Adversity

Good Things In Small Packages

christmas boxI love that old saying, “Good things come in small packages.” Wedding rings come in small boxes. Pay raises come in small memos. Encouraging words come in small whispers. I like the old saying, because I like the truth of it: life is good when we get good stuff in small packages.

I was reminded of this when I read a small passage in the New Testament. It’s not a lot of words, but it sure contains some mighty good stuff. For me, it’s a gift from God in a quest for peace in a life filled with stress.

Here it is (Philippians 4:2-9): “(1) So then, my brothers and sisters, you are dearly loved and longed for—my joy and crown. In this manner stand firm in the Lord, dear friends. (2) I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to agree in the Lord. (3) Yes, I also ask you, true partner, to help these women who have contended for the gospel at my side, along with Clement and the rest of my coworkers whose names are in the book of life. (4) Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! (5) Let your graciousness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. (6) Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. (7) And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (8) Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise—dwell on these things. (9) Do what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.”

Now don’t run off just because it’s addressed to two ladies with funny names in a country far away and a time long ago. Let me share the good things coming in this small package. There are six of them…and who wouldn’t love to possess them when life and relationships run wild with stress.

—to stand firm in one’s faith (verse 1)
—to be at peace with others (verses 2 and 3)
—to rejoice at all times (verse 4)
—to be gracious with everyone (verse 5)
—to dwell upon virtuous, beneficial things (verse 8)
—to consistently apply God’s truth (verse 9)

Now notice, in verses 6 and 7, the one thing we need to do: pray. However, don’t miss the power in this small package. Remember it was originally delivered to two ladies with funny names feuding about forgettable things. What do you suppose Euodia and Syntyche were being asked to pray about? Right. One another. And what should inform their prayer. The six wonderful things surrounding this encouragement to pray.

Stop going in separate directions and pray for the capacity to stand firm together.
Stop fighting to gain advantage and pray for the capacity to get back on the same page.
Stop pouting to receive sympathy and pray for the capacity to rejoice over the good in others.
Stop criticizing to inflict pain and pray for the capacity to be gentle toward others.
Stop dwelling on negative things and pray for the capacity to see what’s noble and right about others.
Stop banking on faulty opinions and pray for the capacity to see God’s much larger picture.

Imagine: the ladies with funny names start seeing one another through the far-sight of God’s eyes rather than the near-sight of their frustration.

Imagine: you start to see your life and relationships through God’s eyes rather than the stress of your frustration.

Imagine: you face conflict, but pray to resolve it rather than fight about it.

Imagine: you face loss, but pray to challenge it rather than retreat from it.

Imagine: you face stress, but pray to manage it rather than crumble under it.

Imagine, just imagine.

It may have been delivered in a small package, but it’s mighty good advice.

 

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Life's Moments

A Simple Invitation

Over the years in our youth ministry we have often discussed “God Bombs.” I learned the power of their effectiveness from my wife, Vanita. They are just simple, yet meaningful and timely, name dropping opportunities. Here’s how it works…

Sally, the soccer mom, sees Molly, another soccer mom, by being at most of the practice sessions and soccer games in which their two little girls participate. The little girls become instant friends. Sally and Molly take a little longer. Sally works at a relationship of integrity. The ladies become “soccer mom friends.” Time passes. They talk about many things. They share about their likes, their dislikes. They Facebook. They meet for coffee. Trust levels increase. They become friends, not just “soccer mom friends.” One day Molly seems a bit agitated. Sally, doesn’t pry, but as always she is friendly and encouraging. They sit with one another observing the game. They cheer. They chat about the usual small talk. Molly then says something out of the ordinary. She complains, not terribly, just simply about something her husband did. Sally just listens. She makes no observations. She just listens. She lets Molly be Molly. Maybe the only words she utters are something like, “Molly, I’m sorry things are not going as well as you like.” Something simple like that. Time passes. Days pass. Friendship grows. Molly talks. Sally is a good friend. One day, who knows why this day, maybe it just feels right, Molly once again is discouraged and shares something personal. In response, Sally says, “That must be frustrating. I don’t know what I would do without prayer when I deal with tough times.” She then goes right back to listening. That’s a God bomb.

Over time, Sally refers to her life with the Savior as simply and as meaningfully as she refers to her family, her hopes, her dreams, her daughter’s last game, her work, and what she has cooking in the oven. She and Molly become good friends. She doesn’t drop the entire Book of Romans on Molly as they discuss their lives with one another. However, over time, it becomes rather obvious to Molly how important the Lord is to Sally–and it doesn’t repel, it compels. One day it all falls into place. Sally has prayed and prayed for her friend. Molly’s heart is open to a simple invitation. It might look a little like this brief video…except, of course, it will be far more in keeping with the special nature of the friendship shared between Sally and Molly. It may be an invitation to a concert, to church, a retreat, or, better still, it may be an invitation to the Savior. But it won’t be awkward. It won’t be stiff. It will be a simple invitation…one as simple and natural as an invitation to meet for lunch.

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Uncategorized

God Loves

God the Father when he breaks his silence:

Mark 1:11  And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

The Father unleashing his glory:

Matthew 17:5  a bright cloud…a voice from the cloud, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

Jesus on why he would die:

John 14:31a  “But that the world may know that I love the Father.”

It’s amazing! The transcendent, never created, always eternally there, infinite perfection of one God in three persons, when speaking of one another, say, “This is the one I love.” Perfect love. Agenda harmony love. Love that produces only the ultimate best.

When Jesus prayed before dying:

John 17:23c,d  “that the world may know that you have sent me, and have loved them as you have loved me.”

What!? The Father loves the Son. The Son loves the Father. The Father loves his followers just as, even as, the same as he loves the One and Only Begotten Son!

More than amazing! The transcendent, eternal, infinite, perfect creator… above, beyond, and utterly other than his creation…in love chooses to be immanent, here, personally present with us.

Breathtaking…the love that God has for you.

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Bible

A Fifty Year Reunion About Salvation

What a beautiful verification of God’s amazing call in the life of missionaries Don and Carol Richardson and their children. What a beautiful verification of God’s amazing grace among the once cannibal headhunters known as the Sawi. This is truly a must see.

The book to the left tells the incredible mission of Don and Carol to the Sawi people. The video below tells the amazing story of Don’s 50 year reunion with the Sawi.

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Bible, Life's Moments

Where is he? Where am I?

Saw this spoken word by way of a random search. Awesome.

Think I’ll get a coach and learn how to do this. I really like what young people are doing with different forms of communicating the hope found only in God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

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Bible, Life's Moments

Memories

Memories. Sometimes sweet. Sometimes bitter. Almost always instructive.

A recent conversation brought this to mind. It gave me cause to reflect on my “days on the farm.” What an awesome, incredible, joy-filled experience… especially for a city boy.

There is nothing quite like waking up to the sight of five or six cows on the loose and running down the road. Nothing much can prepare you for the frightful moment a turkey decides to lunge at your midsection. And the yard work…oh brother, forget it! The weeds never go away.

If you are familiar with farms, then you know what I mean. If not, you have nooooo idea.

Neither did I. In fact, I thought it would be everything my childhood imagination insisted.

Bare feet.
Fresh milk.
Omelets every morning.
Horseback riding.
Sipping lemonade on the porch.
Dangling hot feet in cool streams.
A dog for the front yard.
A dog for the back yard.
A dog for the truck.
And a dog for Mama’s lap.
Mice keeping the crumbs away and cats keeping the mice away.
Roosters crowing.
Sheep braaaing.
Cows bawling.
Children playing.
And grown-ups talking.

Well, I guess it’s all of that and quite a bit more. Some I experienced. Some I still dream about.

During our first church ministry, my young family and I were invited to live on a farm with some members of the church. They had just built a new home on the farm leaving the old farm house empty. We could hardly believe our fortune. The scent of hay filled our senses from a hundred miles away. We could barely contain ourselves. Graduating from school, packing our household items and tying up loose ends became mere formalities. In our hearts we were already on the farm.

The arrival only reinforced the expectations. And four years on that beautiful farm confirmed our expectations were right. We built friendships stretching to heaven and memories that seem like heaven.

One in particular still gives me reason to giggle. My wife, Vanita, was out weeding her small garden. Remember, we were city folk living the country life…always willing, not always as wise. As she kneeled, pulled, dug, and rearranged, our first child, Matthew, played around her, on her, under her, and sometimes over her. He played with the tools…well, he managed to lift a handle or two, seeing as he was just two years old or so. He picked up the discarded weeds…put some of them back in the ground. He dug deep in the soil with his bare hands. He chucked a few small stones. All in all, he was becoming the little boy I once longed to be.

Playing behind Vanita, Matthew said, “Mama, is dirt good?”

“Yes, Sweetheart, the dirt is good,” she answered.

“Mama, is the sky good?”

“Yes, Honey, the sky is good.”

“Howbout the rocks, Mama? Rocks good?”

“Uh-huh, rocks too, Matthew.”

“Grass?”

“Yes, grass too.”

“Mama, are worms good?”

“Yes, Baby, worms are good.”

And for just a little bit our son fell silent.

… … …

Then,

“Puh, yecch, blech, puh, puh, splech, khu-poo…uh-uh, Momma, worms not good!”

Turning, my beautiful wife witnessed Matthew spitting the last remnants of a large earth worm from his mouth. He turned, lips and cheeks all covered with dirt, smiled and said, “Uh-uh, Mama, worms are ugh.”

Memories are awesome. They bring back good times…sometimes not so good times. They give us a reason to pause…slow down…reflect…and learn. You can fill in the blanks regarding the lessons we learned from that little episode. Even more so the many lessons learned during a not so successful transformation from city folk to country folk. Perhaps for me the lesson is this: children want to learn. They are born with the who, what, where, when, and how questions ready to explode from their minds and their lips. More importantly, the why question is just begging to be fulfilled.

“Why is dirt good, Mama?”

“Well it helps us grow food.”

“Why, Mama?”

“Because, it has the right stuff for growing the food.”

“Why, Mama?”

“Because, it’s always been that way, darling.”

“Why, Mama?”

“Because, that’s how God made it.”

“Why, Mama?”

“Oh, Baby, sometimes I just don’t know why.”

“Why, Mama?”

If you are a parent, you’re saying, “Been there, done that,” right?

Most often their questions make us proud. Often the questions stump us. Sometimes exasperate us. Hopefully they do not anger us.

It’s the way God designed us. The human being is a question producing, information gathering, idea synthesizing product of an all-knowing, never-changing, wise and creative God. We learn. He teaches. We’re made in his image. So we get to teach also.

Be careful, then, Mom. Be careful, Dad. Be careful, grandma, grandpa, aunt, uncle, teacher, preacher, counselor, mentor…be careful. In the Bible we read this:

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Deuteronomy 6:4-7

and this

My people, hear my teaching; listen to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth with a parable; I will utter hidden things, things from of old—things we have heard and known, things our ancestors have told us. We will not hide them from their descendants; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done.  Psalm 78:1-4

and this

Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.  Ephesians 6:4

Be careful that you help your offspring not only know about God, but come to know him. The last thing you want to hear from your son or daughter one day is, “Puh, yecch, blech, puh, puh, splech, khu-poo…uh-uh, God’s not good!”

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