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Henry Blackaby in "Experiencing God" words it this way:
The crisis of belief
An encounter with God requires faith.
Encounters with God are God-sized.
What you do in response to God's revelation (invitation to the task) reveals what you believe about God.
True faith requires action (page 135).
SEEKING THE RIGHT KINGDOM
She is filled with bitterness as she speaks to me. Jillian (not her real name) has suffered from a stroke and her tears run freely as she recounts once again her desire to live at home.
Those who have power of Attorney have decided that she is best cared for at Shalom, but she doesn’t want to spend the remaining years of her life in an Aged Care Facility. She doesn’t like the room, the people, the food. She has money, so much money, "thousands of dollars," but it is no good to her now.
She looks at me through tears of sheer frustration as her kingdom is beyond her reach. She is bereft and disinherited, with all her money just lying in the bank. In building a kingdom of outward luxury, she has forgotten the kingdom of her heart, those inward resources that would enable her to give thanks in all circumstances and to experience inward joy no matter what she encounters in life. She kicks against the goads and says "I DON’T WANT TO LIVE LIKE THIS!" I can understand that. I’ve exclaimed these words with the same anguished vehemence, only she is in danger of losing her sanity and even worse, her own soul.
Jesus tells a parable about the Kingdom of Heaven in contrast to the kingdoms we try to build for ourselves on earth in Matthew 13:24. Jillian’s freedom and contentment depends on which kingdom she seeks and no, I am not speaking about suicide, euthanasia or death. Seeking the Kingdom of Heaven has little to do with dying and much to do with experiencing life to the full, here and now.
Sure, heaven, the Kingdom of God, is a LITERAL place, but Jesus said something interesting. He said “The Kingdom of Heaven has come” (Matthew 4:17). In fact we pray that way whenever we pray the Lord’s prayer. "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." We pray that the will and authority of the Kingdom of Heaven will be translated into the everyday things of earth, here and now.
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An old American Indian tale recounts the story of a chief who was telling a gathering of young braves about the struggle within. "It is like two dogs fighting inside of us," the chief told them. "There is one good dog who wants to do the right and the other dog always wants to do the wrong. Sometimes the good dog seems stronger and is winning the fight. But sometimes the bad dog is stronger and wrong is winning the fight."
"Who is going to win in the end?" a young brave asks.
The chief answered "The one you feed."
THE PERFECT MATCH- COMMUNION MEDITATION
From Daily Encounter comes this story by a Chaplain Robinson:
“In 1949, my father had just returned from the war. On every highway you could see soldiers in uniform hitchhiking home to their families. The thrill of the reunion with his family was soon overshadowed by my grandmother’s illness. There was a problem with her kidneys. The doctors told my father that she needed a blood transfusion immediately or she would not live through the night.
Grandmother’s blood type was AB negative, a very rare type. In those days there were no blood banks like there are today. No one in the family had that type blood and the hospital had not been able to find anyone with that rare type. The Doctor gave our family little hope. My Dad decided to head home for a little while to change clothes and then return for the inevitable good-byes.
As my father was driving home he passed a soldier in uniform hitchhiking. Deep in grief, my father was not going to stop. But something compelled him to pull over. The soldier climbed in but my father never spoke. He just continued driving down the road toward home. The soldier could tell my father was upset as a tear ran down his cheek.
The soldier asked about the tear. My father began telling the stranger that his mother was going to die because the hospital couldn’t find anyone who could donate AB negative blood. My father explained that he was just heading home to change clothes. That is when he noticed the soldier’s open hand holding dog tags that read AB negative. The soldier told my father to turn the car around and head back to the hospital.
My grandmother lived until 1996, 47 more years. To this day my family doesn’t know the name of that sol...
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On Sept 16, 1620 2 ships set sail from Plymouth Englnad, The Speedwell and the Mayflower. The Speedwell encountered much difficulty as they began their journey springing many leaks in the ship. So when the 2 ships went to Port in Plymouth England, the Speedwell decided to go no further and 42 passengers from the Speedwell joined the 60 passengers and 30 crew members aboard the Mayflower..
Of the 102 passengers on board the Mayflower the majority were devout Christians. They were coming to America to shake lose from the bonds of the church of England so they could worship God as they believed scriptures taught.
And with great excitement and expectations that set sail for a new land... It wasn’t long before the trip became difficult for several reasons, as noted by William Bradford an historian on the Mayflower, who would later became Governor of the colony for 33 years.. Many of the passengers became sea sick as huge waves would crash over the deck of the ship... The nights were cold, damp and dark... Remember there was no indoor plumbing or electricity. And to make matters worse one of the crew, a very large man would constantly curse and abuse those who were sick... saying he was going to throw them overboard and steal all of their possessions... Bradford records, "BUT IT PLEASED GOD BEFORE THEY CAME HALF SEAS OVER, TO SMITE THE YOUNG MAN WITH A GRIEVOUS DISEASE OF WHICH HE DIED IN A DESPERATE MANNER.. AND SO HE HIMSELF WAS THE FIRST THROWN OVERBOARD. THUS HIS CURSES LIGHT OWN HIS WON HEAD, AND IT WAS AN ASTONISHMENT TO ALL HIS FELLOWS FOR THEY NOTED IT TO BE THE JUST HAND OF GOD UPON HIM.."
But their problems were far from over yet, they encountered many fierce storms which shook the ship with tremendous force. So fierce that many times they could not even keep the sail out and the force of the wind -- eventually cracked and bowed the main beams when they had just went over the half way point across the Atlantic. And although the passengers and crew wanted to turn back, Christopher Jones, the ships Master, assured all the vessel was "strong and firm under water." He ordered the beam to be secured. It was hoisted into place by a great iron screw that, fortunately, the Pilgrims brought out of Holland. AND Upon raising the beam, they "committed themselves to the will of God and resolved to proceed." These 100 people; cold, wet -- on wooden ship in the middle of the ocean -- put their hope, trust and lives into the hands of God. The battered ship finally came within sight of Cape Cod on November 19, 1620. Two had died at sea and two had given birth. The Pilgrims scanned the shoreline just to the west of them and described it as, "a goodly land wooded to the brink of the sea," William Bradford writes, "AFTER LONG BEATINGS AT SEA THEY FELL WITH THAT LAND WHICH IS CALLED CAPE COD; AND THEY WERE NOT A LITTLE JOYFUL..."
Before going ashore they decided to write a document know as the Mayflower Compact.
At the heart of the compact lay an undisputed conviction that God must be at the center of all law and order and the law without a moral base is really no law at all.
The day the Pilgrims signed the May Flower Compact, according to William Bradford, "they came to anchor in the Bay, which was a good harbor...and they blessed the God of Heaven, who brought them over the fast and furious ocean... and a sea of trouble. And they read the following from the Geneva Bible (the Bible the Pilgrims used) "LET THEM, THEREFORE PRAISE THE LORD, BECAUSE HE IS GOOD AND HIS MERCIES ENDURE FOREVER."
This coming thursday we will be celebrating Thanksgiving Day... Many will be busy cooking turkeys, making stuffing, baking pumpkin pies.... and watching football games. And that is fun stuff -- it is important to get together with loved ones... But that is not what thanksgiving is really about -- it’s not about food and fun... it is about giving thanks to the Lord God Almighty.
We usually picture the first thanksgiving in America, as the time when the Pilgrims and the Indians got together for a great feast (though I really don’t know how they could of eaten pumpkin pie without cool whip). But I tend to look at that time when on the sea battered Mayflower anchored in the bay at Cape Cod, a group of weary and worn men and women were on their knees praising their God in heaven for bringing them safely through the treacherous sea to this new land, as the real first thanksgiving.
A. Todd Coget
[Courageous Fishers of Men, Citation: Eugene A Maddox, Interlachen, Florida; source: The Perfect Storm]
The movie, The Perfect Storm, well described the dangers of the fishing industry through the eyes of the crew of the fishing boat, the Andrea Gail.
Out of their need to bring home an excellent catch of fish, the captain and crew decide to risk everything and travel as far as the remote but fertile fishing ground called the Flemish Cap. It is an especially dangerous trek during the unpredictably stormy month of October.
On their way back to Gloucester, Massachusetts, the Andrea Gail encounters the "perfect storm" of 1991 and is never heard from again.
While improvements in shipbuilding, navigational technology, weather-reporting and rescue support have made boating safer, fishing has become, if anything, a more lethal occupation, killing more of its workers per capita than any other job in the United States.
"There are many kinds of work that are dangerous, but one of the interesting things about fishing is that it really hasn’t changed much over time," says The Perfect Storm author Sebastian Junger. "It’s been mechanized, of course, but the basic reality of going to sea for months at a stretch is the same as it was 100 years ago. You’re way beyond help from anyone else; you’re on your own. I think that forms a certain kind of character. Not only does everyone know someone who has died at sea but everyone who works in the fishing industry has almost died. Every single fisherman you talk to has almost gotten nailed at one time or another."
It takes courage to be a fisherman. And it takes courage to fish for the souls of people.
I read a recent magazine article about a pastor and his encounter with some unbelievers while having breakfast. Here is how he tells the story: “My wife and I were vacationing in Estes Park, Colorado, and had breakfast in a coffee shop. It was empty except for four men at another table. One was mocking Christianity; in particular, the resurrection of Christ. He went on and on about what a stupid teaching that was. I could feel the Lord asking me: ‘Are you going to let this go unchallenged?’ However I was thinking, But I don’t even know these guys. He’s bigger than me. He’s got cowboy boots on and looks tough. I was agitated and frightened about doing anything. But I knew I had to stand for Jesus. Finally, I told Susan to pray. I took my last drink of water and went over and challenged him. With probably a squeaky voice, I said, ‘I’ve been listening to you, and you don’t know what you’re talking about ’ I did my best to give him a flying rundown of the proofs for the resurrection. He was speechless, and I was half dead. I must have shaken for an hour after that. But I had to take a stand. We cannot remain anonymous in our faith forever. God has a way of flushing us out of our quiet little places, and when he does we must be ready to speak for him.”
Now I admire this pastor’s courage and his determination to be a witness, regardless of how difficult it was. A lot of Christians would have just sat there in fear or fumed, thinking about how terrible the things were that these men were saying. I realize that I have the opportunity of looking back with hindsight on the situation, but I wonder if there wasn’t another possible approach that may have been more positive, and perhaps had more impact, than rattling off a list of rational arguments for the resurrection. It seems to me that he missed the most important and impressive proof of the resurrection — his own life. I wonder if it would not have been more effective to walk over to the men at the table and say something like this: “You know, I couldn’t help but overhear your conversation, and found it very interesting. If you don’t mind, I would like to pay for all of your breakfasts. The reason I want to do this is that, because of the resurrection, Jesus Christ has changed my life and lives in me, and wants to communicate his tremendous love for you.”
Rational arguments do not change people, changed lives do. Changed lives change the lives of others, and thereby change the world. It is how we challenge the unbelief of a skeptical world. But not only would it possibly have been a stronger witness, it would have been an excellent use of money to buy their breakfasts. I think the point in what Jesus was saying in our Scripture reading this morning was that people are always the priority. Helping people, whether physically or spiritually, is to be given priority over serving ourselves — especially when it comes to money. But money is usually our last holdout in our walk with God. It is what we surrender last. As you grow in the Christian life you realize that it is not your money anyway. Everything you own already belongs to God. It is a gift, a loan from him.
PLEASURE COMES FROM PAIN
The world's best cyclist, Lance Armstrong, says this about pain:
I become a happier man each time I suffer.
Suffering is as essential to a good life, and as inextricable, as bliss. The old saying that you should live each day as if it’s your last is a nice sentiment, but it doesn’t work. Take it from me. I tried it once, and here’s what I learned: If I pursued only happiness, and lived just for the moment, I’d be a no-account with a perpetual three-day growth on my chin. Cancer taught me that.
Before cancer, whatever I imagined happiness to be, pretty soon I wore it out, took it for granted, or threw it away. A portfolio, a Porsche, a coffee machine--these things were important to me. So was my hair. Then I lost them, including the hair. When I was 25, I was diagnosed with advanced testicular cancer, which had metastasized into my lungs and brain. I sold the car, gave up my career as a world-class cyclist, lost a good deal of money, and barely hung on to my life.
When I went into remission, I thought happiness would mean being self-indulgent. Not knowing how much time I had left, I did not intend to ever suffer again. I had suffered months of fear, chemotherapy so strong it left burn marks under my skin, and surgery to remove two tumors. Happiness to me then was waking up.
I ate Mexican food, played golf, and lay on the couch. The pursuit of happiness meant going to my favorite restaurant and pursuing a plate of enchiladas with tomatillo sauce.
But one day my wife, Kristin, put down her fork and said, "You need to decide something: Are you going to be a golf-playing, beer-drinking, Mexican-food-eating slob for the rest of your life? If you are, I’ll still love you. But I need to know, because if so, I’ll go get a job. I’m not going to sit at home while you play golf."
I stared at her.
"I’m so bored," she said.
Suddenly, I understood that I was bored, too. The idleness was forced; I was purposeless, with nothing to pursue. That conversation changed everything. I realized that responsibility, the routines and habits of shaving in the morning with a purpose, a job to do, a wife to love, and a child to raise--these were the things that tied my days together and gave them a pattern deserving of the term living.
Within days I was back on my bicycle. For the first time in my life, I rode with real strength and stamina and purpose. Without cancer, I never would have won a single Tour de France. Cancer taught me a plan for more purposeful living, and that in turn taught me how to train and to win more purposefully. It taught me that pain has a reason, and that sometimes the experience of losing things--whether health or a car or an old sense of self--has its own value in the scheme of life. Pain and loss are great enhancers.
People ask me why I ride my bike for six hours a day; what is the pleasure? The answer is that I don’t do it for the pleasure. I do it fo...
TALE OF TWO KINGS
Two of the greatest love stories ever told. The one, at Camelot; the other, at Calvary. Two of the noblest kings ever to live. The one, King Arthur; the other, King of the Jews. The one is adorned with a jeweled crown; the other, with a crown of thorns.
The comparisons and contrasts between Camelot and Calvary are many, but one scene from Camelot illustrates a great theological dilemma that only the cross could resolve.
Prior to His appointment with destiny on the brow of that fateful hill, Jesus agonized in the Garden of Gethsemane: "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done" (Lk. 22:42).
Understand, on an emotional level, that this is the pleading of a son to his father. If your child came to you in such agony, wouldn’t you do everything within your power to grant the request?
But this Father, this time, didn’t respond as expected. And that’s the theological rub. He denied the request of His Son, His only Son, His beloved Son. In Gethsemane, that Son was asking:
"Is there no other way?"
The Son is betrayed, arrested, deserted, denied, beaten, tried, mocked, and finally crucified. Tacitly, the Father answers:
"No, there is no other way."
But why? Why was there no other way?
We find the answer to that question in a scene from Camelot, where the adulterous relationship between Queen Guenevere and Arthur’s most trusted knight, Sir Lancelot, has divided the Round Table. When the scheming Mordred catches them in a clandestine encounter, Lancelot escapes. Guenevere is not so fortunate. She faces a trial. The jury finds her guilty and sentences her to the flame.
As the day of execution nears, people come from miles around with one question in their minds: Would the king let her die?
Mordred gleefully captures the complexity of Arthur’s predicament:
Arthur! What a magnificent dilemma!
Let her die, your life is over;
Let her live, your life’s a fraud.
Which will it be, Arthur?
Do you kill the queen or kill the law?
Tragically but resolutely, Arthur decides: "Treason has been committed! The jury has ruled! Let justice be done!"
High from the castle window stands Arthur, as Guenevere enters the courtyard. She walks to her unlit stake, where the executioner stands with waiting torch. Arthur turns away, emotion brimming in his eyes.
A herald mounts the tower where Arthur has withdrawn: "The queen is at the stake, Your Majesty. Shall I signal the torch?"
But the king cannot answer.
Arthur’s love for Jenny spills from his broken heart: "I can’t! I can’t! I can’t let her die!"
Seeing Arthur crumble, Mordred relishes the moment: "Well, you’re human after all, aren’t you, Arthur? Human and helpless."
Tragically, Arthur realizes the truth of Mordred’s remark. Being only human, he is indeed helpless. But where this story ends, the greatest story ever told just begins.
Another Execution Scene.
Another time. Another place. Another king.
The setting: A world lies estranged from the God who loves it. Like Genevere, an unfaithful humanity stands guilty and in bondage, awaiting judgment’s torch.
Could God turn His head from the righteous demands of the law and simply excuse the world’s sin? If not, then could He turn His head from the world He loved? Would the king burn Guenevere?
Like the wicked Mordred, Satan must have looked on in delight:
God! What a magnificent dilemma!
Let them die, Your life is over;
Let them live, Your life’s a fraud;
Which will it be, God?
Do You kill Your world or do You kill the law?
Without even waiting for His Guenevere to look up in repentance, the King stepped down from His throne, took off His crown, laid aside His royal robes, and descended His castle’s polished steps into humanity’s pockmarked streets. Paul’s words in Philippians are thought by some scholars to be the lyrics of an ancient hymn, singing about the King of kings.
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-even death on a cross! Phil. 2:6-8
That scene in the movie was an epiphany of understanding. Suddenly, it all made sense. We know now why He had to die, why there was no other way.
When love and justice collide, only the cross offers a happy ending.
Source: Abridged excerpt from Ken Gire’s book Windows of the Soul. Copyright © 1996 by Ken Gire, Jr. Zondervan Publishing Houses.
“Passing Through The Shadows!” 1 Corinthians 11:23-34 Key verse(s): 26:“‘For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes’.”
“Smile and the world smiles with you! Cry and you cry alone.” Walking through life with a smile on our faces is something to hope for, isn’t it? Life it far too short to be all gloom and sadness. Like the old song says, if you smile you draw crowds. When you cry you draw isolation and loneliness.
From an early age on we are taught not be be gloomy. There’s something about being around a person who is sad that simply repels us. Most of us will resort to nothing less than our best efforts to either avoid the gloom or change it somehow. Recently I returned home from a long day at the office dragging pretty much everything that I had encountered that day behind me. As I slipped in through the garage door into the entry way, so slipped in the meeting that had not gone well, the invoice that turned out to be more than I had planned, and the angry telephone call I had taken. Plop, they landed on the floor right beside my briefcase. Somehow I knew they were still there because even when I tried to refocus my thoughts on home and family, all I could think of was the office. I guess it was pretty evident on my face as I walked into the kitchen, shuffling across the floor in my slippers, mostly looking past my children and wife. They could see it written all over my face. “Had a bad day, huh?” “Yeah, the worst!” And I plunged into a lengthy dissertation on the woes of the day; moving back and forth between diatribe and regret. They had had a great day but now, as they listened to my woes, somehow their days had not been as good as they had thought. In fact, it wasn’t long before they were able to match woe for woe with the “king of woes”. My sorrow had magically become their sorrow. My sorrow like a drop of black ink in water slowly spread its inky murk throughout their clear and sunny day. “Gloom and doom, meet happy and promising!” Like that bothersome gab that grabs your hand and makes it serve as a sort of freeway for their emotions, gloom and doom simply won’t let go until they have poured themselves into you completely.
Carry our sorrow and laying it on others is not a very good idea. Yet, how can one be happy all the time? Isn’t there ever a place for sorrow, at least to balance out the brilliance of the light from time to time? In northern Chile, between the Andes Mountains and the Pacific Ocean, lies a narrow strip of land where the sun shines every day! Clouds gather so seldom over the valley that one can say, “It almost never rains here!” Morning after morning the sun rises brilliantly over the tall mountains to the east. Each noon it shines brightly overhead, and every evening it brings a picturesque sunset. Although storms are often seen rising high in the mountains, and heavy fog banks hand their gray curtains far over the sea, Old Sol continues to shed his warming rays upon this “favored” and protected strip of territory. One might imagine this area to be an earthly paradise, but is far from that! It is a sterile and desolate wilderness! There are no streams of water, and nothing grows there.
We often long for total sunshine and continuous joy in life, and we desire to avoid the heartache that bring tears to our eyes. Like that sunny, unfertile part of Chile, however, life without clouds and even an occasional downpour would not be productive or challenging. But though showers do come, they will also end, and the sun will shine again. “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5). (Our Daily Bread.)
Total sunshine in life? Let’s face it. That is never going to happen. In fact, there will always be a proper place for sorrow in life. I’m not talking about the impertinent spreading of your own personal gloom on people. Nobody needs that. No, I’m talking about the godly sorrow that leads to repentance and forgiveness of sins. When Jesus passed the cup to his disciples and broke the bread between his fingers at that last communing supper together, His soul was filled with a kind of sorrow that was truly appropriate and necessary for the moment. His soul was, as Martin Luther put it, “empty, single, and hungry”. His soul was prepared for the task ahead and He was demonstrating to His disciples how that sorrow could and would turn into joy. But first it must pass through the shadows and dwell in the darkness of sin. Here the soul must weep and by that invisible cleansing be able to behold more clearly the land of sweet light and happiness that awaits it if only it can endure the sorrow for but a short time longer. Yes, there is a time for sorrow when we rightly park our joy and walk some distance away from the light toward the shadowland where we find the source of that nagging that is constantly beating upon the doors of our souls. Here we too shall find the emptiness that makes preparation for being filled.