Coming and Going

I think most people of faith have their favorite Bible verses that they turn to often for guidance, direction, and comfort.  For different reasons, a verse stands out to us, resonates with us, and speaks to us.  We may underline or highlight the verse or commit it to memory.

Psalm 121 speaks about God’s presence and help in our lives.  It teaches us that God never dozes off like we may in a Sunday sermon. One of my favorite verses is found in the last line of Psalm 121.  The writer confesses:

The Lord will keep your going out and your coming from this time on and for evermore.

Most of life is spent coming and going.  Now we may take long trips and vacations or see the world, but most of life is journeying simply from here to there.  We leave home and go to work, school, or church.  We stop by the grocery store to pick up a few things.  A trip to the doctor or the bank may find its way on our daily calendar. And if you are like me, you enjoy walking down your driveway to check for mail at your mailbox.  Yes, we spend a lot of time coming and going.

Then there are those times in which life gets chaotic.  There is too much to do or some unexpected event sends our lives into a whirlwind.  Often in such experiences we may remark to another person, “I don’t know if I am coming or going.”  Our lives are in such a state of disruption that our sense of direction is simply off.

The good news is that in all of our coming and going that the Lord keeps us.  The word keep literally means “to guard” in the Hebrew.  Regardless of what is going in our lives God is on guard duty.  God is watching over us with eyes of love and grace. John Newton who gave to us the words to the classic hymn Amazing Grace also once wrote, “If the Lord be with us, we have no cause of fear. His eye is upon us, His arm over us, His ear open to our prayer – His grace sufficient. His promise unchangeable.”

So today in our coming and going, God is with us.  When we don’t know if we are coming or going, God is with us.  And when we are simply stuck in place, God is with us.  God is on guard duty.  We are always and forever in God’s keep. going and coming sign 363.jpg-550x0

Wardrobe Malfunction

I can remember a time when I never heard of the phrase “wardrobe malfunction.”  It is a relatively new phrase in our modern language. A wardrobe malfunction describes a clothing failure that accidentally or perhaps intentionally exposes a person’s intimate parts. It is different from deliberate incidents of indecent exposure or public flashing. Justin Timberlake first used the term when apologizing for the Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime-show controversy during the 2004 Grammy Awards. The phrase “wardrobe malfunction” was in turn used by the media to refer to the incident and entered pop culture. There was a long history of such incidents before the term was coined and it has since become a common fashion faux pas.

The worst wardrobe malfunction I ever personally experienced was at a movie theater with my family; my wife and two daughters.  The movie had not yet started.  I stood up to take off my fleece pullover because I was getting warm.  Unbeknown to me when I pulled up my pullover it also pulled up my t-shirt underneath.  So, there I stood in the middle of the theater bare chested for everyone to see.  It wasn’t a pleasant sight at least for my daughters.

Sometimes as Christians we can suffer from a wardrobe malfunction with the way we conduct our lives.  The apostle Paul in his letter to the Colossians described the wardrobe of a disciple of Jesus.  Paul writesm, ”

As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. (Colossians 3: 12-15)

 However, it seems as Christians and the church that we regularly suffer from wardrobe malfunctions with our faith.  Rather than displaying the characteristics that Paul described, Christians are often seen as judgmental, intolerant, unforgiving, uncompassionate, and self-righteous.  We walk through the world claiming to be followers of Jesus, but our lives don’t look anything like Jesus.  Jesus lived a life that demonstrated the kind of wardrobe Paul spoke of.  As a result, Jesus was often condemned by the religious dress code keepers of the day as being blasphemous, a friend of sinners, and even of the devil.  As a result of his living, Jesus was ultimately stripped of his physical clothing and nailed naked to a cross.  Those who sought to put Jesus to death believed that they had ended this faddish lifestyle of Jesus.  Yet, when Jesus was resurrected on Easter Sunday, he rose clothed in the glory of God that does not fade, wear out, or go out of style.

The world around us is watching what we wear as Christians.  Are our lives modeled after Jesus or something else?  Do others see Jesus in us as we live our lives?  As each day begins, we should prayerfully consider what we wear out of the house.  And at the end of the day we should consider whether or not we lived like Jesus or did we suffer from a wardrobe malfunction? Mahatma Gandhi once said, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” Let us commit ourselves to following the dress code of Jesus and as we do, the world will know from whom we get our style.

fullsizeoutput_3868


 

What’s The Plan?

Someone once said, “If you want to make God laugh, then tell him your plans.”  The statement suggests that our plans, even our best laid out ones, cannot see the bigger picture of our lives in the way that God does.  Our vision for our lives is so limited. We can only see our lives at street level. God sees our lives from above and from a greater vantage point.

In the book of Jeremiah, the prophet shared this truth when God spoke to him, “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.”  Jeremiah spoke these words to the people of Israel who felt that their lives were in total chaos and where nothing was certain, and the future was one of fear.

Sometimes in our lives, life can become chaotic and uncertain when our lives are not going the way that we planned them out.  Now God does not literally laugh at our lives in such a state, but God does seek to reassure us that He is still in control and that God can see further down the road than we ever could on this side of heaven. In faith we have to trust our lives to the one who gives us life, sustains our lives, and prepares a future for our lives.  Hence, regardless of how our lives may look at any given moment; good to go or seemingly falling apart, God is working out his will. Faith is learning to trust God in every area of lives.  The writer of Hebrews offers us this wonderful promise, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”  God has a plan for each person’s life.  We are not driftlessly at sea, but God knows where we are headed, and as Jeremiah said we have “a future with a hope.”

person holding pen point on blueprint
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

Decision Time

If you think about our lives, we spend a great deal of our time making decisions. From the moment we wake until we go to sleep we are constantly making decisions about things.  Some decisions we are conscious about while for others we simply make a decision without much thought.  Some decisions come easy while others we might agonize over.  Sometimes we just don’t know what to do.

Former First Lady, Michelle Obama, once said, “You can’t make decisions based on fear and the possibility of what might happen.”  Indeed, every decision carry with it some risk.  I’m not sure you can be a 100 percent about many decisions in life.  For many decisions, we weigh them out, seeking to make the best one which does not necessarily mean the easiest one.

As a people of faith, however, we approach each decision in our lives in light of our relationship with God.  As Christians, we seek God out and seek to discern what God’s will is for our lives.  Again, this is not an easy task.  One scripture that I have found helpful over the years is Proverbs 3: 5-6 which reads:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge him,
    and he will make your paths straight.

As people of faith, we must seek God’s guidance in each decision that we must make and trust in God to show us the right path.  Letting God and allowing God to lead does not come easy for us.  Surrendering over to God our entire lives can be difficult. However, in faith we can trust that God will seek to bring about his will for everything we do in life.  When we acknowledge God’s presence then we can trust in God to show us the way.  Ultimately any decision is an act of faith as there is rarely any decision that does not come with some doubt.  We have to trust God with our fears and anxieties knowing that whatever we choose God will remain faithful.  At some point we eventually have to let go and place everything in God’s hands.  As song writer and singer Carrie Underwood would remind us, “Jesus, take the wheel.”  God has a good sense of direction.  In faith, we just need to follow.

 

 

empty highway overlooking mountain under dark skies
Photo by Sebastian Palomino on Pexels.com

Caller I.D.

Every day I receive quite a lot of telephone calls on my cell phone.  After being alerted by the ringtone, I can then look at the phones caller I.D. to see who is calling.  If I am friends with the person then the person’s name will appear.  However, if it just displays a telephone number then I do not answer it.  I come to the conclusion that it is probably a telemarketer and I just don’t to hear their offer because I know once you say hello to them, it is hard to end the conversation.  And in some cases, I just hang up.  I just don’t want to be sucked into a conversation.

In the scriptures we are invited to call upon God in prayer.  In Jeremiah 33:3 we read, “Call to me and I will answer you.”  The promise of God is that God will always answer those who call upon his name.  God never hears our prayers and thinks to himself, “Oh no, not them again; I won’t answer and maybe they will stop calling.” No, our God is a God who welcomes our calls.  God not only welcomes our calls, but God listens attentively.  The Psalmist would proclaim, “But truly God has listened; he has given heed to the words of my prayer.” (Psalm 66:19)

God never gets too busy, bored, frustrated, or tired of hearing his children call upon his name.  From the very beginning of creation, God’s desire has been to be in conversation with each person he has made.  God not only wants to hear our voices, but God also wants to speak to us as well.  Saint Teresa of Avila was a prominent Spanish mystic, Roman Catholic saint, Carmelite nun, author, and theologian of contemplative life through mental prayer.  Saint Teresa once wrote, “For prayer is nothing else than being on terms of friendship with God.”  God’s greatest desire is to share his life and love with us; to be our friend.

As our friend, God welcomes our calls.  God loves to hear from us and to hear our voices.  Thus, we can call on God wherever we are, whatever we are involved in, and however we feel.  God will always pick up from his end.  We just simply have to make the call.

 

no-caller-id-iphone

A Facebook Faith

There probably isn’t a day which goes by, that when I look at Facebook, that I see someone asking me to repost a picture of Jesus.  Usually there is a time warning such as in the next 10 minutes.  In addition, I should post it if I am not ashamed of Jesus.  And sometimes tagged on the end is that I will receive some kind of blessing. I have to admit that I do not repost Jesus’ posts.  One reason is that I don’t believe God looks at Facebook to see if I am living a life that is ashamed of Jesus.  Another reason is that posting a picture of Jesus may be the easy way out. Following Jesus involves more than clicking a key on my computer.

I think God is probably more concerned with how we live out our lives when we are not staring at a computer screen.  In the Gospels, Jesus did speak about being ashamed of him.  In Luke 9:26 Jesus says, “Those who are ashamed of me and of my words, of them the Son of Man will be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.”  How do we shame Jesus?

We shame Jesus when we live our lives unconcerned about those around us who are suffering, broken, and hurting.  When we close our eyes to the needs of others, we shame our Lord.  Facebook posts are easy.  However, posting yourself in the midst of those who suffer by standing alongside the least of these demonstrates a life that is not ashamed of Jesus.  In the clearest account in the Gospels of the final judgement Jesus states,

 ‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” Then he will say to those at his left hand, “You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.” Then they also will answer, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?” Then he will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.’   (Matthew 25: 31-46)

If we truly want to demonstrate our devotion, then we will love the world the way that Jesus did.  We will sacrifice for others.  We will be last rather than first.  We will identify with those whom society would assume to forget:  the hungry, the stranger, the naked, the sick, those in prison.   Jesus lived his life on the margins of society embracing the untouchables with love, mercy, and acceptance.

I doubt at the final judgment that Jesus is going to be too concerned with how many times we reposted a picture of him and challenged others to like and comment. Instead of Facebook, Jesus is going to be more interested in how we looked at the faces around us.  Did we see Jesus in the least of these?  Did we sacrificially give to others?  Did we welcome everyone to our table or only the right kind of people? There could be no greater damnation that hearing Jesus say to us, “I never knew you.”

I pray every day that I will live the kind of life that pleases God and brings glory to God.  I don’t always get it right.  But every day I am given the opportunity to stop being concerned about my post on Facebook and instead offering God’s love and grace to the faces around me.

 

yellow

Beautiful Feet

There are 206 bones in the human body.  The human foot has 26.  I imagine that God knew we needed the extra support.  Our feet do a lot of walking over the course of our lives. The average moderately active person takes around 7,500 steps a day. If you maintain that daily average and live until 80 years of age, you’ll have walked about 216,262,500 steps in your lifetime. Doing the math, the average person with the average stride living until 80 will walk a distance of around 110,000 miles.

With that amount of walking it is common then to have one’s feet hurt and smell.  Some feet are described as ugly while other people may be said to have pretty feet.  In fact, if you have nice enough feet you can be paid as a foot model. A foot model is a person who models footwear which can include accessories such as shoes, socks, jewelry and other related items.

In the book of the prophet Isaiah, we read about beautiful feet.  Isaiah 52:7 reads,

How beautiful upon the mountains
are the feet of the messenger who announces peace,
who brings good news,
who announces salvation,
who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns.’

The people of Israel found their feet stuck in what is known as the Babylon captivity. For 70 years their feet would be found in foreign territory.  Now a messenger was coming to announce the good news of their liberation from this captivity.  The people would soon be going home.  So, for Isaiah and the people this messenger had beautiful feet.

As followers of Jesus we too are called to have beautiful feet.  As Christians we carry the good news of God’s love and grace with us wherever our feet take us.  As a result, our lives should bear witness to the kind of love that Jesus lived as he walked this earth:  compassion, kindness, acceptance, justice, and peace.  Jesus carried good news with him.  However, sometimes as Christians our feet are anything but beautiful as we live lives that walk in the opposite direction of Jesus.  We become messengers of, self-righteousness, judgment, and condemnation.  Unfortunately, these are the feet that often have the loudest steps in our world.  It is no wonder that the world sometimes sees the church as having ugly feet.

Mahatma Gandhi once said, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” As Christian we should ask ourselves, “what do my feet look like to others? Are my feet walking in the ways of Jesus or something else.”?  May our goal be that of the refrain from the 19th century hymn, Footsteps of Jesus:

Footprints of Jesus,
That make the pathway glow;
We will follow the steps of Jesus
Where’er they go.

 

man feet legs relaxing
Photo by Gratisography on Pexels.com