Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for September, 2010

Sometimes I try too hard. I sit here trying to think of a way to craftily place into words the lessons I have learned this week, the lessons I have learned today, and I simply shrug, my shoulders fall, and I realize it wasn’t meant to be. Sometimes there are no smooth ways to put it, at the end of the day; a pig with lipstick is still a pig.

I have long thought and even told others that when things are looking up and you are serving God, you should be looking over your shoulder, because someone besides God is also noticing, and placing you in his sights. Our pastor puts it much simpler than that, “after every great achievement is a great temptation”, so watch out.

Today was a great example of that lesson for me. This morning began great, I was able to share God’s message with a couple of people at work, and they were very receptive, which was awesome. It is not often for me that I actually get to see the seeds grow, but this morning I did, and the feeling of wonderment is unsurpassed. As I wandered back to my work area smiling within I failed to see the enemy bomber circling my head, about to drop a daisy cutter on me, and I didn’t realize I had even been hit until the dust began to settle. It was something that I could have steered clear of had I just had my eyes open, but noooooo, I have to learn everything the hard way. The bomb that was dropped on me this time was filled with anger and pride, and it hit me dead on.

As I approached the end of my day, and I was upset and hanging onto some resentment as I left. I drove home from work being angry at the politics people play in the workplace, savoring my newfound status as a victim. Then I remembered someone, someone I have driven by for the last few months on my way to work. I have seen this man for a long time, and wondered if there was something I could do to help him, some leg up he may need that I could provide. I have privately named him “the motorcycle man”.

There is an old closed down restaurant that began its life as a Village Inn, then went through several attempts at being something else, finally dying as a Chinese food buffet. It was then boarded up and surrounded in a chain link fence to prevent vandalism. It is in a K-Mart parking lot, next to the interstate. It was mid winter when I first saw the motorcycle man. I would see him at five AM on my way to work, he would have his motorcycle parked in the abandoned restaurant parking lot, up next to a wall, and he would be asleep between the motorcycle and the wall, kind of protected. Many times it was very cold, yet he would be out in it every night snuggled on the concrete by his bike. Through the spring, and then the summer when it was light by five AM, he was there. During the blazing summer when it was still a hundred and two at three AM, he would be faithfully in his spot, enduring. As I drove home today I wondered about motorcycle man, so I went looking for him, but he wasn’t there. I looked high and low, but could not find him. I went to his sleeping spot, yet there was no sign anyone had ever slept there, much less every night for nine to ten months.

As I got back onto the interstate and aimed my car for home, I began to feel shame for allowing the devil to broadside me the way he did. I have so much, and others have so little, how can I ever feel justified in whining about politics at work. I thought about motorcycle man, had he finally gotten a leg up, was he sleeping on a real bed tonight, or had he finally given up and moved on. I have driven by him so many times, vowing to return when I have time, yet not doing so.

I know we can’t save everyone, I know we cannot become overwhelmed with a sense of self loathing just because others have it worse sometimes than we. But we can be grateful for all that has been done for us, we can be grateful for the blessings God showers down on us. We can know that we owe a debt that can never be paid, yet was paid by the one who loves us perfectly. And we can, we can take the time to stop and put the world on hold to help motorcycle man, and not take for granted he will be there tomorrow. God holds tomorrow in His hands.

God Bless

JFT

Read Full Post »

Luke 9:23-24   Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.

I was reading this morning in Voice of the Martyr’s about all of our brothers and sisters throughout the world, and how they practice their faith as compared with how I practice mine. I could not help but feel a deep compassion for those in persecuted countries who have to run and hide, worshipping the Lord privately by candlelight. In places, brothers and sisters also infiltrate secret police that they may be able to stay ahead of anti-Christian activities, placing themselves and their families at great risk. Churches meet in the wee hours of the morning to avoid detection, bibles are cut up into sections and handed out to be memorized then exchanged. It is a lot easier to hide a few pages than it is to hide a book.

In Egypt, Christians are hunted by the police and government forces, In Iran; they throw you in prison if there is even a hint that you follow Christ. In North Korea it is estimated that over forty thousand of the followers of Christ are in prison or concentration camps where they throw away the key. The lucky ones escape to China, where there is a bounty of one year’s wages paid if someone turns in a Korean defector to be deported. Execution is almost certain for all of those who face deportation to North Korea. In many places in the world, denying oneself and taking up our Cross means laying our lives on the line, and the lives of those we love too.

In my walk, I am almost ashamed to try to apply this scripture to myself. How have I taken up my cross and denied myself. By volunteering with a program at church, by giving a donation to a ministry?  Please do not misunderstand me; I am not saying that those works are not good; they are good works for the Lord. But they insulation that our freedom provides sometimes cause us to lose track of what’s going on elsewhere, and to lose focus on what sacrifice really is.

In Tortured for Christ by Richard Wurmbrand, The author chronicles how they worked in an underground church in Romania at first during Nazi occupation, and then Russian communist occupation and their ministering to Russian soldiers. A Russian soldier named Piotr was valiant in his service to Christ until the day he was arrested, never to be heard from again.

“Like Piotr, many others were not just converted. We should never stop at having won a soul for Christ. By this, we have done only half the work. Every soul won for Christ must be made to be a soul-winner. The Russians were not only converted, but became “missionaries” in the underground church. They were reckless and daring for Christ, always saying that it was the least they could do for Christ who died for them”.

After reading this, and looking at my personal walk, and my own suppositions at what “carrying my cross” and “denying myself” were like, I came to a conclusion. I am a poser; I have shied away from sharing my faith because of fear of rejection, because of fear of occupational reprisals. I have at times been ashamed to share my faith openly, I am a fake. For the scriptures say “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels”.

I only pray that God will heal me to start carrying my cross truly for Him. God Bless

JFT

Read Full Post »

I was reading in John this morning, and I actually began with John 1 and went to John 7. I did not start out with a target scripture that I was interested in, but was just reading in General. I got mid way through John 3, and came across John 3:16 which is a great testament to God’s love for us, but it was John 3:17 that slapped me in the face this time, causing me to read it over and over a few times. “17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him”.

I have heard people say that our God is an angry God, that He is a God who gets pleasure from punishing us, yet I believe this scripture, when combined with the passage before it gives us an amazing view into the heart of God.

 16“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

Suppose you live in a fourth story apartment somewhere and it caught on fire. Fire trucks began to arrive on the scene and spray water into the windows below your floor, which were all engulfed in flames. You searched through the smoke for a way out, and discovered that the elevators were no longer working. You make your way to the stairwell, which has a small window in the middle of the door, and you see a torrent of fire racing up from below. You can’t go down, and you can’t go up, you are doomed as you crawl around the floor looking for a way out.

As you crawl back to your apartment resigned to at least die within familiar surroundings, you hear a crash of breaking glass coming from another room. You crawl to the sill, and through eyes stinging and watering from the smoke, you look out and see a hero. There is a fireman on a hook and ladder truck below and the breaking glass was the ladder hitting the window. The fireman is halfway up on the ladder and there is a man on the ground directing the ladder to you. The fireman on the ladder coaxes you to step out on the ladder, to save yourself from the flames that are now licking at your heels, yet it is scary, it is so far down. The fireman is smiling, trying to give you some of his confidence, yet urgently beckoning you to hurry, time is running out. As you step out onto the ladder, you feel it dip and sway side to side slightly as you apply weight causing you to cling ever so tightly to the burning window frame. The fireman then looks you in the eye very intently, and says “trust me” in what seems like slow motion. All at once, you climb fully onto the ladder and take several steps down as the fireman comes closer and takes one of your hands and tells you he has you now.

The ladder begins to swing away from the now fully engulfed apartment that was once your home, a home you will never return to again. You will have a new home now, as you are no longer able to live in that world. I see God as the fireman, coaxing us lovingly to safety, yet still requiring it to be our decision. I see the ladder to safety as being Jesus Christ, we cannot be free from our world of fire until we decide to step out onto the ladder to salvation that Jesus is.

Jesus is out pathway to salvation, yet accepting Him is still a choice we have to make. I don’t see how anyone could see God as anything less than an amazing Father, one who is willing to stop at nothing to make us having a home with Him possible, to one and all.

Will you step out on the ladder to escape the flames?

God Bless

JFT

Read Full Post »

I paced back and forth across my kitchen, stewing on my current life conditions, and how I would respond to them. I have had a tough run lately, at work, socially, and with my family, and I can’t help but wonder when the rain will finally stop. I make a mental note that when I get to Heaven, I have a few strongly worded questions I am going to be asking Jesus about our life here on earth. I pour myself a tall glass of milk and decide to go sit on the patio and cool down, maybe watching the sunset will calm my nerves.

I step out onto the patio and head for the big wicker chair I like to sit in, and that is when I notice Him, I am startled and jump, spilling my milk as He holds both of His hands up and says, “relax, I mean ho harm”. He is dressed in Khaki pants and an offwhite shirt with some kind of sweater over his shoulder, and although I have never seen Him before, He is strangely familiar. He smiles and says, “I think you know who I am, don’t you”? I gulp as I realize I do, It is Him, Jesus in the flesh. He holds His hand out and says “take a seat” and I can’t help but notice the large circular scar on His hand as I sit. “Now, He says, I believe you have a few strongly worded questions you want to ask me, is that correct”? I am speechless as I nod my head up and down, then I find my voice and utter one word,” how”? He laughs and says “well, when your Dad is God, you can come and go as you please”, then he smiles warmly. He then says, that isn’t the only question you have for me is it? I then answer no, I guess I do have a few more. Jesus then leans back in His chair and says “fire away”.

I then explain that I know what the two greatest commandments are, to love God first, and then to love your neighbors, and I understand that our neighbors are basically everyone on the planet. My question is how can we be expected to love those who beat us up in life, seemingly getting pleasure of making our lives miserable, how can we love them? Jesus thinks a moment, and then responds; “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ do that.

He then asks for my next question and I delay as I try to gather my thoughts. Finally, I say okay, I got in an auto accident last month, I was not at fault yet the woman driving the other car put in a claim on me and it was settled in her favor. I am considering getting a lawyer and taking her to civil court and suing her for what she took from me, I am justified in that, right? Jesus looks off at the sunset thoughtfully, then says Jim, I have always believed that If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.

Hmm, well alright then, on to the next question. A few months ago, someone at work started a rumor about me that was vicious and completely untrue. Come to find out, it is the same guy who was vying for the promotion I was in line for, and he seriously hurt my reputation, to the point where he got the job over me. I have no respect for the man, and even though I know vengeance is Yours, that doesn’t mean I have to tolerate his presence in the break-room, right? Jesus smiled a sad smile and said Jim, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. I know Jesus, I said as my voice became raised, but do you know what this guy has done, do you know how rotten he must be to have done the things he does to get ahead. Surely this guy is going to burn in the deepest recesses of hell for the way he lives his life, I mean, come on. Jesus then begins to shake His head side to side and says Jim,  “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

Okay, so I am supposed to just go on and work with him, what happens when the day comes when he needs my help, what then? Jesus then said “it is written”; If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.  In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

I look at Him and say “so, we are basically called to be the doormat to the world, when people walk on us we are just supposed to take it. How can we ever experience any happiness in life when going by those rules? Jesus then says “it is written”, the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. I then ask Him how we are ever to be justified, if our wrongs are never righted and He smiles the warmest smile and opens both of His palms outward toward me. Jim, He says, you were justified by my blood when I hung on the cross, carrying the burden of your sins. Have pity on those who persecute you and have not taken me as their savior, their pain will be eternal, yours is just for a season.

The questions are gone, I have nothing else as he stands and places a hand on my shoulder. He can see that I still don’t understand, but I am not about to question His authority. Jim, trust me, that is all I can say, trust me Be still and know that I am God.

God Bless and Keep You

JFT

Read Full Post »

I have always thought that many of us who are Christ followers bear the burden of carrying pain in some form or other. Many bear the pain of losing someone they loved deeply to an adulterous relationship that ended their marriage. Some bear the burden of an addiction to alcohol, drugs, pornography, food or any other of a large list of things that can become addicting. Some folks bear the pain of not being able to hold down a job and constantly wondering “what’s wrong with me”? Many have the pain of being distanced from their families and feeling as though they are going through this life alone, unwanted, un-needed, unloved. Some have to deal with physical pain on a daily basis and it is a challenge to just rise from bed each morning.

Last week, when I read a fellow bloggers post and saw the comments on just how many of us out there that are truly broken, I was not actually surprised. You can tell when you meet someone who has been broken over and over again as opposed to someone who has a life of riley. People who have been through the fire time and again have a characteristic that you don’t see in someone who has never been tested, and that is compassion.

A very dear brother of mine knows what I am talking about, you see, he lost his little seven year old daughter to an auto accident a few years back. As a father I cannot fathom what it must be like to lose a child, but I am certain it would be a bone crushing type of pain like no other. His will to go on was only spurred by the fact that he still had a son who needed him, and so he forced himself to go through the motions each day, he existed. Eventually, he joined a group of people that provide support to parents who have lost a child, and within six months of losing his daughter, he was manning a hotline. There was a hotline for men, and one for women, of course he manned the hotline for men.

He fielded calls from others who were going what he had been through, and were still going through it. There was a support group that would meet on a regular basis and they would talk, grieve, and generally support one another. At one particular meeting, he was approached by a man afterwards who thanked him for his service on the hotline. He had called it and had been encouraged by my friend shortly after losing his child, and then he told my friend something that shocked him. He said, you know, when I called you I had a bottle of whiskey in one hand, and a loaded pistol sitting on the table next to me, and I was going to do it. I wondered if you knew what your words of encouragement meant to me, I am here today because of you. My friend had no idea at the time that his words were so important.

If you go to a soup kitchen or a homeless shelter, you will find it staffed with volunteers who have been broken and rebuilt time and again. Suicide hotlines are not staffed with college psych majors, but with people who have had to deal with that pain and have found their way out of the fog and want to help others. Substance abuse centers are usually staffed with people who have had to overcome their own addictions and want to lead others to freedom. Pain is a part of our lives, every one of us, but how we deal with it determines our direction. If we pull inward and focus on our misery, it will only get worse and we will become self absorbed and spiritually ill. But if we take our pain and turn it into compassion for others, our own hearts will begin to heal in the process. We need to be a people of love and compassion, because the opposite is hard heartedness, and that is not what God wants for us.

I have never ceased to be amazed how Jesus was nailed to the cross, spat upon, and mocked, yet his response was “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do”. Dying on the cross, looking down at His murderers cursing him, He still felt sorrow and compassion for them, and He even then interceded between them and His Father for their forgiveness. That is why Jesus was compared frequently with a lamb, rather than a lion. I always wondered why the King of Kings and Lord of Lords would want to be compared to a meek and gentle lamb rather than a roaring lion. It is because the lamb is a symbol of submission, compassion, and love, and it was meant to be a message to us. I pray that the world will know us by our love and compassion and that we will turn our pain outward. God Bless You

JFT

Read Full Post »

The ground shakes slightly from the explosions in the distance, the horizon flashes at the front lines as the battle rages on. I look around at the harried people rushing by, everyone seeming to have a task at hand. I look as a man goes by on a stretcher headed for the medical field hospital that was hastily erected. There are no outward signs that he is even alive, blood soaks his clothing in several places. As I proceed onward in the line, it rounds a tent and I am appalled to see a stack of bodies protruding from the open door of another tent that was previously obscured. A shiver runs up my spine, as I look at the remnants of what were once people, but are now just empty vessels, gone on to wherever.

As I move forward, a young man taps me on the shoulder, and I turn and say “yes”? He asks if this is the line for volunteers and I tell him it is, then he falls into line behind me. He is just a boy, maybe sixteen or seventeen at most, and I am sure they will turn him away. I can now see the table up ahead where the volunteers are registering, but there is no comfort in that because things seem perilous at best to me.

Two men are walking into the camp; one is helping the other to walk as he is wounded severely with an open wound to his thigh. The wounded man is saying he just wants to get bandaged up so that he can get back to the front where his comrades are keeping up the resistance as they need every man available to fight the evil enemy. His friend agrees and leads him on towards medical attention. I can’t help but wonder why he would want to go back; it looks like his injury is a ticket out of the war to me.

Finally at the front of the line, I ask the crusty old man what positions they have open, to which he looks at me and says “infantry”. I mull that over and then confess that I do not have the training needed for the infantry, I have never fired cannon, I am not adept at the use of a saber or a rifle and my background is in accounting. I then ask him if there is anything that fits into the category of my gift at accounting where I may be of use. The crusty old military man places his finger on his chin and appears to be in deep thought for a moment, then he looks at me and says “yes” infantry. I look at him with surprise and tell him, I told you I am not comfortable with that, being a fighting man is not one of my gifts, now is there something I can do to help the cause?

The crusty old military man has a look of disgust on his face as he says “make your mark or move on”. I notice there is what looks like a large pickle jar at the corner of the table that says “donations” on the outside. Suddenly I get an idea, Sir, maybe I could help the cause financially, as I pull a few dollars out of my pocket and stuff them into the jar, finally satisfied with myself. The recruiter says thanks with a sarcastic lilt to his voice, and focuses on the young man behind me, making it clear that our business was concluded. As I turn to walk away, the young man says his name is David, and then says “infantry would be fine sir, and I am pretty good with this sling”, pulling it from his pocket. Too bad I think, there is no way this kid will last. As I head back home, a sense of satisfaction fills my being as I consider how generous I was, surely my donation will help the cause greatly.

Nathan Hale, a continental soldier who lived to the ripe old age of twenty one was immortalized by stating, “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country”. Patrick Henry coined the phrase “give me liberty or give me death” in 1775. These people felt so strongly about the patriotism for their country that they were more than willing to lay down their lives for freedom. We are willing to lay our lives down for freedom and the ideology of a country, yet many times we want to be picky about how we choose to serve the Lord (if) we choose to serve the Lord. How many times have we said we weren’t comfortable speaking in public, were afraid someone would ask a question we couldn’t answer so as a result we don’t place ourselves in a position where we will be questioned.  Mark 16:15-16 is very plain of what God expects of us.    15He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. 16Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.

So what am I saying, it is time for us to stop looking for how the church can accommodate our gifts and ask what we can do to spread His word. There is always something we can do to help in spreading the word of God. How is your fruit?

Matthew 7:16-20    By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

God Bless

JFT

Read Full Post »

His skin is dark and leathery, a trademark of someone who spends the vast majority of his time out in the sun. It is a Monday, the temperature hovers around one hundred and ten degrees, and he is on the move, again. He has shoulder length mostly gray hair, laced with some darker hair, and appears to be about fifty. When we call out to him, he looks nervously about , wondering if I am friend or foe, then he sees we are offering cold water, his look of apprehension becomes one of desperation. He comes over to us, and happily takes the icy bottle of water. My friend asks him how he is doing, and he says what we have heard many others say, time after time, “I’m just trying to make it, to survive”.

The man leans on his shopping cart and eats the granola bar as though it is a prime rib dinner. I ask him if he is managing to stay in the shade, and he says no, everywhere there is shade, the police run me off, they say it is bad for the businesses. I look into his eyes and recognize a look that I recognize immediately, I have seen it many times before in the eyes of abandoned dogs I have seen at the pound. It is a look of loneliness and homelessness, a look of someone who has nothing left but a few precious mementos in a shopping cart, a look of someone who is low in spirit.

We greet another man sitting at a bus stop bench and offer him water and food, he accepts and then begins to speak, yet he makes no sense. He is obviously someone who suffers from mental illness and doesn’t have the resources to treat it. I think if Jesus were here he would want us to embrace rather than push away those who cannot help their actions due to illness. My heart aches.

We encounter a man on a bicycle who is also homeless and offer him the same, and he gladly accepts the water and granola, but stops at one bottle. He thanks us then tells us in a very clear and lucid manner that he is also a follower of Christ, and that he too is saved. He then tells us he has lost the path in his walk and really wants to get back on track. He asks where we go to church, and we tell him. We talked for a few minutes with him, and he was very encouraged that we took the time to treat him as a human, which is something that most homeless or down and out people do not get very often, dignity.

Many times when we see someone pushing a shopping cart, do we stop to take the time to look at them as a person, or an eyesore. Do we think about them as an equal in the kingdom, or do we just hope that they do not come to our neighborhood. I think if we took the time to talk to them sometimes, we would be shocked to find that they are not so different from us. Many times there is a fine line separating those who are on the street from us.

The homeless have been with us for thousands of years, and they will continue to be with us for whatever time we have left. I ask you to leave your comfort zone and help some soul that can no longer help themselves, show them love, don’t judge and offer them dignity and when you do you wash the feet of the savior.

Matthew 25:34-40

 

 34“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

 37“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

 40“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.

God Bless and Keep You-Always

JFT

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »