Archive for the “Patience/Impatience” Category

God created each of us uniquely – we’re all wired differently. When life causes those wires to get twisted, things inside us begin to go haywire. A few days and we’re just a little out of sorts. A week or two and satan is there at our side ready to capture us with temptations to return to old sinful patterns or try new ones. I’m sure you’ve been there. Too much work, too many crises, too much isolation or too little adventure and you’re ready to jump at change.

Usually that change isn’t following God. Yes, God can bring us to a state of holy discontent which launches us into a new ministry or new level of intimacy with Him. A holy discontent isn’t the same as a life that has gone haywire.

Whether we like to admit it or not, it is routine (which sometimes become tradition) which grounds us, and it is that grounding that we need when our wires get jumbled.

This morning, I returned to my Saturday morning pattern of sitting in my reclining chair alone with God. For a number of years, I have reserved my Saturday mornings for time with God. It was His idea – He began waking me up early on the only day of the week I could sleep in. And I love to sleep in. At first I was frustrated every week when I awoke early no matter what time I went to bed Friday night. Eventually I remembered one of my life rules – if something out of the ordinary happens repeatedly and it’s not sin, it must be God! It’s not rocket science, but sometimes I’m a bit slow at recognizing the hand of God.

So I started getting up when God woke me and going to my reclining chair, sitting, reading, writing and praying. It had become such a special time each week.

Then life got really crazy. I remained consistent with reading and praying throughout the week, but I missed my Saturday mornings with God.

This morning, after taking the dog for a walk, I am back in my reclining chair with my laptop. Ahhhh….I feel grounded in a way I haven’t for a couple of months. Simply being here, reading, writing, and praying has calmed me in a way I’ve been missing. That’s what grounding is. It takes the negative sparks of energy and dissipates them. Ahhhhh…..

My daily reading and prayer ground me, but they are more of a maintenance level grounding. My Saturday mornings are my reboot and refresh level grounding.

Each of us is grounded by many things throughout the day. Here’s just a few of things other than Bible reading and prayer that ground me throughout the day:

  • I like to stir my tea. Most people stir their coffee or tea or hot chocolate once and then take the spoon out and drink their tea. I leave my spoon in and before I take each sip I stir my tea. The motion of stirring the tea is very calming for me.
  • I pause to kiss my husband and tell him how important he is to me.
  • I stop what I’m doing and evaluate my to-do list and schedule. That causes my husband stress. It grounds me.
  • I take a dance break when a great song comes on the radio at work. (Fortunately, I am not subjecting coworkers to my dancing. Typically I am working alone or with my husband in our basement office.)

How about you? What is it that grounds you? Perhaps a date with your husband or dinner as a family are things that calm your world. Maybe it’s reading a good book before bed or exercising or cooking or cleaning. (Man, I wish cleaning calmed me. It doesn’t.) Maybe it’s snuggling with your children at night or sitting on the porch in the morning with your Bible and coffee. It’s important to take time to do the things that bring calm into your life.

It’s critically important that connecting with God be a part of your grounding. There are a number of ways to do that:

  • Read your Bible and pray daily. This daily connection with God, even if it is shorter on some days than on others, keeps you grounded on a regular basis. It needs to be enhanced by those weekly, more intense times with Him, but it provides a minimal safety net when life goes crazy. If I had not maintained this pattern over the past few months of craziness, I can’t imagine how off-kilter I would be today.
  • Meet with God’s people regularly – go to church! Some think that attending a regular Bible study is a substitute for church. I would caution against that. There are few Bible studies that provide the corporate worship experience that a church gathering does. That experience includes worshiping together with other believers and being inspired and instructed through His Word. Each one of those activities are part of our grounding with God. Each provides a different interaction with Him. Most Bible studies provide fellowship and study, lacking intimate worship and inspiration.
  • Enjoy a weekly Sabbath. God created and commanded the Sabbath for many reasons, but one of them is as a gift to His children – a gift of time set aside to reconnect with Him – to become fully grounded before facing the world for another week. Read more about the Sabbath and the joy of keeping it in my series of blogs that start with this one.

For me, the above three activities are non-negotiable for staying grounded in God. Do I miss reading my Bible some days? Yes. Do I miss church some weeks? Yes. Do enjoy a weekly Sabbath every week? No. I’m not perfect in anything yet. Still, I protect each of those activities pretty fiercely, committing to them even when it’s inconvenient or I just plain don’t feel like it. Because God is faithful and will meet us when we make the sacrifice to meet with Him.

So, friends, I ask again: what is it that grounds you? Is God in the mix? Does He play a prominent enough role in your grounding routines? Let me encourage you to find those things that ground you, and especially those things that connect you to God, and make them part of your routine. Then fiercely guard those routines. Because life without grounding isn’t pretty or fun!

Symptoms that you need more grounding:

  • Impatience – When I’m in the car and all the drivers around me seem to be out to get me or determined to make me late, I need more grounding.
  • Quick to become annoyed or angry – When clients call with routine inquires and I get annoyed, I need more grounding.
  • Always tired – When everything seems a chore because I’m just so tired, I need more grounding. (You might think it’s sleep that I need – it is – and when I’m well grounded, I sleep well.)
  • Lacking in creativity – When I have no solutions to the challenges of life, I need more grounding. It means I’m just going through the emotions and grounding dissipates the negative energy and infuses us with positive energy. Positive energy brings creativity.
  • Seeking escape – When all I can think about is getting away or vegging in front of the television after work, I need more grounding. Grounding is our escape and takes away the need for an escape.
  • Always making excuses – That’s called sin. “The woman you gave me caused me to do it.” Those were Adam’s words to God after he also ate the fruit of the tree. He was blaming both his wife and God with that single statement. When I am well grounded, I am able to call sin “sin.” I am able to confess my sin to God and others and enjoy forgiveness and freedom.

If you looked at this list of symptoms and recognize that you experience many of them (and perhaps made excuses for why you experience them), you need more grounding in your life. Yes, your life is hectic and crazy; and yes, there may be others in your life that impact your ability to develop your grounding routines. But God – those magically inspiring words – but God can change that when you ground yourself and your life in Him. Find those grounding patterns, create those grounding patterns, and fiercely protect them.

You will be honoring God and He will honor you. You will begin to experience the peace that surpasses all understanding. Perhaps not tomorrow – because some of us need a major rewiring before we can become grounded – but God can and will do it! He’s that creative with solutions and He’s that good!

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12When [Peter] realized [that the angel had released him from prison], he went to the home of Mary, the mother of John Mark, where many were gathered for prayer. 13He knocked at the door in the gate, and a servant girl named Rhoda came to open it. 14When she recognized Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed that, instead of opening the door, she ran back inside and told everyone, “Peter is standing at the door!” 15“You’re out of your mind!” they said. When she insisted, they decided, “It must be his angel.” 16Meanwhile, Peter continued knocking. When they finally opened the door and saw him, they were amazed.
Acts 12:12-16 (NLT)

This passage tickles me. I’m afraid I always make fun of Rhoda when I teach on this paragraph. That’s wrong of me. There’s a better lesson in the passage.

As I read it last week, I first was surprised that Scripture includes the name of this girl who recognizes Peter’s voice and then runs away from the door instead of letting him in. Her name is Rhoda. There are many nameless people in Scripture. For some reason, Rhoda isn’t one of them. I don’t have any insight into why her name is included here, but it gave me a greater degree of respect for her (as I should have). God saw fit to include her name in Scripture.

Now I’m still stuck on the foolishness of hearing Peter’s voice and then running from the door instead of letting him in. Imagine the scene.

Rhoda hears Peter’s voice on the other side of the door and turns away from the door to run screaming through the house “Peter’s here! Peter’s here!”

“Rhoda, you’re crazy! Peter’s in jail. ”

“No! Peter’s here! He’s here!”

“Where is he!”

“Uh…Uh…he’s standing outside the door knocking.”

“Well, let him in, girl!”

And we return to the front door where Peter stands knocking.

Rhoda is near the top of my scale of ditziness in this scene. But as I imagined this scene and thought about it more, I began to think about Rhoda now being in heaven. The scene changed dramatically. Yes, she’s known in heaven for leaving Peter standing at the front door – I can see the saints there gently teasing her for running off in a tizzy. But the scene is heaven now, so the conversation is much different…

“Remember the time you left Peter standing at the door?” a friend says with a smile on her face.

“Oh, my, yes! I was so shocked and excited to hear his voice, I just lost my mind for a minute! What a fun night that was!”

Those around laugh together, perhaps bringing Peter over to share his side of the story. Or perhaps Jesus is part of the conversation and they here the whole thing from His perspective.

These imaginings took me to thinking about the different personalities God has created. I’m sure Rhoda was really good at some things. But she was clearly not a shining star in this situation. But what is the hallmark of God’s Kingdom? Love. So I see Jesus loving Rhoda for the woman she was and I see the saints in heaven loving her for the women she was and is and I see her totally enjoying the woman she was and is. And I’m a little pricked in my spirit, reminded that my job is to reveal Christ to others – and that means not thinking less of them when they aren’t shining stars, but enjoying the person God created them to be.

There is a second hallmark of the Kingdom of God – its variety and uniqueness. Our God is the God of infinite creativity. He created Rhoda to be excellent at some things and created others to be excellent at the things which aren’t Rhoda’s strong suit. Why? Well, there are a number of reasons, but one of them is so that we would all have a place in His Kingdom to serve the King. I’m thinking they’re not making Rhoda the doorman in heaven. But who knows! Maybe she was heaven’s doorman in training when she went to the door that Peter was knocking on.

What position has God uniquely and specially gifted you for? Love yourself for the gifts God has put in you. Don’t despise yourself or put yourself down for the gifts God has not given you – He’s given those gifts to others so they can also have their place in the Kingdom of God.

Likewise, love others – especially those who might be difficult to love because they are so radically different from you. Love them for the gifts God has put in them. Don’t think less of them or put them down for the gifts God has not given them. The gifts they lack are gifts God is giving others (perhaps you!) so that each of us has a perfect place in the Kingdom of God.

Thanks, Rhoda, for the lesson in love. And forgive me for making fun of you in the past!

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Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy! I look to you for protection. I will hide beneath the shadow of your wings until the danger passes by.
Psalm 57:1 (NLT)

This verse from today’s Resting at the River’s Edge readings caught my attention. It was the last phrase that made me stop. “I will hide beneath the shadow of Your wings until the danger passes by (emphasis mine).

I wonder –

> how often do you cry to God for help – “Lord, have mercy on me. Lord, I look to You for protection.” –

> then hide yourself in Him

> and then fail to stay there until the danger has passed?

How often do you come out of hiding long before the danger has passed only to get beat up by the storm?

I’m sure there are many times I do that. It’s both a symptom (the coming out of hiding too soon) and a result (getting beat up by the storm) of a nature that hasn’t matured in patience and effective prayer.

What does it mean to “Hide Beneath the Shadow of [God’s] Wings?”
Most typically, it means that we remain engulfed in God because of the continual, effective prayer we offer. I am safe within God because I am not allowing the world and its influences to pull me into temptation. That temptation might be to worry or to respond in an ungodly manner. Either way, I have removed myself from the shelter of God’s protection by stepping into the world’s way of doing things.

It also means following His ways, including His approach to the situation at hand. Knowing what God wants us to do means knowing His Word and knowing how to hear His voice.

If you’re like me, sometimes you cry out for help “Lord, protect me!” and then immediately leave His presence to go about your day. Sometimes I don’t wait to hear what God has to say about it and sometimes I leave my prayer time and immediately attack the situation in worldly ways. (Lord, forgive me.)

So today’s Scripture is a reminder to:

Cry out to God when I am in trouble…

Wait on Him to hear His plans for my deliverance…

Stay under the shelter of His wings until the danger has passed.

I need that reminder every now and then, how about you?

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Lessons from Habakkuk, Part 3 (Habakkuk 2:2-4)

In our study of Habakkuk so far, we’ve seen Habakkuk’s burden for his country and God’s response when Habakkuk poured out his heart. Remember, that God urged Habakkuk to “look at the nations and watch – and be utterly amazed.” Just as I wrote that I was again blessed that God so specifically told Habakkuk where to look and what to watch – He didn’t want Habakkuk to miss this! God is so good – when we take our complaints to Him and then listen for His answer to us, He will tell us where to look and what to watch for! Again, I am reminded of the verse Amos 3:7:

Surely the Sovereign LORD does nothing
without revealing his plan
to his servants the prophets.
Amos 3:7

We saw Habakkuk’s faith surge then falter again after God’s first response. So he poured out his heart again. After pouring out his burden to the Lord, he picked himself up and said:

I will climb up into my watchtower now and wait to see what the LORD will say to me and how he will answer my complaint.
Habakkuk 2:1 (NLT)

We have to do that sometimes, don’t we? After pouring our hearts out to God we kind of straighten our shoulders and say “OK, I’ve cried out about this enough. I’m going to quit talking and listen and watch for God’s answer.” Well, that’s where we left Habakkuk. Let’s begin to listen in on the Lord’s response by reading it in two translations:

2Then the LORD said to me, “Write my answer in large, clear letters on a tablet, so that a runner can read it and tell everyone else. 3But these things I plan won’t happen right away. Slowly, steadily, surely, the time approaches when the vision will be fulfilled. If it seems slow, wait patiently, for it will surely take place. It will not be delayed.
Habakkuk 2:2-3 (NLT)

2Then the LORD replied: “Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it. 3For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay.
Habakkuk 2:2-3 (NIV)

There may be some historical reference in this passage, that public announcements were engraved or written in large letters and posted in the marketplace for all to see and read, but there is great application to our own lives. When we have cried out to God, then set ourselves apart to hear His voice, we ought not to forget the important step of writing down God’s answers. In Habakkuk’s day, the messages were written so that a runner could read them and carry them on to others. In our lives, writing what God reveals to us serves several purposes:

  • Like the runners of Habakkuk’s day, we also run through life. Taking time to write the message causes us to pause and consider it. These are not simply messages about upcoming events. This is revelation from God. God is revealing Himself and His plans to us. Is there a thing more worthy of being put in permanent form? Notice that both translations use the words “tablets” – these are not messages to be written on parchment. These are messages that deserve a more permanent record
  • The process of writing the message often helps to clarify it. Notice that Habakkuk’s letters are to be large and clear. God wants everyone to understand. I often find that writing brings great clarity and understanding to what God has said.
  • Revelation from God that has been clearly written down serves as faith mile markers with which we can track our journey. When I read my old journal entries, I am reminded that there was a time when I didn’t know some of the things I know now. As I read about the struggles I went through to learn some lesson of faith (often struggles that have been long forgotten), I am encouraged that my current faith struggle will also lead to growth and a greater understanding of the goodness of God.
  • Writing the message makes it available to posterity. I have one of my grandmother’s old diaries. While much of it is filled with everyday kinds of things, what a blessing it is to read the entries that talk about her dreams for life and answers to her prayers.

I know that not everyone is a writer and the thought of writing the vision and making it plain almost paralyzes you. There are other ways to record the vision. Here are some ideas for those of you who are disinclined to write the vision:

  • Record the vision. Speak into a tape recorder or record it through your computer. There is a website that allows you to record messages and share them with your friends. I’ve used it in these blogs.
  • Create a pictorial record of the vision. If you’re an artist, draw the vision. You may even have received the revelation from God more as a vision than as words whispered in your spirit. Be careful to include enough in the picture that the vision will be clear when you look at it next week, next month or next year.
  • Create a scrapbook for the vision. This record may include images and words that bring to life the revelation God has given.
  • Create a “treasure box” for the vision. Spend some time filling a box with items that bring the revelation to life in your mind and spirit. If God spoke a specific Scripture, write it out and include it in your treasure box. Find objects or symbols that represent the completion of the revelation or the process that will bring it to pass.

The goal is to record the revelation, making it clear, so that it points toward what God has revealed that He will do. This step is important because God makes it clear in verse 3 that “these things I plan won’t happen right away. Slowly, steadily, surely, the time approaches when the vision will be fulfilled.”

Our microwave generation doesn’t do “slowly and steadily” well. Having God’s revelation documented helps us in those times when we begin to wonder if He will ever move on our behalf.

Finally, God gives Habakkuk and us instruction and reassurance: “If the vision seems slow in becoming a reality, wait patiently, for it will surely take place. It will not be delayed.” Having just said that it would occur “slowly and steadily” God wants to make sure we understand that it is not being delayed. In other words, no one is stopping the flow of His plan. No person or demon is delaying His plan. The writer of Hebrews encourages us similarly:

35So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. 36You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. 37For in just a very little while, “He who is coming will come and will not delay. 8But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him.” 39But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.
Hebrews 10 (NIV)

We’re not to lose confidence, but to live by faith. Our life journey as a Christian is a walk of faith. Paul writes the same thing:

16I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 17For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”
Romans 1:17 (NIV)

Where is it written? In Habakkuk 2:4. In verses 2-3 we’ve seen God telling Habakkuk to write the revelation and make it clear. God then turns to the message He wants Habbakuk to communicate and He begins with this profound statement:

“See, [the proud or wicked man] is puffed up; his desires are not upright— but the righteous will live by his faith—
Habakkuk 2:4 (NIV)

Isn’t that wonderful – all the way back in the Old Testament, God’s message of salvation by faith is clear! While the Old Testament provides the Law – rules and regulations about how to live a life of holiness, it also clearly points to salvation being the result of faith, not the result of following the Law. That message is embodied in the life and teaching of Jesus and written and made clear in the New Testament epistles. I love how this Book we’re reading paints a consistent, cohesive story!

What a great passage! Are you seeking God for answers to your challenges? Are you documenting His answers clearly? Then are you holding on to the revelation He’s given as you walk toward its fulfillment? That’s living by faith. Walking in such a way that you are always preparing for and expecting the fulfillment of God’s revelation. It’s where I want to live my life – in the adventure of God’s revelation. Will you join me? As my pastor would say, “Cowabunga, Dude!”

 

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Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
Colossians 3:12 (NIV)

God is changing me! (And for that I am eternally thankful!) I am finally realizing that my “job” as a Christian is to bring the Kingdom of God into every place I go and every situation I face. Further, I’m realizing that the way I do that is not so much with my words, although as a speaker and writer, I place great importance on words. Before the words can have impact, though, the atmosphere must be one in which they can be heard.

Phil and I met my aunt at a restaurant recently to catch up. We’d heard good things about the restaurant and none of us had been to it yet. Boy did we pick the wrong restaurant! There was so much ambient noise in the restaurant that we couldn’t hear one another across the table.

Often, the ambient noise in our lives is like that of the restaurant – our circumstances scream so loudly that we can barely hear what others are saying to us. I suspect that the ambient noise for many who don’t know Christ is several decibels higher than for those of us who have the relief valves of prayer and worship. At least we have the opportunity to open the relief valve and let the noise drain into quietness and peace of God. (The more we abide in Christ, the more that relief valve is constantly open.)

When we bring the Kingdom of God into places and situations, we change the atmosphere from being highly charged with screaming voices to being highly charged with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood
John 1:5

People may not understand the light we’ve brought into the darkness (to mix metaphors), but they can’t help but notice it.

What a wonderful opportunity we have! All we have to do is be compassionate, kind, humble, gentle and patient! Piece of cake, right? OK, maybe not. So let’s start by focusing on kindness.

In preparing for this blog, I did a search in the NIV translation of the Bible. I was surprised to find the word kindness used 56 times, mostly referring to the kindness of God. Author and speaker Graham Cooke often describes God as the kindest person He knows. Clearly, the Bible places great value on kindness. American culture – not so much! Our definition of kindness has deteriorated to the canned “Thank you shopping at WalMart. Have a nice day!” Nice sentiment; meaningless when expressed in a toneless manner and unaccompanied by a smile. If we are to imitate Christ, if we are to be “practicing Christians,” our lives will be different from those around us. One of the ways it should be different is that we ought to become “the kindest people others know.”

I’d sure like to get better at it, and the holiday season is the perfect time to begin.

What leads to un-kindness?
Unkindness says a great deal about the person practicing it (yes, unkindness is a practice just as kindness is). It says things like:

  • I’m more important than you are and don’t have time to treat you with respect.
  • I don’t value you as an individual so you are not worthy of my kindness.
  • I’m selfish and self-absorbed in my own issues – I don’t care enough about you to show you kindness.
  • I’m impatient (which is a whole lot like selfish and self-absorbed) and don’t have time to be kind to you.
  • I’m lazy and don’t make the effort to be kind to you.
  • I’m ignorant, believing anything or anyone who is different from me is just wrong and/or inferior. You happen to be different from me so I will treat you with the contempt you deserve instead of the kindness God commands.
  • I am disobedient to God’s Word which tells me to treat you with kindness, and my actions demonstrate that deep down inside, I’m unappreciative of the kindness God has shown me.

Ouch! The truth is that I am all those things without Christ. Each one of those sinful qualities can be found in my heart. I am thankful that I am forgiven and there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. There is, however, the constant urging to become the woman of God that He created me to be. There is the constant urging to beome the man or woman of God that He created you to be. So let’s look at the positive and turn our thoughts toward practicing our faith by demonstrating kindness toward others.

How might we show kindness in every day life?
Kindness is a virtue that has largely gone out of fashion. Let’s bring it back! Try these things:

  • Smile! Genuinely smile! I’ve lived most of my life not smiling at people and I’m ready to change that. I’ve found that when I do genuinely smile at people, I love the results! I feel better about myself and about life. And the people I smile at are often encouraged – they respond with surprise and their eyes light up.
  • Say “Thank you!” and mean it. Our response to the WalMart employee can easily be as automated as their thank you. When they say “Have a nice day!” don’t just mumble “thank you” as you pick up your bags and walk away. Pause and say “Thank you! I will. You have a nice day, too!” You’ll be surprised at some of the responses you get. It might even open up an opportunity for you to pray for them.
  • Do helpful things when you see people in need.
    • When you see someone struggling with something – carrying too many bags or wrangling children and groceries or about to drop the many papers in their hands – offer to help.
    • Have a co-worker that is suddenly under a pile of work? Offer to help.
    • How about taking time to help a neighbor rake their leaves or pull weeds?
    • When the snow begins to fly, don’t just shovel your walkway, do your neighbor’s (especially if you have a snow blower and they don’t or if they are elderly or a single mom).
    • Get into the habit of asking “How can I help?” At first, people will usually say that you can’t, but if you keep at it, many of them will become comfortable enough to let you help in some way.
  • Don’t respond with rudeness –no matter how rude they are to you!
  • Share your life. This season, invite others to become involved in your life. Here are some ideas:
    • Put up your Christmas trees together – first at their house, then at yours.
    • Go shopping together.
    • Share a soup & salad dinner during the week. Soup & salad is easy and fast, but gives you an opportunity to share life with someone who just might need a friend.
  • Use your talents to show others kindness. I have a friend who makes special memory cards when a family member dies. Another friend makes personal greeting cards for special occasions. If your strength is in business, mentor someone who is just getting started.
  • Be thankful for the kindness God has shown you.

Well that exhausts my list – at least for now. What suggestions do you have for making kindness a part of your every day life?

Let’s become better at being PC! Challenge yourself this season to show more kindness each day.

Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?
Romans 2:4

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I had a cardio stress test yesterday – a stress test with Cardiolite. Sounds like a stress test on a diet. It’s not. It’s a stress test with a nuclear die injected into your body so they can see it flow through your heart after you’ve run on the treadmill.

The radiologist brought the Cardiolite into the room in lead-shielded containers that were obviously quite heavier than the small syringe of nuclear medicine they contained. When injecting the medicine, they have a lead shield around the syringe – so that the syringe is kind of like the lead in a pencil and the shielding is the wood that is around the pencil. Make sense?

I commented on the lead shielded heavy containers when the radiologist brought them into the room. I was immediately and repeatedly reminded that there were absolutely no side affects to the nuclear medicine. “The lady doth protest too much, methinks” (Hamlet) was just one of my thoughts that day.

I love modern medicine and I’m incredibly thankful for what it has done – Phil is alive today because of modern medicine. My dad lived longer than expected because of modern medicine. My mom still lives because of modern medicine. Heck, I can still walk and use my right arm because of modern medicine.

However…I don’t believe for a second that there are absolutely no side affects to pumping nuclear medicine into my body. There may be no measureable side affects or no side affects that anyone has recognized yet, but my body wasn’t designed to run nuclear material through it’s veins, so whether I feel the effects or not, there are side affects to this (and every) medicine.

OK, enough of a rant.

But I got to thinking about this (I had a long time to wait between the delivery of the lead-shielded nuclear medicine, the injection of the same, and the x-rays that showed it’s progress through my body). There are many things that this world tells us has no side affects. How about sex before marriage, abortion, pornography, recreational alcohol and drug use, and selfish ambition? I bet you can name many more. Scripture includes this list:

19The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Galatians 5:19-21

Maybe you don’t feel like that list applies to you. How about some of the “lesser” sins: sarcasm, complaining and grumbling, speaking ill of someone (even your spouse or your children), being critical or impatient. The world encourages these qualities and more like them.

Anytime we look to the world to define appropriate behavior, we’re treading on very thin ice. There are fewer and fewer behaviors on which Scripture and our society agree. Society says “no harm, no foul” – if I’m not hurting anyone else, where’s the reason to cast dispersion on the activity. “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.”

Such an attitude is totally inconsistent with Scripture on at least three levels: personal, societal and spiritual.

Personal: On a personal level, there is a price associated with all behavior that the Bible describes as sinful. Sometimes we, like my radiologist, act as if we believe that there are absolutely no side affects, but there is always a price for sin, and even though Jesus has paid the ultimate price, there is often (usually) an additional price paid here on earth. Sarcasm, for example, affects our attitude at a subconscious level. It plants negative seeds that grow into bitterness.

Societal: Even a cursory read through the Old Testament teaches that God treats us as “a people” and “His people.” Yes, He deals with us individually, but He also treats us as a group and what one person does impacts the entire group. My sin impacts those around me. I blogged about this here  using the simple sin of lying as an example.

Spiritual: Ultimately, our sin and puts a barrier between us and God. Yes, Christ makes it possible for us to cross over  that barrier, but our sin remains an affront to God. Until we have confessed our sin and accepted Christ’s death as the payment required for it, we remain separated from God. Even after we’ve received Christ, our sin is an affront to God’s holiness. Unconfessed sin has side affects.

The world says many sinful behaviors have no side affects. God says the side affect is that “those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.” That’s a pretty stiff penalty, a pretty strong and undesirable side affect.

There is also a side affect of pursuing God, though. When we choose to live according to the spirit, saying “No” to the sinful things that the world tells us have no side affects, our life changes. Instead of the lifestyle that denies us the Kingdom of God, we have a lifestyle to be envied:

22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. 25Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.
Galatians 5:22-25

I felt like crap all day after having the nuclear medicine injected into my blood. Sin is like that, too. Yes, it may feel good “for a season,” but eventually, it will get into your blood stream and make you feel like crap.

I’d rather experience the fruit of the Spirit. How about you?

Lord, help me to crucify my sinful nature and pursue You each moment today.

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No one will ever know the full depth of his capacity for patience and humility as long as nothing bothers him. It is only when times are troubled and difficult that he can see how much of either is in him.
          Saint Francis of Assisi
 

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A friend e-mailed me after my last blog saying that it was just the message she needed that day. She had a great line in her e-mail, though – much better than any of the lines in my blog.

“…your blog message said what I needed to hear,” She wrote. “It changed my perspective. God was not testing my patience. He was growing my patience.”

I love that line – not testing my patience, but growing it. What a great way to look at it. Thinking and saying “God is growing my patience” carries a hugely different message than “God is testing my patience.”

God has been speaking to me about perspective a great deal over the past four months or so. There is ALWAYS more than one way to view the circumstances around us and we ALWAYS have a choice about how we will view them.

Here’s a another example of God adjusting my perspective: A few weeks ago I laughed out loud at myself while working. I have a big honking computer monitor on my desk. In my “real job,” I sit at my desk all day, every day, and I use software that can take up more than a third of the screen with menus and options. So about a year ago we invested in a large monitor. It’s wonderful. I love it. It makes my life so much easier. Most of the time. A few weeks ago I was working from a typed list of numbers to the left of my keyboard and monitor, looking for the number in a list of numbers displayed on my monitor, putting my cursor on that number, then moving to the far right of my monitor to click on an option. An easy process, but because my monitor is so large I was moving my head back and forth like I was watching a tennis match, and I was finding it difficult to keep my place on the sheet of paper and in the document on my screen. After doing this for awhile I was starting to get frustrated. That’s when I laughed. Here I was getting annoyed because I have this wonderful monitor that is so big I actually have to turn my head to use it. Upon realizing my foolishness – that I was becoming annoyed at a blessing – I changed my approach to the job at hand and went on about my business rejoicing about my wonderful monitor instead of being frustrated by it.

About the same time, I read an article by Jeffrey Gitomer about viewing problems as “Wow!” opportunities. It’s a short article and worth reading. Near the end of the article he writes:

“WOW! is now a thought changer, and a mental refocus from a negative that forces a positive response or action. If that’s not a WOW!, what is? And here’s the cool part: you can begin to WOW!, NOW!”

“Thought changer.” If I remember correctly, that’s what being in Christ is all about:

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.
Romans 12:2a (New Living Translation)

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
Romans 12:2a (New International Version)

God has allowed things into your life and mine to help conform us into the image of Christ (Romans 8:29) and transform our thinking. It is when our mind has been renewed, when our thinking has been transformed…

Then you will know what God wants you to do, and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect his will really is.
Romans 12:2b (New Living Translation)

That is when we begin to see the world through the eyes and mind of the Lord. That is when we laugh in the face of difficult circumstances, knowing that they have already been overcome by the Lord and that they are meant for our good.

Lord, continue to change my perspective when it needs to be changed. Keep me looking upward in the face of all frustrations and challenges the day might bring.

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The book of Ruth has many subtexts in it – some describe it as a love story; some see it as an illustration of what happens when we leave Bethlehem (which means “House of Bread) – like Naomi (which means “pleasant”), God deals with us severely and we return as Mara (which means “bitter”); some see it as a pre-Christ example of being redeemed by our kinsman-redeemer.

I read the entire book in one sitting. The underlying theme I read today was one of the blessings that follow those who are faithful to do the right thing.

Ruth could have gone back home to her family in Moab, but she chose to honor her dead husband and follow her beloved mother-in-law to a strange land. Once there, she willingly served her mother-in-law. Scripture says she went into the field from early morning until dusk, then threshed all she had picked into wheat. She did this for many months. When Boaz found her in his fields the first day, he treated her kindly and instructed his servants to treat her well. When Naomi told Ruth to go to Boaz as their family (kinsman) redeemer, she did so. When Boaz found Ruth at the foot of his bed, he treated her honorably that night and made a point of sending grain home with her to Naomi. Then Boaz did the right thing by first going to a family member closer than he to ask if this man wanted to become the kinsman-redeemer. When he would not, Boaz married Ruth, she gave birth to a son and Mara (Naomi) was no longer bitter, but was blessed.

The journey from Moab to Bethlehem could not have been easy for either Ruth or Naomi. Finding herself in a strange city and venturing out to gather grain could not have been easy for Ruth. I imagine that following her mother-in-law’s instructions to go to Boaz at night held its share of fearful consequences for Ruth. Perhaps even marrying Boaz was an act of obedience in the midst of fear. He had treated her honorably, but one could hardly say she knew him.

Life had not treated Ruth kindly. But she continued to do the right things and God showed Himself to be faithful to her.

Sometimes we’re in a time in our life where things are not easy. God does not always seem to be near and bad things happen to good people. But Ruth showed herself to be a woman of character by continuing to do the right thing in the midst of it all. And God honored her faithfulness. He provided a kinsman-redeemer, someone to care for her. He provided a family for her. He gave her a son, Obed, and he gave her a lasting legacy. Obed was the father of Jesse, who was the father of David. That would be King David, a man after God’s own heart.

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But Sarai, Abram’s wife, had no children. So Sarai took her servant, an Egyptian woman named Hagar, and gave her to Abram so she could bear his children. “The LORD has kept me from having any children,” Sarai said to Abram. “Go and sleep with my servant. Perhaps I can have children through her.” And Abram agreed.
          Genesis 16:1-2 (NIV)

When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, “Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.”
          Exodus 32:1 (NIV)

It was out of impatience that Abram and Sarai pursued having a child in an unnatural way.  It was out of impatience that the children of Israel asked for another God to worship. In both cases, the participants were looking at the situation around them not at the Lord. Had they been looking at the Lord, their hearts would have been renewed, their faith and bodies strengthened.

But those who wait on the Lord
Shall renew their strength;
          Isaiah 40:31a (KJV)

but those who hope in the LORD
will renew their strength.
          Isaiah 40:31a (NIV)

1 Corinthians 13:4 teaches us that “Love is patient” God is everlastingly patient with us, can we be anything else with Him? Let’s wait upon Him, put our hope in Him. Read what Scripture says about the promises of God:

For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God. 
          2 Corinthians 1:20

God is faithful to His promises – they are “Yes” in Christ – but the “Amen” is spoken by us through Christ to the Glory of God.

Let’s not be tempted to sin during the waiting but instead say “Amen” to the promises of a God who is faithful to fulfill them.

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