Thursday, December 31, 2009

Fellowship of the Unashamed

I am part of the "Fellowship of the Unashamed."
The die has been cast. I have stepped over the line.
The decision has been made. I am a disciple of
Jesus Christ. I won't look back, let up, slow down,
back away, or be still. My past is redeemed, my present
makes sense, and my future is secure.
I am finished and done with low living, sight walking,
small planning, smooth knees, colorless dreams,
chintzy giving, and dwarfed goals.

I no longer need pre-eminence, prosperity, position,
promotions, plaudits, or popularity. I now live by
presence, lean by faith, love by patience,
lift by prayer, and labor by power. My pace
is set, my gait is fast, my goal is Heaven, my
road is narrow, my way is rough, my companions few,
my Guide reliable, my mission clear. I cannot be bought,
compromised, deterred, lured away, turned back,
diluted, or delayed.

I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the
presence of adversity, negotiate at the table of the enemy,
ponder at the pool of popularity, or meander
in the maze of mediocrity.

I am a disciple of Jesus Christ. I must go until
Heaven returns, give until I drop, preach until all know,
and work until He comes. And when He comes to get
His own, He will have no problem recognizing me.
My colors will be clear.

The preceding was said to have been found written on a scrap of paper by an African Christian pastor who was murdered the next day. Like Paul, he may have said,

2Ti 4:6 For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand.
2Ti 4:7 I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:
2Ti 4:8 Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.
As the new year bursts upon us, let us, too, submit and commit ourselves to Jesus Christ that we might be able to preach, pray, or die at a moment's notice, unashamed, and with the peace that comes from knowing that our sins have preceded us to the throne of grace and been blotted out by the blood of Jesus.

Remain faithful,

Saturday, December 26, 2009

I Asked God

I asked God to take away my habit.
God said, No.
It is not for ME to take away,
But for YOU to give it up.

rose bud II courtesy of Flickr artist ceanandjen

I asked God to grant me patience.
God said, No.
Patience is a byproduct of tribulations;
It isn't granted, it is learned.

I asked God to give me happiness.
God said, No.
I give you blessings;
Happiness is up to you.

I asked God to spare me pain.
God said, No.
Suffering draws you apart from worldly cares
And brings you closer to me.

I asked God to make my spirit grow.
God said, No.
You must grow on your own! ,
But I will prune you to make you fruitful.

I asked God for all things that I might enjoy life.
God said, No.
I will give you life,
So that you may enjoy all things.

I ask God to help me LOVE others, as much as He loves me.
God said...Ahhhh;
Finally, you have the idea.

1Pe 5:10 But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.

We spend our entire lives trying to shield ourselves from suffering, but God allows a measure of suffering that we might be perfected. Would you give God permission to make you perfect?

Lord God, give me the grace, the stretching and the growth that You intend for the experiences and circumstances that You have allowed in my life that I might be more fully fitted for the work You have for me to do.

Remain faithful,

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thank You, Lord, For The Thorns

Sandra felt as low as the heels of her Birkenstocks as she pushed against a November gust and the florist shop door.

Thorns courtesy of DRB62

Her life had been easy, like a spring breeze. Then in the fourth month of her second pregnancy, a minor automobile accident stole her ease. During this Thanksgiving week she would have delivered a son. She grieved over her loss. As if that weren't enough, her husband's company threatened a transfer. Then her sister, whose holiday visit she coveted, called saying she could not come. What's worse, Sandra's friend infuriated her by suggesting her grief was a Lord-given path to maturity that would allow her to empathize with others who suffer. "Has she lost a child? No, she has no idea what I'm feeling," Sandra shuddered. Thanksgiving? "Thankful for what?" she wondered. For a careless driver whose truck was hardly scratched when he rear-ended her? For an airbag that saved her life, but took that of her child?

"Good afternoon, can I help you?" The flower shop clerk's approach startled her. "Sorry," said Jenny, "I just didn't want you to think I was ignoring you." "I.....I need an arrangement." "For Thanksgiving?" Sandra nodded. "Do you want beautiful, but ordinary, or would you like to challenge the day with a customer favorite I call the 'Thanksgiving Special'?" Jenny saw Sandra's curiosity and continued, "I'm convinced that flowers tell stories, that each arrangement conveys a particular feeling. Are you looking for something that conveys gratitude this Thanksgiving?"

"Not exactly!" Sandra blurted. "Sorry, but in the last five months everything that could go wrong has." Sandra regretted her outburst, but was surprised when Jenny said, "I have the perfect arrangement for you." The door's small bell suddenly rang. "Barbara! Hi!" Jenny said. She politely excused herself from Sandra and walked toward a small workroom. She quickly reappeared carrying a massive arrangement of green bows and long-stemmed thorny roses.

Only, the ends of the rose stems were neatly snipped -- no flowers. "Want this in a box?" Jenny asked. Sandra watched for Barbara's response. Was this a joke? Who would want rose stems and no flowers! She waited for laughter, for someone to notice the absence of flowers a top the thorny stems, but neither woman did. "Yes, please. It's exquisite!," said Barbara. "You'd think after three years of getting the Special, I'd not be so moved by its significance, but it's happening again. My family will love this one. Thanks."

Sandra stared. "Why so normal a conversation about so strange an arrangement?" she wondered. "Uh," said Sandra, pointing. "That lady just left with . . . uh...." "Yes?" "Well, she had no flowers!" "Off? Yep. That's the Special. I call it the 'Thanksgiving Thorns Bouquet'." "But, why do people pay for that?" In spite of herself, she chuckled. "Do you really want to know?" "I couldn't leave this shop without knowing. I'd think about nothing else!"

"That might be good," said Jenny. "Well," she continued, "Barbara came into the shop three years ago feeling very much like you feel today. She thought she had very little to be thankful for. She had lost her father to cancer, the family business was failing, her son was into drugs and she faced major surgery." "Ouch!" said Sandra. "That same year I lost my husband. I assumed complete responsibility for the shop and for the first time, spent the holidays alone. I had no children, no husband, no family nearby and too great a debt to allow any travel." "What did you do?" "I learned to be thankful for thorns." Sandra's eyebrows lifted. "Thorns?"

"I'm a Christian, Sandra. I've always thanked Lord for good things in life and I never thought to ask Him why good things happened to me. But when bad stuff hit, did I ever ask! It took time to learn that dark times are important. I always enjoyed the flowers of life, but it took thorns to show me the beauty of Lord's comfort. You know, the Bible says that Lord comforts us when we're afflicted and from His consolation we learn to comfort others." Sandra gasped. "A friend read that passage to me and I was furious! I guess the truth is, I don't want comfort. I've lost a baby and I'm angry with Lord."

She started to ask Jenny to "go on" when the door's bell diverted their attention. "Hey, Phil!" shouted Jenny as a balding, rotund man entered the shop. She softly touched Sandra's arm and moved to him. He tucked her under his side for warm hug. "I'm here for twelve thorny long-stemmed stems!" Phil laughed heartily. I figured as much," said Jenny.

"I've got them ready. "She lifted a tissue-wrapped arrangement from the refrigerated cabinet. Beautiful," said Phil. "My wife will love them. "Sandra could not resist asking, "These are for your wife?" Phil saw that Sandra's curiosity matched his when he first heard of a Thorn Bouquet. "Do you mind me asking, 'Why thorns'?"

"No, in fact, I'm glad you asked," he said. "Four years ago my wife and I nearly divorced. After forty years we were in a real mess, but we slugged through, problem by rotten problem. We rescued our marriage--our love really. Last year at Thanksgiving I stopped in here for flowers. I must have mentioned surviving a tough process because Jenny told me that for a long time she kept a vase of rose stems--STEMS-- as a reminder of what she learned from 'thorny' times. That was good enough for me. I took home stems. My wife and I decided to label each one for a specific thorny situation and give thanks for what the problem taught us. I'm pretty sure this stem review is becoming a tradition. "Phil paid Jenny, thanked her again and as he left, said to Sandra, "I highly recommend the Special!"

"I don't know if I can be thankful for thorns in my life," Sandra said to Jenny. "Well, my experience says that thorns make roses more precious. We treasure Lord's providential care more during trouble than at any other time. Remember, Sandra, Jesus wore a crown of thorns so that we might know His love. Do not resent thorns."

Tears rolled down Sandra's cheeks. For the first time since the accident, she loosened her grip on resentment. "I'll take twelve long-stemmed thorns, please." "I hoped you would," Jenny said. "I'll have them ready in a minute. Then, every time you see them, remember to appreciate both good and hard times. We grow through both."

"Thank you. What do I owe you?" "Nothing. Nothing, but a pledge to work toward healing your heart. The first year's arrangement is always on me." Jenny handed a card to Sandra. "I'll attach a card like this to your arrangement, but maybe you'd like to read it first. Go ahead, read it." The card read: "My Lord, I have never thanked Thee for my thorn! I have thanked Thee a thousand times for my roses, but never once for my thorns. Teach me the glory of the cross I bear; teach me the value of thorns. Show me that I have climbed to Thee by the path of pain. Show me that my tears have made my rainbow."

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Most Richly Blessed

I asked God for strength, that I might achieve,
I was made weak, that I might learn humbly to obey.

I asked for health, that I might do greater things,
I was given infirmity, that I might do better things.

Photo courtesy of Flickr artist Matthew Fang

I asked for riches that I might be happy,
I was given poverty, that I might be wise.

I asked for power, that I might have the praise of men,
I was given weakness, that I might feel the need of God.

I asked for all things, that I might enjoy life,
I was given life, that I might enjoy all things.

I got nothing I asked for - but everything I hoped for.
Almost despite of myself, my unspoken prayers were answered.

I am among all men, most richly blessed.

Written by:
An Anonymous Confederate Soldier

Time and again God gives me what I need instead of what I want - and time and again I am grateful that He is so much wiser than I.

Remain faithful,

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Rich Pastor

A tax assessor came one day to a poor pastor to determine the amount of tax the pastor would have to pay.

The following conversation ensues:

Little Case courtesy of Flickr artist Banalities

“What property do you possess?” asked the assessor.
“I am a very wealthy man,” the minister replied.
“List your possessions, please,” the assessor asked.
“First," said the pastor, "I have eternal life." (John 3:16).
“Second, I have a mansion in heaven" (John 14:2).
“Third, I have peace that passeth understanding (Philippians 4:7).
“Fourth, I have joy unspeakable (1 Peter 1:8).
“Fifth, I have divine love which never faileth (1 Corinthians 13:8).
“Sixth, I have a faithful precious wife (Proverbs 31:10).
“Seventh, I have healthy, happy obedient children (Exodus 20:12).
“Eighth, I have true, loyal friends (Proverbs 18:24).
“Ninth, I have songs in the night (Psalms 42:8).
“Tenth, I have a Crown of Life (James 1:12).”

The tax assessor closed his book and said, “Truly you are a very rich man. But your wealth is not subject to taxation."

Author Unknown

Saturday, March 7, 2009

This is Good

I heard a story recently about a king in Africa who had a close friend whom he knew since childhood. This friend had a habit of looking at every situation whether good or ill and remarking “This is good!”

One day the king and his friend were out on a hunting expedition. The friend was loading the guns and then handing them to the king. Apparently he did something wrong in preparing one gun, for after taking the gun, the king pulled the trigger and his thumb was blown off.

Examining the king’s hand, the friend remarked, as usual, “This is good!” To which the king replied, “No, this is NOT good!” and proceeded to send his ex-friend to jail.

About a year later, the king was hunting in area that he should have stayed clear. Cannibals captured him and took them to their village. They tied his hands, stacked some wood, set up a stake and bound him to the stake. But as they were about to light the fire, one of them noticed that they king was missing a thumb. In their superstitious beliefs, they never ate anyone who was less than whole. So they untied the king and let him go.

When he returned home, the king remembered his friend. In remorse he went to jail to speak to him. “You were right,” he said, “it was good that my thumb was blown off.” He then proceeded to tell him all that had happened. “I’m very sorry for sending you to jail for this. It was bad of me to do this.”

“No,” his friend replied, “this is good!”

“What do you mean, ‘this is good!’ How could it be good that I sent my friend to jail for a year?”

“If I had not been in jail, I would have been with you and the cannibals.”

Each day we have the privilege and responsibility to choose our response to the circumstances of our life. In our service to God, we are called to come to God with Willingness, and render Obedience. But even willingness and obedience are not sufficient if they are not mingled with heaven-sent Joy.

Remain faithful,