I spent most of all last week quarantined in my home centrally located around or in my bed. I was suffering from a most despicable ailment called the flu and it infected half my family at one time. You probably know somebody dealing with this sickness today. The good news in my sickness was that I lost 8 lbs, but I also lost stamina. You would think that laying in bed for 15 hours of a 24 day would help with energy development and fertile thinking. Instead, I am still fighting to increase stamina and any profound thinking was reduced to just a few coherent thoughts. I would like to list a few of them here:
- It is not good for man to be alone. I thank God for a wife that helped carried us through. Even if it was just to hand me a thermometer, just the knowledge she was there, was an immense help. I also found comfort in that people in my faith family and friends were praying for us.
- Life is fragile, but God is not. As I got better and able to read, I took comfort in Psalm 62 “How long will all of you attack a man to batter him, like a leaning wall, a tottering fence? . . . For God only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress: I shall not be shaken. On God rests my salvation and my glory: my mighty rock, my refuge is God. Trust in him at all times, O people: pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. Those of low estate are but a breath: those of high estate are a delusion; in the balances they go up: they are together lighter than a breath . . . If riches increase, set not your heart on them. Once God has spoken; twice have I heard this; that power belongs to God, and that to you, O Lord, belongs steadfast love.”
- To Worship God in any and every circumstance is where the battle line is drawn. I remember very feeble thinking in this I must worship God. To offer fevered body and feeble mind to God and praise Him is still worship. This always the pivotal and intensely private battle of every believing mind. What starts in private becomes evident in public.
- See the sickness as testing. How we respond to the everyday ailments and challenges of life is practice for how we will respond to the big challenges and adversities of life. When we complain in the midst of little things, then we are setting the ground work to be complainers for life. Will we be grumbling hateful or humbly thankful?
- Do the best with God and life when we are at our best. Procrastinators die regretfully. I have been by the sides of enough people as they are dying to know that most people will kind of slowly wind down. There usually is not a flurry of mental activity, last words said, and memories made. If the life is not lived well in health there is very little chance of making that up when our bodies betray us. As I laid in bed for hours at end, day-after-day, I got a small glimpse of life at the end. God, thank you for letting me see enough and giving me life to carry on.
- We are not identified by our sickness. This is easily understood in the midsts of temporary ailments, however; we tend to get chronic or “big” sickness and disease we sometimes forget this truth. We have been teaching our family a catechism and the opening question is “What is our only hope in life and death? That we are not our own, but belong body and soul, in life and death, to God and our savior Jesus Christ.”
On February 14th “Love is in the Air” so to speak as millions of people celebrate the annual Valentine’s Day Holiday. It is said that approximately 150 million Valentine’s Day cards are exchanged annually which makes Valentine’s Day the second most popular card sending day of the year next to Christmas. But have you ever wondered about the history of Valentine’s Day? Did it start with St. Valentine giving his beloved a card? Maybe a bouquet of Roses? Or what about a heart shaped box of Chocolates?
As we read about the history of Valentine’s day we find a few different stories surrounding this holiday. Most of them, seem to revolve around a man that lived in third century Rome named St. Valentine or Valentinus. The stories written about this man all point to the fact that his deeds were good, sympathetic and that he lived a life full of showing love to others. However, in the end most stories agree that Valentine was eventually put to death by the Emperor. The reasoning behind his execution was because the good deeds Valentine would do went directly against the decrees set in place by the Emperor. But even though he was put to death by the Emperor, he would become known as one of the most popular Saints of that time because of the way he lived his life.
In our 21st century world today, Valentine’s day is typically the day where we tell the extra special someone in our life that we love them. Maybe we send them flowers, buy them chocolates, go out for a nice dinner or even do all three. Maybe we even write them a very personal love letter to let them know how special they are. But if we take a step back and look at the origins of St. Valentine’s day, it should point us to someone else who is the ultimate example of Love for us – Jesus Christ.
1 John 4:19 states, “We love because He first loved us.” This short but powerful verse reminds us that because of God’s amazing love for us, we are empowered by Him to love others. Most of us would agree that it’s not too hard to love that extra special someone in our life and especially show it on Valentine’s Day. But what about the person that is different than us? The person that we don’t know? Even the person that is hard to love? And to what length and depth are we to love others? The answer to all of these is that our love is to be a reflection of the love shown to us by Jesus Christ. Jesus often reminds us that he who loves God is to demonstrates this through loving others.
So as we celebrate Valentine’s Day this year, let us be reminded that the motivation and empowerment of the love we are to show to others is not limited to just one day or limited to that special someone in our life. As followers of Christ our love is to be a reflection of His love. A love that unconditionally took on the cross for our sins not because we earned it or deserved it, but because He loved us first. Have a Lovely Valentine’s Day!
In a society that is driven by one more dollar, generosity stands as a forgotten virtue. We see flashes of monetary kindness through movements such as “Practice Random Acts of Kindness” and “Pay it forward.” Usually, it is motivated by the good feelings we get knowing we helped out a stranger or someone less fortunate. Or perhaps, the motivation is fueled by a belief in karma and we are paying our “good vibes” with the hopes of “good vibes” in return.
For the believer in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, generosity is about Christ-likeness and rebelling against the gods of this age. Our giving nature is a sign that we treasure and believe Christ as our provision for security and beauty. As we show the signs of our faith we will be repudiating the gods around us. These moments of generosity becomes the modern point of the incarnation of Jesus’ body. Therefore, they can be Spirit-filled experiences of proclaiming the gospel and defending our faith among the skeptics. Friends may deride our belief in a resurrected Jesus, but they cannot deny the beauty of generosity. Knightdale needs to see us being truly different from the world and generosity is one of the most obvious and clear signs of a different faith.
We do not believe in unsubstantiated claims of karma but something that has the authority of Jesus. We believe that Jesus gave us something more than we could ever earn, therefore we are generous. We believe that God is the giver of every good and perfect gift, therefore we are generous. We believe that God will call to end all earthly currency, therefore we are generous. We believe that God will provide our needs, therefore we are generous. We believe that God will provide our beauty and joy, therefore we are generous. We believe that God will never leave or forsake us, therefore we are generous. We believe that God will hold us accountable for our stuff, therefore we are generous. We believe that eternity matters more than temporal, therefore we are generous. We believe that God loves us and others, therefore we are generous. We believe that every human being is made in the image of God, therefore we are generous. We believe that when we help the unfortunate and oppressed we are serving Christ, therefore we are generous. We believe that we cannot love both God and money, therefore we are generous. We believe that God has made the church to care for one another, therefore we are generous.
Luke 16:9 “I tell you, use your worldly resources to benefit others and make friends. In this way, your generosity stores up a reward for you in heaven” (or when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwelling) NLT
So don’t practice random acts of kindness, but do pay it forward. Do practice gospel-generated and Spirit-directed acts of kindness and take joy in the Lord.