Thursday, January 27, 2011

A Clear Example

I've been reading with great interest the account of a supporter of the University of Connecticut's football program. It seems he has generously donated 8 million dollars for the improvement and building of athletic facilities - certainly a wonderful gesture. It's nice to have someone like that love your institution, isn't it? But he is now demanding that 3 million dollars be returned to him - because he does not feel he was consulted the way he felt he should have been when the university hired their new football coach. So he sent a harsh, demeaning letter to the Athletic Director attacking and condemning him and the university in a very personal way (Yes, I have read excerpts of the letter.) And he has asked for the 3 million back stating that he wants to give it to a school that will adhere to his philosophy. The University Administration, meanwhile, has made a public response in full support of their Athletic Director.
A lot of things went through my mind as I read this over the last couple of days. I raise just one here. it appears to me that this is a clear example of what true generosity is - and is not. The Bible consistently reminds us that gratefulness leads to generosity and gratefulness flows out of love. I cannot help but wonder why the donor gave? Was it out of love and gratitude for the University or out of a desire to be a major player - to be a BMOC (Big Man On Campus)? It's not up to me to judge; but it has reminded me to check my motives for giving whatever I give - of my money, time, and talents. Is it for my selfish desires, or out of  gratitude and love? It's worth pondering.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Remember the Touch

“When the touch stings, remember the touch.”

It’s so great to begin the day with the very word we need to hear – it’s almost as if God knows what we need! (Come to think of it, He does!) Such was the case for me a few weeks ago. Here’s my journal entry for that day.

“From Zechariah 2:8 – “Whoever touches you touches the apple of his eye; I raise my hand against them…” Children always seem to know when they are ‘the apple’ of someone’s eye – they may not even understand the phrase but they know the feeling. They know they are treasured and loved unconditionally – no one and nothing can change that. They love being in the presence of the one who so treasures them. These words were affirmation for me this morning – words of assurance and comfort from the Lord. He will stand up for me again today. Nothing can separate me from His love. Thank you, Lord.”

“When the touch stings, remember the touch.” God never says that we will be free from getting slapped or hit – He just says He will take the hit with us – ultimately that’s what He did on the cross. No matter how tough a day or moment may be, no matter how strong the reaction or action against you, no matter how strong the opposition or sharp the criticism, the only raised hand that matters is that of God – “I raise my hand against them.” “When the touch stings, remember the touch.” You are in the presence of your loving Lord, the one who stood on the cross for you; you are the apple of His eye; He will stand up for you today – and always. So, “when the touch stings, remember the touch.”

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Good Reading

Around this time of the year I find myself looking backward and forward. It’s always exhilarating to see what the Lord has done in my life during the past year but also to envision some goals for the coming year. Part of my reflections of this past year is reviewing the books I read (above and beyond those I read for study purposes) and recalling how they impacted me. As I have been doing so recently I decided to share with you reflections on three of those books. Perhaps they will whet your thirst and lead you to read them – and have an impact upon you as well.

Up first is a book of fiction. I don’t read enough fiction but I ventured into one of Randy Alcorn’s novels. Randy is perhaps better known for his books on stewardship and heaven, but I discovered he is a talented author of exciting fiction. I read “Deadline.” I found the book extremely difficult to put down. Not only is the story line terrific and the plot exciting and full of suspenseful mystery, but there is a powerful underlying message about life and death that gripped my soul. And the bonus is that several chapters deal with life in heaven. Of course, we don’t know what heaven is like – and Randy hasn’t been there and come back! He’s had no near death experiences. But He has thoroughly researched the Biblical references to heaven and uses them to build some solid scenes of what it might be like. I found them riveting. One chapter, in fact, portrays a man – a traffic accident fatality – in his final moments between earth and heaven. It sent chills up and down my spine. On a scale of 1 to 10, this is a 12!

I also read an autobiography entitled “Beyond Belief (Finding the Strength to Come Back).” It’s a very detailed and graphic account of Josh Hamilton – who just this past year was the MVP of baseball’s American League. Great life, right? Perhaps – but for Josh not without a great price. Josh is a man with immense, almost super human talent – but talent did him absolutely no good when he got caught up in and eventually addicted to drugs and alcohol. The journey down into and up from despair, the ongoing damage to his body, and the story of a team – the Texas Rangers – who have gone the extra mile, and then some – makes for great reading and inspiration. The book deals forthrightly with his past struggle for faith, his current relationship with Christ, and the role his wife and family play in his new life. While the book ends with hope, it also balances that hope with the reality that life will never be easy for Josh because of where’s he’s been. And all this just makes the ongoing story of his life – such as this past season – a story of miracle and a testimony grace.

The third book I bring to our attention I will soon be re-reading – once barb finishes it! It’s titled “Sun Stand Still – What Happens When You Dare to Ask God for the Impossible.” Let’s just say it spawned my Epiphany (post-Christmas, pre-Lent) series “Extreme Faith.” Masterfully weaving together his life story, ministry experience, and Joshua’s bold prayer for God to make the sun stand still author Steven Furtick does a wonderful job of examining all the elements of what a bold faith means – and doesn’t mean. I was concerned when I ordered it that it might be another charismatic “Just believe and it will be’ recipe – but it is far from that. Furtick writes simply and clearly without a condescending attitude of “I know what it’s all about – what’s wrong with you.” It is an easy, enjoyable, challenging, inspiring read that may well make you want to read it again – when your spouse has finished it! In the meantime, you’ll hear some of Furtick’s themes and thoughts through our upcoming “Extreme Faith” series.

Enjoy your reading in 2011.