Can You See In the Dark?

I can see, and that is why I can be happy, in what you call the dark, but which to me is golden. I can see a God-made world, not a man-made world. Helen Keller

I believe that one of the reasons for unhappiness, is that men focus too much on the man-made world. We see all of the bad things that go on around us and we become distressed. Now, there are many bad things that require our attention, to be sure, but they do not require our obsession. 

All too often, we dwell on the negative aspects of this world. Whether it be politics, the economy, or just the state of man in general, we focus on what bad people are doing to the point that it diminishes our joy. That's when it is important to remember Helen Keller's advice.

The reason that Helen Keller could be happy in the dark was because she saw the light. She was blind, but she saw the power and beauty of God in her mind's eye. Isn't it sad that we who have 20-20 vision often fail to see the beauty of God's world that is plainly before us. We are in a dark world, at times - it's true, but we are also in the world created by the Father of Lights. So happiness (or more accurately, joy) comes from that which we choose to focus on. We cannot ignore our responsibility to see and react to evil, but we don't have to become consumed in our every thought by evil men.

I discovered a long time ago that we can either let others control our daily mood, or we can allow God to. If you and I will give a bit more thought to our daily walk with God, we can still see clearly that which we must do to combat evil, while at the same time enjoying the beauty of God's blessings that are ever before us. There is tremendous evil in this man-made world, and that evil will require a certain amount of our attention if we are to leave our children a better world. But, there is a great amount of good in this world that God has made, and it is our greatest asset in overcoming the evil that so often dominates our minds and hearts. 

Which world... will you live in?

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set you hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. Colossians 3:1-2, NIV

 

But... How Can We Be Thankful?

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

Philippians 4:6, NIV

 

The man who influenced me more than anyone else to become a preacher was Jack Carter. It was not only his words  that made such an impression upon me, but also the way he lived. Jack is gone now, but he was a preacher for over 50 years. He had what seemed on the surface to be the perfect life, marrying his childhood sweetheart and raising a family of five beautiful children.

 

His life, however, was not without sorrow. One of his daughters contracted polio at a young age. His wife, Nancy, was stricken with a harsh variety of cancer and suffered for some time before yielding her life to that disease. A few years later, Jack was fishing at Yellowstone with his son Dave and two grandsons. A sudden squall came up, capsizing their boat. Jack and his son dove and dove under the icy water trying to find the boys, but to no avail. Then, Jack met Dave's eyes across the water and helplessly watched as his son sank beneath the waves.

 

I heard Jack speak of these trials some years later. He then, with humility, described how he prayed to his heavenly Father each day. He said that the only thing he could think to say some mornings was "Thank you! Thank you, Holy Father, thank you so much for all that you have done for me in my life."

 

You might be wondering how can anyone be thankful during such times.

 

A more appropriate question might be how can anyone not be thankful, whose hope is in Christ? How can anyone whose sins are forgiven (and whose penalty for those sins having been taken away) not be thankful to the One who paid the penalty? We are going to Heaven, if we will remain faithful - not because we deserve to, but because Jesus paid our penalty. And our loved ones will be there too, if they will but be faithful. Knowing all of this, how can we not be thankful? 

 

In America, at this time of year, we celebrate Thanksgiving. It is a time to remember just what we have been given - and to be thankful for those blessings. Things may not always go the exact way that we would choose, but when you think about it, how can we who have been given so much not start off each day with a prayer that says, "Thank you, thank you, thank you Father, thank you for all that you have done for me... thank you!"

 

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. 

Philippians 4:7, NIV

 

Budget Wisely

It's clearly a budget. It's got a lot of numbers in it.

George W. Bush

I've watched with a combination of fascination and disgust, the budget shenanigans perpetrated by congress throughout the years, but I don't worry about it anymore. My advanced training as a classic economist tells me that the ship for fiscal sanity has long sailed. I'm not overly happy about it, mind you, I just don't give our budget anymore thought than I give to my favorite dog when I was a kid - both are long gone!

While it's easy for us to see the futility of our congress arguing over their budget, we nearly always give ourselves a pass when it comes to the more important area of how we budget our time for the Lord. If we were honest, we would all have to admit that we are sometimes imprudent in the way that we handle the precious hours that God gives us each day. Isn't it funny how we are reluctant to spend more than 5 minutes in our Bible because, "We just don't have the time", but we watch 3 hours of T.V. a day as if there were no limits to our time.

Sometimes we even "borrow" from the future, promising ourselves that we will go to worship next week, in exchange for a day off this week. Or, perhaps, that we will really will read our Bible and pray more tomorrow, but not today. I wonder if God does not sometimes wonder at my lack of budgeting skills when it comes to planning my service to Him.

The fact is that the debt that we owe our Lord is far more than we can ever hope to repay. Christ really did give His life as payment for our sins, and we can never pay back the debt of love that we owe Him. We can, however, begin to seriously consider how to spend our time more wisely for the Master. The great thing about a good budget is that we nearly always have something extra left over to spend on things that we really need. It's true for congress in the way they spend our money, and it's true for us in the way that we spend God's time.

How... are your budgeting skills?

For it is time to seek the Lord...    

Hosea 10:12

 

Breaking the Chains

The strongest chains are not those forged with fire and steel. The strongest chains are those forged in the mind.

Anonymous

 

If you have ever been to a circus, you have probably seen the long line of elephants patiently awaiting their trainer to come and move them. The interesting thing is that these elephants are typically held in place by a simple rope that connects their rear leg to a wooden peg. Now, the elephant is one of the strongest of God's creations, so there is no physical way that the elephant could be held by such a flimsy restraint. Still, the elephant stays put and does not even try to pull itself loose. Why?

 

The secret is found in his training. While still a baby, the elephant has an iron shackle attached to one of its rear legs. This shackle is attached to a heavy chain which is affixed to an iron peg set in concrete. The baby elephant pulls and pulls, sometimes for days, trying to free itself. Eventually, he gives up on the idea of ever getting his leg free and just stops trying. The physical restraint has been replaced with a restraint of the mind - and that is all that is needed.

 

You and I can readily see that the elephant's restraint is only in its mind, but can we see it of our own self-imposed restraints? I have coached hundreds of kids down through the years. While I have rarely seen a child hampered for very long due to a lack of physical talent, I often have seen the powerful and limiting effects of a child restrained by chains that exist only in his mind. If he thinks that he cannot do something, he often won't even try.

 

Sadly, we all have seen people bound by such restraints of the mind. Maybe they have some "great sin" in their past that they feel is just too big for God to forgive so, rather than seek forgiveness, they don't even try. As a result, they become shackled by chains that they have forged in their own minds. Though God's grace is there for them and Christ's sacrifice has already been made, they don't seek the forgiveness that could be theirs.

 

And... they lose out on peace. Worse still, if they never wake up and sever those chains, they will likely miss out on Heaven. If you have found yourself with this mindset, then consider this: God's grace has been offered. Christ's sacrifice was made for your very sin. You can live a new life, if you want to, but you will have to sever those chains and come back to God while there is still time.

 

Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die... for I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live!

Ezekiel 18:31-32, NIV

 

Blissful Ignorance

Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.

Martin Luther King, Jr. 

I grew up in the Golden Age of sports - at the dawning of the Little League era. I played Little League Baseball and Little League Basketball and Little League Soccer. When I got older - it was the City League era. I played City League Softball and City League Volleyball (Co-ed & Power Leagues) and especially City League Basketball. 

In fact, I have played and coached so many sports throughout my life that it has really taken away some of the joy of watching them. I get aggravated when the coaches don't do something I think they should, really aggravated when the players mess up, and am driven to madness when the referees see a call different than I do. So at times, these sports that I enjoy so much, bring me anything but joy. 

Then, there is track.

I love watching track. I never ran track, never coached track, and only began watching it about eight years ago when my oldest daughter casually announced that she was going to the area finals in two or three events. Now I can't wait for track season to start. I love going to the meets, I love watching the races, and I love going home and talking about them.

Why is that, you might be wondering? It's because ignorance is bliss! Since I really don't know anything about the sport, I can simply enjoy watching those who do - and it's very entertaining.

But, what can be "blissful" in one area of life, can be very dangerous in others.

Have you ever noticed how many people approach religion in the way that I approach track? They don't know anything about it, but they like watching those who do (or at least those who claim they do). Since they know nothing about it, and really don't want to, they can bounce around from event to event just taking in the religion that suits their lifestyle the best. For such people, the words of the Bible (and, therefore, the words of God) are secondary - they just like watching the game... and "hanging" with those who agree with them and say what they want to hear.

So, what's the problem? Simply this: You and I will not be judged by the results of a sporting event, but we will be judged on the results of our religion. The fact is that service to God is not a "spectator sport" - it is the essence of our existence! If we approach religion like a spectator, drifting to the most exciting events but never bothering to learn or do enough to take part in them ourselves, then we very likely will find ourselves in the position of watching the victors receive their crowns, while we go off to join those who did not compete according to the rules or those who never even ran the race in the first place.

Are you... living in "blissful ignorance" in the most important area of your life?

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. I Corinthians 9:24, NIV