“The best things in life are free.” That certainly can be true, but as always there is more to the story. Take love - the love that is between a husband and a wife as a for instance. While this love certainly should be free – freely given and freely received, it does have a maintenance schedule attached to it. Funny thing is, we never hear much about love’s maintenance schedule as it can be difficult, demanding and even daunting. The good news is that if we stick with the schedule, the results will literally last a lifetime and the love that we were freely given will have become a most valuable admired and cherished part of our lives! So, how do we get there? How do we learn what to do and how to do it so our love will last a lifetime?
Two weeks ago we talked about Elijah and the incredible courage he had toward accomplishing God’s will. We saw him prophesy, take responsibility, wait, perform miracles, wait some more, appear before his greatest enemy and overwhelmingly conquer in a challenge to prove that God is in fact God over all. The next thing we knew, Elijah was running for his life – afraid and feeling alone. Turns out that all his heroics got him was more threats on his life. So, what happens to that courageous prophet of God now? He still must fight but in a different way for in this next stage of his life God is going to teach him submission. Submission – it does not sound like a characteristic that belongs with courage, but as we will see courage will burn you without submission and submission will burden you without courage.
As Christians, we pin all of our hopes on the belief that Jesus was crucified and died for our sins. This is the bottom line core reason for our coming to Christ for it speaks of him doing something for us out of pure love that we in no way could do for ourselves. To us the sacrifice of Jesus represents the ultimate gift. Those outside of Christianity often look at this belief with disdain and even sarcasm for to them it is foolishness and evidence of a blood thirsty god. One question that is probably not talked about much is about the breadth of Jesus’ sacrifice – who did it cover and how do we know? In the present conditions of our world, the Muslim faith is often thought about and referenced. What do Muslims think of Jesus? While they do believe in him, they don’t see him as a redeemer. Does this mean that they are not covered by his sacrifice?
Courage is perhaps the most underrated, under-appreciated and invisible virtue of our time. We are so busy complying with the status quo, with watching our words and with following what others say and do on social media that we seem to have forgotten the simple yet powerful virtue of courage. Courage is stepping up, stepping out and standing against the tide of darkness. Courage is being what you know you should be when it is unpopular with others. Courage is having the guts to listen when others only want to argue; it is reaching out to give when others are focused on taking and courage is leading by example when following in anonymity would be so much easier. Courage, when observed, incites others to stand, it provokes others to act and it plants hope where there is none. Yes, we need courage, but how do we find it and how do we learn to truly be courageous?
George Orwell’s 1949 book “1984” was about the future. It was a scary and suggestive look at what could happen to society if we didn’t protect our freedoms from totalitarianism. The idea that “Big Brother is watching” was a fearful one, as this fictional story gave the feeling that what we say and think are monitored and forcefully used to keep us in line. So, here it is, 2017, and the year 1984 passed 33 years ago without Big Brother watching. But wait a minute – the sexist and alarming thought of Big Brother watching would invade safe spaces and be recognized as a potential trigger for some. We need to be gender and social status-free in our policing of the masses. Instead of Big Brother watching, we should say, “Thought interpreting humans are guiding the collective.” The point is, we have entered a time in history where the policing of thoughts and words has overtaken us in a unique and disturbing way. What would Jesus do in this environment? Would he stand in support of it or against it? Would Jesus be politically correct?
The ability to compromise is a lost art. We have become so diverse in our thinking, so polarized in our viewpoints and so set in our conclusions as unequivocally right, that the mere idea of compromise is in some cases viewed as a repulsive evil. Now look – there are times when compromise should be off the table. There are times when that which is right and sound should not be approached with the idea of watering it down for the sake of making someone or some group or some sect happy. But when? When do we stand as an immovable force and when do we bend and acquiesce to include the preferences of others? Fortunately for us, these very issues existed in biblical times so we actually do have a pretty clear set of guidelines to follow. Is compromise good? Yes! Is compromise bad? Yes! Let’s figure this out!
How is it that life seems to go by so fast? How is it that we more often than not look back on our life - the things we did and what we became - with a measure of regret, knowing that we could have been more or contributed more? Have you ever stopped to think of what makes life happen? It is actually a pretty simple equation: TIME + EXPERIENCES = LIFE. Now I know that is an oversimplification, but stay with me. If we can accept that life is the combination of time and experiences, then wouldn’t solving the issue of making one’s life fuller and more meaningful be easier to understand? Time is measurable and predictable and we all have the same amount each and every day. Experiences, be they physical, observational or thoughts, are essentially the sum total of what we do with the time given to us each day. So, what can we do to make our time and experiences produce a rich, fruitful and contented life?
Christmas has come - the hustle and the bustle, the lights, the music, the trees, the ornaments and the garland. Christmas has come – Santa and reindeer and elves and Frosty and movies and presents and gift wrap and cards. Christmas has come – whether you feel you can say “Merry Christmas” or just “Happy Holidays,” we are wishing well to those around us, for it is the season of good cheer and smiles. Christmas has come – family and dinner and cakes and pies and cookies and giving and receiving and football and dressing in new clothes. Yes, Christmas has come. It has certainly made its indelible mark on us yet again…. You know Christ has come – the prophecies said that he would and God’s plan said it was time. Christ has come – he was born to live so that he could die and redeem all of humanity. Christ has come – his gift was simple, yet it was the greatest and most powerful gift that could ever, that would ever be given to this world. Christ has come – and as a result, all of the human race has the opportunity for eternal life. Christ has come – has he made his indelible mark on you?
What a pain in the neck – or my back or my arm or my leg. None of us like physical pain and when we have it we usually try and do all kinds of things to get rid of it. One really great way to do this is to go to a physical therapist and let them understand the problem and its source, evaluate and act on that understanding and then help us work through the process to regain our strength and health. What they help us do will probably bring us more pain for a short time so that we can have less or no pain for a long time! If you ask me, that is a winning formula! Can the process and treatment we receive from a physical therapist translate into steps we can take to identify, treat and alleviate the pains and malfunctioning of our spiritual lives? The best way to find that answer is to ask a physical therapist, so we did!
What would you think of a powerful leader who sanctions rape, pillaging, the destruction of thousands of lives for the wrong doings of one, racism and genocide? No matter who we are, if we have a conscience in any way tuned to the sanctity of human life, we would have to label them a monster – a maniacal psychopathic egotist. Sadly, there are many who read certain parts of the Bible and handily conclude that the God of the Bible – the Creator of all things - is such a being. They call Him out for the horrible and harsh things written in the Old Testament and boldly claim that a God who presides over those things is no god at all – He is instead a monster. Now look – there are terrible things written in the Old Testament, but do they point to a heartless dictator or is there another explanation?