As a life long N.C. resident, I have made a yearly pilgrimage to the state fair for as long as I can remember. My reasons for going over the years have changed, but I always enjoy myself while attending. A couple of years ago, I discovered that one the perks of being 4o was a newly discovered motion sickness that occurs on almost every single ride at the fair. So now I found myself as a mere observer of the crowds lined up to go on the rides. Don’t worry about me, I have found satisfying consolation in the turkey legs and fried faire. As I ponder my attack strategy on my sumptuous project, I start to marvel at how many people pay a bunch of money to be terrified on a ride. Why are the scariest rides the ones that people go back to ride over and over for fun? This drive to have fun by fear easily makes up millions, if not billions, of dollers of our national economy through amusement parks, horror shows, and thrill adventures. Perhaps we crave the sense of overcoming our mortality, excitement, or just the thrill of adrenaline. However, we can not deny the demand in people.
Yet there is disappointment even in this adrenaline rush. All too soon the ride ends, despite waiting 50 times the length of the ride. Or the tenth time on the ride is not nearly exciting as the first time and we need something bigger, faster, higher, or scarier. Or we turn 4o and our stomach betrays our desires. Have you ever wondered what these desires might have to do with faith?
C.S. Lewis has written in his Mere Christianity, Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for these desires exists. A baby feels hunger; well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim; well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire; well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.
Could it be that following God through this present life and to the future time to come will provide us with the effect of an adrenaline rush like we have never know before? Yet one that has no end and a new glorified body, mind, and Spirit that can sustain such an intense emotion. The object of this fear, fun, and faith is the person of God. The Holiness of God is not that of dull emotions, but a fervency and excitement.
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18 ESV)
So many people are into doing crafts. For them it’s wicker and glue, ribbons and twine, and all those other things that seem useless until their gifted eye and skilled hands get ahold of it, turning my pile of would-be refuse into a lovely decoration or something amazingly useful. There’s another gifting that shows itself in the realm of music. Talented writers translate the ideas in their mind into vivid images on a page without the first use of color, and musicians infuse these tales into strains that sooth and comfort, or impassion and evoke.
And then there’s me. In the box score that’s gone before us, I would be zero for two. My eye sees no hidden beauty in your basket of knickknacks, nor do my hands have the ability to transform something from practically anything. And my musical mind is supremely stunted, and no original tunes lie just below the surface. But these two areas are just the tip of the iceberg of what I don’t have and cannot do. And you might be in the same boat, but just on different waters. You might have the crafty gene, but you were absent the day they handed out coordination. Or your voice may be angelic, but you couldn’t decorate a mantel if the entire staff of Michael’s helped you.
Another somewhat disappointing sports weekend led me to recall the years of continuous failures on the field, a place where I have found some joy while others have found theirs in their own hobbies. But, rather than dwell on the disappointment, I was blessed to recall just a sprinkling of the good fortune that I have experienced when things could have gone south. My son lost his wallet and ID at the fair, where any of the close to 100,000 people could have found it and kept it. The next day, he went back to get what someone had turned in, out only some cash. My wife had an abscess growing in her throat a few years ago. The next morning, she went to the ER to get it checked out. Within a few hours, she was in surgery to remove what was about to completely close off her windpipe. My young daughter had a growth near her sternum. The surgeons opened her up and removed what turned out to be just some excess tissue.
I guess I could lament the inevitable losses that seem to pile up for my team, or the lack of talent and skill that I have. But God has been too faithful in matters that really count. And I’ll trade a lifetime of losing seasons for the upholding right hand of my Heavenly Father, who tucks into every point of my life the overwhelming opportunity to offer Him thanks and gratitude.
Six years ago I toured Washington D.C. and looked inside the famed rotunda of our U.S. Capital to see the image in the picture below. This is Constantino Brumidi’s 1865 fresco, entitled The Apotheosis of Washington. The title refers to George Washington’s, our first president, elevation to the rank of god and ascended in the Heavens, a la Jesus Christ. As a worshipper of Christ and U.S. citizen I was aghast that this was in our U.S. Capital. However, I rationalized it as a classical artist interpretation in honorof Washington’s role in our country, which might have been the intent. My previous rationalization has been nullified by this election season.
Honestly since the primaries, I have wrestled with a sense of disgust at our primary process to bring us the candidates that are before the country today. The public slander, vitriol, corruption, and unseemly aspects of this election cycle can be depressing. My degree of depression is directly linked to my degree of expectation for the presidency. In additon, is the oft heated and public divisions among even the believers in Christ. No doubt, as followers of Christ we are to be concerned, active, and prayerful for the future leaders of our country. However, we must ask the question, “what if the believer places too much of their heart toward the presidency?” One purpose of the law of God was to help us discern when we worship something more than God. In our fervency to see a candidate to office, are we sinning toward others? In our passion to see godly elected officers, are we dismising God’s place in our heart? There is much I don’t like about our candidates, but I do praise God, that this year I can better see the difference between Christ and the presidency. Honestly, when there is a candidate I’m personally excited about, it is much harder to recognize my misplaced hope.
We would do well to consider how 1 Corinthians teaches believers who are engaged in the world. “Brothers: the appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let . . . those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.” 1 Corinthians 7:29, 31 For those of you who will look up this verse, you will see that Paul was not specifically refering to voting. No something even more intimate and God-ordained as marriage. If we are to guard the hope of our heart in marriage, how much more, do we guard our hope in our government. As believers, we are in this world, so we will vote, but never put our hope in voting.
The light is red as I wait semi-patiently in my car, then I hear my new stoplight neighbor before I ever turn to look at them. You know that sound, the sound of a bass thumping from a car’s sub-woofer and vibrating the windows. I suspect many of us try to endure for the minute or two until the sound fades by distance. Some of us may succumb to muttering some words under our breath. At that moment, I sometimes reflect on my personal experiences with turning up the volume. One recent occurence was on my front porch around 7 am, where I had just finished my Bible reading and praying. In reflection of what I had read, I listened to praise music on my ipad. A particular moving song came on and I instinctly turned up the volume. My personal jamming session was checked when I considered a neighbor trying to get the kids out the door for school. That is when I wondered why music playing devices have a volume range well beyond the comfortable hearing abilities of most of us? Even more, why do I want to explore those ranges when I hear a song I like? That is when I realized that it was about glory. I want to literally amplify words I celebrate and beautiful music. This is how God has made us and it is worship. So will I amplify and magnify the beauty of God and goodness of a Holy God? This is our loving God who delights to condescend to a sinning man in order to redeem and restore them to Christ-like beauty of soul. What’s not to sing loud about? If ever I raise my voice, should it not be in what is the most glorious? When we live loud the goodness and grace of God in our life, the passing neighbor can’t help but feel the reverbations.
As we look forward over the next few weeks and consider our desire to see more of our community join us on Sundays to worship our Lord there is a lot to think about in how, or even if, we fit into the plan individually. I mean let’s face it, we are all busy right, and some of us are introverts, some are shy, some feel like they are not equipped with enough Bible knowledge to lead someone to the saving grace of Christ, and the list could go on. But we are his children and he has chosen us to be the ones that carry his message to the lost. Read what Matthew 28:19-20 says:
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[b] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
So there it is, we are commanded to Go and make disciples of all Nations. Now the good news is that in this Local outreach “all nations” doesn’t require travel to a foreign nation. Truth is there are many in our community who are lost and struggling due to the fact that they do not know Christ as their Personal Savior. So for this, all nations is our community and our daily sphere of influence. Certainly we all come in contact daily with friends, family, co-workers, waiters, waitresses, cashiers, strangers in a line, you name it we encounter people daily and many of them are lost. So here is our chance to step up and all we really have to do is take the first step and invite someone to Church. From there, together as His Church we will disciple them, teach them and Baptize them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
And more good news for those who struggle with the first steps is what he says at the end of verse 20; “And Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age”
So take comfort in the fact that God is with you, and he will be with you every step of the way. So go ahead, step out on faith and invite that person to join us for worship. God will guide you and he will provide all you need to get the job done!
Fifteen years ago, I was at the house preparing for the next sermon when word came out about the plane crashing into the South tower of the World Trade Center. My wife and I watched on in horror and bewilderment while trying to settle our 15 month old into her routine. At that time, we wondered what kind of world our children would grow up in, but we were certain it would be different from our childhood. Fifteen Septembers later and our 15 month old is now sixteen, and has 3 other siblings. As we crossed that date again, I find myself in the postition that my grandparents were in trying to describe the impact of Pearl Harbor. It was my job to try to convey the feelings, emotions, and events to a generation that could not know. I wondered if my grandparents felt the failure that I felt in trying to communicate the impact. I also can’t help but think some day my children will be in the same place I am in and trying to communicate what will be so devastating in their generation.
According to Jesus, men bent on doing what is evil to others will be inevitable. Luke 21: 9 “And when you hear of wars and tumults, do not be terrified, for these things must first take place, but the end will not be at once.” I am struck by the word “must” in his warning. It’s as if the tumults are following the laws of nature. Just as items must fall down due to gravity, so to the world must endure evil due to men’s free will. However, is it inevitable that Christ will also be demonstrated through people in these dark times? Just as our memories of tumult on 9/11, we will also remember courage and sacrifice of people to helping others. In the future evil acts, will our society witness the love, strength, and kindness of Christ on display? That question will be determined by our surrender to Christ today. Let our heart grow more fond of Christ and His words and Spirit, than any other competing ideal, object, or relationship. How about today? What can we do to meet the need of someone else today?
The well-known cliché, “The Waiting is the Hardest part” is no stranger to most of us. From the time we are born we all have a natural tendency to not be a fan of waiting. All of us who have had the experience of caring for a little baby understand that when it’s feeding time the waiting doesn’t go so well. As a child, I can remember many times where waiting was the most miserable experience that I could imagine. As we grow older that really doesn’t change for most of us though does it? Take a brief moment to think about the last time you had to wait and how you dealt with it. Maybe the challenge was waiting for some circumstance to end, an answer to be given, a phone call to be received, a letter in the mail or whatever it may have been that caused you to have to wait, patiently. Maybe some of us are living in that waiting period right now. We’ve become impatient, overcome with worry or anxiety, our independence is challenged and perhaps we’ve even become angry or bitter. The “struggle is real” so to speak and it is consuming your thoughts, emotions and even the joy of your salvation.
Nothing can be more trying to our faith than waiting on God to deliver us from our situation or circumstances. In the waiting we are challenged with finding ourselves having to truly live out our Faith in Him and praying for something that is beyond our control. In Psalm 25:4-5 we read “Make me to know your ways, Oh Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.” God’s gives us direction and is teaching us His truths as we draw closer to Him in our waiting. It is in the waiting that we can learn to trust God through going to Him in Prayer and reading His word. In doing so we can learn how our relationship with Him is worth so much more than the object of our waiting.
So today, as we wait, let’s be mindful of the opportunity we have to draw close to Him. Let’s be challenged to faithfully proclaim through our lives what we proclaim with our mouths that He is indeed our Sovereign God, that He is in control of every situation and there is nothing that is out of His Grip. Let us ask Him to make His ways known to us and that He would be our salvation as we wait and patiently trust in Him as He transforms us into the image of Christ Jesus.
Who is better off because you exist? This question has challenged me the last 6 years through various experiences and Scriptures. The latest has been the examples of non-profit work of believers in Lynch, Kentucky and Jeremiah 29. In a letter to Jews captured in Babylon and living as exiles, God commands, “But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” (Jeremiah 29:7 ESV) The word for “welfare” is the Hebrew word, “shalom” commonly translate as “peace”. This word encompasses so much more than the cessation of hostilities, that a better word might be “flourishment.” God’s people are to seek the flourishing of the community they live. How can Knightdale flourish because of us socially, educationally, financially, spiritually, physically? Let us look for who the underserved might be around us and serve them in the name of Christ.
As we do this, we could get discouraged or depleted, so where do we get strength and hope to carry on? This is a nod to the title of the blog when Jeremiah 29:11 encourages us, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare (Shalom) and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope”. (Jeremiah 29:11 ESV) We serve a LORD who is working in even the most unlikely of circumstances to bring about our ultimate flourishment. Consider things above in order to help the family with special needs. Consider God’s investment in us so we can invest in Hodge Road Elementary and collect Box tops for the school find out more about that here. God chose to work on our behalf so we can support the new ichoose pregnancy support center. Consider how Jesus fights for us so we can appreciate the military veterans around us this November. How might your business help our community flourish? How might your family help your neigborhood flourish?
As my wife and I embark on a five-week weight loss challenge, each of us will be faced with temptations to overcome. She and I both love chocolate. I devour all kinds of bread. She enjoys candy and nibbling on snacks throughout the day. I have been known to consume a soft drink or two. But as challenging as these pleasures will be to forego, there is a larger motivation at work. And you could call it, too, a temptation. I am tempted by the challenge to reach a goal in the allotted time. I am tempted by the way I’ll feel and look and certain clothes will fit when I hit the mark. Those are good temptations for me. They will help keep me on track when my stomach gets to growling or someone breaks out the Double Stuf Oreos. And hopefully, when it’s time for the final weigh-in, I will have gotten what I bargained for.
There are plenty of temptations for good that Christ has made available in scripture to His children, if we can acquiesce to His unique economy. Jesus said for those tempted to be exalted, you can get there by humbling yourself. If you are tempted to show your good works, then do them where no one can notice. And if by chance you are tempted to know the God of the universe and all that He has in store for you, then give Him your life and die. The problem with these good temptations is that we quickly grow tired of their appeal. Their satisfaction is real, but it’s an acquired taste, fostered by time and tempered with sacrifice. That path offers fewer bells and whistles than the quick yet shallow rewards immediately available to us all. It might sound good Sunday morning, but by Monday afternoon we’ve moved on.
But be advised, if you are tempted to follow a real King, then He will most certainly call you to task. His greatest desire is to have worshippers. And since all of mankind was made to worship, you’re going to scratch that itch, one way or another, sooner or later. But if you’ll let Christ be the answer to your temptations, you’ll get so much more than you bargained for. You’ll get all of God turning you into all that you were meant to be. And that is very tempting.