I saw a friend of mine post a picture on Instagram of her little girl playing in the fountain at Seattle Center. The caption read: "Squeezing every ounce of fun out of these last days of Summer."
I loved the quote and the thought it conveyed! We are certainly drawing close to the end of summer which means we are also drawing closer to Fall.
Personally, I feel that I know this friend well enough to know that the statement about Summer coming to an end is not a complaint but a statement of appreciation for this time of year. There is a hint there of anticipation for what is to come. At least that's how I read it - and is actually how I look at it. I always regret it myself when I have fallen into the negative place of whining about something I’ve enjoyed drawing to a close. It seems like a grumpy way to live. I think we should always strive to live in the awesome tension between appreciation for what is coming to a close and anticipation for what is to come.
It’s not always easy to do. It often requires us disciplining our thoughts and words. But how would you choose to view it? I think living in the tension between appreciation and anticipation is a much better way to live than the alternative of sadness over what is ending and anxiety or fear over what is to come. Don't you?
"O Lord, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. But I have calmed and quieted my soul....." Psalm 131:1-2.
What a powerful thought in this Psalm penned by David. It holds the secret of living in a place of peace and contentment. The Psalmist declares the elements of a disquieted soul is a heart lifted up, speaking of desires. He speaks of eyes that are raised to high, speaking of pride. And finally of dwelling on things to great or marvelous, speaking of things out of our understanding.
Desire is to be driven by our appetite for the things of this world. Pride is to be preoccupied with ourselves. Understanding is to seek control. I don't think it is hard to see why these things can spoil your sense of contentment and peace. The Psalmist says he had calmed and quieted his soul. The indication is that it is a personal choice to either live in calm or distress.
The third and final verse of that Psalm says, "O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time forth and forevermore."
The pull of desire, pride and control are to strong to resist if we don't choose to place our hope and trust in God.
I pray today you are finding a calm and quieted soul.
Today while I was at Starbucks doing some work, I noticed a little girl who was maybe 3 years old or possibly 4. She had two older sisters and her mom with her but they were all a little distracted, as the Starbucks was very busy and they had to stand in line for quite some time. You could tell that the Mom was keeping an eye on her but the little girl was not going to wait in line. So, the little girl found something to do. That something to do was opening and closing the door to the Starbucks. The door is one of those heavy, all glass doors wrapped in some sort of metal with those automatic door closers up top. Now, this girl was so tiny it took all of her strength to open the door. She would put both hands on the glass door and push with all her might to open the door and then she would let the door slowly close again, all the while leaving her hands on the door.
While watching her I got nervous several times and made myself ready to jump up and grab the door because I could just see her slipping or getting distracted by people walking in and out and those little fingers were going to get caught in that door. There were several moments that it came so close to happening but thankfully it didn't. Whew! Eventually her mom and sisters got through the line and took the little girl by the hand and they went on their way.
Now, I know we are nothing like God with His power to know in advance what is going to happen. However, it was a little reminder to me of the many times that my Heavenly Father was watching me open and close doors that could sooner or later smash my fingers, but He stayed at a safe distance prepared to act and intervene on my behalf. Now, there have been several moments in my life that God stood close by and went ahead and let my fingers get smashed. I hollered and cried, but I have to admit those moments were some of the best teaching moments in my life. Thankfully, there are probably many more moments that my fingers should have been caught but weren't because He was there to grab that door.
Anyone else out there with a few smashed finger stories?
With my computer out, my black Bible out, my notebook out and my ear plugs in I began my customary Sunday message prep at my favorite Starbuck this morning.
As I was working a guy came by my seat and noticed my Bible out. People’s eyes often look and settle on the fact that there is a Bible out, so this was nothing unusual, and most of the time people just look away. Today was not the case and this guy smiled and gave me the thumbs up sign and walked away.
Later this same guy walked over and introduced himself. He told me he loved seeing the Bible out and that he was a Pastor in a local church. I of course reciprocated and mentioned that I too was a Pastor and that I pastored in Tacoma at Trinity Church. He gave me his card and said we should get together for coffee sometime. He then walked off with his wife into the beautiful sunshine.
This encounter made me wonder what it is that other people think that have walked by me seeing the Bible out and quickly look away. I am sure many of them thought nothing at all. I'm sure some were Christians and thought happily about it. I'm sure some saw the Bible and thought that it had been awhile since they read it. I'm sure some saw the Bible and cringe inside because they felt some sort of conviction by the plain sight of it. And I suppose there are still others who see it and feel anger because they are opposed to the message of the Bible.
I have to admit that as I look at the Bible I have had a variety of thoughts over the years just by looking at it.
How amazingly powerful is this book called the Holy Bible that by just looking it can illicit so many varied responses.
May we do more than look at it and think thoughts, may we pick it up and read it so that it might shape our thoughts.
"For everything created by God is Good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving." 1Timothy 4:4
This is a great verse and in most of our daily lives it is not hard for us to accept this. Yet sometimes in the process of life, the things that God has created and given us, things that at one time caused us to rejoice and give thanks for, can, through circumstances, events or decisions, become something we regret or even despise. That which was once a gift can become a burden. That which was once prayed for can become something we now want to reject. That which we once celebrated, we now complain about.
We have to understand that EVERYTHING created by God is Good! To take that which is given by God and reject it, is to place ourselves in a position of continual unhappiness and strife. The signs that you are struggling with what God has given you are many, but here are just a few: Anxiety, Anger, a Critical Spirit, Instability, Weariness, and Indecisiveness. If we really thought about it, we could probably discover many more.
What are some of those "God blessings" that we turn into a curse? Spouses, Children, Employment, Talents, Gifting, Heritage, Calling, The roof over our head, etc. We can probably name some others as well.
Let me challenge you today to take an inventory of what God has placed in you and in your life and where you have departed from an attitude of thanksgiving. Repent of it and give thanks to God and watch contentment return to your heart and mind.
WOW! The weather the last couple days has been outstanding! Only in the Northwest do you get a thirty degree shift in weather over just a couple of days. A few days ago it was a damp 55 degrees. Today's forecast is sunny and 85. I don't mean to depress you, but they say by Sunday it's supposed to be rainy and 59 degrees. Those are some radical shifts. It hardly gives us time to haul out our shorts and t-shirts before we have to turn right around and put our jackets back on.
However, the bright side might be that we Puget Sound people are better equipped for the inconsistency and radical changes life can throw at us. Life at times seems to be able to radically change on us in a heart beat. We can seem to be humming along with our normal lives and then wham! We get a phone call with unexpected news, we go in for a routine check up and all of a sudden there is nothing routine about it, we go to work as usual expecting our normal day and leave in shock over changes we had no say in, etc. I am sure you know what I am talking about.
You might be going through one of those radical life altering moments right now. The great thing is that just as life can change suddenly in ways we don't like, they can also suddenly change in good and positive ways. Like this weather change. From damp and 55 to sunny and 85 in a matter of hours. Don't examine it. Don't worry about the forecast for days in the future, simply enjoy it now! As a matter of fact, I am going to get home as quick as I can and dig out my favorite pair of shorts and a t-shirt.
It's beautiful out. Seize it and let God worry about the forecast.
Thursday is not just any day, especially during Easter week. Thursday marks the day when Jesus instituted the Lord's Supper with His disciples which we follow to this day. Thursday is the day that Judas goes out and betrays Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. Thursday is the day when Jesus is arrested and taken into custody and begins the terrible journey towards the cross.
I was struck by the words of Jesus to His captors when they seized Him. "But this is your hour, and the power of darkness." Luke 22:53
Jesus basically says 'go ahead, do what you need to do, this is your moment'. Jesus knew it was going to be several days of pain, humiliation and agony, but He knew the end game and He refers to it as "your hour." Jesus was aware of what was about to take place but He also knew that the darkness was going to be short lived.
I'm not sure what you may be facing on this Thursday but understand that because of Jesus the darkness you are going through is short lived. The darkness may have its "hour" but Jesus will get the last word. And His last words were, "It is finished." When He said those words He knew all that the darkness could do to Him was over and their hour had passed. His hour had now come and the power of light was about to break forth and crush the power of darkness.
Know today that Jesus makes it possible for you to say to the trouble you might be facing, "Go ahead, take your hour but Jesus will have the last word and you will be finished."
This Sunday marks the beginning of "Holy Week". We celebrate Palm Sunday this week remembering Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey as hundreds of thousands of people cried out, "Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!" John 12:13. Jesus rides into a Jerusalem beset with problems and crisis. It is an environment of religious tension, political unrest, oppression and relational division. Yet Jesus rides in in total control though everything seems to be out of control.
I imagine if you were there and were to ask the people around you what was going on, you would have gotten a variety of responses and opinions based upon what that person's feelings were about Jesus. In the coming week Jesus would illicit a variety of responses: love, hate, disappointment, rage, indifference, loyalty, betrayal, etc.
I suspect the same is true today. Ask a variety of people what Palm Sunday means to them and based upon what they think of Jesus, you could probably find all of those same responses that the people expressed over 2000 years ago. People will shape their opinions based upon their religious background, their experience with church, the cultural environment they live in, if they have had good or bad relationships with Christians, etc etc.
The challenge is that unless we have had a personal encounter with the person of Jesus Christ our opinions will be shaped by things that are most likely wrong, skewed, or misguided.
So, if someone were to ask you what Palm Sunday was all about, what would you say?
The concept of our identity is a big issue for people. Who we are, what we do, who we belong to, what our talents are, where we live, what we own, or what we have done. Those are all part of what we consider when we think of our identity. Now in today's world you can't buy much or travel too far without showing some sort of proper identification, so we show our driver's license or our passport. That document communicates our legal name and basic info but falls far short of truly passing along our identity.
As we have entered April we are fast approaching Easter, and as I was reading John 18 this week, I came to the passage where Jesus was betrayed and arrested by Judas' kiss.
In verse 4, as the soldiers approach, Jesus steps forward and says, "Whom do you seek?". It goes on to say that they answer, "Jesus of Nazareth". Jesus replies, "I am He."
When Jesus says "I am He", He is saying so much more than simply showing His I.D. He is declaring all that He is, all of His power, and all of His Glory. He is revealing the span all of time and His place as the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.
The soldiers are looking for a man from Nazareth and Jesus was revealing that He is so much more than that. Just as it is with us when the clerk asks for some I.D. and we show our license, we are so much more than what is revealed on that small card.
As we get ready for Easter, let your identity be so much more than the temporal realities of this world. Let your identity be shaped and formed by the One who declared "I am He." When it's all said and done, the only part of our identity that will really matter is whether or not we are identified with Him.