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Blogs I Follow

The Presidents Club

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The Surest Defense Against Evil

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The Triumph of Grace

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Contemplating God’s Sovereignty

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How Should We Then Live?

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Not a Timid Christianity

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Finishing the Race

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Because the Time is Near

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Revelation Song (YouTube)

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Where The Wind Blows

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Doing Great Things

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Recognizing a False Prophet

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The Power of Forgiveness

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Created for Relationships

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The Only Way I Know

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Faith: The Misunderstood Doctrine

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Our True Home Address

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‘Tis the Season . . . for L-O-V-E

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The Paris Terrorist Attack and the Problem of Evil

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Cherry Picking 101

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Love Sweet Love

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So Goes The Culture

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Idols of the Heart

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Divisions Are Not Always Bad

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The Resurrection of Jesus Christ

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Taking Action

take-actionIn an email communication with a friend this morning who was trying to make a decision whether or not to “speak truth to power” or just remain civil, I mentioned to him that I felt that sometimes speaking truth to power is about as effective as beating a dead horse. That is not to say that we shouldn’t ever speak truth to power, but mostly not to expect for it to change anyone (or to be pleasantly surprised if it does even in the tiniest of ways). In my case (and I have absolutely no power), I related his query to my experience being unemployed for over five years now and vacillating (still, after all of this time) between the two opposites of anger and forgiveness. However, since moving back to Orlando just under one month ago, I have felt the anger part of it just getting way too old to hang onto besides the fact that I never had a chance to speak truth to power back when I was fired anyway.

However, with that being said, you have no idea how very tired I am of being in limbo for over five years now, no matter how hard I’ve been trying to get out of limbo. There are some things in this life we can’t totally do on our own (probably most things if we stop to think about it), and I can’t force anyone to hire or help me. But I am very tired of being angry about it (e.g., the situation that caused all of this to happen in the first place).

I did tell my friend that I was tired of wishing I had never heard of that job or applied for it or–the worst part–accepting it. Yet I know that God knows why it all happened, but He hasn’t clued me in yet (but I am always hopeful in a Hebrews 11 sort of way). And then I added, “So maybe being civil is best. Who knows anyway?”

One thing I mentioned to him that I had noticed in the past five years is just how much genuine compassion for others seems to be missing in this world of ours. “Being nice” (which is often more times than not just a cover-up and not genuine hospitality) has often replaced genuine kindness and showing authentic compassion to others in less fortunate situations or circumstances. I told him that I could write a book (but won’t) on the stigma of being long-term unemployed for over five years now in one of the most prosperous countries in the world and how money trumps people 10-to-1 nowadays (that statistic is probably much higher on the money end of it). The love of money has produced a remarkable number of folks who lack compassion for others and whose bottom line is always about the almighty dollar, no matter what they say or what (or Who) they claim to believe in. And as the old saying goes, “actions speak louder than words” . . .

 . . . Which brings me to the “action” part of that saying. As a Christian, I know that faith without deeds (or action) is dead (see James 2:14-26). In fact, in verse 17 James clearly stated, “In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” And he goes on to give the following examples in verses 21-26:

“. . . do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.

“In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.”

One of the best things to come out of my return to Orlando (and there are several) is that I am back attending the church I attended when I lived in Orlando previously (from 1997-2004) before leaving Orlando for a job in another city in Florida. In two of the messages over the past four weeks that were given by the senior pastor, who has been there for 29 years now and is one of my all time favorite pastors, he mentioned in the context of the message the ability to move on from the past (in the first one) and letting go of anger (in the second). While the concepts are not new to me as I’ve been struggling with both since that day in Houston when I lost my job five years ago, the fact that the two were brought home to me in rapid succession during my first month back in Orlando has not been lost on me. In other words, they were “points well taken.” Unfortunately between the first message and the second I experienced the 5th anniversary of the day I got fired five years ago which wasn’t altogether pleasant and brought back the anger all over again not to mention the sheer frustration of living in limbo for all this time. However, the second message that referenced the “letting go of the anger” was just delivered this past Sunday after the anniversary date had passed.

Take-action-now-As this week progressed, a sobering “quiet” has filled the place where the anger and frustration had been. I still haven’t got a clue how to get out of this limbo-land I’ve been living in for far too long now, but I am tired of the anger that really only affects me and it doesn’t change my circumstances. Also, I never took my anger at my situation out on others but rather in the confines of my own apartment when no one else was present and the frustration got to be too much. And that anger usually presented itself in the use of rather colorful language (unfortunately, those words are in common use in America nowadays in many settings and prolifically in our Hollywood-type movie producing culture). I was also reminded this week about what James had to say in his first chapter of the book named for him (James 1:2-27):

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.

Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position. But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower. For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business.

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.

When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not product the righteousness that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.

Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires” (vv. 19-20). While I never took out my anger on others but only in the confines of my apartment when I was alone, that anger does not produce in me what God desires for me, and it just kept the entire situation festering within me. And while this ongoing saga of living in limbo-land due to long-term unemployment has been one of the hardest trials of my life, many times I did not consider it “pure joy” as James starts out telling us in Chapter 1 regarding how to respond to the trials that come our way.

There have been many times over the past five plus years during this long term trial of mine where it has produced a number of miracles (which I have talked about in previous blog posts), but the underlying frustration never seemed to disappear as I waited for the end of this trial to come (and I’m still waiting). And every time I thought I had a handle on the whole anger/forgiveness issue something would happen to let me know how deep that anger still ran. While I can’t speak for anyone else, I found over time that unresolved anger can wear me out at times, and I had reached that point by the time I landed in Orlando almost four weeks ago.

“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” (v. 22). Those are some serious words. Who among us wants to be deceived? I know I sure don’t. And there is enough going on in this world that can deceive us without causing it ourselves. When I heard Pastor Joel talk about letting go of the anger, I knew it was time to really let it go, but I had tried so many times over the past five years that I just wasn’t sure how to let it go except to stop getting so upset periodically about the situation when I am alone (which is when it happens). And it’s been a quiet and sobering week as a result.

Taking action not only means actually doing something, but also means to actually stop doing something that is harmful to us and/or to others. James made it quite clear that trials and temptations come to all of us, and there isn’t any time limit on how long they will last or how many we will have to endure throughout our lifetime. And the purpose of those trials is to produce perseverance (see James 1:2-12). It’s our faith in action.

While I can’t change anyone else regardless of the situations or circumstances, I can change myself, with God’s help. And He’s made it quite clear that He will give us His help (His wisdom) without finding fault if we ask for it and not doubt (James 1:2-7). It’s there for the asking at any time. If you find yourself in a situation or circumstance right now that you don’t understand or know how to get through, take that first course of action right now . . .

Ask God for His wisdom and don’t doubt . . .

And He will generously give it to you . . .

Without finding fault . . . .

YouTube Video: “Not Alone” (2013) by Salvador:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

 

 

Finishing the Race

The finish lineNear the end of his life, the Apostle Paul wrote these words to his young protégé, Timothy, in 2 Timothy 4:7, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” From the time of Paul’s conversion to Jesus Christ in 37 AD (see Acts 9) until his death as a martyr thirty years later in 67 or 68 AD, he “ran the race” and never stopped even in the midst of severe and ongoing persecution. Let’s read from his own account in 2 Cor. 11:24-29:

Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?

Before Paul’s own conversion to Jesus Christ on the Damascus Road (see Acts 9), he persecuted and approved of the murder of Christians and was proud of it. He “came from a well-respected family in Asia Minor (Turkey today) where his father was an official. He excelled in his studies and became a devout Pharisee. As a young man Paul–whose Jewish name was Saul–was sent to Jerusalem to study under the great teacher Gamaliel. He hated Christians and participated in the first execution of a Christian leader, a man named Stephen. Paul was determined to murder all those who followed Jesus, not just in Jerusalem, but elsewhere (Acts 7:54-8:3)” (quote source: The Life of the Apostle Paul pamphlet published by Rose Publishing). Of course, Jesus Christ dramatically changed the direction of his life on the Damascus Road as he was on his way to persecute more Christians, and he was never the same after that experience. He went from being the arch-enemy of Christianity to it’s greatest missionary and he is also known as the Apostle to the Gentiles.”

The Apostle Paul was never one to shy away from controversy, and the same zeal he used to persecute Christians as a Pharisee, he used to serve the very cause he sought to destroy–Christianity. Jesus Christ made all the difference, and he never looked back after the day he met Jesus on the Damascus Road. He went from being esteemed and respected as a Pharisee (“living the good life” as we might say today), to becoming an outcast who was beaten, shipwrecked, stoned, imprisoned, betrayed by friends and false believers over and over again during the course of the thirty years following his conversion until his death (see 2 Cor. 11:24-29). And during that time he wrote a quarter of the New Testament in his thirteen letters, and he made the following statement that echoes down through the centuries to us today when he stated in Philippians 3:8-15:

What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.

I wonder how often we as Christians count “everything as loss” compared to the “surpassing worth” of knowing and following after Jesus Christ. The point was brought home this morning when I read a devotion titled, “Life is a Marathon,” by David Jenkins, a retired Southern Baptist pastor and freelance writer, in Open Windows published by LifeWay Publicationsand he wrote the following (devotional passage is taking from James 1:12-15):

Life is a Marathon

“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because,
having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life
that the Lord has promised to those who love him.”
~
James 1:12

As pastor of the first-century Jerusalem church, James reminded his fellow believers that all would be tempted, and that temptation, not resisted, followed a deadly path. It begins within us as desire, and then it becomes sin, which unchecked, becomes a real killer. Every believer is involved in a race–a spiritual marathon. Obstacles and detours into sin are always present. But God provides us the strength to endure, and He will reward us at the finish line with “the crown of life.”

A high school athlete, who had trained faithfully, was determined to win the trophy for the fastest runner in the marathon competition. On the last lap, he stumbled and sprained his ankle. His coach and trainer ran out to support him, but he waved them away. Suffering great pain, he hobbled across the finish line in last place. He received more cheers from the crowd than the first place winner because of his heart and endurance.

The Christian life is indeed a marathon, and Satan’s weapon of choice against us is temptation. We prove our faith and love for Christ through our endurance, gaining strength as we overcome temptation.

~Father, make us sensitive to temptation today,
and give us strength to endure to the end.~

It's time to get out of neutral!

It’s time to get out of neutral!

While most of us are not called to endure many of the hardships that the Apostle Paul endured over the thirty years of his ministry on earth, as followers of Jesus Christ we are called to endure the hardships that do come our way in whatever form they present themselves. And we who are Christian are called to run that race to the finish line, keeping the faith as our ancestors did before us (see Hebrews 11). And faith requires perseverance and endurance as our “faith in action” (see James 2:14-16).

In an article titled, Becoming a People of Perseverance in a ‘Now’ Generation, Part 1 (Part 2 is available at this link), by Bernard Messing, national lead facilitator for SVM2 in Cameroon, he defines perseverance and endurance as follows:

Let’s define perseverance as “steady persistence in adhering to a course of action, a belief, or a purpose; steadfastness,” endurance as “the act, quality, or power of withstanding hardship or stress,” but in another second definition we define endurance as “the state or act of persevering.”

While they are synonyms and each word carries in it the idea of “continuance,” perseverance lays stress on a given course of action in the face of difficulty or opposition. Endurance perhaps more strongly adds the idea of continuing under resistance or the adversities of life, to carry on in spite of hardships.

Patience refers to the quality of enduring pain, hardship, provocation, or annoyance with calmness. Either perseverance, endurance or patience all are qualities of Christ-likeness (quote source here).

In our “instant access” and prosperous society here in America (whether or not we as individuals are prosperous) it’s easy–in fact, far too easy–to succumb to the temptations presented to us to the point of where we show little or no resistance at all anymore. We just “give in” (and no, I’m not going to list any specific temptations as you know what I mean). In other words, instead of “running the race” we’ve been given to run as followers of Jesus Christ, we often “coast in neutral,” instead, to our detriment. And we take ourselves out of the running by caving into temptation over and over again.

And it’s time to get out of neutral . . . .

We are called, like Paul, to finish the race and finish it well. And Hebrews 12:1-2 tells us how to do it, too . . .

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses (see Hebrews 11), let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

So instead of coasting in neutral, let us throw off everything that hinders us along with the sin that so easily entangles us . . .

And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us . . .

Looking unto Jesus . . . always and forevermore . . .

Amen . . . .

YouTube Video: “Stay Strong” by the Newsboys:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

The Road to Emmaus Revisited

The Empty TombLast year between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday I wrote a blog post titled, On the Road to Emmaus,” and instead of writing a new post for this year, I decided to reblog that post from last year. You can read it at this link and I have also included it below.

Photo credit for photo above here

On the Road to Emmaus

On the road to EmmausI love taking road trips. There is something about being on the open road that is very freeing. One can leave the frustrations of life behind for a short while and be open to thinking about the more important things in life that are so often hidden behind a big pile of routine activities, pressing commitments, and worries or concerns that are currently clogging up our lives. It’s also a chance to take in the beauty that surrounds us that we so often miss in the daily grind of life.

This week is the week between Palm Sunday and Easter. The Jewish holiday of Passover is part of this week, too, and it derives its name from the last of ten plagues that struck the Egyptians in the book of Exodus (see Exodus 12) in which the firstborn of every Egyptian family was killed as well as the firstborn of Egyptian animals when the Angel of Death visited Egypt and “passed over” Hebrew homes, which had been marked with lambs’ blood on the doorposts (see source here for explanation of all ten plagues and the story behind them). It was this tenth plague that finally freed the Jewish people from 430 years of slavery under Egyptian rule. The significance of the Passover being at this time of year–between Palm Sunday which is the time of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem; His crucifixion on Good Friday culminating with His resurrection on Easter Sunday morning (e.g., the first day of the week) cannot be overlooked. Jesus Christ was (and is) the perfect Lamb of God, who was slain on the cross at Calvary as the ultimate sacrifice for sin, and rose again on the third day (commemorated on Easter Sunday each year). More information on how Jesus fulfilled the Passover can be found at this link.

Let’s fast forward a few days to Sunday morning and pick up the story on the morning of Jesus’ resurrection in Luke 24:1-12:

On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’” Then they remembered his words.

When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.

Notice that they did not believe what the women had told them because what they said appeared to be nonsense to them. Only Peter got up and ran to the tomb to see if what they said was really true, and when he saw that it was, he wondered what exactly had happened.

It was that very same day that two of them were traveling on the road to Emmaus when Jesus came up to them and started talked with them, but they did not recognize Him. Let’s pick up the story from Luke 24:13-35:

Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him.

He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”

They stood still, their faces downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”

“What things?” he asked.

“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.”

He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.

When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”

They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.

Jesus said I AM the Resurrection and the Life John 11v25As I read this story, I wondered how many times do we miss Jesus in the midst of all of our daily routines and activities whether they are work related or church related; leisure related or we’re busy building a career; or looking for love or finding someone to marry or going through the devastation of divorce; or raising a family or watching as family relationships slowly or not so slowly deteriorate; or building a business or watching as it dies in bankruptcy; constantly running to and fro–busy, busy, busy–following the throngs like everybody else running to and fro–busy, busy, busy. And the question again is, how many times do we miss Jesus in the midst of all of that activity?

Jesus came to give us life and to keep us free from endlessly pursuing a huge collection of “stuff” in things or people that we think will give us life. Even the richest person on the planet who has everything imaginable at his or her disposal will die (often from a health destroying disease caused from the stress of trying to keep all that stuff), and all that rushing around accumulating all that “stuff” will die with him or her and go to someone else who will die pursuing the same meaningless end.

Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). Ask yourself what it is that is eating away at your life and destroying you. And is it that important in your life that you won’t let go of it? You don’t have to let go, but the consequences will be staggering someday (and maybe sooner than later).

Jesus died to set us free–free from the trap of accumulating money and things and people; free from the need for power and prestige and control; free from selfishness and self serving ways and frantically pursuing a lifestyle that we think will bring us happiness but that only ends in death, both physical and eternal. This world is not as it appears on the surface . . . it’s a battleground (see Eph. 6:10-18). We are in a war . . . .

If you’re caught up in the vicious cycle of “more, more, more” and haven’t got a clue where it will all end, I challenge you to take some time this Easter Sunday, when Jesus rose from the grave to give us new life, and get alone and meet with Him. Take a drive out in the country, or go sit by a lake or a field or someplace far from all the activity of your normal, daily life if only for an hour or so. And take your Bible with you, and ask Him what He would have you to know about Him, and what He really wants for your life. You might be surprised at the answer. And don’t miss Him because of the unbelief in others or the status quo that surrounds your daily life and routine. “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God” (Romans 10:17).

Trust Him . . . . He can and will guide you safely through the maze if you let Him have total control.

Will you let Him have control?

YouTube Video: “Jesus Saves/Easter Song” sung by Northland Church Worship Team, April 12, 2009:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

In Transition

From the movie, "Last Chance Harvey" (2008)

From the movie, “Last Chance Harvey” (2008)

There’s a line at the end of the movie, Last Chance Harvey (2008), starring Dustin Hoffman as “Harvey” and Emma Thompson as “Kate,” that goes like this (you can read the plot for the movie at this link). As Kate and Harvey are slowly strolling down a sidewalk, Harvey invites Kate to ask him the questions she would have asked him earlier at the airport terminal in London where they first met (and he brushed her off), and this time when she asks him for his place of residence, he answers, “I’m in transition.”

I can soooooo relate to his answer. That’s the same place where I’ve been living for the past five years with a very recent change in location back to Orlando where I lived twice previously for total of 8 1/2 years (1 1/2 years the first time and 7 years the second time). I left after the second time ten years ago in 2004. My stay in Orlando this time may be brief or long term depending what unfolds in the next few days/weeks since it is not a job that brought me back to Orlando, but rather a kind offer from a friend living here who offered me her spare bedroom when I lost my apartment in the town where I had been living on the west coast of Florida (just north of the St. Pete/Clearwater area). I lived there for 4 1/2 years when new owners bought the house where my apartment was located and upped the rent considerably (see my last post, I Don’t Do Crazy Anymore for details).

I first watched Last Chance Harvey when it came out in the theaters around Christmas in 2008 when I was living and working in Houston. The movie “focuses on two lonely people who tentatively forge a relationship over the course of three days. Dustin Hoffman plays an American composer who loses his job and his position as father of the bride in the course of a single day overseas [in London] while Emma Thompson plays an airport worker with a jaundiced view of relationships” (quote source here). Harvey is divorced and living in New York, and fits in like a square peg in a round hole with his daughter and her fiancée who are living, working, and getting married in London, and his ex-wife, her current husband, and their friends; and Kate is a never-married single woman living in London who is “overly cautious about romance because of so many past disappointments”; however, by the end of the movie while she initially resists Harvey’s suggestion “that they see what the future might bring them,” she “finally agrees to give things a chance” (quote source here). She wasn’t sure how it would all work out as she lives in London and he is from White Plains, New York, but as the movie ends and she asks him for his current place of residence, he states he is “in transition.” In other words, he’s not going back to New York any time soon.

At this point in my life and for the past decade or so I’ve become very much like Emma, and, like her, I have a rather “jaundiced view of relationships.” I’ve often thought as the years passed by that the role of “wife” was one of the worst roles in America to be stuck with mostly because of all the husbands I ran into, especially in the workplace, who were “out there” looking for affairs. And when I was young it seemed like more married men were interested in me that single men. And the single men who were interested had roving eyes, too, and seemed to always be looking for someone better or prettier or sexier or whatever . . . . I suppose we have Hugh Hefner to thank for the proliferation of that attitude with his publishing of the first mainstream porn magazine the year after I was born–the infamous Playboy Magazine. Now the glut of that kind of stuff in print and online with 24/7 access (and exponentially more hardcore than old Hef has ever published) has gone mainstream and rivals heroin or cocaine in its addicting capabilities. Just try to take porn away from some men and they get angry. And some of them will even yell that it’s their right to have it. Whatever . . . .

Sigh . . . . So I totally stopped dating nine years ago. For one thing, I couldn’t handle the total disrespect I got from men, mostly divorced and older than me at that point in time and who expected sex on the first date or shortly thereafter. And for them it wasn’t about a relationship either (most swore off any real relationship after their divorce). No, it was about sex, and if I wouldn’t do it, they weren’t interested in relating to me. So I stopped dating. Period. End of discussion . . . . I never cared to be “the latest one” in a long line of “serial lovers” or dating guys who had other women on the side. And I’m not a vending machine, either. And my life became a lot more peaceful until I lost my job in Houston five years ago.

It’s not like five years of unemployment hasn’t been hard enough to navigate, but adding a relationship to the mess seemed rather pointless, even though it gets incredibly lonely as long term unemployment has a way of isolating those who are left in its wake (and that’s a discussion for a whole different blog post which I doubt I ever write). And I had no interest in getting involved with someone just so that my own financial or housing situation might improve. I’ve never been into trading sex for love or money or even a roof over my head.

What brought this whole subject to mind was a recent picture I saw on Linkedin.com of a fellow I knew when I worked at that ill-fated job in Houston. He had a striking resemblance to a man I met 40 years ago (actually 39 and counting) when I was stationed in South Korea in the U.S. Army. Long story short I was going to marry him (although I wasn’t in love with him but he said he was in love with me). It was the summer/fall of 1974 and I was all of 22 and he was nine years older than me. He said he was divorced and had two kids (back in the states, obviously). And he asked me to marry him on several occasions and even bought me a little “pre” engagement ring (like a promise ring that was popular back then) until we both got back to the states. Fast forward a year (we were both back in the states by then) and I discovered, quite by accident, that he had never divorced his first wife. He was still married.

And I left him . . . .

waiting-295150I continued dating (dismally) through my 20’s (I hated being a part of that whole free-love hippie generation that made sex a free-for-all and respect for anybody became nonexistent), and as I hit 30, I met my second fiancée in a bookstore at a mall. He was divorced with kids (his ex-wife had custody of them and he really was divorced). He was five years older than me and was a self-employed social worker who traveled around the state doing social work at assisted living communities. He was also a narcissist, big time. Everything was always all about him or centered around his needs and wants. While we all tend to lean towards selfishness if it’s not kept in check, he absolutely worshipped himself. And it got really, really old. I found out later that he also “assisted” some of the nurses working in those communities. I wasn’t in love with him, either, but it was the year my mother’s health took a turn for the worse and she died, and he temporarily filled the void (or so I thought) in my life after my mother’s funeral. However, I called off the wedding six weeks before it was to take place (and I didn’t find out about the nurses until after he was out of my life, but to be honest it was no surprise).

After I broke off the engagement to this second guy I was never engaged to anyone again, but in my 30’s leading up to the time I turned 40 and moved to Florida (after accepting the one-year doctoral fellowship at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale), I met a man 17 years older than me and we struck up a friendship that is hard to describe. He was an architect and also an academic as he headed up the architectural drafting program at a local community college. I was mainly attracted to him because of his intelligence, but knew he was too old for me from a romantic standpoint, and I wasn’t attracted to him in that way anyway. He was very supportive of me when I decided to go back to college and work on a master’s degree at Iowa State University which I received in 1991 and excited for me when I was awarded the doctoral fellowship at Nova Southeastern University and moved to Florida in June 1992.

When I first met him he said he was divorced and told me about his married daughter who was ten years younger than me, but I never met her. He was like a supportive mentor to me, and I knew he was physically involved with other women on the side but my relationship with him wasn’t primarily physical (though we would have arguments over that). I wasn’t attracted to him in that way, but I did become emotionally attached to him. He stated from the start that he was not interested in getting married again (and I wasn’t even totally sure he was divorced from his wife but it was clear that they didn’t live together). And because of our age difference and the fact that I wasn’t physically attracted to him, I had no interest in marrying him.

Over those years we spent a lot of our social time in restaurant bars like Chi Chi’s and sometimes in neighborhood bars, and over time I became aware of the fact that he was an alcoholic but it was hard to tell (except for the quantity that he could consume) until he had too much, and then he could be verbally abusive. At some point he told me he did have a problem with alcohol but that he stopped drinking hard liquor years earlier and only drank beer and wine during the time I knew him. But he drank gallons of beer every week and we could never eat at a restaurant unless they served beer or wine. Also, in his kitchen at the end of every week he’d built what I called his “Monument to Budweiser from the empty beer cans he consumed during each week and it was always several feet high. Well, he was an architect.

We kept in touch by phone the first year I was in Florida and he came to visit me once. His beer consumption during that visit was just as it had always been and when he left to go back to Iowa, I knew it would be our last contact (and it was). I had outgrown the emotional attachment to him that first year in Florida, but I always wished him well. In some ways he was like a father figure to me, especially when he was so supportive regarding my going back to college to get a master’s degree and when I was awarded the one-year doctoral fellowship in Florida. And during the seven years I knew him, I didn’t feel pressured to “date” other guys (although he didn’t care) and it provided me with a perfect excuse to not date guys who asked me that I didn’t want to date, as I was so tired of dating guys who always expected sex at some point. It just got old beyond words.

I haven’t thought about any of these three main men in my life back in Iowa and in the Army in a long time until I saw that picture of the fellow who worked where I worked in Houston on Linkedin.com the other day. And the memories came flooding back yesterday and today. I wasn’t in love with any of them. In fact, I’m not sure what romantic love even feels like, or is supposed to feel like. There’s a lot of sex going on out there, but I’m not so sure love is attached to most of it. In fact, I’m pretty sure it’s not. Years and years ago one of my brothers told me I would just “know” it was love when the right guy came along, and after all these years I guess I’m still waiting. . . .

Of course, it complicates things being unemployed. For one thing nobody wants to be around a long term unemployed person for long for any reason. Wonder if they think it might rub off on them if they do hang out with the unemployed (e.g., by losing their own jobs). In case you want to know, we are as human as anybody else; we just can’t find work for whatever reason, and there are millions just like me out there, in all age-ranges and ethic groups.

So here I am, back in Orlando after ten years absence. I have no idea what’s in store for me here or even how long I might be here since it wasn’t a job that brought me back to Orlando this time but rather losing the only place I’ve lived for the past four plus years on the other side of Florida. Talk about being “in transition” . . . .

I may have been unlucky in love all these years, but I was very good at what I did for a living until I lost it, through no fault of my own, five years ago in Houston. I’d like to be able to move on . . . and not to someone’s spare bedroom (as grateful as I am for that, and I am), but to a life of my own again . . . . so let’s see if it happens in Orlando.

After all, this is my third time living in Orlando . . .

And you know how that saying goes . . .

Third time’s a charm . . . .

YouTube Video: “Cruisin'” (2000) by Gwyneth Paltrow & Huey Lewis:

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I Don’t Do Crazy Anymore

“I Don’t Do Crazy Anymore” by Dr. Joel C. Hunter

I used to live in Orlando, Florida. In fact, I lived there twice. The second time I lived there was from 1997 to 2004. And, surprisingly enough, I’m back in Orlando again and staying temporarily in a friend’s home. At the end of March I had to move out of my apartment in an old house where I had been living for 4+ years just north of the St. Pete/Clearwater area in Florida due to the fact that new owners purchased the house in late December 2013 and significantly increased the rent I was paying to the previous owners.

Extensive renovations of the house and property (except for my apartment and one other apartment in the house) have been ongoing since the second week in January to include a new roof and paint job. Due to the significant increase in rent and the fact that I have been unable to find employment in that area during the 4 1/2 years I have lived there, I gave my notice of intent to move out of the apartment before the rent increase took effect on February 1st. Due to an unusually cold and wet winter I ended up staying until the end of March, but was told that since I did give official notice in January the extension could not go beyond the end of March, and I was told that they had already found a tenant who signed a lease for the apartment to move in after renovations are completed (but the renovations wouldn’t start until after I had moved out). They were also going to be increasing the rent again at that time after the renovations are completed by another $150/mo. on top of the $100/mo. increase I had to pay for February and March. And that was way too rich for my blood as an unemployed person with no income who really doesn’t want to be unemployed anymore (and I never found a job there, either).

About a month ago a friend in Orlando offered me the spare bedroom in her home if I wanted to come back to Orlando. It was a generous offer and I told her I would consider it if I could not find an apartment where I was currently living at the time. I spent the rest of March trying to find an apartment within my budget and while I found several “senior apartment complexes” in the area with reasonable rent for a one-bedroom apartment, none of them had a one-bedroom apartment available for April 1st. As the end of March quickly approached and I couldn’t find a one-bedroom apartment available within my budget (the only one I found that was available was in a complex where the rent was quoted at $775-875/mo.), I decided to take my friend in Orlando up on her kind offer.

I arrived in Orlando a few days ago and decided to attend a church I was a member of during the seven years when I lived there the second time. It is a very popular megachurch in Longwood, a suburb of Orlando, and the senior pastor has been there for almost 30 years now. Since I have not been attending church since 2011 in the area where I lived and I loved attending that church in Longwood during those seven years I lived in Orlando, and I knew they had built a new worship center/sanctuary not long after I left in 2004, I decided to attend one of the Sunday morning services this past Sunday.

Well, the new building is absolutely beautiful, and the sanctuary is very impressive. There is also a bookstore, a cafe, and a room called “The Hub” where folks can hang out and get connected to resources in the area and at the church. As I entered the sanctuary I sat near the front (I’ve never been a “back row” person). When the worship music started at the beginning of the service, I recognized several of the singers who were there years before, and when Pastor Joel came out to preach, it was like those ten years that I had been gone from Orlando just disappeared. After the service was over I visited with some folks and ended up in the bookstore (I’d rather buy books than clothes). One of the books that caught my eye was titled I Don’t Do Crazy Anymore (2011) by Pastor Joel (Dr. Joel C. Hunter) and I purchased it.

On the back cover of the book is this statement:

If you’re facing tragedy or loss, this book is for you. If you’re struggling to cope with difficult times and difficult people that are a part of everyday life, this book is for you.

Compact and compelling, “I Don’t Do Crazy Anymore” brings into focus the picture of who God really is and gives readers a deeper understanding of why He allows difficult people and circumstances into our lives . . . along with practical advice on how to deal with it all.

Love fear hate painThe book starts out with the heartrending story of when his little five-year-old granddaughter, Ava, died at the age of five over Labor Day weekend in 2010 from a very rare form of brain cancer that was only diagnosed ten weeks earlier. He talks about the crazy circumstances they struggled through and a few crazy folks in the mix, too, as they learned quickly how to face both of them in order to survive, and how they (and any of us going through dire circumstances) have to have an accurate understanding of who God really is (p. 12). And he uses the example of Job and his wife and friends in describing the two types of people we will run into during those very rough times (see pp. 11-15).

The book contains four chapters “based on a series of sermons preached by Pastor Joel that lead readers away from a life of fear and regret toward abundant life in Christ. He writes, “There are crazy times in this life, and there are crazy people in this life. But I’m not going to set my life according to crazy anymore” (quote from back cover of the book).

While I found Chapter 2 to be the most intriguing chapter (it’s titled “Dances With Wolves”), it was the last chapter, Chapter 4, titled “Public Enemies,” that most related to my experiences from my unemployment saga. In that chapter on page 38 he states:

The reason we have enemies is God has arranged them for our benefit. Romans 8:28 says, “All things . . . work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” The Spanish philosopher Baltasar Gracian said, “A wise man gets more use from his enemies than a fool from his friends.” So what benefit can enemies possibly add to our lives? Consider this: When we are attacked, when we are threatened, when we are hated, the first place we go to is our source of security. Our ultimate security lies in what God has already done for us, rather than in defending ourselves from what other people might do to us. When we are attacked, we rely on God, and we remember, “If God is for us, who is against us?” (Romans 8:31). “We are more than conquerors” (Romans 8:37 KJV). “No weapon that is formed against you will prosper.” (Isaiah 54:17).

“No weapon that is formed against you will prosper”. . . .  He also states that “our natural tendency when we’ve been hurt or threatened by our enemies is to take vengeance” and how, on the issue of forgiveness, “forgiveness is tough because it is inherently unfair” (see p. 36). And he states on p. 37:

Forgiveness is acknowledging who has hurt us and declaring that we now forgive them. Does that mean we somehow dismiss what they have done to us? No! Does that mean what they did to us was not important? Not at all! Does that mean somehow we have to be reconciled to them and are now their friends? No! It means we have determined, “I am not going to give them power over me anymore. I am not going to let them have my attention. I am not going to be preoccupied with them anymore.” When we make that declaration, it is done spiritually. Will a flash memory of it come back? Probably. We may have to renew our forgiveness. Matthew 18:21-22 says: “Then Peter came and said to Him, ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to  you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.'”

And then he adds on pp. 37-38:

Does forgiveness cost? It does. But unforgiveness costs way more. And when we don’t forgive, it harms our forgiveness with the Lord. In Matthew 6:12, when Jesus taught us to pray, He said, “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” In case we miss that correlation, He said in Matthew 6:15, “but if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” Are you really going to let your enemies take away your forgiveness? That’s a crazy way to live, and we don’t do crazy anymore.”

“We don’t do crazy anymore”. . . . As I have traveled through these past five years in my journey in the land of unemployment, I have mentioned in previous blog posts that the issue of forgiveness has been an ongoing venture for me. And forgiveness is tied into loving our enemies. In Chapter 1, Pastor Joel made this statement that “we need to understand that the opposite of love is not hate. It’s fear. Satan will always try to get us to be afraid. When Jesus walked in this world, he didn’t say, ‘Hate not’; He said, ‘Fear not.’ Our enemy is fear.” And while fear is definitely our enemy (and a big one, too), I do believe that our enemy is also hate. Hate runs deep, in ourselves and in our enemies. It is what sent Jesus Christ to the cross. It is why we judge others we don’t even know; it is why we condemn others. And there is a lot of hate walking around nowadays. Fear is often a subset of hate.

Anyway, it was wonderful to be back in the church I loved the most of all the churches I’ve attended since 1992 when I moved to Florida in the first place. It had a sort of feeling like “coming home” after being gone for ten years. And Pastor Joel has always been one of my very favorite pastors. It was great to see him again and listen to his sermon. And the worship music doesn’t get any better than what they produce at Northland (the church). If I end up staying in Orlando (and who knows at this point in time), I’ll make it my church home. After all, I went through their membership class and became a member back in September 2001, and even though I’ve been gone from there for ten years now, I found out on Sunday that once a person becomes a member they are a member for life. That’s good news!

As we all know, we don’t live in a perfect world. That won’t happen until Heaven. Difficult people and circumstances are everywhere, and they hit us when we least expect it. They can send us reeling and devastate our lives. I never expected to be unemployed for five years nor did I ever expect to get fired seven months after I took that job in Houston. After all, I had 20 years of successful professional experience in higher education before I landed in Houston to start that ill-fated job. But do I hate my enemies who caused me to lose that job? No, not at all . . . .

And do you know why I don’t hate them?

It’s because I don’t do crazy anymore . . .

As hate is a crazy way to live . . . .

Everybody’s got secrets, now you know that it’s true
They talk about me and they’ll talk about you
Something happens to the pledges of trust
Down through the years they begin to rust

Now here we are amid the tears and the laughter
Still waiting for our happily ever after
We’ll keep on dreamin’ as long as we can
Try to remember and you’ll understand

Ain’t no livin’ in a perfect world
There ain’t no perfect world anyway
Ain’t no livin’ in a perfect world
But we’ll keep on dreamin’ of livin’ in a perfect world
Keep on dreamin’ of livin’ in a perfect world

~From “Perfect World”–lyrics compliments of www.azlyrics.com~

YouTube Video: “Perfect World” by Huey Lewis and The News:

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Elihu Explains How God Delivers

God Provides Job 36v11It has been a while since I have reblogged another blogger’s post (see below for post), but I really like what Thought For the Day has to say in this post regarding the suffering and deliverance of Job and how Elihu explains how God delivers people from their suffering. Elihu was a young man full of wisdom who waited his time until it was the right time to speak to Job. His words are found in Job 32-37.

The Book of Job deals with the problem of suffering and the redemptive process through suffering. It is a book we can learn much from especially when our world suddenly turned upside down. After the words spoken by Elihu in Job 32-37, the Lord speaks to Job in Job 38-41. Some of the most humbling words spoken by the Lord in the Bible are found in those three chapters. And they completely humbled Job. They should humble us, too (see Job 38-41). Here is Job’s response (Job 42) and how the the Lord restored Job by blessing the latter half of his life with twice as much than he ever had before his suffering took place.

Job 42

Then Job replied to the Lord:

“I know that you can do all things;
    no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’
    Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
    things too wonderful for me to know.

“You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak;
    I will question you,
    and you shall answer me.’
My ears had heard of you
    but now my eyes have seen you.
Therefore I despise myself
    and repent in dust and ashes.”

Epilogue

7 After the Lord had said these things to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has. So now take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and sacrifice a burnt offering for yourselves. My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer and not deal with you according to your folly. You have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has.” So Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite did what the Lord told them; and theLord accepted Job’s prayer.

10 After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before. 11 All his brothers and sisters and everyone who had known him before came and ate with him in his house. They comforted and consoled him over all the trouble the Lord had brought on him, and each one gave him a piece of silver and a gold ring.

12 The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part. He had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen and a thousand donkeys. 13 And he also had seven sons and three daughters. 14 The first daughter he named Jemimah, the second Keziah and the third Keren-Happuch. 15 Nowhere in all the land were there found women as beautiful as Job’s daughters, and their father granted them an inheritance along with their brothers.

16 After this, Job lived a hundred and forty years; he saw his children and their children to the fourth generation. 17 And so Job died, an old man and full of years.

Photo credit here

Thought For the Day

Recently someone asked me why I share my study of Job so much? Am I fixated on suffering? I actually gave him two answers. First, I share it because, in my heart, it is the most important study I have ever written. If I had never written another study or message, I would have been satisfied. In this one study I touched my Father’s heart unlike anything before or after.

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