The 4: Can You Say YES?

apollo11Can you answer yes to these four questions?

  • Are you a citizen of the United States?
  • Do you have a Bachelor’s degree in engineering, science or math?
  • Do you have at least 1,000 hours of seat time piloting a jet?
  • Can you pass a NASA physical which also requires 20/20 vision?

If you replied in the affirmative to each of the four questions above, you are among the 3 million U.S. residents who meet the basic requirements that could qualify you to become an astronaut. Of these number, there were 18,300 people who applied to join NASA’s 2017 astronaut class.

A panel of 50 people reviewed each of the applications and narrowed the list to a few hundred. After more scrutiny, the applicant list shrunk to 120 candidates, and eventually the list was winnowed down to 50 who were called back for a week of interviews and more medical testing.

All in all, this 18-month process culminated with the selection of 12 individuals out of the 18,300 who applied. This means that only .00065574 of the people who applied were selected. I would be without hope, if God’s selection process were this stringent.

However, God does not extend an invitation to you on the basis of your IQ or physical condition; He invites you to join Him in spite of these:  For while we were still helpless, at the appointed moment, Christ died for the ungodly. For rarely will someone die for a just person—though for a good person perhaps someone might even dare to die. But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:6-8)!

Don’t worry about the odds or the percentages of being good enough to be part of the teams or to accomplish the mission ahead of you. When God calls you, he also equips you: God is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us (Ephesians 3:20).

As you think about this, I also encourage you to think about John 15:16:

You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.

A Cue 4 You

motivational-sticky-notes-subway-cartoon-cat-october-jones-thumb290To get to where you need to go, with what you need to have, so you can say or do what needs to be said or done, you most likely use a cue or two. These come in different forms, fashions, and shapes.  They can be as simple as an alarm clock to nudge you out of bed, a sticky note to budge your memory, or an inspirational quote to encourage your daily trudge on the treadmill.

Whether it’s a day planner, an app on your smart phone, or something as simple as a string tied around your finger, these reminders help you develop the habits that lead to a productive life. habitSome of these are as simple as ABCD, and they will help you grow in your relationship with Jesus:

  • A—Always pray. Instead of prayer being an after-thought, make it a priority. Paul instructed believers to “pray without ceasing,” and to not “worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7).”
  • B—Take time to read your Bible: “Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true (Acts 17:11).”
  • C—Make the commitment to trust God: “Delight thyself also in the Lord: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass; and, he shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noonday (Psalm 37:4-6).”
  • D—Learn to discern: “For by the grace given to me I say to every one of you not to think more highly of yourself than you ought to think, but to think with sober discernment, as God has distributed to each of you a measure of faith (Romans 12:3).”

The underlying principle of these steps is the need to trust God, and Solomon outlines the process:

Trust God from the bottom of your heart;

    don’t try to figure out everything on your own.

Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go;

    he’s the one who will keep you on track.

Don’t assume that you know it all.

    Run to God! Run from evil!

Proverbs 3:5-7 ~The Message

Going Full Circle: Agony After Victory

horseI can still remember Jim McKay’s famous tagline: “The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.” It was an invitation to stop what I was doing and to watch the weekly edition of ABC’s Wide World of Sports.  McKay’s famous words went full circle this past Saturday in the world of horse racing.

Trainer Francis Campitelli was enjoying the “thrill of victory’ as he watched Homeboykris cross the finish line in first place. A short time later, Campitelli’s thrill turned to agony as his horse collapsed and died while walking to the stable.

This sad incident lends credence to Solomon’s observation in Proverbs 27:24: “Riches are not forever, nor does a crown endure to all generations.”

If you know anything about horse racing, you should know that fame and fortune can be fleeting; it’s a dangerous sport that is prone to deadly accidents. In 2012, the New York Times reported that each week 24 horses had died on racetracks from 2009 to 2012.

I doubt the Apostle Paul was thinking of horse racing when he spoke of the uncertainties of life; however, his statement is interesting: “Tell those who are rich in this age not to be arrogant and not to place their confidence in anything as uncertain as riches. Instead, let them place their confidence in God, who lavishly provides us with everything for our enjoyment (I Timothy 6:17).”

Paul’s words to Timothy were no aggrandizement of the truth; they were based on a statement that Jesus had made: “First and most importantly seek (aim at, strive after) His kingdom and His righteousness [His way of doing and being right—the attitude and character of God], and all these things will be given to you also (Matthew 6:33 ~Amplified Bible).”

I’ll close with Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of Jesus’ logic: “If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers — most of which are never even seen — don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you (The Message)?”

Strength, Confidence, and Courage

Courageous-posterAfter the death of Moses, Joshua took the leadership reins of the Israelites and guided them along the path to the Promised Land.  In one of his first speeches, he admonished them, saying: “Only be strong and very courageous to ensure that you obey all the instructions that my servant Moses gave you—turn neither to the right nor to the left from it—so that you may succeed wherever you go (Joshua 1:7).”

Joshua’s call to courage reminds me of the words of Alfred North Whitehead: True courage is not the brutal force of vulgar heroes, but the firm resolve of virtue and reason.

Some people act courageously because they assess a situation and move forward with confidence in their abilities.  There are others who are just as confident, but for a different reason; their available resources give them a sense of boldness.

David is a good example of both forms of courage.  In Psalm 27, he said: “The Lord is my light and my salvation. Who is there to fear? The Lord is my life’s fortress. Who is there to be afraid of? Evildoers closed in on me to tear me to pieces. My opponents and enemies stumbled and fell. Even though an army sets up camp against me, my heart will not be afraid. Even though a war breaks out against me, I will still have confidence in the Lord.

Courage, as David used it in this Psalm, is resource-based. He speaks of his trust in the presence and power of God.

Earlier in his life, David displayed courage that was focused more on his own ability.  This was the  skill he used to kill the wild animals as attacked his sheep.

There may be times when you doubt your ability, but you should never doubt God’s availability.  Just as God was present to walk David through the trials of life, He is present for you as well:

  • God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble—Psalm 46:1
  • God is the shield of Your salvation, and His right hand will support you—Psalm 18:35
  • God will deliver you because He delights in you—Psalm 18:19
  • The Lord is near the brokenhearted, and He saves those crushed in spirit—Psalm 34:18

While there’s not a single one of us who can look to the future and know for certain what challenges await us, each of us can be confident in knowing that God is waiting to guide us.

Solomon believed this, and he wisely said: “The heart of man devises his way, but the LORD directs his steps . . . He that follows after righteousness and mercy shall find life, righteousness, and honor.”

What Am I Missing?

life-of-faithWhen I hear a puzzling story or a comment about someone or some event, I wonder about the specifics of the situation and ask:

  • What happened?
  • What are the facts?
  • What details am I missing?

The mention of the name Demas stokes the fire of my curiosity.  Of the three passages that refer to Demas, two are positive and one is negative:

  • Philemon 23-25: “Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends greetings to you, and so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my fellow workers. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.”
  • Colossians 4:14: “Luke the beloved physician greets you, as does Demas.”
  • 2 Timothy 4:10: “Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica.”

What happened to Demas?  How could he go from being a co-laborer with the Apostle Paul to being classified as a Christian who went AWOL?  Had his Christian experience been a mere dalliance with no true alliance to Christ?

Was Demas like the sunshine soldier that Thomas Paine spoke of when he addressed the difficult times in which he lived?

 “These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country.” 

Contrary to what many people believe, living a life of faith is not for the frail of heart.  Paul suggests that it takes guts, courage and backbone:

  • I Timothy 6:11-12: Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith.
  • 2 Timothy 2:3 “Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.”
  • I Corinthians 9:24-25: “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.”
  • Hebrews 12:1-2: “we must get rid of every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and run with endurance the race set out for us, keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.”

Demas dismissed the principled and dedicated life that Paul modeled, but a man named Jim Elliot embraced it.  Sixty years ago, Elliot was martyred on the mission fields of Ecuador. A daily practice of his was to write in his journal, and his notes give a glimpse of his dedication to Christ:

  • “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
  • “Rest in this: it is His business to lead, command, impel, send, call or whatever you want to call it. It is your business to obey, follow, move, respond, or what have you.”
  • “God, I pray Thee, light these idle sticks of my life that I may burn for Thee. Consume my life, my God, for it is Thine. I seek not a long life but a full one like You, Lord Jesus.”

When you consider your life and the faith factor, what do you see.  Is your Christian walk little more than a dalliance of dedication, or does it reflect a true alliance with Jesus Christ?

What I Should Have Said

whisperOn my drive back from the cemetery at St. John, I thought of something I wish I would have said:  “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches.” This simple statement from Proverbs 22:1 offers a profound description of Roger Taylor.

When I spoke at Roger’s funeral yesterday, it was easy to think of good things to say about this extraordinary example of humanity.  Decent, kind, and generous, are three words that offer an honest estimation of the genuine life Roger lived as a husband, a father, and a Christian.

Ben Franklin once said that, “It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it.”  Roger lived a life of good deeds.  As I reflect on his many years as a member of First Christian, I remember his willingness to serve as a deacon, an elder, and the chairman of the board—always unassuming and never wanting to ruffle any feathers.

Because they would make Roger blush, I’m a little reluctant to close with the next line or two; however, they are so true, I shall.  D.L. Moody said, “If I take care of my character, my reputation will take care of itself.”  Roger has been a man of character, and he developed the reputation of being a man of “tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, and longsuffering (Colossians 3:12).”

A sterling reputation is better than striking it rich; a gracious spirit is better than money in the bank. The rich and the poor shake hands as equals—God made them both! A prudent person sees trouble coming and ducks; a simpleton walks in blindly and is clobbered. The payoff for meekness and Fear-of-God is plenty and honor and a satisfying life. ~ Proverbs 22:1-4 (The Message)