenly Father. Therein lays the core issue.
It was 1:00 a.m. and the doorbell rang. I got out of bed, walked down the stairs, looked through the peephole and opened the door for a young police officer.
“Sir, we received a 911 call from your home.”
“Officer, was the call from 620-4081?”
“Yes, the dispatcher said all she could hear was static. She called back and left a message.”
“I’m so sorry. This is the second time this week (midnight or later) this has happened. My computer is turned off and I don’t know how you are getting called.”
I took him into my office and showed him the offending phone.
“Okay, you might want to call your phone company and have them check this out.”
“Yes, I will. I’m sorry you had to come out here.”
“No problem. Hope you can get back to sleep.”
The bride stood beside the groom radiant. Sitting next to me, Dan wondered what chemical process takes place that allows a woman to practically glow! There was a spiritual vibrancy as well. It was obvious that Jason and Shelby were committed as much to glorifying God as they were to consummating their marriage. But I found it difficult to concentrate as the two lovers recited their vows.
Friday evening I watered the young trees and shrubbery in my front yard. I noticed a plastic soft drink container wrapped in gray tape. It looked suspicious enough, so that not wanting my children to pick it up, I chucked it across our road.* The next morning while Bryan and Stephen and I shot hoops in our driveway, a police car pulled alongside the curb across the street. Someone evidently reported the object and a bomb squad was dispatched. Sure enough, it was a poorly-made bomb that failed to explode. Perhaps you can imagine some of the thoughts that ran through my families’ heads as we pondered the incident.
“Maximize the god within you!” Welcome to the arena of self-help teaching spun from the mouths of success gurus. The gist of their message runs something like:
Ø Do your best; overcome your fears for the key to success lies within you!
Ø Go after your dreams. Listen to your inner voice it will never fail you.
Ø Be sincere. Persevere and believe in yourself. You can be whatever you want to be!
Malachi 2:1-2—“Therefore, this decree is for you priests: If you don’t listen, and if you don’t take it to heart to honor My name,” says Yahweh of Hosts, “I will send a curse among you, and I will curse your blessings. In fact, I have already begun to curse them because you are not taking it to heart.”
Proverbs 16:2--All a man’s ways seem right to him, but the Lord evaluates the motives.
The beginning of the year is a time when people in our society reflect. For many, new resolutions and goals are forged on the gold-embossed pages of a new journal. Yet as the past is closed for the door of tomorrow a timeless God is not concerned with another year. His word makes His question clear—are we loyal to Him?
This morning, as per my custom, I placed a tea bag of green tea into a plastic mug, and poured over it boiling water. The cup is equipped with a black top to reduce the chance of me spilling. I don’t want tea decorating the papers strewn across my desk, nor do I need tea-stained clothing.
Suppose a small crack developed in my mug. It would be annoying wouldn’t it—to contend with a cup that leaked? If holes appeared, I would either have to plug them somehow or throw the mug away.
Luke 12:15--He then told them, “Watch out and be on guard against all greed because one’s life is not in the abundance of his possessions.
The Manchurian Tiger is the largest member of the cat family. A large male can reach twelve feet in length! A leopard ambushes its victims by staying camouflaged and it is so strong it can carry its prey high into a tree where other animals cannot steal it. Lions, unlike other cats, operate within a community called a pride and work as a team to bring down their hapless victims. The Lynx, a smaller bobtailed cat, will hunt its prey tirelessly for hours and are capable of catching fish. Ocelots often hunt in pairs mewing to keep in touch with one another. Pumas, also known as cougars or mountain lions, live among rocky fortresses and can jump 20 feet or vertically leap 15 feet. Jaguars are excellent swimmers and are so secretive, little is known about their habits. They will fight, kill and eat alligators.
I once lived in Point Loma, a beautiful community in San Diego. The condominium my family lived in was located below the flight path of airplanes taking off from the San Diego Airport. Often during the day we would have to stop all conversation and wait. It was useless to talk because all words were buried beneath the explosive roar of jets fighting to gain elevation. Pausing became a necessity for effective communication. There is a lesson hidden somewhere in that reality.