Come Lord Jesus!

Life is an ebb and flow. I didn’t really pay it any mind until I had accumulated five decades of it. Even then it came to mind only occasionally. Now that I’ve amassed more than six of those decades I seem to be reminded more often, more easily, and more forcefully. I have been assured those reminders are likely to intensify as I approach the end of “the race.”

The apostle Paul wrote to his young mentee, Timothy: “I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have served the Lord faithfully” (2 Timothy 4:7). Paul was certain he was approaching the end of his life, soon to be graduated into eternity.

I take great comfort in his statement. Do not misunderstand, I DO NOT think of myself as a “Paul.” However, I do know that Paul had not always been a true and faithful servant of God. I suspect he had always been zealous, but for many years it had been his inherited religious tradition promoted by his zeal. I, in contrast, had not always been zealous about that. I was zealous about me!

Paul, describing himself as the “chief of sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15) and still being confident that he had, as he sat in prison as an old man:

  • fought the good fight,
  • finished the race, and
  • served the Lord faithfully.

He followed that statement with: ” Now, a prize is waiting for me—the crown that will show I am right with God. The Lord, the judge who judges rightly, will give it to me on that Day. Yes, he will give it to me and to everyone else who is eagerly looking forward to his coming” (2 Timothy 4:7).

Clearly Paul was under no illusion that he had somehow earned or deserved such a prize, it was a gift he had been promised. There it is! That is the gift waiting for me as well. The ebb and flow of life has burned much of my self-confidence right out of me. Within myself I have little in which to have confidence. (That is quite a statement for a Texan!)

What I do have is God-confidence. He has promised and will deliver, because unlike me, He has always been faithful.

Hallelujah! Come Lord Jesus!

As A Man Thinketh…

I recently noticed a graphic on a social media platform that was a picture of a mannequin in a clothing store that captured the slumped shoulder look of a person that just appeared beaten and in despair. The caption was something along the lines of, “They have finally come out with a teen mannequin.” Sure enough… someone has! I thought it was funny because I recognized the posture immediately, but even beyond that, I felt the despair and hopelessness that I had felt along my way years ago.

We do seem to wear our “innards” on our “outtards” at times. Probably more than we think we do. Have you ever had someone approach and ask how you were? They might even follow with, “You just do not look like you feel well,” That “look” might be because we are physically ill, but as often as not, we may have let our minds run to the “hopelessness, disappointment, despair” programming that has been known to take over when we forget that God is in control and He loves us more than we can imagine.

As mentioned in an earlier post feelings of discouragement, disappointment and frustration are indications that I am really about “me” instead of God, His purposes, and the best interests of others. The mannequin is funny, but it isn’t funny when you or I look that way. It means that we are struggling. We may be struggling with pain, sorrow, or lack of focus… but we are struggling.

Being “All In” doesn’t mean that life becomes a cake walk. It does mean that Jesus will give us rest. If your shoulders are bent and your spirit is crushed, look beyond yourself and take the challenge Jesus offered: “Come unto me and I will give you rest.” Throw your shoulders back, not because you have been empowered… but because the “Source of all Power” has your best interests at heart.

Photo: unknown source

Deliverance

We are so easily distracted. We “plan” to do something, but run out of time (or energy) and it doesn’t get done. We decide we will not do something, but lo and behold (a colloquialism from my past) we do it anyway. We are a mess.

The Apostle Paul expressed the same frustration in Romans 7. His frustration produced the exclamation: “Who will deliver me from this body of death?” His answer to his own questions was, of course, Jesus Christ!

No indication that Paul wallowed around in self-pity or self-abuse as a result of his “bad” choices and actions. He ran to Jesus and trusted Him. It’s not that Paul wasn’t sorry that he had been a disappointment and had personally failed to live up to God’s standards. The thing is that Paul trusted the blood of Jesus and God’s promise that He loved Paul anyway!

Being an “All In” disciple of Jesus isn’t about performance. It is about trusting and, therefore, obeying. We aren’t just to trust Him in salvation and living. We are trust His promises and relax into His love.

Where Can I Get One and How Much Does It Cost?

Due to vision surgeries and other health issues that have arisen over the past few years I have begun cycling anew. No longer able to successfully deal with balance and energy levels required to ride a typical bicycle, I have taken the plunge into the world of recumbent trikes.

When I purchased this trike I was warned to plan extra time into my travels to allow for conversation, because people will want to talk about it, and they have. They ask about comfort, because it looks comfortable… and it really is comfortable. They ask about the steering because it does not have conventional handlebars like most people expect. They ask about climbing the many changes in elevation because we have those in Eastern Middle Tennessee. It climbs well. It’s not fast, but it climbs. If I get tired I just set the parking brake and sit there on the slope and catch my breath, starting again (even uphill) without difficulty most of the time. The point is that it is wonderful for me at this time along my journey.

They usually announce that they want one of these, asking:

  1. Where did I purchase it?
  2. How much does it cost?

They receive the first answer easily, the second… not so much. These cost significantly more than traditional cycles. When they hear the price point, they lose their interest, shrug their shoulders, and walk away.

I have seen the same response from people when they see the peace that comes from being an “All In” disciple. Calmness in the middle of life’s thunderstorms is attention grabbing because few people have experienced that in their own lives. They ask about it, say that they would like to experience it, then walk away when they hear the price.

“Denying self” in the process of “coming unto Jesus” for the “rest” He promises is a much higher price than most are willing to pay. I suppose that they just do not believe it can be that peaceful.  Perhaps they are just not “broken” enough to seriously consider it. They still think they can get where they want to go on their own. I did not consider the trike a good alternative until I became convinced I could not “do it” with a conventional bike. Now I wish I had upgraded to a trike years ago.

Upgrading to Jesus is well worth the price of total surrender of self. If you are interested, I can help point you in the right direction. My friend David has the trikes, but Jesus is the one with the “peace.”

 

My Inconvenience May Be God’s Plan

While playing a recorded interview scheduled to air a couple of weeks later, I encountered a “glitch.” Evidently the entire 35 minute interview did not “upload” to my Podcast host. If that description sounds confusing to you, don’t worry. It is not important, forge ahead.

I was playing it in the car so that another person could hear it. I felt they could benefit, so I had no qualms about playing it for them. The recording abruptly stopped after the person being interviewed told about being brought to her spiritual and emotional knees and how she responded. I was frustrated and really wanted the young woman to hear the entire interview.

I started the interview again in the hope that it was just an internet problem and that it would work the second time. We listened and it stopped again! When I arrived home I discovered that only half of the recording had, in fact, uploaded. I re-loaded the interview so that it would play in full when the time came.

Upon reflection, my passenger seemed to be touched by the “testimony” of the young woman in the interview… and she was able to hear it twice! It was no mistake. It was orchestrated by the Master. My inconvenience… His plan… so often the same event.

“All In” disciples of Jesus should never get in a “twist” over inconveniences. God is directing the traffic.

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Repurposed

She said, “I wish I was like I was at 16 again.” Many of us understand the challenge of coping with the changes marking our years. That may be especially true as the decades really begin to pile up.

We exchange our youth and vitality for experience, skills and wisdom. I did mention that we trade in our vitality, didn’t I? Yes, there it is. Our vitality and youth slipping away in the trade. Perhaps that is what is most noticeable… our dwindling youth and vitality.

We repurpose items all of the time. Have you ever wondered if any of those “repurposed” items wished they were still new? Of course you haven’t. But is that idea any more ridiculous than my wishing I was not being “repurposed?”

It is easy to be “All In” when my assignment is glitzy and glamorous. It can occasionally be more difficult when I am “repurposed.” The view from an outsider looking in can often see great value in my new purpose, even if I am rusty and my tires are flat. The new beauty may be because I am rusty and my tires are flat.

Being repurposed is only a problem if I insist on defining my purpose. I need to be at peace with what God chooses for me. Isn’t that the way this “All In” discipleship works?

The Unpredictable

I read recently that when something unusual happens, pay attention. God is doing something. I don’t know where I read it. If it was your blog, email or post please accept my apology for the lack of credits. I just do not remember.

Paying attention to what is happening, especially when it is out of the ordinary can present a huge challenge. We easily get transferred to our own agendas when life becomes predictable. We forget the encouragement James gave the refuges to say (actually say) if God wills I will do this or that. We just make our plans because, after all, things are predictable.

When the predictability fails we are likely caught with the “deer in the headlights” look wondering what just did (or did not) happen. If the whole “deer in the headlights” thing confuses any of my readers, just think of the expression on someone’s face at a paralyzing moment when facing the unexpected.

When the unexpected happens… Actually nothing unexpected can happen if we are walking through life assuming God is working and guiding events. We just deal with whatever He sends our way without getting anxious , flustered, or irritated. Having no expectations other than absolute confidence in God’s involvement is critical to experiencing the “Peace that passes understanding.” It has nothing to do with circumstances or results, only confidence in God’s involvement.

Be “All In” and pay attention when the unpredictable happens. God is doing something special.

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…Not As Those With No Hope

Grieving is a process. It is a painful and ongoing process. We grieve over many things: job loss, missed promotions, poor performance reviews, missed opportunities, lost loves, degrading friendships, etc. The list can seem endless. What usually comes to mind is the anticipation of death or the reality itself.

The process is painful, but after a time it can morph into a dull ache. Energy is stolen and motivation is hiding away from view in some dark corner. Life goes on and needs are still met, but the darkness seems to be there… just behind that last corner.

People who have studied such things mention predictable stages of grief that we float thru, back and forth, until some resolution and healing is achieved. That all sounds about right to me based upon my personal experience.

In it all, though, there is a foundational limit in grief. Those who have no “hope” rooted in God and His love and care seem to have a much deeper darkness to swim about in while grieving. It doesn’t have to be that way.

For believers, the grave is not the last word. The resurrection of Jesus is! He overcame death, so “death’s” claim to victory is no longer valid. There is a final homecoming and reunion scheduled. Don’t miss out. Be an “All In” follower of Jesus.

And regarding the question, friends, that has come up about what happens to those already dead and buried, we don’t want you in the dark any longer. First off, you must not carry on over them like people who have nothing to look forward to, as if the grave were the last word. Since Jesus died and broke loose from the grave, God will most certainly bring back to life those who died in Jesus.

And then this: We can tell you with complete confidence—we have the Master’s word on it—that when the Master comes again to get us, those of us who are still alive will not get a jump on the dead and leave them behind. In actual fact, they’ll be ahead of us. The Master himself will give the command. Archangel thunder! God’s trumpet blast! He’ll come down from heaven and the dead in Christ will rise—they’ll go first. Then the rest of us who are still alive at the time will be caught up with them into the clouds to meet the Master. Oh, we’ll be walking on air! And then there will be one huge family reunion with the Master. So reassure one another with these words.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 The Message)

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By The Way, You Have Cancer

I talk to people who describe themselves as cancer survivors. Like many others I am in a category that is a little different: Still surviving with cancer. When told I had cancer in 2004, there were many thoughts and emotions to be processed… some over and over. It is interesting how a “sniff” of your own mortality gets one’s attention.

I recently visited with a man who had that day learned that he, like me has a cancer that, barring God’s intervention, he will have until he graduates into eternity. I recognized the ongoing turmoil as we spoke of many things.

The main thought I wanted to share, one that has been central in my walk, is that we are God’s servant in all circumstances. That includes health challenges. He and I, as well as many others, are walking a health challenged path God has placed us on to accomplish His will. That will may be to change us, or to impact others. It is likely a blend of both.

I told the gentleman that I do not know everything that God has as a goal in my circumstances, but that it has granted me the honor of showing my family how a man desperately trying to be “All In” faces death. What an honor! Who else would I rather teach my sons and grandchildren this walk?

Being an “All In” disciple even permeates the shadows of life. After all, it only makes sense that my trusting God with the big picture of eternity will make trusting God with something as temporary as my health, a no-brainer.

Looking In from the outside, being “All In” seems like it would be very stressful. The exact opposite is true however. As promised, it ushers in the peace that just can’t be explained.

Take the plunge. Be “All In.”

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Give Thanks In All Things

On the way home from a recent trip, I was sitting with an adult nephew outside in the campground. We were commenting how nice the weather was… in Texas… in March… at least this March.

How often do we enjoy the little niceties God delivers unrequested without the first thought of thanking Him for these little things. There are other little things: close parking places, breaks in the rain when we need to go in, clouds floating over to take the brunt of the sun in our eyes while driving, etc.

I know that others look at these and think coincidence, especially since the parking places are not always close, the rain does not always break, and the clouds do not always hide the sun on a bright day. But I have learned to thank God for those as well, because I know that He has a plan, and I trust Him.

Absolute confidence in and appreciation for/to the Creator of the universe certainly does absorb the stress of living, leaving only the peace that can not be explained to those not experiencing it.

May you experience that peace in every circumstance. The pathway is really very simple: Be an “All In” follower giving thanks in all things.

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