No and Yes

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“No” is a closed door. “No” takes away hope, cancels plans and dashes dreams. It is the end of a dead-end street, and blurs our vision for the future. “No” is the final period at the end of an obituary, extinguishing inspiration and introducing doubt.

“Yes” is a blue sky. It is a flowing river, unstoppable and powerful. “Yes” is the beginning of inspiration, the birthplace of hope. It is the fuel that gives energy to our dreams. “Yes” is sweet music to ears that have only heard discouraging comments.

But as God is faithful, our word to you is not yes and no. For the Son of God, Christ Jesus, who was preached among you by us – by me and Silvanus and Timothy – was not yes and no, but is yes in Him. For as many as are the promises of God, in Him they are yes; therefore also through Him is our Amen to the glory of God through us. (2 Cor. 1:18-20)

Yes!

 

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Seeing life through the macro lens

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Although I am not a professional photographer, I find much pleasure in taking pictures. Some of my favorite themes have always been sunrises, sunsets, and panoramic scenery. I am amazed at the way that our Creator continues to paint our surroundings, and often only lasting a few brief minutes. It makes me sense my smallness in the universe, which sometimes is humbling, but always reassuring that my Father loves me and cares for me, yes, even me!

Lately, though, I have begun to enjoy taking shots of small wonders, close up. Focusing on what is very near me has shown me how much I miss, the details that I too often ignore.

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It seems that my life in general is taking on this type of focus. I looked up the dictionary definition of “macro lens” which is: a camera lens designed to focus at very short distances with up to life-size magnification of the image. 

I read recently someone’s comment that few people’s lives are changed by words spoken to a multitude, but more are changed by what is spoken to them directly one-on-one or in an intimate gathering. Considering the influence that others have had in my life, I have found this to be generally true.

Even Jesus had different results with the multitudes than with his disciples. The same multitudes that wanted to make him king changed their mind to crucify him, but his twelve received his word and were transformed. 

I would much rather make a bigger difference in the lives of a few than a fleeting impression on many. Seeing with a macro lens I can “focus at very short distances” and bring out the glorious detail of God working his plan in people’s lives. Then the world can see the “life-size magnification of the image” – God’s image – as we are changed from glory to glory.

No longer orphans

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As we sat around the table, all at once I could feel a hush

as they considered what I had just said. 

Every week, I lead a Bible study group at a local shelter for battered women and their children. I had felt strongly that I needed to begin teaching about the fatherhood of God, as many of these women had had poor examples of a father, which influenced their view of God the Father. We were all reading from John 14, where Jesus describes his relationship with his Father. Until now the ladies had been interacting, commenting to one another on different details of the study.

But then I read verse 18, and all of us felt the truth of it sink in:

I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.

I had prefaced the passage by asking them about their fathers. Of about a dozen, a couple of them never knew their father, several commented that their fathers had been violent and abusive. Only a couple had grown up with a loving, secure relationship with their father.

Reading this verse brought to the surface the deep feelings in most of them that they had been in fact fatherless, and gave them new hope in deepening this relationship with their heavenly Father. I saw a few tears as I shared about the differences between the father that they had experienced and the One that they were now learning about.

The same way that we can feel alone in a crowd, we can feel abandoned in the midst of relationships. No human relationship can even come close to supplying the need we have for God, but when we are in touch with His love, guidance and provision all our other relationships can come into focus.

We have Jesus’ promise: “I will not leave you as orphans.” He goes on to say, “…you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.” That’s real intimacy.

Have you entered into this deep fellowship with our Father and His intense love for you?

Running on empty

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We don’t get too far on empty, unless we want to push the car.

1 Corinthians 13: http://tinyurl.com/nojtbd

If we love, it will be expressed in actions. We know what some of those actions will be; we know what love looks like in practice.

But it is so easy to fall into doing the works, without evaluating if we are motivated by love, or only wanting to “do what is right”. Apparently, from reading the passage above, it is possible to do all of the visible works that could be an expression of love, but do them without love: prophecy, sacrifice, speaking in tongues, mountain-moving faith and the rest.

All of these things can be empty, void of the most important ingredient. We do them as part of our routine, and run the risk of falling into self-righteousness. I see so many Christians get burned out, fall into discouragement and want to quit as a result of running on empty.

We can evaluate our “love level” by observing our complaints and frustrations:

  • Do we get frustrated if our efforts aren’t appreciated?
  • Are we becoming weary of doing what we are expected to do?
  • Does it bother us when situations seem unfair to us?
  • Is it irritating to us when others don’t do their part to help us in our work?
  • Do we complain about other people’s attitudes?

I’m not saying that if we love others that all these problems will disappear, but at least we will be able to deal with the source.

But if we do find that our love has cooled off somewhat toward those that we help, what can we do to rekindle it? I believe that as we focus on God’s love for us and for others, we will find that our love will grow. Considering the sacrifice that Jesus made for us, and his unconditional love that is our source of love, we can tap into it and be renewed.

And as with many problems, when we realize that we have the problem we are halfway to the solution. 

What are your symptoms of burnout and how have you dealt with them?

 

Water balloons and hoses

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We love, because He first loved us. (1 John 4:19)

Today when I was meditating on this verse I was reminded of the water balloon fights we had when we were young . We would fill the balloons from the faucet; sometimes they would break before we managed to pull them off, but if we filled them just right and tied them off we had a great time drenching each other on those hot summer days. Occasionally someone would get smart and hook a hose onto the faucet. Then it turned into a fight to see who could grab the hose and blast everyone else.

I saw three situations regarding God’s love:
1. We connect with Him in order to fill ourselves with His love, but we don’t give it expression so it doesn’t touch anyone else but us. The experience is beautiful but short-lived, and we find ourselves needing to reconnect with God and start over.
2. We fill ourselves with His love until we feel like we will burst, and seek a target to receive this great blessing. Then we throw ourselves into service and sacrifice ourselves to bless others.
3. Or we can be like a hose and connect ourselves to God – and abide in His love. Then His love can flow from us continually and bless others, and we also get wet in the process!
Are you a balloon or a hose?
Let”s stay connected to the source of love, and seek His wisdom regarding the mission field that He has for us.
Who will you bless today?

All dressed up.

ImageIt’s Sunday. Time to put on our best clothes and head to the church meeting. At least that is the most common tradition…

But I have begun to really think about it; why do people dress up for church? Or I should ask, why would I dress up for church? Is God really impressed with our clothing? We say that we do it out of respect for Him, for the event, or for the special day. But He is always with us, and I imagine that if He is not offended by my Monday clothing, neither will He be impressed with my Sunday outfit.

I guess that lately I have been meditating more and more on the fact that I am always in His presence, whether I am conscious of it or not. And also, that Sunday is not a special “holy” day, but that my work is holy too. In fact, I probably have more opportunity to make a difference for the Kingdom of God from Monday to Saturday than I do on Sunday.

So about the dressing up… I would hope that people don’t consider a church meeting to be some sort of fashion show. But it does sometimes really look like many want to attract attention by the way they look. I try to dress in a way that expresses how I feel about myself, rather than what would impress others. Sometimes that means a little dressy (but not too much) but normally I’m pretty casual and comfortable.

I really don’t like to put too much emphasis on my clothing. But does God have anything to say about what we wear, to meet as a church or the rest of the time?

If our clothing does reveal our attitudes, God does have a lot to say about those. We must not be vain, competitive, or think more highly of ourselves than we ought. So here are a few articles that I need to make sure to keep in my soul’s wardrobe:

  • clothe yourself with the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 13:14)
  • clothe yourselves with humility (1 Peter 5:5)
  • clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience (Col. 3:12)

So, if you want to dress up on Sunday that’s fine with me, but I know that if my physical apparel ever hinders me from wearing these things, it’s time for me to change clothes.

Read between the lines

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Sometimes what God’s Word does not say is as significant as what it does say.

Colossians 4:2-4 HCSB (with my comments)

Devote yourselves to prayer; stay alert in it with thanksgiving.

At the same time, pray also for us that God may open a door to us for the message, to speak the mystery of the Messiah, for which I am in prison,

(…not that you should pray that I get out of this prison, this is my mission field. The closed doors here for me are open doors for the Gospel…)

so that I may reveal it as I am required to speak.

(…not as my theological training may have prepared me, but as God has prepared their hearts, He will give me the words…)

How many of us if in prison would send the request: “Pray to God that He would get me out of here!” Many of our situations are much milder than prison, but perhaps we are missing the open doors to the mission that God has for us.

Is there something that you or I are trying to escape from that may really be our most effective place of ministry?