Who are you gonna call?

Want to know how much you really rely on God? Here’s an easy way to find out: Where do you turn when something goes really wrong or when you’re facing something that you’d rather avoid?

Let’s say you’ve got a situation:

  1. A truly horrible boss who’s about to send you on a boondoggle to Canada for a meeting you could do virtually. Meanwhile, your real work is piling up on a project that already is overdue.
  2. An unemployed spouse who finally has a job offer… in another state. You’re more than grateful he has a real job prospect, but your support system – your lifeline – is where you currently live.
  3. Young adult children who are making unbelievably bad choices and simply are not open to advice, but they are happy to accept cash.

Could be your situation is much less dramatic:

Hey, it’s Sunday night and you are less than thrilled to be facing another Monday morning trek to a tiny cubicle where you work for a complete jerk.

Where do you go with all that angst?

  • Shopping?
  •  Phone a friend?
  •  Make an appointment with your therapist?
  •  Get a massage?
  •  Go out and get drunk?
  •  Get laid?
  •  Go into a shell and quit communicating with the people closest to you?
  •  Have just a little bit of some substance – legal or not – to get you over the hump?

Or do you get on your knees or take a long drive or take a walk in the woods — or however you choose to get alone with God – and pour out your heart to Him?

When we have burdens, troubles, things that turn our world inside out, Jesus says: “Come to me…”

Our tendency is to go everywhere else and — when all other roads become dead-ends, as they invariably do – we come to Him as a last resort.

God wants to be our initial point of contact, the very first place we bring our stuff and unload. He wants us to turn to Him and to tell Him what we are facing and to ask for some help, some guidance. No matter how terrible things may seem, God’s plan for us is that we never throw up our hands and give up. We are to keep the faith and entrust our cares to Him: “Man ought always pray and not to faint.”

Coming to Christ in prayer is our safety valve in a pressure-cooker world. It won’t make all our problems go away, but it will give us the peace and the grace to endure. And some things, beloved, just have to be endured.

“Indeed we count them blessed who endure.” James 5:11 (NKJV)

So next time you’ve got a situation, who are you gonna call? Where are you gonna go? The songwriter said, “Where Could I Go But To The Lord.”

 

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Change you can believe in

We Christians spend a lot of wasted time pointing fingers at the world over its sin.

The bigger problem is Christians who continue to dabble in sin and who don’t want anyone to call them on it. Christ said His disciples would “be witnesses” of Him. It’s time believers be the change we want to see in the world. There is no better witness than a changed life.

John Newton, the former slaveship captain turned pastor and hymn writer, wrote:

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound

That saved a wretch like me.

I once was lost, but now am found,

Was blind, but now I see.

Was blind, was lost. But now… Profound change.

The Bible says, if a man is in Christ, he’s a new creation. The old has gone. The new has come.

I’m puzzled by people who claim to be Christan but who exhibit no “newness.” We ought to be different after we encounter Christ. Thieves should stop stealing. Liers should stop lying and tell the truth.

Trouble is, when push comes to shove, a lot of us revert to our former selves. Rubbed the wrong way, we become petty, insecure, vindictive.

Think not? Question some pastoral action or openly disagree with a Christian brother. It may surprise you how quickly the spiritual gloves come off. Supposedly mature Christians may respond with the kind of venom you’d expect from unbelievers.

Let’s examine ourselves and see if we really are in the faith. Then maybe we can change the world.

According to Who?

Ever notice how two people can look at the same thing and see something completely different? Caught a song on the radio last night that perfectly illustrates the point, “According to You” by Australian singer/guitarist Orianthi:

I’m stupid
I’m useless
I can’t do anything right

According to you
I’m difficult
Hard to please
Forever changing my mind
I’m a mess in a dress
Can’t show up on time
Even if it would save my life
According to you
According to you

But according to him
I’m beautiful, incredible
He can’t get me out of his head
According to him
I’m funny, irresistible
Everything he ever wanted
Everything is opposite

One person, two perceptions.

Negative perception can distort truth and destroy our hopes – if we let it.

In the book of Numbers, Moses sent 12 men to explore the land God had promised. Two returned to describe a place flowing with milk and honey. The other 10 gave a terrifying report of a land of giants that “devours those living in it.”

The negative view won out; and a generation dropped dead in the desert before the survivors were ready to take the land.

We have to be careful whose view we let define us. David’s family saw him as a childish sheep keeper. God saw a future king. Joseph’s brothers saw a boastful daddy’s boy. God saw a future gifted administrator who would govern with wisdom and integrity.

Isaiah wrote that man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart.  Whose report will you believe?

Singing with meaning

Welcome to the official start of the Christmas season with its ever-present soundtrack. Before we all break into a chorus of  “Joy to the world, the Lord has come” may I ask a personal question?

Is Jesus really your Lord?

Simple question. I sometimes think we complicate Christmas with cantatas, carols and the hanging of the green to evade simple truths. Before God got around to instituting ritual in worship, He set forth a single requirement for relating to Him: Obey me.

I looked up the definition of “obey” in our Scholastic Children’s Dictionary: to do what someone else tells you to do, follow.

Most of us have problems with obedience. We don’t like to be told what to do – especially when we don’t understand it or don’t agree with it.  But God can only be our God when we are willing to obey Him despite all that.  Jesus’ instruction to true disciples still is “Follow me.”

In the coming weeks, each of us will make sacrifices in the spirit of the season. We’ll give to charitable causes, board planes for obligatory visits with difficult relatives, go into hock to buy just the right gifts, attend parties with people we don’t even like.

Once-a-year sacrifices can be easier to make than submitting our wills daily,  just as it’s easier to sing about lordship than live it.

Advent is all about anticipating the Lord’s coming, so why not seriously consider His question: “Why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord’ and do not do what I tell you?”

Library Concerts: Just Say No!

I once heard a preacher say that we need patience for dealing with things and long-suffering for dealing with people.

I’m not sure which I needed most when I walked into the Cameron Village Regional Library on a recent Monday looking for a quiet place for a couple of children to do homework.

Instead of the sound of silence, we were greeted by the moose-like moans of  pint-sized violinists and cellists in concert — alternately being photographed and applauded by two obviously adoring grandparents.

OMG! Whatever happened to the library of old — the place where people read quietly, surfed the Internet in silence, whispered when they spoke, pondered classic literature or simply dozed contentedly?

“It is no more,'” answered the library assistant when I complained.

This library, according to its newsletter slogan, is now: “A Part of Your Community, A Part of Your life.” So much for the library as a place apart – a place to read, relax and study in a kind of quiet found nowhere else in life.

Apparently the library as concert venue is a trend. Libraries from Seattle to Nashville are offering concerts in atriums, courtyards, auditoriums. Even Durham County Public Library has music, mercifully mostly on Sunday afternoons. The Cameron Village  library, however,  is recruiting musicians to annoy its quiet-seeking patrons for one to two hours every Monday afternoon.

I’m all for music appreciation, but when I start the week at a library I am not looking for musical entertainment.

Ringing cellphones, screaming children,  loud-talking tutors (not to mention the conversations of patrons sipping coffee and munching on library-accessible treats) already have turned the place into a regular town square.

To quote the Preacher of Ecclesiastes , there is a season for everything and  a time for every purpose under heaven. The time and place for music? Not after school at the library.

Wrong Bus. Jesus, Take the Wheel!

I’m no fan of country music. But as I sat under a waxing moon last night and listened to Nobel laureate Wangari Muta Maathai describe “Wrong Bus Syndrome,” the soundtrack that seemed best suited to the moment was Carrie Underwood’s “Jesus Take the Wheel.”

Maathai, founder of The Green Belt Movement, was in Raleigh to encourage college students to do what they can to make the planet a better, greener place for future generations. What the professor and former Parliament member has done since 1977 is teach people, women in particular, to nourish their land and sustain themselves by planting trees.

She used “Wrong Bus Syndrome” as a metaphor for why people in her native country of Kenya have spent decades trying to free themselves from government corruption and mismanagement that has harmed the environment and stymied their future.

Her fellow Kenyans, she said, long have been riding the wrong political bus. That bus has taken them to a place called “development” and left them hungry, hopeless and at war as their soil has eroded, their crops have failed and their firewood has dwindled.

The “Wrong Bus” metaphor has spiritual implications, too. We sometimes follow spiritual philosophies, religious doctrine and pastoral leadership that take us to places we never intended to go. We know we’re moving in the wrong direction, but we don’t always know how to get back home. Dr. Maathai said it isn’t enough to know that we’re on the wrong bus. We have to know why we’re there if things are ever going to change.

Maathai gave five reasons people get on the wrong bus:

  • We’re ignorant:   We don’t know any better
  • We don’t ask:   We don’t ask questions or don’t ask the right ones
  • We’re misinformed:   We ask but get wrong information
  • We’re forced:   We’re forced to make a bad choice
  • We fear:   We know better, but we’re afraid to act

Maybe you’re on the wrong spiritual bus. What are you going to do about it? Maathai’s advice was succinct: Stop being a victim. Make a change. Get to the front of the bus. Throw the driver out. Turn around. The Bible calls this turning or change of mind: repentance. It’s a good place in the road to sincerely ask Jesus to take the wheel.