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Monday, March 17, 2014

Today

“Today”
March 17, 2014

“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be
anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
                                                                                     --Matthew 6:34 (ESV)

Today is St. Patrick’s Day.  My guess would be that a large percentage of the population knows the holiday as nothing more than a holiday with parades, green beer, a good representation of people dressed in green, and corned beef and cabbage dinner.  The purpose of said holiday is to get drunk and somehow the Irish are involved.  Still others, perhaps those among us with a Catholic upbringing, remember that Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland.  His fame was in driving serpents from Ireland and using the shamrock to explain the Trinity.

What is less well-known is that Patrick’s given name was Patricius and he was a missionary of enormous courage and humility.  He regularly referred to himself as “a sinner.”  When he evangelized Ireland, he set in motion a series of events that impacted all of Europe.  Patrick wrote about his life, his mission and his call to be a missionary to Ireland.  Here is an excerpt:

“I had a vision in my dreams of a man who seemed to come from Ireland.  His name was Victoricius, and he carried countless letters, one of which he handed over to me. I read aloud where it began: 'The Voice of the Irish.' And as I began to read these words, I seemed to hear the voice of the same men who lived beside the forest of Foclut . . . and they cried out as with one voice, 'We appeal to you, holy servant boy, to come and walk among us.' I was deeply moved in heart and I could read no further, so I awoke.”

Patrick followed that call, humbly, but also with courage difficult to comprehend.  Years earlier, Patrick had spent six years as slave among the Irish.  His master was a cruel warlord who had subjected Patrick to unimaginable cruelties and hardships.  Again, Patrick recounted his thoughts:

“I would pray constantly during the daylight hours.  The love of God and the fear of him surrounded me more and more. And faith grew. And the spirit roused so that in one day I would say as many as a hundred prayers, and at night only slightly less.”

Patrick had been a nominal Christian until his captivity.  Patrick was thrown into an inferno and what emerged was God’s bold saint to the Irish.  Patrick joined the long line of heroes of the faith who could be added to the list in Hebrews 11. 

I wonder though, what would have happened if Patrick had joined a yet longer list.  What if he, like so many others, had chosen the alternate path?  How many would have chalked the vision up to too much beer and pizza the night before, or some other excuse?  Perhaps Jesus’ instruction about worry and anxiety had more to do with than mere food and clothing.  When a proposal for a new ministry at church, or a new building program, or a new staff member is presented, don’t we often say, “Good idea!” but then begin our retreat by succumbing to that deep voice within?  “This year isn’t a good year to do that.”  Doesn’t Jesus rebuff that by answering, “Trust me, besides, why be anxious?  Today has its problems, but tomorrow is a new set of problems.  Trust Dad and myself to take care of you today, tomorrow and forever.  Just follow me.”

Each stretch of our faith is also a test of that principle.  The down and out individual who comes across your path is your divine appointment, not an opportunity to ask, “I wonder who’s going to take care of this?”  The same is true of every opportunity to serve, give, guide or pray.  We can think of a any number of reasons to step aside, alternate theories, reasons for delay, different plans or excuse.  Yes that’s really the word to use here, excuse.  Is our response to Kingdom calls like Patrick’s, or more like kids wanting an exemption from finals, or adults wanted to be excused from jury duty?  Is part of the problem that God uses Kingdom people to make Kingdom calls?  It’s easy to argue with a church board over direction (even though church eldership is an institution anointed by God), rather than God.  But wouldn’t we also be prone to blame bad pizza for a Jesus vision?  Paul’s Damascus road trip probably would not have the same outcome if Jesus had appeared to any number of other people.

“Daily I expect murder, fraud or captivity, but I fear none of these things because of the promises of heaven. I have cast myself into the hands of God almighty who rules everywhere.”
--Patricius (also known as St. Patrick)




Monday, March 10, 2014

"Wisdom"



“Wisdom”

March 10, 2014

Half a league, half a league,
  Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death,
  Rode the six hundred.
'Forward, the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns' he said:
Into the valley of Death
  Rode the six hundred.
--Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Charge of the Light Brigade

The Russian leader said he wanted to protect Christians[i], in truth he needed to expand Russian territory to the south and to ports free of ice in the winter.  By the month of March, the countries supporting an independent Ukraine and Crimea had run out of diplomatic options.  They were concerned about the minority peoples within Crimea who would be damaged by Russian expansionism.  Russian military personnel began to infiltrate the Crimea.  So, on March 27th and 28th, 1854, France and Great Britain declared war on Russia.

It’s hard to believe that 160 years ago this month, the world’s attention was turned to the same section of the world in a very similar situation to today’s dilemma.  If you think hard enough, you did study this in high school.  I am referring to the Crimean War.  The very first battleground photographs were introduced in the Crimean War.  Florence Nightingale rose to fame as “The Lady with the Lamp.”  This was the horrible war, and one battle in particular, the Battle of Balaclava, which prompted Lord Tennyson to pen his epic poem, Charge of the Light Brigade.

As smart as man thinks he has become, the truth is that we have a tendency to repeat mistakes in life and in history.  There are several factors to lack of wisdom; we have short memories, coupled with an arrogant pride that we know more and are wiser than those who have preceded us.  Apathy is another issue.  A lot of us just don’t care what happens to others around the world.  To be honest, we often don’t care about what happens around the corner.  We also tend to put too much trust in those who lead.  A good example of that is the Charge of the Light Brigade.  There were about 670 men who rode into the valley of death that day.  There were 278 casualties among the men and 335 horses killed in action that day.  The allies were so demoralized by the battle that day that fighting ceased.  It was hardly glorious.  The leadership lesson was that all the carnage was due to an angry commander’s flippant wave of his arm with the command to, “prevent the enemy carrying away the guns.”  Like the Battle of Balaclava, the Crimean War was bloody and costly – 600,000 people died between October 1853 and February 1856.

Perhaps the greatest thing we can learn from both personal history and world history is that man’s wisdom is foolishness and the world needs the wisdom, love, mercy and grace of God.

1 Corinthians 1:25(NIV)
“For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.”
Taken from a recent email:

What is the greatest need for Crimea?

Q. What do you need?

A. A miracle! Please pray with us for the Lord to stop this iniquity. Looks like Putin is winning so far and I do not see any power under the sun that could stop him (another cold war is started already, but nobody wants another world war). Our cry is to the power above.

God is on the throne and He has provided a great miracle already. On March 5th in the early morning Putin was about to start a massive invasion into mainland Ukraine to enthrone Yanukovich -- our bloody corrupted president on the run. The night before were the most frightful hours we ever experienced. But at the very time when Russia declared the beginning of the war at the
United Nations Security Council, God struck Yanukovich with a [reportedly, rumored] deadly heart attack (this is the info that Russia is still trying to keep secret, but will not be able to do it for long) and nothing happened in the morning -- Russia drew its forces back to their bases. Isn't it a biblical-size miracle? Please continue to pray with us for such a satisfactory resolution to the ‘Crimea Crisis’ as well.  


--Detail of Franz Roubaud's panoramic painting The Siege of Sevastopol (1904)


[i] “Syria, for all its problems, at least has a constitution that guarantees equal protection of citizens. Around the world, we have seen that this is essential where Christians are a minority and are not protected. The radicals in Syria want an Islamic constitution based on sharia law.” - http://billygraham.org/decision-magazine/march-2014/putins-olympic-controversy/

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Crimea



Автономна Республіка Крим

March 4, 2014


Colossians 3:5-11(NIV)
“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.  Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.  You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived.  But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.  Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.  Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.”

The Kingdom of God often defies comprehension.  Most people think of kingdoms as countries, and countries as places.  However, if you look for a national border for the Kingdom of God, there isn’t one to be found.  However, the Kingdom of God can separate people – even though they may live under the same roof.  Actually, that’s not fair.  People often separate themselves from the people of the Kingdom, even though people of the Kingdom are intent on adding others to the Kingdom.  Countries have flags, but the Kingdom of God doesn’t have a flag, although people of the Kingdom often sing about the banner of love.  Speaking of singing, the Kingdom doesn’t have a national anthem.  There might be one waiting for us when all other countries are done away with (Rev. 14:3).  By the way, citizenship in the Kingdom is another oddity.  Everyone is related in the Kingdom of God, and there is no distinction among the children of God.  By the way, that’s how we were told to think of ourselves – as children of God.  We know that we are a strange and peculiar people, but you can find us everywhere, and speaking every language under the sun.  It’s funny how love has changed us.

We have some friends serving in the Ukraine.  Actually, fellow members of the Kingdom of God live and work in the Ukraine.  In other words, brothers and sisters in Christ are on the front lines of the conflict in the Ukraine and Crimea.  I know it’s in a land far away and most of us know very little about the country, the people, or the history behind the conflict, but we should care, because the Kingdom of God is affected by what’s happening there.  Part of your family is suffering.  The ministry is disrupted by the arrival of Russian invaders – some of whom may be part of the Kingdom.  Military service is required for those who live in the Ukraine, so some of our family is being forced to fight.  People have fled, and are fleeing from their homes and their work.  The Crimean region and the people of the Ukraine are suffering, and the people of the Kingdom are doing, and will do what the people of the Kingdom have done for 2000 years.  They will serve, help in healing, bandage the wounded, feed the hungry, take in the orphan and pray.  I think we can join them in that.  We should pray for our brothers and sisters in Simferopol, in Crimea and in the Ukraine.

I chose the passage above for two reasons; first, to remind us of the Kingdom of God way of thinking, and second, for the reminder of the Scythians.  In the Old Testament, the Scythians were known as Ashchenaz (Genesis 10:3; Jeremiah 51:27).  The descendants of the Scythians live in what we now know as Crimea.  “Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.  Let us pray for our brothers and sisters there.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

"Take Action"



Take Action

February 27, 2014


Today is take action day.  I want to believe that most people do not get involved in major issues not because they don’t care; rather, I think most people don’t get involved because they don’t know.  February 27th, 2014 is a day for action.  Go to the following two websites and watch the two videos.  Then join in the struggle.



February 27, 2014



Wednesday, February 26, 2014

"Drowning"



“Drowning”

February 26, 2014

I may never forget my first Red Cross lifeguard training.  It was time for the proper way to rescue a drowning victim.  One of the dangers to a lifeguard is the drowning victim.  Panic can cause the individual to latch onto the rescuer in such a way as to drown both victim and rescuer.  It brought back memories to a Florida summer and a time when one of my sister’s friends was drowning in our swimming pool.  I was an excellent swimmer and thought nothing about swimming over in an attempt to help her.  She grabbed onto me with a ferocity and strength for which I was unprepared.  We both would have drowned if I had not reached over with a free arm and grabbed the side of the pool.  It has been decades and I still remember the emotions.

People in crisis often react the same way.  After all, hurt people do hurt people.  When the situation is overwhelming, we have a tendency to put a stranglehold on those around us – even the ones trying to rescue us.

“I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.”

--Mother Teresa

When a rescue – or, repeated rescues – goes bad, we have a tendency to withdraw.  In the valiant attempt to help someone else, we have been hurt.  So, as hurt people hurt people, the cycle continues as wounded rescuers withdraw from rescuing others.

I wonder at the view from the Cross.  What must it have been like for Him – He who is perfect love, perfect compassion, perfect in wisdom, and perfect in obedience – to hang in agony upon a torture device?  The rescuer was being pulled down by those He was attempting to rescue.  He could have saved himself and left us to drown in our sins, but instead an incomprehensible love compelled Him to drown in the filth of our sins.  Such knowledge is too wonderful for me.  Yet He called us to demonstrate the same level of love for others.

John 13:34-35(NIV)
34“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  35By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Love someone even past the hurt.