Everyone Counts

Different-Cultures-in-USA-vs-India-meet-peopleJoann Jones writes, “During my second year of nursing school our professor gave us a pop quiz. I breezed through the questions until I read the last one. ‘What is the first name of the woman who cleans the school?’ Surely this was some kind of joke. I had seen the cleaning woman several times, but how would I know her name? I handed in the paper, leaving the last question blank. Before the class ended, one student asked if the last question would count toward our grade. “Absolutely,” the professor said. “In your careers you will meet many people. All are significant. They deserve your attention and care, even if all you do is smile and say hello.”  I’ve never forgotten that lesson. I also learned her name was Dorothy.”
Picking and choosing is what we do at the ice cream chain Baskin Robbins. But when it comes to people, all are significant.
“So God created people in his own image; God patterned them after himself; male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:27
We are never more like our Creator than when we serve and love ALL humanity.
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Unquenchable Thirst with Deep Satisfaction

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Lower Hillside Dam, March 2014

As our plane from JoBurg begins its descent towards Bulawayo, an amazing sight appears. Matabeleland is a carpet of green vegetation dotted with numerous pools of water. This region has had the best rainfall in decades! The atmosphere on the ground is one of hope springing to life. Water is life and life brings exuberance, optimism and positive expectations.

Maize and other vegetables are growing everywhere and people in both urban and rural settings will not go hungry this winter. The drought had a vice grip on the province, but what an unimaginable experience to drive from Bulawayo to Victoria Falls with water under every bridge.
However the human spirit is never more alive than when it connects with perpetual power called “Living Water.” In the words of the One who generates this unique resource:
“I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty….and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.” John 5:35-36
When we drink from the fountain of life a paradox ensues, a continual craving for more of the Savior while simultaneously experiencing a constant serenity.
” I am leaving you with a gift – peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give.” John 14:27
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True Colors

ImageNot one of us is exempt. It is part of everyone’s life. Our geographical location is irrelevant. This is common to all of humanity. All of us at some time will be intentionally or unintentionally hurt by someone. It might be by their inconsiderate verbal remarks or brash physical actions. The fact is others will blow it and usually it will be people close to us like neighbors, friends and family.
 
It is at this point that a critical choice is made. Will we choose the road of resentment and revenge or the path of forgiveness and healing? I believe it is imperative we select mercy. Why?
 
1. Because resentment is unhelpful and unhealthy: 
      “Surely resentment destroys the fool and jealousy kills the simple.” Job 5:2
 
2. Because we will all need forgiveness in the future:
      “But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in  heaven will forgive your sins, too.” Mark 11:25
 
3. Because God has forgiven you:
      “Make allowance for each other’s faults and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember the Lord forgave
      you so you must forgive others.” Colossians 3:13
 
What are your true colors?
 
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Bucket List

“Bucket List” refers to a list of things people long to do or see or accomplish before they die. Marvel at Victoria Falls, hike the Grand Canyon, skydive, travel to every continent, attend a World Cup Final – the lists are as varied as the people who assemble them. The goal? To accumulate memorable experiences as one would fill a bucket with strawberries. 
 
ImageWhat would a Christian bucket list look like? Of course you would start with a bucket. But here is the question. Would it be turned upright to accumulate the most desirable experiences possible or would it be turned upside down to pour goodness throughout the communities we live in?
 
“God has given each of you a gift from His variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.” 1 Peter 4:10
 
“And I have been a constant example of how you can help those in need by working hard.You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus. ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.'”  Acts 20:35
 
“After washing their feet, he put on his robe again and sat down and asked, ‘Do you understand what I was doing?…And since I, your Lord and Teacher have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet.” John 13:12, 14
 
“The generous will prosper; those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.” Proverbs 11:25
 
I love the prayer of Mychal Judge (former chaplain of the Fire Department of New York who died on 9/11 in the World Trade Center).
     “Lord, take me where you want me to go
    Let me meet who you want me to meet
    Tell me what you want me to say
    And keep me out of your way”
 
The fulness of life’s journey consists not so much of our abilities, but what God can do through us.
 
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Health Conscious

Digital-Bible-pops-up-in-more-pews-pulpits-8V23PE86-x-large“Now Absalom was praised as the most handsome man in all Israel. He was flawless from head to foot. He cut his hair only once a year, and then only because it was so heavy. When he weighed it out, it came to five pounds.” 2 Samuel 14:25-26
Several years ago US News and World Report said that the San Francisco company Hairogenics is banking on American vanity. It offers to preserve all the hair you are losing until a remedy for baldness is found. Within 24 hours of going online, the company logged 1.5 million visitors to its website. Within a week, 4,000 had signed up to have their locks stored in Hairogenics climate controlled underground facility. The cost: $49.95 for a hair collection kit plus $10 annually for storage. The facility can accomodate about 800,000 hair bundles.
The Holy Spirit reminds us that true living has to do with the long view, and the long view is all about the inner person. I love the way the apostle Paul puts everything into perspective:
“That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever.” 2 Corinthians 4:16-17
God’s children anticipate with bated breath the triumphant homecoming that heaven will be. Magnanimous, magnificent, magnetic. It is why we are so health-conscious when it comes to the inner person.
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Horizontal or Vertical?

GreatSmokyMountains-NorthCarolinaThe earth is an amazing planet. From the aqua waters of Seven Mile Beach in Grand Cayman to the fiery red and burnt orange Smoky Mountains in Autumn. Through a multitude of breath-taking scenes around our globe, we are constantly reminded of our awesome, intelligent Designer.
“In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God. God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him. The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone…So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.” John 1:1-4, 14
Michael was sitting across the table and the joy in his heart was quite apparent. “I am celebrating my first anniversary out of prison,” he said. The devolution of alcohol and drugs had propelled him into a downward spiral of physical, mental and emotional destruction. “Prison was the best thing that ever happened to me.” You see, he entered arrogant and godless but he came out surrendered and redeemed. Jesus became his Saviour and Lord behind those bars which meant he was freed before he was released! Michael will tell you that every day is brilliant now that he is devoid of the shackles and limitations of a HORIZONTAL WORLD VIEW.
“So Christ has now become the high priest over all good things that have come. He has entered that greater, more perfect Tabernacle in heaven, which was not made by human hands and is not part of this created world. With his own blood – not the blood of goats and calves – he entered the most holy place once for all time and secured our redemption forever.” Hebrews 9:11-12
Ask anyone with a VERTICAL WORLD VIEW, and they can tell you with conviction their earthly purpose and heavenly destiny.
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I Refuse

Contemporary Christian musician Josh Wilson, challenges me with his song, “I Refuse.”
    
 
        Sometimes I
        I just want to close my eyes
        and act like everyone’s alright
        when I know they’re not
 
        This world needs God
        but it’s easier to stand and watch
        I could say a prayer and just move on
        like nothing’s wrong
 
        But I refuse
        Cause I don’t want to live like I don’t care
        I don’t want to say another empty prayer
        Oh, I refuse
 
        To sit around and wait for someone else
        To do what God has called me to do
        Myself
        Oh, I could choose
        Not to move but I refuse
 
 
By being a son, father and grandfather I know I am called by God to be a real man. Not to surrender to popular culture that is trying to take our children and grandchildren down a road of devolution. A track where people are influenced to push truth away, refuse to acknowledge God and live a life of reckless abandon devising their own “standards.” They treat people as sexual objects and their constant desire for pleasure is at the expense of their families and loved ones. Self gratification is their primary goal. All the time saying, “I am hurting no one ” but in reality destroying young lives all around them.
 
God challenges me as a man to be proactive. To push back against the wave of decadence. It makes a difference if I have a pure heart, sharp mind, life of integrity, am constantly compassionate and faithful to my wife. A man who walks daily with the God who created him, saved him, nurtures him and prepares an eternal home for him. A man who shares this fulfilling life and message with those around him.
 
I have always held these words close to my heart:
 
    “For God is so wise and so mighty, who has ever challenged him successfully?” Job 9:4
 
    “For the Lord God is the eternal Rock.” Isaiah 26:4
 
    “…be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might” Ephesians 6:10
 
I REFUSE to be sucked into the abyss of arrogance and delusional thought that believes mankind reigns supreme and therefore sets the course and calls the shots.
 
    “But God made the earth by his power and he preserves it by his wisdom. He has stretched out the heaven by his understanding.” Jeremiah 10:12
 
“It is about the greatness of God, not the significance of man. God made man small and the universe big to say something about himself.” John Piper

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Global Arrival

ImageI’m standing in the arrival area of the Cape Town International Airport witnessing a myriad of intense family reunions.  A pre-teen rushes to her mother beaming from ear to ear as the doors slide open. “I missed you SO much!” she exclaimed. Simultaneously a grandmother holds her infant granddaughter for the first time and of course all of the family are shedding tears of joy. A few minutes later, a young lady sees her fiance and jumps into his welcoming embrace. Arms locked AND lips locked…after a few moments the guy standing next to me says, “Someone blow a whistle and tell them it’s half time!”
 
These earthly arrivals, although filled with momentary highs, do not compare one iota with the heavenly, global arrival. Children of God from all corners of the earth are welcomed by Him and the angels into their ethereal home. The American slaves captured this passion to go home in their moving spirituals like “Blow Your Trumpet Gabriel,” I’m Going Home,” and “One More River To Cross.”
 
With equal passion the apostle John describes both the heavenly home and global arrival in the Revelation letter:
 
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud shout from the throne saying, “Look, the home of God is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people.  God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”  Revelation 21:1-4
 
“The old order of things has passed away.” Not a momentary high and back to the same old grind – but new, a never ending family communion at the throne of grace.
 
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One Day When

ImageThis is what the brother of Jesus wrote: “Now listen you who say, today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money. Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? It is a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”  James 4:13,14

There are two major reasons why this passage and the following statements do not gel: “One day when we have our own house, life will be great!”
“One day when the children are old enough to go to school a sense of normality will return.”  
“One day when the children are grown we will have enough money.”
“One day when we retire, flexibility and options will abound.”

It does not gel because our happiness always seems to remain elusive and “one day when” is never a slam dunk.

To be a follower of Jesus means we are a student or apprentice of the Master. When this relationship has time to grow we become like our Lord. Therefore we relish speaking to God and God speaking to us. What was once our favorite phrase, “One day when…” dissipates and a new thought process emerges.  

“This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24

No matter the circumstances, conditions or complications, each day is filled with heavenly purpose.

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The Heart of a Champion

ImageSteve May tells this story:
 
“Former Boston Red Sox’s first baseman Wade Boggs used to hate to go to Yankee Stadium. Not because of the Yankees – they never gave him that much trouble – but because of a fan. The guy had a box seat close to the field and when the Red Sox were in town, he would torment Boggs by shouting obscenities and insults. One day before the game, as Boggs was warming up, the fan began his typical routine, yelling, “Boggs you stink!” and variations on that theme. Boggs decided he had had enough. He walked directly over to the man who was sitting in the stands with his friends, and said, “Hey, fella, are you the guy who is always yelling at me?” The man said, “Yeah, it’s me. What are you gonna do about it?” Wade took a new baseball out of his pocket, autographed it, tossed it to the man, and went back to the field to continue his pre-game routine. The man never yelled at Boggs again: in fact, he became one of Wade’s biggest fans at Yankee Stadium.”
 
Ebert Hubbard, an American writer early in the twentieth century, once wrote, “The final proof of greatness lies in being able to endure contentious treatment without resentment.”
 
Paul’s words to the Philippians comes to mind:
“I once thought all these things were so very important, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the priceless gain of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I might have Christ and become one with him.”
 
When our deliberate choice goes against our fleshly tendencies, it is because we have put on the mind of our Teacher, Lord and Saviour. We have embraced what He wants. The spiritual realigning brings unexplainable satisfaction. And God smiles because He sees someone who has the heart of a true champion.
 
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