Saturday, March 31, 2012

#109 Changing Gears

I think most everyone looks forward to learning how to drive as they grow up. My own children ask me from time to time about when they will get to learn how to drive and I look forward to being able to teach them. Even now we discuss various aspects of how to drive and be alert and when we see dangerous or unsafe drivers it provides opportunities to tell them what not to do.

Thinking back to when I learned to drive brings up some rather fond memories. My grandfather ran a salvage yard and I first learned to drive standing in the floorboard of his old Chevy wrecker and learning to shift the large gear stick as he worked the clutch and gas. He would even allow me to hold the huge steering wheel from time to time and get a feel for holding that old truck in the road.

I was always fascinated by how the truck would move forward and gain speed with the changing of the gears. My pawpaw was a master of getting that old wrecker moving without stalling the engine and he could do so even when hauling an old car. The trick with a manual shift transmission is to work three things or more at once. You of course have to give the vehicle some fuel by pressing down the throttle while you let out on the clutch and steer in the desired direction.

If you let out on the clutch too fast then the vehicle stalls. If you give too much fuel before the clutch can engage then the engine revs too much and may even cause you take off spinning wheels. There is a delicate dance of the feet that allows just the right amount of fuel given coupled with just the right speed of clutch release that allows the vehicle to move forward without lurching, jumping or stalling. When done properly the vehicle will simply smoothly begin to move forward. As enough speed is gained all you have to do is let off the gas, press in the clutch pedal, shift the gear stick, and then let out the clutch pedal while simultaneously resuming the correct pressure on the gas pedal. It is a great feeling to be able to master this method of driving and it has always helped me to feel more in control of a vehicle that has a manual transmission.

Believe it or not, life is quite similar to driving a manual shift. For most of us, life does not come at us slow and steady, but rather life comes charging at us head-on moving quicker than we might desire. To be able to roll with whatever life throws our way requires being able to adapt and change gears often; so to speak.

But unlike driving a manual shift vehicle where we have to maintain control and do all the work, we can rely on the Lord to help us through each transitional periods no matter how hectic they may be. For the Christian, life is not merely a test of endurance or some grand obstacle course that requires our own moral and physical fortitude. For God's followers life is more a race of dependence. Meaning that we trust in the Lord to help us to navigate the roads of life; we lean on His understanding and not our own. No, we can't just sit on the proverbial couch and do nothing, but a Christian that is truly successful in adapting to change and rolling with whatever life throws their way is one who has learned to lean on and trust in Christ to meet every need. Only when we trust in Him can all the moving pieces mesh at just the right time.

So how is life trucking along for you? Are you daily trusting in the strength of the Lord and moving along, or are you trying foolishly to do it all on your own and constantly stalling out? We are all very capable people in our own right and it seems that the more capable we are the harder it is for us to trust the Lord to take care of us. It is my prayer that we will lean on Christ for all our needs, and truly let Him be the One who handles all the gear changes that come our way. I have faith that He will get us to our destination safely. After all He promised that He would never leave us nor forsake us (Hebi 13:5).

Dear Father God,
We need You today. We need You to take the wheel of life and to help us through each transition. Thank You for the promise that You will take care of us and that You will walk us through each of life's gear changes. We praise You and simply ask that You will teach us to trust You more and more each day. We praise You and pray these things in Jesus' holy name, Amen!

Friday, March 23, 2012

#108 Command Presence

There are people in this world that seem to command our attention. When they walk into a room or speak to us they have a way of connecting with people that makes those around them feel drawn in and desirous to communicate with them. In the military this is called command presence. The Army actually attempts to instill this into their commanders and leaders, but for the most part it is not something that can be learned. You either have it or you don't.

When Jesus was here on the earth He mingled with people as one who desired their good, but He also was able to speak with tremendous command presence. When Jesus spoke He was not like others who were able to stir up the crowd through sophistry and clever rhetoric. When Jesus spoke His words carried with them a weight that the people could sense down to their very core.

As people listened to Jesus they were captivated by His ability to use the simplest of illustrations to show the deepest of points. When Jesus spoke of the Scriptures people saw things that they had never seen before from any earthly teacher. Multitudes dropped what they were doing with their lives just to follow Jesus around and hear what He had to say about life and of course the Bible. It must have been a wonderful experience to listen to Jesus share from the word of God.

Jesus was able to command this type of audience even at the tender age of 12. The Bible tells of Jesus' first trip to Jerusalem with His earthly parents. Once He was in the temple among the most learned of His day He became the teacher and they the student. He asked questions that reached deeper into the heart of men than all the others gathered in the classrooms. The great rabbis were amazed at the depth of Jesus' questions and even more amazed at His ability to push beyond their questions. And Jesus' ability to speak with authority was because of His connection to the Father and because He was filled with the Holy Spirit.

Today, we live in a world that craves information and a deeper connection. People spend hours watching, reading, or listening to news, commentary, social stirrings, and engaging with social media. People long to be connected to something bigger than themselves. Many seek for belonging and far too many are looking in the wrong direction. People are looking for an authoritative voice to heed.

It is my sincere conviction that the only way we will ever feel truly connected and have true meaning in our lives is if we will be willing to listen to voice of Jesus even today. And right now He is in the heavenly sanctuary ministering on our behalf and He is willing to fill us with His Spirit that we too can speak and teach with godly authority. When we are filled with the Holy Spirit and speak with His authority then we have something truly meaningful to share with the world around us.

When we stand on our authority then we stand on the shifting sands of this world, but when we stand on Jesus' authority then we stand on the firm foundation of our God and Savior. And when we speak on His behalf He will empower us to command attention just like He did. I have truly come to the place in my life that I realize that unless what I share with people is God-directed then I am just filling up space and making noise. It is my prayer that we will hunger and thirst for the Holy Spirit and that we can have that connection with Christ that will give us His authority to share His message with the world around us.

Dear Father God,
We are so thankful that You have all power and authority, and we are thankful that You are willing to fill us with the Spirit so that we too can speak with authority as we share with the world around us. Please place within us a desire to share what You have done so that others will be drawn to Jesus. May we be able to speak with heavenly authority so the world can know our Your deep love. We pray these things in Jesus' holy name, Amen!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

#107 Regarding Time...

Keeping up with the time is as basic to human life as about anything else we do really. Each day we have places to be and people to see; all of which is coordinated and directed by the mighty clock. The busier our life the more we are managed by the clock. Then twice a year we get a wrench thrown into the works of our lives as we either spring forward and lose an hour out of our day or fall back and add an hour to the day. I really have never paid much attention the switching of the times but for some people it really throws them for a loop.

My issue with time has always been trying to do too much in the given amount of time allotted for a particular task. I am not sure if I am adrenaline junkie and just love the rush of having multiple tasks to complete under pressure or if it has just been poor planning in managing my time; maybe a mix of the two?

Regarding time, each of us should really pay attention to the times in which we live. If you are a student of Bible prophecy then it is really pays to pay attention because it becomes very apparent very quickly that we are fast approaching the second coming of Christ.

While Jesus was on the earth He made it a point to tell us what to look for so that we would know the second coming was near. Matthew 24 and Luke 21 are two places that tell of Jesus' warnings and giving of signs. He said that one of the signs that His coming is near will be that our society will be similar to how it was in the days of Noah (Matthew 24:37). So it begs the question, "How was it in the days of Noah?" Well, according to Genesis 6:5 men were wicked and the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually.

It does not take a theologian to look around and see that much of the world is filled with evil thinking people who desperately need a savior; who need Jesus. Yes, friends since we live in a time in earth's history that is drawing us closer and closer to the coming of our Lord it is time that we take the gospel commission that much more seriously.

It is time to awaken from our own spiritual slumber and make sure the blood of Jesus is over the doorpost of our hearts. It is time to be bold in our witness for Christ. It is time that we step out of our comfort zones and take a risk for the sake of the gospel message. People are looking for peace in this troubled world and those of us who have Jesus know that peace is only a prayer away.

I pray that each of us will commit to sharing our faith more and more each day as the Lord gives us opportunity. I pray that we will have the faith to reach out to our families and friends who do not know the truth as it is in Jesus and share with them in a kind, compassionate way just how important it is to have a connection with Christ. What time is it? It's time to be about our Father's business.

Dear Father God,
Thank You for giving us Your holy word in the Bible. Thank You for the plan of salvation that redeems us from sin and its penalty. Please teach us to be mindful of the times in which we live and please place within us the desire to want to reach souls for Your kingdom. Give us the courage to partner with You in reaching the world around us. We praise You and ask these blessings in the holy name of Jesus, Amen.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

#106 Haptic Response

Our lives are filled with many modern, fancy devices. Things that were only dreamed of in science fiction novels a few years back are now everyday realities for us. Not too many years ago no one had a mobile telephone, but all of our kids will grow up thinking that we have all always carried our digital leashes in our pockets, purses, or what ever.

The other day I heard someone talking about using a payphone and a kid that was standing there asked with a confused look on their face, "A payphone, what it that?" For the first time in my life I felt a little old. Maybe it's my desire to never feel old that makes me love mobile electronics or maybe it's my appreciation for the time and effort that they save me in conducting the Lord's work; let's go with the latter on that one shall we?

Speaking of mobile electronics, I must say that I am amazed at how the designers of these devices are able to create them so that they blend seamlessly into our lives. One day you are littering your life and the planet with notes all over the place and the next you can be creating a digital archive for all the information your either gather or create. It really is pretty neat.

I even had one phone that when you touched the screen it would vibrate ever so slightly right when you touched it to let you know that the device received your input. This is a feature called "haptic response". Haptic comes from the Greek word happo which means "I fasten onto or I touch". Some feel this type of feature on a device is little more than an annoyance while others appreciate knowing that the device has received the input that they intended for it to receive.

Whether your phone gives you haptic feedback or whether it only flips open and makes calls really has no eternal value, but as I thought about all of this it made me wonder about just how important haptic feedback is for our lives. In other words, is it important for us to have touch feedback from the world around us. According to an article from the New York Times back in 1988 a lack of touch in infants actually retards growth. The research showed that premature infants who were massaged for 15 minutes three times a day gained weight 47% faster and were discharged from the hospital six days earlier. Wow! Touch is really important.

But how important is touch after infancy? I must admit that I have not conducted clinical research but I do have three children. And I make it a point to hug and kiss on them everyday that I can. My own children have grown to appreciate this and look forward to it so much that if I forget to give them a hug or kiss they say, "Daddy, where's my hug?" or "Daddy, are you not going to kiss me goodbye?" There is something about touching our children in a godly way that helps them to feel loved, protected, and nurtured.

I believe part of this stems from the fact that we were created to be in the presence of our God. Of course sin came in through Adam and Eve and we lost the privilege of being in the direct presence of God. How awesome it must have been to commune directly with God, to have Him come up and put His loving arms around you. Talk about some haptic feedback. The awesome thing is that one day soon we will be able to go into the presence of God once again. One day soon our Lord, Jesus, will come back to take us to be in heaven with Him. One day soon we will be able to run up and throw our arms around His neck as we then feel His love wash over us.

Yeah, smart phones and all that digital stuff is neat, but they are no substitute for human touch and they are certainly no comparison with how awesome it will be to fall into the arms of Jesus. But unlike smartphones that we have to buy, being connected to Jesus and being able to eventually be held by Him is a free gift that is available to any and all who will receive Him. Isn't it time that we start looking forward to the divine touch of God? Friends, don't let the flashy trappings of this world become your god; don't let the temporal touches here cause you to miss out on the divine touch of our Lord. There is no app for that!

Dear Lord,
Thank You for designing our bodies to appreciate the sense of touch. Thank You that we have the promise of being reconnected with You in the physical sense. We long for so much more than this world has to offer. Please teach us to be faithful to what You desire for our lives, and please teach us to call others to experience Your saving love. We praise You and ask for Your blessing in Jesus' name, Amen.

Friday, March 2, 2012

#105 Goliath in the Mirror

No doubt many of us are familiar with the story of David and Goliath; a Biblical tale of God working through the seemingly weakest among men. This story tells of David who goes to the battle front to check on his brothers on behalf of his father, Jesse.

Upon arriving on the scene of the battle David finds the mighty men of Israel cowering in fear because of an unconverted, Philistine giant named Goliath. Goliath stood shouting obscenities and insults against God and His people. His towering presence and renown in battle caused all the men of Israel's army to forget that God was on their side and would bring them victoriously through any and all battles He called them to fight.

Of course it did not help that their leader, King Saul, was hiding like a coward in his own tent. This display of weakness and faithlessness made David sick and disgusted. Although David was but only a shepherd boy, he had faith that could move mountains and apparently slay giants. After consulting with the king David was granted permission to go out and face the giant on behalf of God and Israel.

With a sling, five stones, and the Holy Spirit David ran out to meet the giant. Goliath was offended that such a one of weak appearance was sent out to face him. In his frustration and arrogance he tilted his helmet back to howl at David. That was just the opening David needed to make his shot. One stone was all that it took to take down the giant from Gath. Of course we know that the Lord was with David and perhaps the angels sped that stone faster than normal to give just the right amount of speed to drop Goliath. The irony of the whole thing is that David then approached him to finish him off with his own sword.

Too often we modern-day Christians act the part of Israel's army that day in the valley of Elah. Instead of facing off squarely against the Giants in our lives we too cower in fear forgetting that God has promised to help us overcome all trials and temptations. And many times the so-called giants are nothing more than a manifestation of our own lack of faith. In these cases we become our own giant because our own fears scare us from doing God's will.

It is my prayer that this brief review of how God used David to slay Goliath will give us the faith to trust the Lord in every circumstance we face. The Bible teaches us that God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34). Which means that what He does for one He is willing to do for another. In other words God wants to bless each of His children. God wants to give each of His children victory over sin in their lives. And ultimately God wants to save all of us. Let's make it a point to not forget how much He loves us and how much He longs to work in our lives.

Dear Father God,
Thank You for the story of David and Goliath. Thank You for the promise that You will fight our battles with us too. Please forgive us for the times that we have failed to trust and follow You, Lord. Please teach us to face each trial, temptation, and conflict with You by our side. Please keep us from being our own Goliath. We love and praise You in the powerful name of Jesus, Amen!