Friday, October 26, 2007

Turning Things Out

I believe it was the legendary coach John Wooden who said, "Things turn out best for those who make the best of the way things turn out." How eloquent and accurate. We cannot always control our circumstances but we can control how we respond to them. The apostle Paul's words, "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!" were written from prison where Paul was awaiting a verdict on his life. Rather than bemoan his imprisonment, he prayed , preached and dictated letters. The result? "Now I want you to know...that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. Because of my chains most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly."
Whatever your circumstances realize only you can determine your response. Just remember, Things turn out best for those who make the best of the way things turn out."

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Dangerous Halos

PRINCIPLE: “A halo need drop only six inches to become a noose.”

When it comes to success – to quote Jackie Gleason – “How sweet it is!” (I know - I’ve just dated myself!) We all love the feelings and adulations that accompany success. Even if a certain success genuinely humbles us, we still covet that feeling. It’s hard to feel good and grateful without also feeling proud. And perhaps some pride is good – it can be a great motivator. But it's not without due cause that the Bible warns us that “pride goes before the fall”. When the head swells with pride or sways with success, the halo of success quickly drops around our necks where it waits to hang us.

Perhaps you have had come successes, and have many reasons for a healthy pride. But beware – with each success you raise the bar of expectations; and as expectations rise so does the potential for failure and disappointment. And you will all, at some point in time, fail or come up short. Realize this does not need to be a tragedy – tremendous monuments have risen from the ashes of failure.

My point is this: do not gloat in glory nor dwell in disappointment – do not over-celebrate success nor over-grieve failure. Instead, be grateful in both cases. In success, be grateful to God for allowing us the privilege; in failure, be thankful for His love which is not dependent on our success. Perhaps that’s why Paul wrote to the Philippians, “Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again – rejoice!” If we heed his divine advice, our halos will never hang us!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Remember the Ant

Principle: “When your vision gets blurry, remember the ant.”

A dear friend once sent me a true story by Josh and Karen Zarandona that concerned a young woman named Brenda. She was invited to go rock climbing. Although she was very scared, she went with her group to a tremendous granite cliff. In spite of her fear, she put on the gear, took a hold on the rope, and started up the face of that rock. She finally got to a ledge where she could catch her breath. As she was hanging there, the safety rope snapped against Brenda’s eye and knocked out her contact lens. Now she’s on a rock ledge with hundreds of feet below her and hundreds of feet above her. She looked as best she could, hoping it had landed on the ledge, but it wasn’t there. She was desperate and started to become upset, so she prayed for help to the Lord to help her find it.

She resumed her climb, blurry eyes and all, and when she got to the top a friend examined here eye and her clothing for the lens, but there was no lens to be found. She sat down despondent, with the rest of the party, waiting for some others to complete the climb. She looked out across range after range of mountains, thinking of the Bible verse, “The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth.” She thought, “Lord, You can see all these mountains. You know every stone and leaf, and You know exactly where my contact lens is. Please help me.”

Finally they walked down the trail to the bottom. At the bottom there was a new party of climbers just starting up the face of the cliff. One of them shouted out, “Hey, you guys! Anybody lose a contact lens?” That’s amazing enough. But you know how the climber saw it? An ant was moving slowly across the face of the rock carrying the lens on its back. Brenda’s father is a cartoonist so he drew a cartoon with an ant lugging that contact lens – underneath he put the words: “Lord, I don’t know why You want me to carry this thing. I can’t eat it, and it’s awfully heavy. But if this is what You want me to do, I’ll carry it for you.”

The authors conclude: “I think it would probably do some of us good to occasionally say, ‘God, I don’t know why you want me to carry this load. I can see no good in it and it’s awfully heavy. But if You want me to carry it, I will.” God doesn’t call the qualified; He qualifies the called… ”I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

Perhaps you feel you’ve been asked to carry quite a load lately. It’s been heavy. But just perhaps, if you continue to carry it in faith, others will soon be able to see the goal clearly once again. So, when your vision gets blurry, remember the ant!

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Be Ye Flexible

Blessed are those who are flexible for they shall never be bent out of shape.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Mountain Climbing

PRINCIPLE: “Mountains don’t stand in the way – they are the way.”

I’ve never climbed a mountain, which is a good thing. I still remember having to ride my bike up a steep hill on the way to school – it left me breathless (and not because of the scenery) and my legs all but exploded. And it happened every time – it never got any easier! I can’t imagine what climbing a mountain would be like! But I do know this about mountains – they can make for some beautiful scenery, and the view from the top is breath-taking; but when they are in the middle of the road upon which we’re walking, they’re anything but beautiful. In fact, they’re downright ugly, standing there blocking our path. They’re nothing but a huge obstacle that keeps us from enjoying our walk and that slows our progress.

Often the issues with which we deal are like a huge mountain that blocks our road into what we thought was a glorious adventure or future. We are stunned when it first appears on the horizon; then we stir up our positive juices and claim we’ll make it to the other side all right. Then we begin to climb, and soon we are breathless and at times we feel we’ll explode. Suddenly we aren’t so sure we’ll be able to continue the walk. After all, the mountain is too high, too broad, too imposing. The next thing we know, we are in the valley, looking up, not be sure we’ll make it to the other side. (But let’s not forget that even in the valley, we’re OK. Even though I walk through the valley…You are with me…”)

We’re not alone. Israel knew all about mountains. So did Isaiah (49:11): “I will turn all my mountains into roads, and my highways will be raised up.” Or as the New Living Translation puts it: “And I will make my mountains into level paths for them. The highways will be raised above the valleys.” “God will make a way when there seems to be no way...!” If we believe that the mountains and the hills are His, then we can believe He knows the way through and will be faithful as we walk together. God will raise us up or lower the mountain – but one way or another He’ll get us out of the valley and make a straight way. I even have a sneaky feeling that because of the mountain, we’ll appreciate the beauty on the other side even more. So walk on.

“God will make a way when there seems to be no way. He works in ways we cannot see; He will make a way for me. He will be my guide, hold me closely to His side. With love and strength for each new day; He will make a way, He will make a way.”