Altering Eternity

windmill

I thought about the days of old, about ancient times. ~Psalm 77:5

A simple premise of Scripture is that you should have a sense of diligence in the study of God’s Word.  A few minutes spent each day at this altar,  can alter your life for eternity.

The Psalms promise a blessing to those who delight in the law of the Lord, and meditate in it day and night; and Hebrews  assures those who diligently seek Him that they will be rewarded.

Give some thought to eternity, and consider how you can reshape your life by refocusing your thoughts on, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, and if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. ~Philippians 4:8

 

Faith On Strike

strikeHow would life, as you know it, change if churches and faith-based organizations went on strike and no longer contributed to the needs of society? The void of services would sound a mournful echo reverberating with the shock waves of desperation.

An article written by John Stonestreet, calls attention to the significant role Christianity plays in the daily life of the USA. According to Stonestreet:

One in six hospital beds in our country is located in a Catholic hospital. In at least thirty communities, the Catholic hospital is the only hospital in a 35-mile radius. This doesn’t even take into account hospitals run by other Christian bodies such as Baptists, Methodists, and especially Seventh-Day Adventists.

The next time you’re tempted to give a cold should to a warm-hearted ministry, you might want to weigh their heavy presence. The doors of these faith-based organizations swing open to bear the load of the needy to provide food for the hungry, clothing for the impoverished, and a word of encouragement for the frequently despised.

Charlottesville: The Blind Eye of Racism

charlThe year was 1963, and it was the first time I saw the ugly face of racial prejudice.  It happened while we were vacationing in the South and had spent the night at a relative’s house.

When we were about to leave the next morning, I heard my Dad’s cousin say:  Now Eddie, about 10 miles South of here you’ll go through a little town.  Everybody that lives there is a N–. If one of those worthless black N– walks out in front of your car, just run over them.  No need to stop–it’s just a N!

Even though I was just 10, I knew the hate-filled words of Dad’s cousin were reprehensible. Anyone who can run over another human being and leave him to die in the road has been seduced by his unrighteous rage. It was Gandhi who said: An eye for an eye will only make the whole world blind. 

If you know anything about history, you know that far too many people have been blinded by hatred and prejudice.  A record of these misguided emotions can be seen in the International Slavery Museum in Liverpool, England.  A graphic portrayal of the devastation of generations of enslaved men, women, and children is displayed. Etched into one wall of the museum are the words of Frederick Douglass, former slave and crusader for human rights:  “No man can put a chain about the ankle of his fellow man without at last finding the other end fastened about his own neck.”

When one segment of society brutalizes another, it is an attack on humanity as a whole.

Each of use have a circle of influence, and we need to do what we can do to right wrongs.  A clear teaching of the New Testament is the power of love when it is shared, and we are told that love covers a multitude of sin (I Peter 4:8).

The prose of Sam Levenson offers sublime suggestions on what each of us can do to change the world in which we live, and they are a fitting conclusion to this discussion.

For Attractive lips, speak words of kindness.

For lovely eyes, seek out the good in people.

For a slim figure, share your food with the hungry.

For beautiful hair, let a child run their fingers through it once a day.

For poise, walk with the knowledge that you never walk alone.

To the people of Charlottesville: Walk with the knowledge that you are not alone. I am one among the thousands who are praying for you and for peace to prevail.

 

A Life of Kindness and Compassion

sharing-ice-cream-kids_fSome people are incredibly kind and compassionate in the way they consistently treat others; however, due to the surface similarity of the two, the depth of difference between kindness and compassion can be overlooked.

While kindness is a spirit of benevolence that reflects our concern for others and the friendly and generous ways we treat people, compassion, is the spirit of mercy that motivated the Good Samaritan. He was moved to lay aside hatred and to cross social barriers to help the badly-beaten man who had been left for dead.

You can be kind without being compassionate, but, I don’t think you can be seen as compassionate without also being kind.  In Ephesians, Paul instructs the believer to practice both: You must put away all bitterness, anger, wrath, quarreling, and slanderous talk—indeed all malice.  Instead, be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ also forgave you (4:31-32).

Acts of kindness and compassion, should be more than a theoretical discussion over a cup of coffee; these fruits of the Spirit are worthy of more than just lip service.

How can you begin to live a life of kindness and compassion?  I suggest you place a bookmark at Philippians 2:3-4, and use it as a reference point.  Read it frequently and follow its principles faithfully.  To get started ask yourself some questions from this verse:

  • What is it that motivates me?
  • Am I known more for selfish ambition or humility?
  • If I treated myself the way I treat others, would I be pleased with my actions?
  • Am I too self-consumed to show concern for the plight of others?

I share the words that follow, as a prayer for today and as a conclusion to this discussion:

Lord, help me to love with both words and deeds,

To reach out to others and meet their needs;

Lord, burden my heart for those lost in sin,

With mercy and love that flows from within. ~Fitzhugh

Sensing the Scent of Beauty

beauty seenSome clichés are falsehoods and aren’t worth the price of a vowel on Wheel of Fortune; however, timeless classics like, Beauty is in the eye of the beholder have been cherished for generations.

To be honest, I lack more than just a little sophistication when it comes to appreciating the elegance and splendor of beauty, but even I can appreciate:

Beauty should not be thought of as just a sensory perception of the eye. It can also be a pleasant fragrance that fires the sensory neurons in your schnozzle. 

People like me can identify a canvas that hosts the bright strokes of a Picasso,  but we are more apt to be awed by the sight of a scrumptious slice of apple pie fused with the tantalizing aroma of freshly brewed coffee.  While some of us will never fully appreciate the world of art, there are others who will never savor the delicious bouquet of culinary delights nor the sweet perfume of a rose.

It’s estimated that 2 million people actually stink at smelling. Dysfunctional smellers are found more often among men than women: In one study, nearly 25% of men and 11% of women, ages 60–69, had a smell disorder. This diagnosis falls into four classifications:

  • Anosmia is the complete inability to detect odors.
  • Hyposmia is the diminished ability to detect odors.
  • Parosmia is a change in a person’s ability to distinguish odors.
  • Phantosmia is the bogus illusion of the nose; it is a perceptual false-positive of an odor that isn’t present.

The nasal tone of this post would not be complete, if I failed to mention two smells that are especially pleasing to God:

  • The aroma of your prayers that evoke the smell of golden bowls full of incense in (Revelation 5:8).
  • The aroma of your love that Paul speaks of in the book of Ephesians.

May today be a day to contemplate the beauty that surrounds you, to reflect on the beauty of the Lord our God that is upon you (Psalm 90:17), and to take the words of Thoreau to heart: Behave so the aroma of your actions may enhance the general sweetness of the atmosphere.

Limiter or Lifter?

friendsWhat kind of a friend are you? Do you limit the growth and achievement of your friends or do lift them up when they are down and nudge them forward when they need a little encouragement? Do you stir the pot of life with positive strokes?

In Hebrews 10, we are admonished to stir one another up to love and to good works and to encourage those who are struggling with the daily grind of life.

This may have been what Albert Schweitzer had in mind when he said, “In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.”

Who is the friend that has lifted you up and been a source of encouragement to you? When was the last time you expressed your appreciation to them? Is today the day you can lift them up and help rekindle their inner spirit?

 

 

 

Inflection Points

Decision Point IconAn inflection point can be defined as a moment of dramatic change, especially in the development of a company, industry, or market (American Heritage Dictionary).  Wall Street defines it as a point on a chart that marks the beginning of a significant move either up or down.

Due to the stress and strain of the moment, inflection points can be hard to recognize in the present, and sometimes they are more easily seen from the perspective of history.

A significant inflection point in the Old Testament involved the Hebrew nation and its long awaited and highly anticipated move into the Promised Land.  Instead of crossing over to claim a fertile promise, they chose to hunker down in a dust-choking, water- deprived wilderness.

The dramatic change in the life of this fledgling nation occurred when they listened to the report of 12 spies.  The majority report was given by 10 spies, and this faith-deficient report nullified the needs of the nation.

The minority report was given by Joshua and Caleb. Their vigorous faith painted a different trajectory as they spoke of the vast resources of the Promised Land, and they invited their fellow Hebrews to join them on a journey to the land of milk and honey.

It only takes a casual look into the pages of Scripture to discover several other inflection points:

  • Andrew introduced his brother Peter to Jesus and a monumental movement began that transformed lives.
  • Paul’s weighty epitaph highlighted Demas’ ignoble behavior: Demas has forsaken me, loving the present world more than the one to come.
  • Think of the magnitude of David’s sexual interlude: His decision to peek into the private life of Bathsheba changed the course of many lives; innocent people died, and others suffered consequences that were not of their own making.

When faced with a critical decision, your choices can be evaluated with a few simple questions.  Perhaps David and Demas could have negotiated theirs better, if they had consider their situation in light of these:

  • Will my decision break any laws or violate any principles of Scripture?
  • Will my actions be incongruent with my core values?
  • Am I living in the moment or am I considering the short and long-term consequences of my choices?
  • If my conduct became headline news, would my mother be proud of me?
  • Have I asked for feedback from my mentor and trustworthy friends?

I’ll close with the wise counsel of Solomon:  Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil (Proverbs 3:5-7).

Yogi not Yoga

yogiMy love for the game of baseball started at an early age.  It’s a game I played with my dad, my brothers, and my friends.  Summer nights were spent at the ball diamonds where I was either playing or shouting words of encouragement to my buddies who were.

One of baseball’s most loved players is Yogi Berra.  During his 19 years as a catcher for the Yankees, he played in 14 World Series.

While Yogi is remembered for the way he played the game, he might be better known for his Yogisms:

  • This is like déjà vu all over again.
  • A nickle ain’t worth a dime anymore.
  • When you come to a fork in the road, take it.
  • Baseball is 90% mental, and the other half is physical.
  • You’ve got to be careful if you don’t know where you are going because you might not get there.

Yogi also said, I never said most of the things I said.  Like Yogi, some people will remember us more for what we said than for what we accomplished in life.

Words are dynamic, and they have the power to hinder and to humiliate, and they are also endued with a robustness to help and to heal.

Solomon reminds us that, Pleasant words are like a honeycomb: they drip sweet food for life and bring health to the body (Proverbs 16:24).

Everyone needs to hear a pleasant word at some time, and there will be someone, somewhere, who will begin today as an indigent pessimist due to the overwhelming trial they are facing.  When you meet them, will you simply smile, turn your back and walk away or will you engage them with words of encouragement?

mogher tMother Teresa has said: Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.

If words are an echo, may our’s resonate with a melody that is loving, positive, uplifting, encouraging, and life-giving

Getting a Grip on Worry

gripIf you could look inside your head, would you find the thought center of your mind dotted with the warts of worry and the ulcers of anxiety? If so, you might find some comfort in the potent promise of Isaiah 26:3: You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.

Here’s the simple truth of this verse: If your mind is not staying on God, it’s straying from Him, and it’s easily disoriented by the worries of life.  Undisciplined thoughts leave room for unfounded arguments that foster fear; however, Christ-centered thinking augments your faith and smothers the fires of anxiety.

Billy Graham has said, Historians will probably call our era “the age of anxiety.” Anxiety is the natural result when our hopes are centered in anything short of God and His will for us.

Worry and anxiety are expressions of fear and both can be attributed to a sense of lacking or loneliness. The next time your mind begins to agonize over thoughts like these, mobilize by taking these steps:

  • Focus on God: I sought the Lord, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears. ~Psalm 34:4
  • Claim the promise of God’s presence: Be strong and brave! Don’t be afraid and don’t panic, for I, the Lord your God, am with you in all you do. ~Joshua 1:9
  • Believe God loves you: The Lord your God is in your midst, the Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness; He will quiet you with His love; and, He will rejoice over you with singing. ~Zephaniah 3:17
  • Get a grip on life: For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.” ~Isaiah 41:13

As you begin this week, it might help to remember that God is holding your right hand, so you don’t have to worry about holding the wrong one.

Jesus said:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

~John 14:27