Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Early morning thoughts

This morning I woke hours before the alarm.  There are days I know it's time to get up....there are things to do...and there are mornings I wish I could sleep for a few moments more.  This morning I awake with eyes wide open.  It's time to go!  I love these early hours of dark and silence...these moments when I can read, think, sit in silence.  There is so little silence in my life these moments are precious.  

As I write this I'm at Starbucks before a meeting in 15 minutes.  I'm had time to read, drink some coffee, think a bit and pray.  In my reading I finished the book of Daniel with chapter 12.  

The book of Daniel is an amazing book!  Thousands of years ago Daniel was told by an angel the complete history of the human race to the very end.  All of that is in chapter 11.  In that one chapter, more than a hundred times, the word "will" is used.  It's a chapter that unfolds the future history of humanity to the end of days.  None of it has "maybe" or "might" in it.  It's full of just one word- will.  This will happen, then that will happen.  I am amazed and comforted by that chapter....amazed at the future history rolled out, comforted by the sovereignty of God.

When I look around there are days I panic just a bit.  It seems things are spinning out of control, but when I read Daniel 11 I'm reminded things are never out of control.  God is always, totally in control of the governments, the leaders, the events and the times I live in.  My response?  Trust.  Rest in his peace.  Be about the task he's given me.  

We are each living just when and where he wanted us to for the glory of God.  Do you realize you were born at just the right time, in the right place to accomplish God's will in your days?  We are each part of God's sovereign plans for the end of days.  I am humbled by that and pray I am available for his use today.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Happy Birthday!



Today is my dad's 87th birthday.  He is a wonderful dad and dearly loved.  

I'm honored to be his son and today I am celebrating  the birthday of my dad!  Happy birthday, dad.  

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Once more...

 "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." -Philippians 4:6-7

Once more I visit this amazing passage.  Once more I need it.  Once more I repent for my anxiety, my fear, my worry.  Once more I stumble to the throne of grace...what an interesting description...throne of grace...a place where love, compassion and a wonderful God awaits.  Once more I turn away from my fears and look at the face of the God who made me. Once more I need his provision, his care, his peace.  Once more he gives it.  

And, once more I sigh with regret for my fears when I realize he was waiting the whole time to comfort me....if I would have only trusted him.  Once more I find the peace that escaped me in the early hours of this morning.  Once more I remember that I am a son of the living God!  How could I ever worry or fret, but I do.....and so I know another day awaits when once more.....

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Thankfully remembering


Millions of men and women have willingly paid the highest price to provide the freedom we enjoy.  This weekend we remember, we say thank you, we enjoy the results of the price they paid.  If you have served our country in the military, thank you for your sacrifice.

Saturday's cartoon


Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Christian life is like chocolate



I watched a program on cable last week that fascinated me.  It was the story of how they make chocolate.  It's fascinating to me because from the raw bean you would never think that chocolate could be the result.  

What was interesting was that the process of refining cocoa beans is not intuitive, not really what you would expect.  In fact the raw bean is rather bitter.  Even the roasted beans are bitter.  The whole process of refining from a raw bean to luscious chocolate is difficult, takes time and does not produce a product you would want to enjoy until the very end.  Who could have imagined that chocolate would be the result of this ugly, bitter bean?


It's a lot like the Christian life.

We begin as raw, rough, bitter people as God begins to refine us.  It takes time.  It's not always done the way you would imagine.  It takes a lot of work to deal with the bitterness and begin to taste some sweetness.  There is a lot of work to do to get the smoothness needed to make us tasteful. 

It's a process of refining in the life of a person that yields a result you could have never imagined when you started....much like chocolate.  It's a great analogy...the Christian life is like chocolate.  It works for me!



Picture of the day

Among all the photos of the tornado in Oklahoma this one stands out to me.  In the midst of disaster the human spirit is ever hopeful, ever looking to rise above the tragedies of life.  This photo is one of the best I've seen from the hundreds taken of this terrible disaster.  

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Counter-culture living



There is a truth about our culture that most of us are subtly unaware of, but it affects our thinking and our living.  It's the truth, or more accurately, the reality that taking care ME is the most important thing.  


We have, through our focus on advertising and personal fulfillment, created a narcissistic culture.  For me it's a constant battle to think well in the flood of others going the opposite direction, thinking differently.  To live counter-cultural to this narcissistic mindset is extremely difficult and I far too often fail, but a passage of scripture draws me back to clarity time and again.  Here is the passage that has become, for me, a road map away from this narcissistic mindset,



Luke 6:27 “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.
32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them.33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that.34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”


In these few thoughts I want to focus on verse 36.  With amazing clarity Jesus challenges his followers to live others focused, giving and not taking, extending grace when it's undeserved, but in 36 he calls us to the highest calling of all, "Be merciful, JUST AS your Father is merciful."  In those eight words I find my greatest challenge....the challenge to extend mercy when it's often the last response I have.


Mercy is not giving what is due.  It's overlooking an offense, being kind when the other person is mean, being sweet when the one you're with is horrible, loving when you are hated.  It's how God treats us...with an undeserved mercy.  Even now, in the shadow of the horrible tornado in Oklahoma, some are writing that this is a judgment of God on the "sinners" in Oklahoma.  Shame on them!  This is not the heart of God, this is not his judgment.  He is the mercy giver, the grace extender, the lover of the lost, the forgiver of the failed, he is now and will be until he returns the mercy giver.


His challenge to me is to live that way in the narcissistic world around me.  It's counter-cultural.  It's often hard, but it's constantly my quest...to be a mercy giver like my Father.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Beginning a new day


It's the beginning of a new day.  A night of rest and once more we begin our lives.  

In the last 24 hours much around us has changed.  In Oklahoma more than 50 people are dead from a terrible tornado.  The day before that storm they awoke to their new day having no idea what was ahead for them in just 24 hours.  

Our lives are lived in 24 hour moments....a day at a time.  Each new day is an opportunity to live for God because it may be the last of your days.....today may be your final morning on planet earth!

So, how to use it...how should we spend our days as if they were our last?  Many face that as they hear the news of cancer with only weeks to live.  As one friend wrote yesterday, "when death is imminent life becomes much sweeter."  

So in the beginning of a new day resolve to do two things well, 1. love God with all your heart, soul and mind, and 2. love people.  

If you will make that your "to do" list for the day, even if it might be your last day, you will do well.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Our example

"Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you."  -Ephesians 4

"Just as God...."  

We aren't challenged to big things by God without his leadership showing us how to do it.  In Christ we have the example we are called to imitate, the model for our lives.  Paul challenges us to kindness, compassion, and forgiveness of others not because they deserve it or are good enough, but simply because it's what God has done in Christ.

The call has nothing to do with the performance of the one we are called to love, to forgive, to extend kindness to....it has everything to do with imitating Christ.  The truth is that most of the people around us will let us down.  If our kindness, love and forgiveness was based on their deservedness no one would have it, but it's based on the model of Christ....loving the unlovable, being kind to those who hated him, forgiving those who crucified him.

We are called to look at Christ as our example and not the person we are to love, forgive or be kind to....honestly it has to be done as a decision of the will apart for any worth on their part...the very same way Christ loves us!

He is the model for a life of compassion and forgiveness that changes the other person.  When others experience the love of God through us, even if they have done nothing to deserve it, they are changed....and isn't that what God is all about....loving the unlovable, forgiving the offender, being kind to people who don't deserve it?

Quote of the day

"Is it today or was that yesterday?"  -a dear old friend with memory problems

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Passion, purpose and possessions

My wife just finished a book for her discipleship group, "Kisses for Kate".  We talked about it last night.  It's the story of a young woman who had a passion for giving everything up to serve God in Africa and trusting him while doing it.  It is an inspiring story and quite amazing.

The topic for us last night was this-  What is our passion?  Have we lost it?  What drives us?  What are we to be about? AND,  what are we willing to give up to do it?

Kate's story is one of giving up everything to serve God.  To be honest I haven't done that.  I have a lot of "stuff".  I know possessions are not really the issue, but rather our grasp of them is.  So for us the whole discussion came down to this- what has God called us to do and what will we give up to do it?

We are still working on this.  The discussion is not over yet.  I think we are both at a place in our lives where possessions have become more of a burden than a blessing.  We are both wanting to rediscover what God has put us here for....our passion, vision, purpose and the role of possessions in it all.

I'm not sure where this will all end.  We may sell everything, get an apartment and see what God does.  All of that is up in the air.  What we both want is what God wants....whatever the cost.....what an exciting place to be......

Yes, another coffee cartoon....


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Focus


"So when all these things begin to happen, stand and look up, for your salvation is near!”"  -Jesus


Focus.  We all have one.  Each event, each day focuses our attention on something.  These words from the gospels give focus to those living in the end of days.  When the events around us begin to unravel, when everything begins to come apart....look up.  

This focus, this instruction is intentional.  It's anticipatory....it's an action of faith.  When you look up at the sky in a crowd others around you will look up as well....what are you looking at?  We don't normally look up...our normal focus is horizontal....we look around...at the events, the economy, the world in chaos.  It's at a time like this, when everything around us brings fear, when God invites a different focus, a different look....look up.

Why look up?  Jesus answers the question.  When the world is falling apart our salvation is near and it will come from above, from heaven....it will be the return of Christ.  When fear and anxiety overwhelms you begin to weave into your life a new habit...the habit of the upward look.  A look of trust in the promise of Christ's return.  When fear rises, when all seems lost...look up.   Jesus is coming!


Monday, May 13, 2013

Making a difference

"Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you."  -1 Peter

"The mind of man plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps." -Solomon 


In a culture busy about making plans, being a success, accomplishing something....being significant...whatever that means, the Bible invites us to sit in the back seat and let God oversee all of that.  In other words you need to know God's not interested in you being significant...he's interested in you finding your significance in HIM.  

Our plans, our successes, our accomplishments are only of value when we surrender them and turn them over to God.  It's only when we are no longer interested in "making a difference" that we really will.  

There is a wonderful book that puts this in perspective.  It's one every Christ follower should read.  It's titled, "Embracing Obscurity" and it deals with the conflict between God and culture, between success in this world and in eternity.  

Making a difference really has nothing to do with what you do, but everything to do with who does it.  It's a fascinating discussion I will be continuing in the days ahead, but for today this is more than enough to challenge your perception of reality and what really matters.

Donald Miller, Jesus and our culture


I love this video!  It's brief, but in it Donald Miller deals with Jesus and the conflict he presents for us in our consumer driven culture.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

A note from a mentor

A dear old saint and mentor of mine for more than 40 years wrote a note to me in response to a question I had.  Here is part of his note. I hope his words encourage you in your new day,

"I've learned two fundamental truths in 79 years:  life is difficult and God is adequate--but it's painful anyway and yet God more than compensates for the pain.  A marvelous verse that has helped me a lot is Psalm 94:19 (KJV)   'In the multitude of my thoughts within me thy comforts delight my soul.'  The long perspective gets us through as the Lord renews us day by day--and we only need sustenance for one day at a time."

Quiet time

I think our culture needs a time out....a quiet time out.  This morning, EARLY this morning, I'm reading,  praying, thinking...and in my ears is noise all around.  

The neighbors next door fighting, 


the neighbors behind me hollering at their kids, 

dogs barking in response, 


airplanes flying overhead,


will you all please be quiet!


Silence is something our world does not like.  We are a world of noise...noise 24/7.  Noise to keep the silence away.  There are few places where we can go to find a place without the noise of our world....because in the silence we have to deal with ourselves, we have to deal with God, we have to deal with the things we have done and so we turn up the noise.


It's interesting that in the bible quietness and peace with God are spoken of together.  Noise and sin are partners as well.  It seems that quiet is the posture of peace, of a right relationship with God...it's comfortable when peace with God is a reality.  But when we haven't resolved our relationship with God, when there is no peace with God we keep the volume turned up so we don't have to deal with him.


Isaiah wrote, "The Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, has said, “In repentance and rest you will be saved, In quietness and trust is your strength.”"


In Psalms God said to David, "Hush, be quiet and know that I am God."


As I listen to the noise all around me, volumes increasing as the sun rises, I am thankful for the peace, the quiet of a relationship with God that gives me calm in the storm of noise swirling all around.  


Friday, May 10, 2013

Living right sized

May God be big and may I be small.  

Oh to be nothing so he might be everything!

In a world looking for fame and success I pray I find none of it, but that God might be big because I was small.  

It's only when I'm nothing that he can be everything....it's only when I seek his glory instead of my own that people around me see God right sized.

"He must increase, but I must decrease." -John the Baptist

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Who's in charge?


“I kept looking
Until thrones were set up,
And the Ancient of Days took His seat;



....And behold, with the clouds of heaven
One like a Son of Man was coming,
And He came up to the Ancient of Days
And was presented before Him.
“And to Him was given dominion,
Glory and a kingdom,
That all the peoples, nations and men of every language
Might serve Him.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion
Which will not pass away;
And His kingdom is one
Which will not be destroyed."  -Daniel 7

I often go to this passage and one in Revelation to refocus the events of the world I see.  It's difficult, in the midst of the news all around, to have a sense of center, an awareness of someone who is ruling the events of man in spite of what I see.  If all I saw was the world around me I would be in panic mode most of the time.  But I know that there is a God in heaven, seated on the throne and that he has given dominion, glory and a kingdom to the one we know as Jesus.  Knowing that calms my fears,  focuses my vision and helps me as I live my days.

Who's in charge?  God is.  And  for that I am most thankful.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

What's your view of "church"

These terms and concepts are hot discussion issues in churches today.  How would you view "church"?  Which best describes your church?

Verse of the day




 "Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?"  -Jesus

Welcome to our world!


Good news


Good News: The foundation of our faith is not a story in a book but an event in history.  -Andy Stanley

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Sad news day

What has my attention today is the news....news of murder, war, sexual abuse.  None of it is new, none is surprising, but I am really tired of it!  


I look forward to the day, and it is coming, when sin, death, sorrow, tears, war and violence will be a forgotten memory.  There will be a day when God redeems the creation we have destroyed.  More and more, as I read the news and am saddened by what I see, I look forward to that day.  The day when all is made right, when Jesus is Lord of all.



Some say that day will never happen.  Many can't imagine a world without all we live with, but it's coming....it's near....soon the idea of death, of war, of violence or sexual abuse will be as foreign to us as the absence of it seems right now.  I long for that day when all will be made right.  I long for the day when there will be no more sad news days.


Sunday, May 05, 2013

Family!

I love family!  Here is a photo of our daughter and her sweet kids....except for one....the one on the right.  He jumped into the photo because he's family!  (He's our son's little boy)  But since it was a family shot he knew he belonged.  I love it!

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Quote of the day

A.W. Tozer: "A spiritual kingdom lies all about us, enclosing us, embracing us, altogether within reach of our inner selves, waiting for us to recognize it. God Himself is here waiting our response to His Presence. This eternal world will come alive to us the moment we begin to reckon upon its reality."

There is a lad.....


There is a story in John that captures my imagination.  Here it is, in my own words, with actual scripture in italics,

"Mom, can I go hear Jesus today?  I heard he was going to be in the hill country.  I got all my chores done. Can I?"  Mom: "Yes, Mark, but take some bread and fish so  you'll have lunch, ok?"  Mark: "Ok Mom, thanks!  See you at dinner."  And off he goes, a young man seeking God, with his lunch in his backpack. 


Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the signs he had performed by healing the sick. Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. The Jewish Passover Festival was near.
When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.
Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”
Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”
 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there).  Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.
 When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.”  So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.
 After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.

Mark was glad to give his lunch to Jesus if it would help feed others, but he never imagined what happened next!  Jesus prayed over the food and then it began to multiply!  It fed everyone and when they gathered the leftovers they gave Mark 12 baskets full of food to take home.  He couldn't believe it!  It changed everything for Mark!  Now, he not only had the words of Jesus as he taught, but he had a new faith he never could have gotten on his own and he had groceries for the week!

Often, in our lives, we think our little gifts to God don't amount to much.  An hour here to help someone, a few dollars there to buy a meal for another, a smile for someone discouraged, an ear to listen to someone hurting, a prayer for someone else in need.  It never seems like much, but watch as Jesus takes small things and makes them big!  

"What is that among so many?"  Those were the words of Jesus' own disciples.  They couldn't imagine what he could do with so little either, but their faith grew as well.  It changed their view of small things.  It made God big and isn't that what we need most?  Isn't our lack of faith simply a revelation of our small god?

What is that among so many?  

It's always more than you could ever imagine when you give it to God.  He's the master of making great blessings from small gifts. He is a big God!

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Forgotten?

(I wrote this more than two years ago.  It took a few months to put my thoughts together, but today a friend who uses my posts reposted this on his site.  I read it once more and was blessed and encouraged.  How amazing that something I wrote several years ago comes back to help me in a time when I really needed it.  God is so amazing!  So, since it encouraged me I thought it might help you as well today.  I hope you enjoy this story once more.)

written by Mike Messerli

He was almost 40 years old and had been invisible as long as he could remember. His name was Joseph and like his namesake he was in bondage, but this Joseph’s bondage would never end. Joseph was lame, unable to walk, and had been that way since birth. Early in life he realized that people looked away not knowing what to say, not knowing what to do. Soon they didn't look at him at all and he became invisible to those around him.
Every morning his family would carry him to the gates of the temple in Jerusalem so he could beg for money to buy food. There was nothing else he could do. His daily post at the temple gates reinforced his belief that he was invisible. People didn't look at him. They rarely heard as he begged for the few coins they threw his way each day. Almost everyone walked by. He felt helpless. He felt alone. He felt invisible.
Would life ever be different?
Would anyone care?
Was God mad at him?
What had he done to bring about this fate?
Then, one day he heard those passing by talking about a man named Jesus. He listened as they talked about this Jesus healing the blind, restoring withered arms, healing lame legs.
His heart raced.
The mind numbing boredom of his days was suddenly interrupted by a small spark of hope. A glimmer of faith began to rise. “Maybe this Jesus would heal me,” he thought, “maybe Jesus would see me as he walked by.” Hope began to burn in Joseph's heart.
It wasn't long until his hopes were realized. The streets were always alive with people coming into the temple to worship, coming to offer sacrifices. It was this constant traffic of worshipers that provided what little income Joseph was able to beg from those who walked by. He did look pathetic. His lame legs withered and useless. His dirty worn clothes, unkempt hair, and a sad face made him the perfect beggar, the perfect object of pity. If anyone deserved the kindness of those walking by it was Joseph, but his eyes were always looking for someone he hadn’t met yet. The hope in his heart changed his focus from the coins tossed his way to the one they called Jesus. “He has to pass this way soon,” he thought. He has to come this way to enter the temple.
Then it happened. On one particular day, unexpectedly, the noise in the streets grew louder, there was an excitement in the air and the crowds swelled. Then he heard someone say, "Make way, the Messiah Jesus is coming."
Joseph was excited.
Maybe Jesus would see him.
Maybe he would stop.
Maybe he would heal him as he had healed so many others.
Then he came. The crowds were buzzing with talk about all that Jesus had done, all the miracles he had performed. “Jesus might be the Messiah!” they said, “He might be the coming king of Israel.”
And Joseph thought, "He might stop and heal me."
But he didn't.
Jesus walked right past Joseph and went into the temple. He didn't even look down at Joseph! Joseph's heart fell. Was he really invisible? How could Jesus not even look at him?
For the next three years the stories continued. Joseph listened with great interest. He hadn't given up hope. Maybe it would be his turn soon. Maybe one day, as Jesus entered the temple, he would see Joseph. He prayed that God would heal him. He prayed that Jesus would see him. He asked for a miracle. He wanted to walk. He wanted to be normal. He wanted to be visible for the first time in his life. Maybe, one day Jesus would see him….
His hopes rose as his friend Matthew had an experience with Jesus. Matthew had been born blind.* Like Joseph his disability was a birth defect. In the Jewish culture there was a common belief that these physical deformities were caused by sin. He and Matthew often talked about this. Who sinned that they were this way? How did this happen? What did they do to deserve such problems? Why was God punishing them?
Joseph and Matthew often sat together by the gate to the temple begging for money from those who entered. Over the years they had become good friends. Joseph would talk to Matthew for hours about what he saw as they sat at the temple gate. He would describe who was coming into the temple, what they wore, what they looked like. Joseph’s time with Matthew was the only thing that made the boring days bearable. This rag-tag team of a blind man and a lame man worked together to help each other as they tried to beg for enough money to provide what they needed to live.
One day, as Matthew sat begging, Jesus came by. Jesus’ disciples asked, "Who sinned that this man was born blind?" (It's a question he and Matthew had discussed often.) Joseph listened intently as Jesus responded, "It wasn't because of sin it was for God's glory." Joseph was surprised. It was an entirely new idea to him…that this could all be for good. He had thought his lame legs and Matthew’s blind eyes were God's punishment for sin. He never even imagined that God could use such a horrible thing for his glory.
Joseph watched as Jesus bent down, made mud from the dirt and applied it to Matthew's eyes. Jesus told him, "Go wash in the pool of Siloam." And then, without a glance at Joseph, Jesus was gone. Matthew rose to his feet, felt for his cane, reached out a hand for the wall and left to find the pool of Siloam.
Joseph was once more alone, once more disappointed. He thought again about being invisible and wondered if it had really become true. Was he so wicked that God didn't even see him anymore? He had tried to speak when Jesus was near, but couldn't as he watched Matthew's story unfold. How he wished he had spoken up. Why didn’t he say something? How he longed for Jesus to see him. How he wished Jesus had healed him.
Had God forgotten him?
Was there no hope for him?
A voice in the distance brought him back to reality. Running down the street towards him was Matthew! He was smiling, waving his arms, excited. Matthew could see! He ran up to Joseph and gave him the biggest hug he had ever experienced.
Matthew was no longer blind! He could see for the first time in his life and Joseph was jealous. He knew inside that he should be excited for his friend, but all he could think about was himself. Why did Jesus pass him by? Why didn't he heal him too? Why didn’t he speak up when Jesus was so near?
It was a difficult time for Joseph. His friend, Matthew, no longer sat with him at the gate. He didn't need to beg any longer. Now Joseph was alone, invisible once more. His depression grew. These days were the darkest he had ever experienced. He felt even more invisible than he had ever felt before. He sat silently with no one to talk to, no one to see, and no one to care.
Often, over the days ahead, Jesus would pass by as he entered the temple. Jesus came to the temple every day to teach. Joseph longed for a glance from Jesus. He prayed that God would heal him, that Jesus would notice, but he didn’t.
Jesus healed many during those days. All around Joseph were those who had been ill, blind, lame, but were now well. All around him he saw the work of Jesus in the lives of others, but Jesus didn’t heal him. A bitterness came over Joseph. He was feeling an anger rise in his heart. His faith in God was fading. Was he invisible even to God? Didn’t God care about him at all?
Events changed quickly as Joseph sat at his post. The religious leaders who had been jealous of Jesus found a way to condemn him. They had him arrested, beaten and tried. In a whirlwind series of events the Messiah was condemned and crucified! Crucified!
Jesus was dead.
Something in Joseph died that day too. He saw the events around him, but was helpless to do anything, to say anything. His last hope of being healed was gone, nailed to a tree. The Messiah was dead. The one who had healed so many had not healed him.
Joseph still sat at the gates of the temple to beg, but he had lost all hope. There was nothing to live for. It didn’t matter anyway because he was invisible and who would even notice his withered legs and hollow eyes. Who would ever notice his tears? This had all been too much for Joseph. His humanity faded, his hopes were gone, his bitterness grew and his faith all but disappeared. He still held out a hand to beg, but he no longer cared if he lived or died. His last hope of healing and a new life was gone.
In the days that followed Jesus’ death Joseph sat at the gate begging as he had done before. There were stories. He heard some talk of Jesus rising from the dead, but Joseph no longer cared. Jesus hadn’t noticed him, so why should he care what happened to this dead Messiah?
It was several months later when Joseph’s life changed forever, unexpectedly. He had become a ghost of a man. That’s what happens when you’re invisible. He didn’t matter to anyone else and now he didn’t matter to himself either. All that was left was to beg for a living and hope to die as soon as possible. What else was there for him?
Then the day Joseph never expected happened. Here’s his story from the writings of Luke,
Acts 3:1-11 One day at three o'clock in the afternoon, Peter and John were on their way into the Temple for prayer meeting. At the same time there was a man crippled from birth being carried up. Every day he was set down at the Temple gate, the one named Beautiful, to beg from those going into the Temple. When he saw Peter and John about to enter the Temple, he asked for a handout. Peter, with John at his side, looked him straight in the eye and said, "Look here." He looked up, expecting to get something from them.
Peter said, "I don't have a nickel to my name, but what I do have, I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk!" He grabbed him by the right hand and pulled him up. In an instant his feet and ankles became firm. He jumped to his feet and walked.
The man went into the Temple with them, walking back and forth, dancing and praising God. Everybody there saw him walking around and praising God. They recognized him as the one who sat begging at the Temple's Gate Beautiful and rubbed their eyes, astonished, scarcely believing what they were seeing.
The man threw his arms around Peter and John, ecstatic. All the people ran up to where they were at Solomon's Porch to see it for themselves.
He was walking!
He leapt for joy. He leapt just because he could!
He danced.
He ran.
For the first time in his life Joseph entered the temple of God. He had become visible! God saw him and touched him. He would never be the same again.
But he had questions. We all have questions when we don’t understand God’s ways. Joseph asked Peter if they could talk after they left the temple and Peter gladly agreed. Joseph was ecstatic about his new legs. He had no idea how wonderful it would be to walk, but he had to ask…..
“…Why didn’t Jesus heal me? Why didn’t he heal me like he had healed my friend Matthew? Why didn’t Jesus see me?”
Peter smiled.
He said, “Dear Joseph. Jesus talked about you often. He wanted to heal you and in fact it is Jesus who has healed you this very day, but he walked by you then so that this amazing result could happen now. You see, he had an amazing plan for you and for me. Over dinner, that first time we saw you, Jesus told me, ‘Peter, did you see that lame man sitting by Matthew today? I’m not going to heal him now, but when I’m raised from the dead I want you to heal him. Joseph’s healing will be fruit for your ministry, testimony of my work in your life and in his. It will be hard for him to wait, but oh what joy he will have when I do heal him.’ So you see, Joseph, God’s plan for our lives, yours and mine, is meant for God’s glory in God’s time. He saw you. You were never invisible to him. It just wasn’t time yet. But today…..today you see the results of his plans for you. You were never forgotten. Jesus prayed that you would endure until the time came for his work in your life. I’m so glad you have endured to see this wonderful day, aren’t you?”
And in your life today, in your walk with God, you need to know that you are never forgotten by God, you are never invisible to him. He sees you, he loves you, and he cares about you. He’s working in your life in a way you can’t even imagine. It will amaze you when you see what he does. You will never be the same. Trust him, wait for him…wait for his timing. You are never invisible to God.
You are not forgotten. God loves you.

*(Read John 9 and Acts 3 for the full stories of the lives of these two men.)

Consumers and contentment

I'm quite aware that I live in a culture built on consumerism.  It has permeated every pore of our culture.  It has permeated me!  I live like a consumer, I think like a consumer and the stores all around me reinforce my mindset and desire for stuff.  And, if they don't have it you can order it online and get it at your door tomorrow!  

But there is a whole different mindset in the pages of scripture.  A mindset of contentment.  A mindset and lifestyle of only using what you need.  It's a foreign mindset to the world I live in, it's a difficult concept for me to keep in focus.

I remember the story told by Phillip Yancey when he went to a monastic retreat.  The priest of the monastery took him to his room, a room with a simple bed, a small desk, chair and light.  The priest told him, as he opened the door on this setting, "if you need anything just let us know and we will teach you how to live without it."  

That story has stuck with me.  I think of it and tell it often, but I still live and think like a consumer.  The area where it affects me the most is in the product we call food.  I'm a consumer of food, lots of it!  This whole area of thought has been weighing on me as I think about the world around me and how I have responded to it.  I find that I am rarely hungry and always have more than I need.  You can tell it by just looking at me....but I'm convicted about this. I'm convicted that being a consumer, especially in the area of food, is not honoring to God who said he would supply all I need.

Paul wrote about this and has always given me pause as he wrote in Philippians 4, 

"I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through him who gives me strength."

In this passage I don't see a consumer, but one who uses what he needs and finds contentment in God even if he doesn't have what he needs.  I know, from other words of Paul, that he was often hungry.  How have I avoided that, missed that and not found a contentment even in hunger?  It's something I'm working on this morning.

A smile for your day