Monthly Archives: January 2016

Change

Change, I don’t like it much.  As stressful as the status quo may be, change could make it worse.  Change always brings even more stress along with it.  I’m not about to say that I have no use for change, however.

There has been times in my life when change is temporary and planned.  I welcome those changes such as a vacation, the change of seasons, or retreating to a special place or activity.

When change is permanent, however, it becomes the enemy of the status quo and people like me who want to control every aspect of their lives.  “Why can’t I just go back to the way things were?”

I recently was tasked with trying to help a loved one cope with a life altering change in her life.  One day she was living independently, surrounded by an accumulation of belongings, content to be visited by a few faithful friends.  Now, after a two week hospital stay she has transitioned to a nursing home, uncertain if this is a temporary or permanent change.

In an effort to prepare her for the worst case scenario, I tried to use reason to communicate to her.  Examples of marriage, childbirth, and the death of a spouse came to mind.  Each event suddenly altered life and you couldn’t go back. This could be one of those times.

The uncertainty of change of this magnitude causes one to reorder priorities. Things we weren’t motivated to do before become necessary or even vital. Cherished possessions become a meaningless burden.  We seek to bargain our way back to the status quo.

Christians are given a grappling hook the moment they enter a personal relationship with their Savior, Jesus Christ.  We can attach ourselves to someone greater, stronger, mightier, and more merciful than ourselves, our situation, or our fate.  Maybe that’s why the song, “Trust in You,” by Lauren Daigle resonates so well with my heart in moments like this one.

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“Trust In You”

Letting go of every single dream
I lay each one down at Your feet
Every moment of my wandering
Never changes what You see
I’ve tried to win this war I confess
My hands are weary I need Your rest
Mighty Warrior, King of the fight
No matter what I face, You’re by my side 

When You don’t move the mountains I’m needing You to move
When You don’t part the waters I wish I could walk through
When You don’t give the answers as I cry out to You
I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in You!

Truth is, You know what tomorrow brings
There’s not a day ahead You have not seen
So, in all things be my life and breath
I want what You want Lord and nothing less

When You don’t move the mountains I’m needing You to move
When You don’t part the waters I wish I could walk through
When You don’t give the answers as I cry out to You
I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in You!

You are my strength and comfort
You are my steady hand
You are my firm foundation; the rock on which I stand

Your ways are always higher
Your plans are always good
There’s not a place where I’ll go, You’ve not already stood

When You don’t move the mountains I’m needing You to move
When You don’t part the waters I wish I could walk through
When You don’t give the answers as I cry out to You
I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in You!

I will trust in You!
I will trust in You!
I will trust in You!

 

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Introducing the Gospel of John

IMG_0674Wow, what a change the New Year has brought. Suddenly life is spinning wildly around me, and important decisions that will need to be made are lurking on the horizon. I had hoped to make progress this year on the devotional book I started writing a few years back.  Now, I wonder if that will be possible.  So, in an effort to prepare my heart to reengage the story and provide my mind with some much-needed inspiration, I thought I would post some devotional notes on the Gospel of John as I study it.

The first note I would make: the gospels (the first four books of the New Testament) were not biographical accounts of the persons writing them. Instead, they focused on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John felt it was extremely important to communicate to us that Jesus is who he says he is – the Son of God.

And why should that be important to people like you and me living today? If Jesus really is the Son of God, then he would have the power and authority to forgive sins.

You might ask, why is the forgiveness of sins important or even necessary? The Bible links sin and death together as cause and effect. Sin causes death (Romans 6:23). No one needs reminding that death is a certainty for everyone.   Yet, many of us live our lives as if death is something we can do nothing about, so the general consensus is, why not ignore it.

But what if we could do something about changing the certainty of death, to the certainty of life? Could I believe in something or someone who could deal with my sin so that even though I died, I could live again – forever?   This is the message of the Gospel, to believe that I am a sinner, to believe that Jesus Christ is who he says he is, and that he died in my place so that my sins (past, present, future) could be forgiven.  This same Jesus did not just die for me, he rose from the grave and lives again, just as I will.

I find it very interesting that the word “believe” is mentioned so many times in the Gospel of John. John, a fisherman turned disciple, writes to those who already believe in Jesus and are facing an uncertain future and persecution. To those don’t believe, John submits seven signs (miracles) and seven affirmations (I am statements made by Jesus) as proof that Jesus is who he claims to be.

When I reach the end of my days, and death comes for me, there’s only one thing that really matters. Do I believe the gospel message or do I choose to reject it?

 

Gospel of John

Chapter 1:1-5

John gives us quite an introduction to his gospel account. “In the beginning was the Word,” immediately brings to mind the Genesis creation account, which offers a biblical explanation of our origin. The “Word was God” is a monumental statement. From this we can conclude that the “Word” is a deity whom we should esteem as we do God. The word “was” used here implies the “Word” has continuously existed rather than being someone which was created. “Through him all things were made,” communicates that the story of Jesus extends back prior to creation, where his hands formed the heavens and the earth.

Before the opening paragraph concludes, we are also given an additional attribute of the Word, “in him was life,” which is the light of men. This statement communicates to me that abundant or true life comes when a moral or spiritual truth is illuminated in my life (just as a lightbulb is turned on) and I choose to incorporate it into my life. Later in his gospel, John tells us that God’s word is truth (John 17:17).

IMG_0837The paragraph closes with the statement that light (illuminated truth) shines in the darkness and has not been overcome by it. Darkness, then, can be explained spiritually as an absence of light, and is associated with an ignorance of spiritual things or wickedness.

I continue to be amazed at the positive effect light has on our world. It gives life to plants, animals and people. Light offers hope, which quickly dissipates when we are denied it’s life-giving properties.  True light stands in opposition to gloominess, hopelessness and darkness.  Choose light!

Making a New’s Year Resolution

new year'sresolution2016Let me begin by wishing everyone a Happy New Year! This is my final installment of the series entitled, “table scraps” (words likely to be used at family gatherings over the holidays). As you might expect, I chose a word closely associated with this time of year: “resolution.”

In 2013, Dan Diamond, a blogger and contributor to //onforb.es (www.Forbes.com), states that 40% of Americans are likely to make New Year’s resolutions but only 8% of them will achieve their goal. According to Diamond, “More often than not, people who fail to keep their resolutions blame their own lack of willpower.” He cites a desire for self-improvement as the leading factor in making resolutions.

My reasons for making a resolution would include, a desire to act on something that’s been bothering me, whether it is guilt from neglecting something or someone, or inaction (not doing something I feel I should be doing). Like many other people, I would include health related reasons; two of my favorites are losing some weight and exercising more.

Our culture has adopted the practice of making our resolutions at the start of a New Year. I guess the new calendar symbolizes a fresh start and makes the starting date easier to recall. Add to that the social buzz created by a host of others also making resolutions and you have a strength in numbers kind of thing going on. For people of faith, having just celebrated the birth of Christ on Christmas, a new calendar year offers a convenient starting point to resolutely draw closer to God.

This year, before you jump on the bandwagon and vow to make a resolution, you may want to give more thought to the word’s meaning. Google defines “resolution” as “a firm decision to do or not do something.” Synonyms include: intention, decision, commitment, pledge, and promise. Words closely related to resolution are: “resolute,” (purposeful, determined, and unwavering) and “resolve” (defined as a “firm determination to do something”).  Making a resolution, then, can be likened to drawing a line in the sand, and vowing not to cross it.

Returning to Dan Diamond’s piece for a moment, he gives the following advice for making a resolution: (1) keep it simple (small, obtainable), (2) make it tangible (eliminate vagueness), (3) make it obvious (have visual reminders), and (4) keep believing you can do it (have willpower).

If you are a Christian you can add a fifth point: involve God in your resolution making decision and seek out His help in seeing it through. He is very much interested in the little details in our lives. Take Romans 8:28 for example, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

A quick peek at my Bible concordance (TNIV translation) yielded two scripture passages using the word “resolved,” Daniel 1:8 and 1 Corinthians 2:2. Since the book of Daniel is one of my favorite books, I decided to check that verse out.

“But Daniel resolved to not defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself in this way.” (TNIV translation)

Here Daniel resolved not to do something – not to eat of the king’s delicacies. He was a prisoner of war taken to a foreign land, to be assimilated into a pagan Babylonian culture. To resist assimilation meant facing the possibility of being killed. Many scholars feel he was a young teen when he was taken to Babylon and made this resolution.

As a true believer in God, Daniel believed there was no separation between his religious beliefs new year's resolution 2016and the world he functioned in. (Many of us need reminding of this fact on a regular basis.) The former (his faith) governed the latter (his work). His resolve to resist defiling himself came from within; he purposed not to do this in his heart. His decision was an act of worship, not one of self-affirmation or self-improvement.

On the surface the resolution seems trivial until you look at its broader implications. Daniel was being asked to abandon his devout faith in God and adopt a pagan way of life. He made the resolution out of a need to preserve his relationship with God.   God honored Daniel by working on his behalf and making it possible for Daniel to eat the food and water of his choosing. By keeping the resolution he made, Daniel’s life became a conduit for the miraculous workings of God.

What, if any, resolution will you make this year? Will you be including God in your plans?