God’s Compassion, Your Action

The books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John  include accounts of 35 miracles performed by Jesus in His ministry. What I have always been fascinated by is that only one of them appears in each of these four books. I don’t claim to know why this one has this distinction, but I figure there is a reason. I look forward to asking that question when I’m in heaven.

Jesus had been traveling the countryside ministering and preaching. As His ministry grew, so did the crowd that followed Him. At this one particular point, the crowd had grown to 5,000 men. This wasn’t a Man Cave event or anything, so there were also women and children there. So needless to say, it was a significant crowd. These people were amazed by what Jesus had been doing, and were willing to drop everything to follow Him. 

The disciples were very concerned because they had no way to facilitate such a crowd. They had suggested they simply dismiss everyone to go find a Subway sandwich shop or In ‘n Out, but Jesus had compassion on them. He asked the disciples what their resources were. They reported to him they had five loaves of bread and a couple fish. 

Jesus took what they had, looked to heaven, gave thanks, then gave it over to the disciples to begin distributing to the folks. Not only was there enough food to go around so everyone could eat “as much as they wanted”, but there were leftovers!

First, Jesus had compassion on the people. It would have been easy to just let everyone take off, get food and return later. But Jesus already had a bigger plan which He knew would leave an impression on the authors of the four gospels, not to mention the thousands in attendance. Compassion is inspiring. When your heart is touched in a profound way, you can’t sleep. You are consumed and compelled into action. 

Next, Jesus looked to heaven. In this context, the word looked means gaining sight. As if one were blind, but now had received sight. Jesus’ perspective changed from human to heavenly. From natural to supernatural. From limited to limitless.

Thirdly, Jesus gave thanks. He knew God would provide for them the abundance which would come from the meager. God can take what little we have to offer, and expand it’s potential to overflowing.

Finally, Jesus gave it to the disciples to feed the people. When God intervenes, He chooses us to touch the lives of those upon whom His compassion falls. 

You already know the situations which touch your heart. That burning sense of compassion you have is God’s love for His children that won’t let you sleep. Follow these steps as Jesus did. Take what little you have, get a heavenly perspective, thank God for what He is doing and will do, and get out there and “feed”. Bring your friends. Even if they don’t get it, even if they don’t share your passion…they will once they see what is happening before them.

God wants to use you!

Foul Weather Friends

Right now, I have a couple friends who are really going through some serious difficulties. Life can be so cruel at times. These friends are such wonderful people. They’re kind. They’re generous. They’re selfless. They’re loyal. 

They’re feeling beaten down.

I don’t like that bad things happen to good people. I don’t like that good things happen to bad people. But that is life, and God told us there would be days like these. I shudder to think that it wouldn’t be much of a stretch for my life to cave in within the next 12 hours. Who can say?

All I know for sure is that if we’re not going through the paper shredder of life right now, it’s inevitable that we will at some point. At any given time, we’re only one degree of separation from someone who is going through it. When that is the case, it’s rally time. It’s up to us to offer ourselves to mourn with those who mourn. We need to give our support to those in need. We need to be encouraging. It’s not enough to just say the right things and move on.

Ecclesiastes 4:10 states very clearly how miserable it would be to be alone in times of trials. Verse 10 tells us that there are times we need someone there to pick us up off the canvas. There are times when we are so beaten down, it would require the strength of a friend to get us back on our feet. 

Tomorrow, I am going to go more in depth about how God performs miracles and chooses to use us to distribute them. But for this moment, I want to leave you with the thought that God doesn’t need us in order for someone to know His love. But it is not good for us to be alone in life. And it is especially bad when we’re going through difficulties without the support and strength of a good friend. It’s easy to be a fair weather friend. A true friend is willing to get soaked while helping you through the storms.

Self-Control: The Anger Edition

As a follow up to yesterday’s post about chasing emotional highs, I want to focus on the destructive emotion of anger. The bible states numerous times that we should be slow to anger. Proverbs 16:32 states that it’s better to control your anger than to mightily take a city. For many, it’s probably easier to take a city. Proverbs 14:29, the quick-tempered man is basically called a fool, as compared to one who is patient who has “great understanding”. Proverbs 19:11 says that a wise man is patient, and brings honor to himself when he forgives. 

I have known many people who lack the ability to control their impulsive behavior in this way. The one thing you can’t tell an angry person is, “calm down”. Boy, that sets them off even more. I have to admit, I cannot understand the inability to edit thoughts so that your actions and words won’t injure others. I have seen it so many times. People use their words like a balled up fist in order to pummel the object of their wrath. I am not saying I don’t understand it because I’m so wonderful. It’s not to say that certain situations or people haven’t pushed my buttons. I have had my own experiences where I have lost some measure of control and said or done things which were a departure from my natural behavior. But I don’t recall ever being so angry that I have said or done something for the express purpose of hurting someone.

2 Peter 1:5-8 lists the qualities we must acquire and master in order to achieve maturity in our behavior and to demonstrate love. Self-control is the key in this list. We must have goodness and knowledge, but self-control is making the choice to crucify your flesh, your instinctive reaction and instead applying your knowledge of right versus wrong. When we practice self-control, we will demonstrate the next levels of maturity. It is impossible to skip over self-control and achieve perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness and ultimately, love. Godliness, kindness and love are all expressions of humility, which and only come after you have developed self-control.

If you struggle with anger, I strongly recommend committing 2 Peter 1:5-8 to memory. Write down the qualities listed in it and work on developing them. It is only in doing this that you will conquer your destructive impulses, and demonstrate the grace and forgiveness for which Jesus died to give you.

Lifestyle Evangelism

“Preach the gospel always. If necessary, use words.” This statement is attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, and to me is the most profound, succinct and effective method of evangelism. 

I remember one night in April of 1983 when I was sitting in my bedroom with a friend of mine. This was following a night out with a group of high school friends from the church I was attending with my parents. Our church was in another town, so none of the kids went to the same school I did. Up to that point, I was kind of attending church against my will. I had developed a talent over the years of being able to tune out teachers or pretty much anyone who was talking about stuff I didn’t want to hear. I could look them dead in the eyes and hear nothing. I had been doing that pretty consistently in church when my parents made it mandatory for me to go. 

But this one night in my room, I sat with my friend and peppered her with a hundred questions about Christianity. Not so much theological questions, but lifestyle questions. I wanted to know what I was considering signing up for. I didn’t know what I was going to have to give up in order to take this step. She assured me numerous times and ways that you come as you are. God will take care of things in His time.

The friends I had made in this church were so good to me. They never once treated me as an outsider. They never made me uncomfortable by asking me probing questions about my beliefs. They never brought up topics that would exclude me or make me uncomfortable. Instead, they invited me to just about everything they did. What was particularly refreshing was that their conversation and their actions were completely consistent with what they believed, but they were totally normal people. You see, my thoughts about Christians were that they were all boring and prudish. This group was anything but boring.

Consistency is what it’s all about. I put these people through microscopes and x-rays. I watched and listened to everything. And they were exactly what they proclaimed to be. No more, no less. Now, all these years later, I still do my best to apply these very same qualities in my life. As Christians, we are held to a higher standard. This may seem unfair at times, but it’s true nonetheless. Look at the way Christians are portrayed in movies and on television. Look at the way the media pounces on Christians who are caught in some kind of indiscretion. But we bring a lot of the negativity down on ourselves. We can be so judgmental, while at the same time, behaving inconsistently with what we profess.

What story is your life preaching right now? Is it consistent with one who professes to be a follower of Christ? Or do you participate in activities that would confuse others about what you really stand for?

You already know the answer. This topic doesn’t come to you as a surprise. If you don’t pay your car loan, you can’t be surprised and angry when the repo guy shows up at your door. If you’re doing things you shouldn’t be doing, you can’t be shocked when God speaks to you about it.

It’s time to commit to living consistently with what you profess. It’s time to live a lifestyle that preaches the love of Christ.

The Road Less Traveled Has, In Fact, Been Traveled

The other day I whimsically posted on my Twitter page that my daily travels had taken me through the towns of Cool, Lotus and Rescue, CA. I had never heard of these towns and had no clue they existed. Yet all are within 45 minutes of where I live. These towns didn’t have so much as a Starbucks or movie theater. They reminded me of towns I’ve passed through in the backroads of Arkansas or West Virginia. These towns are great because they’re so close, but also a million miles away.

What surprised me most was that I have a number of friends on Facebook who saw this comment and noted not only that they had heard of these towns, but some had either lived there at one time, or are considering moving there in the near future. This served as an illustration to me that by this stage of my life, there is virtually no human experience that I can go through that someone I know hasn’t already been through, or is there now. No single person has gone through all I’ve experienced, but as a collective whole, as a conglomeration, someone who has touched my life in some way has gone through things I had never experienced before.

I take great comfort in knowing that I have a Heavenly Father who is by my side no matter where I go (read Psalm 139). But I’m also thankful that He provides me human tour guides who know the terrain. They can advise me of the things to see and do. They can warn me of the things to avoid. They can help me navigate my way through these circumstances because they’ve been there.

No matter where you are, no matter what you face, you probably know someone who has been there and done that. God has blessed you with relationships. Surround yourself with people of wisdom and experience. On the other side of the same coin, make yourself available to those who could benefit from your experience. Be willing not just to say do this and don’t do that, but be willing to walk along side them. 

I’ve recently created a Crossing Paths group on Facebook. It’s my hope that it will become a community for this very thing. That paths would cross between people who otherwise might never meet, but we can all benefit from the collective experiences. I know your experiences inspire and challenge me, and they comfort me in times when I wonder if anyone would understand. There is even a Discussion tab where you can start a discussion. Ask a question, post an opinion. Get the conversation rolling. You must might be surprised and blessed by the outcome.

If you’re not already part of the community, consider this your personal invitation! Someone there may need you!


Pay Attenion To The Man Behind The Curtain

Up until a couple years ago, my life was in a pretty serious rut. It wasn’t anything bad. It’s just that each year was pretty much like the movie Ground Hog’s Day. Each year pretty much was just like the one before it. 

My prayer had been for years that I didn’t want to be in the same place next year. Just like your parents did when you were little by marking your growth with pencil marks on the door jamb, I wanted to be able to mark my own personal development. But it seemed that there wasn’t any discernible growth. I wasn’t being challenged or stretched in any tangible way.

I was very comfortable in my environment. I had carved out a niche in my life, and pretty much walked in it daily. That’s fine. Nothing wrong with that. But all I had done was refined the same old thing I had been doing for years.

Finally, God made me a proposition. He gave me the option to stay where I was, or to take a bold and blind step of faith. I could continue doing what I was doing, which wasn’t bad stuff. Or, I could venture into a new frontier as far as my life was concerned. I see they’ve resurrected the game show I remember as a child, Let’s Make A Deal. In a sense, this is where I was. I could take the prize that I could see very clearly. I knew exactly what I was getting. It was safe. It was familiar. Or I could take what was behind the curtain. I had no idea what was on the other side, except for the assurance that whatever it was, God was behind it. 

I chose the curtain.

If you find yourself in a place where you simply can’t see any new marks on your door jamb, it’s likely God wants to change things up for you. That doesn’t necessarily mean God wants you to move to a new city. It definitely means He wants to move you into greater faith and reliance upon Him. When we get into a rut, we’re not dependent upon Him. We’ve done it so many times and for so long, we practically go on auto pilot. We can do it in our sleep.

I can confidently report to you today that no matter where God’s plan leads me in the future, the things that have happened in my life over the last 18 months have changed me and will be part of my life from here on. I see markings along my door jamb that show me I’ve made progress. The thing is, there’s still lots of room for more growth.

I can’t encourage you strongly enough. Don’t get into a rut. It will suck the life right out of you. God wants to show you what you’re capable of when you truly rely on Him for everything!

Get out that pencil!

I’ll Be There

I have a little buddy named Will. I think he’s about 7 or so. Great kid. Will is in a local youth basketball league, so I do my best to catch his games when I can. Recently, I got a text message from one of Will’s family members asking if I was going to be at his game that afternoon, but I was out of town. They told me they understood, Will was just asking if I was going to be there. It was then that I made up my mind that I wouldn’t miss his next game the following week no matter what.

The next week came, and the morning of his 3 PM game, I received a text message from an unfamiliar number. Will identified himself in the message, and asked if I was going to be at his game that afternoon. Not only did I affirm to him that I’d be there, I went a step further by confirming that I knew the time and location of the game.

As the game started, Will had scored 6 points in the first half. With each of his three baskets, Will would look up into the stands to make sure we all saw it, and also to see the excitement we had in celebrating his achievement.

I had such a great feeling knowing Will wanted me at his game. So much so that he took time to borrow someone’s phone hours before his game, and texted me to see if I’d be there. Then the great feeling it was to make eye contact with him as I was applauding his successes and gesturing my pride with a big thumbs up. Will is not my son. He has a great family. I have no children. Those of you with kids know this feeling. To me, it’s a rare treat.

As I replayed these events in my head later in the day, I thought about how much greater it must be to God when we take time to pray and invite His presence into our activities. When we invite Him, He already knows where to be and when. He plans on being with us, but still, His heart swells when His children invite Him. Then, as we go about our day, we can look to Him in our successes and failures, and He is there applauding our successes, and comforting us in our disappointments. 

I thank God that He gives me moments like these which give me a glimpse of His heart for me. 

Link Love Sunday!

A fellow blogger friend of mine who lives in America’s Hat, (aka Canada), has a new feature on his blog. It’s called “Link Love Sunday”. It’s a great idea, so I’m not only participating, I’m also encouraging you to check out his blog.

Kevin is a pastor and hockey fan, so he’s aces in my book. I think you’ll find as you peruse his blog, Shooting The Breeze, he’s got some great insight.

If you’re a blogger and you’d like to participate in Link Love Sunday, simply click here.

Have a great day!

Be Yourself

There have been many times in my life when I really didn’t like who I was. It’s not that I had some crippling habits or that I grew up in a horrible situation or anything. There have just been times when I wished I wasn’t the way I was. Those times usually came when I was feeling like an outcast in social settings where I wish I could have fit in better. But then something happened. I found that there were some people in my life who loved and accepted me exactly for who I was. Suddenly, I began to appreciate the very qualities I had once despised. 

We all have different facets to our personalities. Certain situations and people can bring out the extremes of who we are. I am a pretty laid back individual. I’m not a very demonstrative guy at all. But you get me on stage singing songs I love in front of hundreds or thousands of people, and something within me comes out that you won’t see in your living room. 

On the other hand, people and situations can sometimes bring out the negatives. We sometimes say and do things we normally wouldn’t. We’re just not perfect. Anyone can be sweet and loving when things are going well. But when times get tough, when stress happens, do we change? Does another side of our personality come raging out of us?

These situations don’t change who we are. They reveal who we are.

If you find yourself around situations or people which bring out your dark side, you need to make some adjustments. I found that when I filled my life with people who embraced me for who I am, my confidence grew. My ministry grew. I built relationships with people I admire. As a result, I found that I relaxed and settled in to being exactly who I am. I didn’t stress out about trying to be someone I’m not just to fit in. When I turned that corner in my life, I found that the situations which had previously tripped me up had now become inconsequential to me. My circumstances no longer changed my attitude. My attitude changed my circumstances. 

God made me the way I am. I’m thankful for the gifts He has given me. Not a day goes by that I’m not challenged to take another step further in my personal development. I have people in my life who bring out my very best. I have people in my life who believe in me. I want to be the type of man who sees and brings out the very best in you.

As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.

~Proverbs 27:17

Time To Cross That River

I attended a bible study Monday night, and ever since then, I’ve been thinking a lot about Joshua in the bible. The speaker referenced Joshua chapter one, and I haven’t been able to shake some of the truths found there and how they relate to me, and pretty much everyone I can think of.

Joshua was the heir apparent under Moses in leading God’s people through extreme difficulties and to the Promised Land. On the eve of reaching their destination, Moses died. At this time, Joshua was promoted by God to be the one to lead His people into the Promised Land. In verses 2-5, God officially elevates Joshua to his new role, and gives him the list of benefits in taking the job. 

In verses 6-9, God lays out Joshua’s job description. Three times in these verses, God commands Joshua to be “strong and courageous”. One of those times, God emphasizes to Joshua to be “very courageous”. Here’s the thing, to get to the land God promised, Joshua would have to cross the mighty Jordan river. This wasn’t some brook that you could just stroll across while just getting your ankles wet. It was a formidable obstacle. But when it came time to cross, they had to take the first step into the water for God to intervene and take care of the rest. As He did with the Red Sea, the water parted, and everyone was able to stroll across the river which was normally at flood stage since it was harvest season. 

This is harvest season for many of you. It is for me. It’s when we’re on the cusp of something huge that the waters between us and our dreams and goals are at their highest and most intimidating. But God repeats to you those plain and powerful words. Be strong and courageous. I’m telling you now, the river you have to cross isn’t going to part for you without you taking the first step. You can’t expect to reach the heights of God’s promises before you plunge into the depths of your faith.

What river stands between you and your dreams? What obstacle is raging that seems too formidable for you to cross? Don’t allow yourself to set up a permanent camp on the wrong side of the river. Don’t get stuck looking across it to see where you could and should be.