Prayer by Timothy Keller

I have always struggled with a consistent prayer life. I found the book “Prayer” by Timothy Keller to be extremely helpful in getting this part of my spiritual life on track. Specifically the two chapters I have outlined below. Using the Lord’s Prayer as a guide has really kept me from just using my prayer time as a “Santa Claus” list of wants. Also, dedicating myself to prayer time in the morning and a shorter prayer time as I go to bed (that includes a Psalm) has helped me to start and end my day well.

Two other things that have been helpful to me (and may or may not be to anyone else)…. The first is that when I am particularly tired, unfocused or have something heavy on my heart, I type out my prayers in a journal. It keeps me from becoming distracted or falling asleep and also I find that in the writing of the prayers I become aware of things I didn’t even know I was thinking. And the other goes back to C.S. Lewis (I know, imagine that). This is a quote from Screwtape Letters (whom was a senior demon telling a junior demon how to keep his human from grower closer to the Lord), “At the very least, they can be persuaded that the bodily position makes no difference to their prayers; for they constantly forget, what you must always remember, that they are animals and that whatever their bodies do affects their souls.” I have found that kneeling during my prayer time puts me and the Lord in our proper places. And in doing so with my body, helps me also get my mind to the proper place.

 

Chapter 8: The Prayer of Prayers

  • Augustine, Luther and Calvin all developed their instruction on how to pray mainly out of their understanding of the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13). This chapter goes into these three men’s insights line by line of the Lord’s prayer and how we can use the Lord’s prayer as a mode that will have all of the components that should always be a part of our prayer time with the Lord.
  • We must keep the Lord’s prayer from just becoming a ritual, by not simply just praying the words, but by understanding each part and praying each part’s truths through our our thoughts and what is actually going on in our lives.

 

  • “Our Father Who Art in Heaven”
    • This should cause us to be blown away by the fact that the God who could have justly judged us all severely, instead implants a comforting trust in our hearts through His fatherly love.
  • “Hallowed Be Thy Name”
    • This is a call that God’s Holy name be glorified among all nations. It is our time to praise God for who He is and thank him for his goodness in our life
  • “Thy Kingdom Come”
    • We are asking God to so fully rule us that we want to obey him with all our hearts and with joy. And we yearn for the day when God’s kingdom comes in full to make all things right.
  • “Thy Will be Done”
    • We ask God to grant us the grace to bear whatever it takes that we fully lie down our own will for our lives and take up the Lord’s will; acknowledging that the Lord knows best and we must trust him even when we don’t understand or like how he is bringing about his will in our lives. We echo Jesus’ words from the Garden of Gethsemane. It is an opportunity to give those things over to the Lord that we know we are hanging onto, that we are trying to accomplish on our own and our keeping us from falling submitting to God’s will.  
  • “Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread”
    • This is when we pray for the needs of ourself and others. We must be careful not to turn this into a list of wants. Augustine suggested we pray that God give us neither poverty or riches (Proverbs 30:8). It is also a time not to pray just for individuals, but for needs throughout the world; that the poor would have their daily bread, that those being exploited would be treated justly, etc.
  • “Forgive Us Our Debts as We Forgive Our Debtors”
    • This is the time when we search our hearts and lives in order to confess honestly before the Lord. Luther said this should not be a demeaning experience, but that if regular confession does not produce an increased confidence and joy in your life, then you do not truly understand salvation by grace. In addition, this is also a time to make sure there is no one we need to forgive, for it is hypocritical to seek the radical forgiveness of God, yet be unable to forgive those who have wronged us.
  • “Lead Us Not into Temptation”
    • This is not praying against being tempted, as this is inevitable and brings about spiritual growth. Instead, it is praying against “entering into temptation” (Matt 26:41), which means to entertain and consider the prospect of giving in to sin. Take time to pray against those things that you know are common temptations to you. While also considering those that might not be so obvious, like the temptation to be judgemental of co-workers or of the feeling self sufficiency in your wealth.
  • “Deliver Us from Evil” (or the evil one)
    • Luther said this is to pray against specific evils that come from the devil’s kingdom, while Augustine felt it was praying for deliverance against the remaining evils outside of us (as opposed to, “lead us not into temptation” being evils inside of us).

 

Chapter 15: Practice: Daily Prayer

A Pattern for Daily Prayer (This comes from Selwyn Hughes’ contribution to a book entitled My Path of Prayer, which contains short essays by Christian leaders on their main pattern of prayer)

  • Praying as soon as possible after waking
  • Read a passage of scripture to meditate on, including a Psalm
  • Take a moment to “still your mind” and remind yourself of God’s presence
  • Begin to pray
    • Start with adoration, praise and thanksgiving
    • Then, self-examination, confession and repentance
    • Lastly, Petitionary prayer for self, those he knew, the church and the world
  • End by stilling the mind again to be sure you have had heard from God what especially he wanted you to learn that morning

 

Praying the Psalms

 

  • There is more than one way to pray the Psalms
  • Verbatim prayer – pray the words of the Psalm back to the Lord as written
  • Paraphrase and personalize
  • “Deliver me from my enemies” turns into a prayer for the Lord to help you with temptations or spiritual traps you might fall into.
  • Responsive Praying  – Take themes and statements to stimulate adoration, confession and supplication

 

      • Psalm 116:7 – Return to your rest, my soul, for the Lord has been good to you — So, you pray, “O Lord, my heart does not rest in your goodness, it is never consoled as deeply as it should be by your grace. It is too restless. Help me to know you – – let your goodness be so real to my heart that it is completely at rest.
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A Poem of Praise 2

Lord Your goodness is beyond measure

Your love endures forever

Your kindness is bestowed upon me

And on to my children

Your hands reach down to touch me

And calm me from my fears

Your arms wrap lovingly around me

Like a Father holds His son

 

 

Your gaze sees straight through me

And knows my sin within

Yet You avert not you eyes from me

As you see my possibility

For you observe not my current state

But what I can become

 

 

Lord You should have given up on me so long ago

Yet You love me still

I am unworthy of these second chances

But Your mercy is so great

I should have been cast aside so many times

But Your grace endures

 

 

Take me, your humble servant

And use me for Your will

Take me, a broken vessel

And fill me to the brim

Take me, a wandering sheep

And lead me to the path

 

 

Lord Your goodness is beyond measure

Your love endures forever

Your kindness is bestowed upon me

And on to my children

Your hands reach down to touch me

And calm me from my fears

Your arms wrap lovingly around me

Like a Father holds His son

Why Worry When You Have Jesus….Well, Do You Really Want to Hear My List?

If I were to catch you in a completely honest moment and ask you what you worried about right now; how would you answer? Maybe with a financial concern. Possibly you are worried about whether or not your rocky marriage is going to survive. Or maybe if you are ever going to find the right someone to marry. It might be that you are worried about your child who seems to be growing ever distant as they reach their teenage years. Or you might be concerned whether you are going to be stuck in a job you can’t stand for the rest of your life. 

Chances are, whether it made my list or not, if you were forthright there would be at least a few things in your life that you are worried about. But, wait. If we have entrusted our lives to Jesus, that shouldn’t be….Or should it? When you take a closer look, it seems there are times that Jesus gives us plenty of reasons to worry. Yet, there are other times when He tells to accept His peace and that we have no reason to worry. So let’s take a look at how Jesus turns an apparent contradiction into a comforting confirmation.

  • Just a few of the reasons Jesus gives us to worry

    • Matthew 8:18 – 22 (Cost of following Jesus)
      • No place to lay your head
      • Let the dead bury the dead
    • Matthew 10:37-39 (Love Him more than family)
      • Love Jesus more than mother, father, son and daughter
      • Lose your life to find it
      • Take up your cross
    • Matthew 16:24 – 27 (Take up your cross)
      • Deny self
      • Take up your cross
      • Lose your life
    • Luke 14:25-33(Count the cost, give up everything)
      • Hate your family
      • Carry Your Cross
      • If you do not give up everything, you cannot be His disciple
    • Matthew 19:16 – 30 (Sell everything)
      • Rich man asks what must be done to inherit eternal life and Jesus responds to SELL EVERYTHING.
  • Oh and by the way, No need to worry

    • Matthew 11:28-30 (Yoke is easy)
      • If you are weary, come to Jesus
      • He will provide rest for your soul
      • His yoke is easy and burden is light
    • Matthew 6:25-34 (Birds of the air, lilies of the field)
      • 25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? 28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendorwas dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
  • Okay, so….how does this all fit together?

    • Jesus doesn’t tell us that there won’t be worrisome things in our life. Just that we need not worry about them.
    • Interesting thing about birds and lilies. Let’s start with the lilies. They don’t have brains. They don’t think. They are not thinking about a drought. They are just soaking up the rain. Birds have extremely tiny brains and do not think ahead to the winter when food gets scarce. They are only concerned with finding their next worm….Jesus is telling us not to worry about our needs, one moment, one day at a time. He is not giving us long-term security. He is saying that if you are willing to put your trust in me so greatly to do the absolutely crazy things I call you to; If you are willing to not know how things are going to work out a year, a month, a week down the road; But if you are willing to simply trust me for today; For right now. To have that sort of absolute trust, then you have no need to worry. Cuz I got you. I got you in this moment. In this day. And that should be enough. Let’s talk about tomorrow, tomorrow.
  • A familiar passage…but how did it end?

    • Luke 21:1-4 (Poor widow’s offering)
      • 1 As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”
      • Ending 1 … God’s delight
        • You see, what Luke didn’t record is that after the woman put in her last 2 pennies, she found a quarter on the way home. God loves when we trust him beyond our own understanding and delights in meeting that need in a miraculous way. (Think of the widow who made bread for Elijah and God gave her never ending oil. 1 Kings 17:7-24).
      • Ending 2 … Love they neighbor
        • Or maybe Luke left out that when one of the synagogue congregants saw what she had done, God pricked her heart. She rushed to Giant Eagle, bought a bag full of groceries, and by the time the old woman had managed to shuffle home, they were there on her porch waiting for her. Easily enough food to feed her for the next 2 weeks. You see, God finds pleasure when we take the opportunity to see the need of another and meet it through the commandment of loving our neighbor as our self. This is a beautiful ending, because two are blessed: the giver and the recipient. Not to mention, our Heavenly Father who flashes one of His patented, “someone finally gets it” smiles.
      • Ending 3 … A quick exit
        • Also, I can envision the woman going home. And the nosey neighbor, who doesn’t really care about her, but does wonder what she is going to do now that the crazy old bag put her last 2 cents in the offering, comes peeking in the windows. And the widow isn’t there. Yep, that’s right, just not there anymore. Hey, it happened for Enoch, right? (Genesis 5:18-24). And Elijah went up in a whirlwind (2Kings 2:11-1). But for those of you a little more practical like myself, maybe she just died in her sleep. Before the prongs of hunger could reach her stomach. She passed away that night. And when they found her in the morning she wore a thin smile of contentment.
      • Ending 4 … Eternal perspective
        • So, when I was talking through this with my brother, he ruined the “happily ever after” endings with the reminder that Christians all over the world die of starvation, terrible disease, persecution, etc. With that thought in my mind, Luke may have finished the story like this: After the woman left that day the Pharisees were furious. This woman had upstaged them. So they riled up the synagogue members against her. They said that the only reason she no longer had any money was that she was a sinner from birth. And if she had a pure heart God would take care of her. Therefore, no one came to her aid and without any money left she slowly starved to death. She shrank away to nothing before her belly became bloated with the pains of one truly dying of hunger. And eventually she died in great agony….But the moment she breathed her last, she stood face to face with Jesus in eternal paradise….Sometimes, the only thing to keep us from worry is the eternal perspective. That what we face on this earth is momentary and temporary and compared to eternity is not even worth fretting over….I know this is an easy answer coming from people who live in a country where we will most likely never face many of terrible hardships many others around the world will face, such as lack of food; But, I also believe it is what Jesus teaches. 
  • A little more on the eternal perspective

    • Let’s take another look: Matthew 16:24-27; 19:16-30
      • 24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.
      • 16 Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”

17 “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.”

18 “Which ones?” he inquired.

Jesus replied, “‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, 19 honor your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’”

20 “All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”

21 Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

22 When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.

23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?”

26 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

27 Peter answered him, “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?”

28 Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. 30 But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.

        • Focus on verse 26-27 and verses 27-30 – – Jesus says that the reward for doing the difficult things he calls us to are eternal, not earthly. Sometimes, the only thing we can hang onto in order not to worry is to (again do something completely contradictory) and focus on one moment, one day at a time, when it comes to the current difficult situation, while keeping an eternal perspective on the reward we will receive that will never end. C.S. Lewis puts this thought quite elegantly in Screwtape Letters when he says, “For the Present is the point at which time touches eternity.” 
  • How does an eternal perspective look in our daily life?

    • Measuring time in the light of eternity
      • We often say God’s time is different than ours and we can’t understand  the way He perceives and sees time…
        • So, what if our idea of time, we were able to push aside, and decide that each moment we have, the amount of time we give it will be based on eternal significance. So, instead of saying, when we see someone in need of help on the side of the road or In need of food holding up a cardboard sign, that we don’t have any extra money or we are going to be late…that we said to our self, Being late to my meeting isn’t as important as showing this person Christ’s love.
        • What if instead of getting the laundry done, when your kids are dying to spend time with you, put the laundry off till Friday this week. Because the relationship you build with them matters eternally. Because God showed that building a relationship with us mattered so much he sent His son….
        • If we measured time and the way we spend it by the eternal significance of what we’re taking part in, think of how greatly your daily activities would change. And as you became more and more other focused, how much less time you would have to worry about your own concerns…
  • For the super practical who like three easy steps to keep from worrying, here you go 🙂

    • 1 – Focus on one moment, one day at a time. Jesus does not provide long term security.
    • 2 – Focus on the eternal. Sometimes, the only way not to worry is to remember what is to come in the next life.
    • 3 – Focus on others. The more we are focused on others, the less time we will have for worrying about our own troubles

Why Will Tomorrow be Just Like Today? (The Answer)

It’s incomplete

It doesn’t fully satisfy

But I think God has started

To give me a reply

Yes, tomorrow will be much the same

But why is that so bad?

Look at the beauty in each day

See the loveliness all around

Feel life’s rhythm

There is beauty in repetition

 

Fulfillment in my work…

Well, at least most days

Growing daily in knowledge

And in my spirit too

Contentment at home

Beautiful wife, loving kids

 

May I recognize the beauty

The beauty in the routine

But may I not lose step

As the Spirit leads

May I not be afraid

To deviate from the path

As the Spirit leads

May I not refuse to follow

 

But why am I so damned complacent

So damned scared

To tell them of You

To share the good news

I’m messed up

So are you

But, God has a plan

His Son came to redeem

Trust in Him

Follow Him

And eternal life

Is promised to you

 

Cat’s got your tongue?

Devil’s got mine

Deceiving me

Telling Me Lies

They won’t listen

They won’t care

It will make things awkward

Why even try?

 

It’s not the whole answer

But it has to be part

Enjoy the sameness

That each day brings

But don’t be afraid

When the Spirit changes things

And stopping keeping to myself

The joy that Jesus brings

Why Will Tomorrow be Just Like Today? (The Question)

Roll out of bed

Stumble down the stairs

Hit my knees

Begin to pray

Eat a bowl of cereal,

Read the Word

Off to work

Listening to a book

Growing my mind

And hopefully my soul

 

Walk in my classroom

Prepare for my day

Students enter in

“Good morning DeAndre, Good Morning J’Ana”

Trying to teach them

Trying to love them

“Sit down in your seat!”

“Eli and Rileigh, are you serious? Stop talking!”

Trying to reach them

Trying to love them

“All car riders and walkers are dismissed”

What a relief, the day is done

 

Back in the car

Pop my CD book back in

Can’t focus, can’t concentrate

Put on Sports radio

Lebron’s still great, Browns still suck

My mind wanders still

Maybe a little Boys II Men

Takes me to a peaceful place

 

Walk into the house

“Daddy, daddy, daddy”

Hugs and kisses

“Pick me up,” says Aubs “Play with me,” says V

“Love you Sessa, how was your day?”

“Hey Jas, dance or the library today?”

Reading stories, tucking in

Lunch packed, trash taken out

Ride the exercise bike

Time with Sessa, but…

Have to go, dance is over

Pajamas on as I start to yawn

 

Lay down in bed, read a Psalm

Close my eyes, off to sleep

Tomorrow I will wake up

And do it all again….

Wait, is this it?

Is this all there is?

What did I do today?

Why am I not changing the world?

Why am I not bringing people to Jesus?

Why will tomorrow be just like today…..?

A Poem of Praise

“The Scotch catechism says that man’s chief end is ‘to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.’ But we shall then know that these are the same thing. Fully to enjoy is to glorify. In commanding us to glorify Him, God is inviting us to enjoy Him.” (C.S. Lewis, “Reflections on the Psalms”)

I have started to read a Psalm or two every night before bed and I have found what C.S. Lewis said to be very true. So, this is my first very feeble attempt to write a “Psalm-like” praise to the Lord.

 

I stumble in my walk with

You Yet You steady my step

I veer off the path of righteousness

And Your light guides me back

 

God, You are faithful beyond measure

You’re goodness is without limit

Your love endures through all eternity

And Your kindness never fails

 

My dedication to You is lacking

But You let me try again

My promise to You are not always kept

But I hear Your gentle whisper, “I forgive you”

 

God, You are faithful beyond measure

You’re goodness is without limit

Your love endures through all eternity

And Your kindness never fails

He Was a Traitor!

It seems that often without knowing our young children articulate a profound truth that is far beyond their years. This is what happened the other day when I was reading with my son. Victor Jr. is 7 years old and in the second grade, but a very deep thinker for his age. He has an amazing imagination and when he is into a good book, he is fully drawn in. He lets what is happening become real and it fully invades all areas of his life. It is also able to evoke from him both deep thought and intense emotion.

Victor and I  were reading The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe together. (If you haven’t read this book, you should.) But, in order for this story to make a little bit of sense you need to know that Aslan is a talking lion in the magical land of Narnia. He is a good lion and a “Christ-like” character. Edmond is a boy who enters Narnia with his two sisters and brother through a magical wardrobe. He becomes involved with the evil character in the book, The White Witch, even though he is warned by his siblings and Mr. and Mrs Beaver how wicked she is.

We had reached the point in the book where because of rules that Edmond has broken, the deep magic in the land demands he pays for what he has done with his life. But, there is an ancient law that allows someone innocent to take his place. And this is just what Aslan does. There is a very moving scene where, although Aslan has power to destroy his enemies with ease, he allows them to take him captive. Aslan’s mane is shaved and he is beaten and mocked by the White Witch and her minions. And finally Aslan is tied down to the stone table and sacrificed in place of Edmond.

While I am reading this part of the story, I look over and Victor has covered his head and is hiding under the blanket. He is crying and does not want me to see. He has been so deeply moved by what is happening to Aslan that it has brought him to tears. And then he takes his head out of the blanket and asks a question that for him is truly about Aslan and Narnia, but that in reality has deep theological significance. “Daddy,” he says between sniffles. “Why would Aslan die for Edmond? He was a traitor!”

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

And there you have it. From the mouth of babes… You see, I like to look at things deeply. I like to reason and research. To take every perspective and every angle on a topic into consideration. And I do this with my faith as well. Over the past few years it has raised questions like, “What is praying Jesus into your heart and where did it come from?” “How do I reconcile a loving God with the total annihilation of towns in the Old Testament?” “What proof is there for my faith and for eternity outside of the Bible?” And I truly believe these are good questions to ask. And that we should constantly be seeking digging deeper to truly be sure of what we believe.

William Barclay says in his commentary on the book of Mark, “With all God’s grace and glory before him he can go on learning for a life time and still need eternity to know as he is known.” And it is true that no matter how much we seek and learn, there will always be more to try to understand of our Lord. Yet in another part of that same commentary Barclay also says, “God gave man a mind, and it is man’s duty to use that mind to think to the very limit of human thought. But it is also true that there are times when that limit is reached and all that is left is to accept and to adore.”

And in that moment my 7-year-old brought me to a moment where I was just meant to adore. He reminded me why the Gospel of Jesus Christ truly is good news. In that instant, it was time for me to stop making everything so complicated and remember why the message of Jesus Christ can be only be accepted when we do so like a child. For what we seem to so often be blind to as adults, Victor Jr. was able to see so clearly in the magical land of Narnia. The truth is the same question that Victor asked about Edmond and Aslan, we must all ask for ourselves. “Jesus, I am such a traitor! Why did you die for me?” And it is only in that admittance of our own sinfulness, that has made each of us a traitor and enemy of God, that the gospel becomes good news.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

This is the first step. And it is the step that holds so many back. While almost everyone believes that they could become a little better person and (whether it is by self-determination or a belief in God) it’s all good if you are working at being the best you that you can be. But this is not the case. This is not the truth. It is so much more than just being a better person.

In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis puts it like this “…fallen man is not simply an imperfect creature who needs improvement, he is a rebel who must lay down his arms. Laying down your arms, surrendering, realizing you have been on the wrong track and get ready to start life over from the ground floor.”

This acknowledgment and ownership that you have willingly done things that go against God. Now sometimes this sounds self-deprecating. It seems to go against the modern psychology of looking yourself in the mirror and reminding yourself that you are somebody. Yet, if each of us takes just a moment to be honest with ourself, it is so painfully honest!

How many times have you had just a thought that was prideful, lustful, hateful, judgmental, and the list could go on. And you knew that thought was not good or kind or loving, yet you entertain the thought and allowed it to grow. You even relished in the thought and indulged yourself in putting yourself up on a pedestal while belittling your neighbor or allowed yourself to act out a fantasy with someone other than your spouse. All the while somehow telling yourself it was okay as long as it stayed in your mind, but knowing that it was wrong.

And this is simply our thought life, but we can certainly move onto our actions. How many times have you known the good you ought to do for another human being and not done it? You saw that a person was having a horrible day, yet you were too busy to ask what was wrong. You shoveled your own driveway and hustled back into your house pretending not to notice the elderly widow struggling to clear hers; after all the football game was on. You joined into the gossip in the break room at work because you just wanted to fit in with your co-workers.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Is it really that hard to see that we don’t ever go a day without actively choosing to think and do things that we know are wrong? That every day when we lay our head down on our pillow we know we are not without fault; that there is at least one regret of “I know I should’ve of” or “Why did I do that?” Yet, I believe for so many this is the offense of the Gospel. This is what stops them dead in their tracks from going any further with Jesus.

But if only we will admit ourselves guilty before the Lord. Confess to Him that we know we choose to do wrong. And that this puts you in the opposite camp of a perfect and holy God; the Good News begins!

And when we throw up our hands and say, “Jesus, I am a traitor! Why did You die for me?” We hear back from the God-man himself, “Because I love you! Because I am the Good Shepherd. I am the Father who has stood at the end of the driveway watching for you and waiting; hoping you would come home. I am gracious and merciful, abounding in love. Because I desire for You to be with me forever in eternity.”

And you see I explained this to Victor Jr. It was in a little simpler terms, but with the same concept. And he seemed to get it. He understood that he often disobeys his mom and I. That there are times he is purposefully mean to his little sister. That he has lied to try to stay out of trouble a time or two. He grasped that each these choices all went against what he knew was right and what God would want him to do. And he understood his need for a Savior.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Dear Lord, May my adult pride does not get in the way my remembering to daily humble myself in the same way. Amen.

Pride Comes Before The Twilight Zone

Daniel Foster stood looking out the window. From his corner office on the 50th floor he had an amazing view of downtown Manhattan. All of this, he thought to himself. All of this I have earned from the sweat of my brow. The long evening hours. The Saturdays and Sundays in the office. All of my hard work has really paid off. And of course my incredible negotiating skills and ability to quickly conduct extensive research didn’t hurt either.

Daniel chuckled as he turned away from the window and walked across the office to his desk. He took a seat in his cushy leather chair. It was 8:30 on a Friday night. But there was nothing odd about his being in his office that late. He had worked his way from junior to senior associate in record time at the second largest law firm in NYC. And then last year he had taken that next, huge step. Partner.

But Daniel was different than most partners. Instead of taking a breath and realizing he could finally relax a bit, he continued with the 100 hour work weeks as if he was still a junior associate fresh out of college. And with a merger between two companies each worth billions currently on the line, he new this weekend would be another where he saw very little of his plush apartment overlooking Central Park.

As Daniel got back to work on his laptop, his cell phone began buzzing. He looked down at the number. Really Steven, you have already left me 6 messages, he thought as he reluctantly took the call from his older brother.

“Hey Steve, what’s up?”

“What do you mean what’s up Danny? Didn’t you listen to any of my messages?”

“Yeah, I listened. But is she really that bad? I mean, over the last six weeks you’ve had me come rushing to the hospital four times saying that ‘this was going to be it.’ Then, I get there and it’s a false alarm. I’ve missed out on a ton of billable hours from all of these ‘emergency visits.’”

“Are you serious! Come on Danny. Your billable hours are more important than being by mom’s side when she passes?”

“Of course not,” Daniel answered without much conviction as he continued reading through a document on his computer. “But if it were just more certain when it would actually happen it would make things a lot easier.”

“Well, sorry little brother. My crystal ball is in the shop right now. But she is definitely not doing well. And I really think this could be it. The nurses keep coming in and giving her more pain medication. They say that all they are trying to do now is keep her comfortable until the end comes.”

“Okay, okay. I’ll get there as soon as I can.”

Daniel hung up before his brother could say anything else and went back to his work. I’m sure I have at least a few hours before I need to get over there.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

At 10:00 Daniel rubbed his eyes and decided to check his e-mail. He needed to quit staring at the report he had been pouring over for hours. As he scrolled down past the e-mails from associates trying to show that they were also still hard at work at this late hour and past the obligatory invitation from the partners to join their Sunday golf outing that he never went to, something caught his eye. The sender line said Thomas Foster.

Weird, thought Daniel. That was dad’s name. But, of course since his dad had been dead for over a decade now it was impossible that the e-mail was from his father. But out of curiosity Daniel clicked on the e-mail with the subject line entitled Don’t you remember?

When he opened the e-mail there was a short message: Don’t ask how or try to explain it, but your old man is checking back in with you. Click on the video link. I think there is something you need to see. Love, Dad.

And below the message, sure enough, there was a video link. What in the world? Daniel thought to himself. Is this someone’s idea of a sick joke?

Daniel scrolled the cursor over the delete button. But there was something that just wouldn’t let him do it. Something that compelled him to go down and click on the link. When he did, he couldn’t believe his eyes. It was a home video. He was about 8 years old and he was out in the garden planting flowers with his mom.

But, this was not just weird, it was impossible. His family had not even owned a video camera until he was in his teens. Daniel didn’t know how this was happening, but it was undeniable that it was he and his mother on that computer screen.

“Mom, I’m getting pretty tired. Can we call it a day?”

“Well, honey,” she answered. “It’s up to you. But I know you really want to earn that money to buy yourself a new bike. And if we don’t finish pulling weeds and watering the flowers, then next week you won’t have very pretty flowers to sell in the front yard to earn money to get that bike.”

“Okay, mom. You’re right.”

Daniel watched as he and his mom continued to pull weeds from around the flowers, sprinkle fertilizer and pour water. He smiled thinking back to that summer. He had indeed earned the $40 he needed to buy his brand new Schwinn bicycle.

And even now he could still hear mom’s words the first time he rode the bike echo in his mind, “See honey, a little extra time and effort always pays off.”

The video had stopped and his phone buzzed again. It was Steve again, but this time just a text. If you were still planning on coming, don’t bother. The doctor says she has stabilized. He said she has at least a few more days….looks like you can keep racking up those billable hours.

Daniel started to type a reply, but then decided not to. What was the use? There was nothing he could say that would make the situation any better. He logged off his computer and started to pack up his briefcase. That e-mail and video really had him on edge. He needed to go home, fix himself a stiff drink and get some sleep. After all, he planned to be back into the office by 6:00 tomorrow morning.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

As Daniel was driving home, he tried to run through what he hoped to accomplish at the office tomorrow. This was his usual routine for a drive home. Silent car. No music. No phone calls. Just mentally preparing for what lay ahead the next day. But, this evening he was having trouble focusing. His mind kept replaying the video of he and his mom in the garden.

“Delilah, thanks for taking my call.”

Daniel jerked himself forward in his seat. Turned and looked in the passenger seat and the back seats of his car and then realized the voice was coming from his radio. The radio that he hadn’t turned on….

“Sure. Now tell me what’s your name and why you’re calling?”

“This is Gabriel. No last name. Just Gabriel.”

“Well, okay Gabriel,” the hostess chuckled. “I like to just go by Delilah as well.”

“My dedication is to my mom. You see, I’m a very successful corporate lawyer in New York City. I make mergers happen between billion dollar companies.”

“It does sound like you are doing quite well for yourself. And how does mom fit into all of this?”

“Well, Delilah. Back when I was in junior high I was sort of a mis-fit. Tried out for several sports teams and didn’t make them. Even went out for band and was actually asked not to come back because I couldn’t hit the right notes on my trumpet.”

“Wow! Sounds like a rough go for an adolescent.”

Daniel didn’t know what in the world was going on. But so far this Gabriel guy was giving a play by play of Daniel’s junior high experience to everyone listening to Soft Rock 104.5.

“Yeah Delilah, it was pretty rough. But then, one day when my mom was cleaning up some papers I had left lying around from school she saw one that caught her eye. It was for the debate team. And she called me over to her and said, ‘Gabe, I think this would be perfect for you. Why don’t you give it a try?’ I was hesitant at first, but eventually I agreed. I figured what have I got to lose? Well, turns out I was pretty good at it. And as I continued into high school I kept getting better. Anytime I had a debate meet coming up, mom would practice with me ahead of time. She would research the opposing view and debate me at home with my dad serving as judge.”

No! This can’t be happening. Daniel didn’t know how, but he knew for sure now that Gabriel was not telling his own story; he was telling Daniel’s!

What an amazing mom! And how were her debating skills?”

“Let me tell you. I never faced a harder debate opponent than mom. Abd since she would do such a thorough job arguing the other side, I was always so prepared for my meets, I never lost! In fact, my senior year of high school I was the state champion at the most prestigious meet in the state of New York.”

“And I bet those skills of persuasion you learned through debate sure do come in handy at the negotiating table.”

“Exactly Delilah, exactly.”

“Well thanks for calling in Gabriel and I have the perfect song for your mom.”

As Boyz II Men began to soulfully sing A Song for Momma Daniel stared straight ahead. If he hadn’t just heard it for himself he wouldn’t believe it. But, a man had just called in and just precisely described his life as an adolescent. He pushed the accelerator down a little further as the thought of that drink was becoming more and more appealing.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Daniel unlocked the door and walked into his apartment. He tossed his briefcase on the couch and immediately went over and poured his drink. He gulped it straight down like he used to do in his college days and poured a second. Usually he had only one drink and he slowly sipped it while watching a little ESPN to unwind. But tonight he had finished his second drink and he still hadn’t even taken off his shoes. He put down a third and could feel himself begin to loosen up and relax. He skipped the ESPN and went to the shower.

After a quick shower, Daniel slid in under to his silk sheets. I just need to get some sleep. My head will be clear in the morning and I can think this all through. I’m sure it will make more sense in the morning.

As he always did, Daniel fell asleep quickly. He worked hard and slept little. But when he did sleep, it was a deep sleep. From the moment his head hit the pillow until the moment his phone alarm rang at 4:30 the next morning, he was dead to the world in a deep and dreamless sleep.

Tonight, though, tonight would be different for Daniel. For as Daniel slept, he had the most vivid dream of his life. If a dream is what it could be called, for Daniel would always insist it was no more a dream than the unexplainable video on his computer or the unsolicited call-in request on the radio.

It began with Daniel standing by himself on a street corner at an intersection. He could see the street signs above hime: Senate Avenue and Campus Lane. He was back at his old stomping grounds at the university he attended for graduate school. And he was even wearing a sweatshirt with his school mascot, the Kicking Coyotes, on it.

As he stood there, a man Daniel did not recognized, dressed in all white, came up and extended his hand. Daniel shook hands with the man.

The man in white smiled a large smile and spoke first, “Hi my names Lucifer, but all my friends call me Lou. Why don’t you come and take a walk with me. I have something to show you here at your old stomping ground.”

Daniel answered, “I think I’d rather not.” But just as he had no choice in what played in the video on his computer or what was said on the radio call-in, he also seemed to have no choice but to follow Lou.

He followed Lou down Campus Lane and then they took a left onto Valley Drive where the library was located. It seemed that Lou was talking the whole time, but that Daniel could not make out his words. However, as if unable to control his own will, he just nodded and smiled walking just a few steps behind his eager guide.

As they got to library, Daniel and Lou entered and went to a table near the back of the library. “Now just sit down and watch,” Lou said as he took a seat on a bench in the corner. Daniel sat down next to him. “You will be able to see and hear everything that goes on. But, no one will be able to see or hear us.”

Just then, Daniel spotted himself, only 20 years younger, walking over to a corner table with a huge stack of books. His younger self sat down and immediately put his head down on the  table.

“That’s me.” Daniel said to Lou. “I was working on my final term paper to complete my graduate degree and I was completely stuck. It was due in just a couple of days and even though I had been working on it for weeks I was no where close to being finished.”

“Yes, I know,” Lou said with a nostalgic smile. “I really thought this would be the end of your dream to become a lawyer.” Then Lou’s smile turned into a scowl. “Until she had to show up.”

In walked Daniel’s mom. She was carrying a paper bag and travel mug. She sat down in the seat across from college-aged Daniel and he lifted his head. “Mom! What are are you doing here?”

“Well, son. I know you too well. And when we talked last night and you were saying all that stuff about being almost done with your paper and how it had turned out to be easier than you thought….I knew you were lying. So this morning I just got in the car and drove over. Now have some milk and cookies to cheer you up and then let’s get started.”

“Lou, I still remember that day so well. She told me that all that research she had done as my debate partner had taught her some shortcuts. She showed me some speed reading strategies and a great way of synthesizing information from multiple sources and in no time I was back on track. By the time she left that evening I was pretty much just putting the finishing touches on it. I still can’t believe I ended up with an B+ on a paper that I had barely even started before mom showed up.”

“I know, I know,” Lou said sulkily. “Don’t rub it in. Now, you remember this night and don’t ever let anyone tell you I never do any good deeds.” Lou got up and started to walk toward the library exit. But before he went out the door he added, “Now, on the other hand, if you choose to ignore my visit, you will have a LONG time to get to know my other side.”

Daniel sat straight up in bed. He was soaked in sweat and breathing heavy. And when he looked down, instead of his plaid pajamas he saw none other a kicking coyote on his shirt. He looked at his phone. 4:29. He quickly turned off the alarm before it could begin its intolerable chiming. He laid his head back down on his pillow. And for the first time in months slept in.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

When he awoke again and looked at his phone the time read 8:15. He couldn’t believe how good he felt. Who knew a few extra hours could  rejuvenate you so quickly?

Daniel ate a bowl of oatmeal and drank his morning coffee. He got dressed. But instead of a three piece suit, he put on a pair of jeans and a sweater. And instead of heading north toward his downtown office, he headed south.

He parked in the Metro General Hospital parking garage and made his way up the 5th floor.  He went into room 512 where his mother lay. No one else was in there. Daniel was sure Steve would be there soon, but he was glad he had made it there first. He sat down next to the bed and took his sleeping mother’s hand. She looked so frail. Her hand felt so bony. As a few tears began to run down his cheeks, she opened her eyes.

“Steve is that you?” she asked softly.

“No, mom. It’s your baby boy. It’s Danny.”

With that she seemed to perk up and opened her eyes a little wider.

“Danny. I’m so glad you came. I’ve missed you.” Her voice was beginning to sound a little stronger.

“I’m glad I’m here too mom. I’m sorry it’s been so long. I brought you a little treat.” He set a cream stick and a cup of coffee on the tray next to her. “From Don’s Donut Shack. Your favorite.”

With Danny’s help she sat up and began to enjoy her life’s one vice. “I never could resist,” she chuckled. “How are you honey? How is work? I’m surprised you’re not there now.”

“I’m doing fine mom. And work is good. Working on a huge merger. But, I’ve actually decided to cut back on my hours a bit. You know, spend some time doing some other things.”

Mom sighed. “That would be nice Danny. But I’ve heard that one before.”

“I really mean it this time. I’m gonna start coming in to see you more. And get back to exercising. And maybe even get in a round or two of golf.”

At that his mom let out roaring laugh.

“Okay, well maybe not so much with the golf. But, really mom. I mean it this time. And mom…”

“Yes, Danny?”

“I want to thank you. Thank you for making me into the attorney, and the man, I am today. I know if it weren’t for you I would never have made it.”

“Nonsense, dear. Your hard work and long hours have paid off.”

“Yes, I know mom. You don’t want any credit. That was one trait I didn’t pick up from you…humility.”

Daniel continued to chat with his mom as she enjoyed her not so healthy breakfast. When she began to get sleepy and nod off, Daniel kissed her on the forehead and promised he would be back to visit again that evening and then headed into the office.

At the office he set an alarm on his phone for 3:00. And when it went off, he got up and went to his apartment, put on some sweats and headed out for a jog.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

And Daniel did go back and visit his mother that evening. In fact, Daniel continued to go back to visit with his mom every evening around 6:00 when he left work.

About a week later, Daniel felt his phone vibrating. It was Steve. This is really it buddy. Mom’s asking for you.

Daniel stood up from the negotiating table that seated the heads of the two companies and their lawyers that would make his firm millions of dollars as soon as this deal was finalized and said, “I’m sorry gentlemen. I’m going to have to excuse myself. A family matter has just arisen that I have to attend to immediately.”

Not more than an hour later Daniel’s mother passed away peacefully with each of her two sons seated at her bedside holding her hands.

He Didn’t Watch Me Snow Blow

I wrote this a couple of years ago and came across it the other day when I was looking through some documents on my computer. I thought it would be an appropriate time to post it as my son will turn 7 this month!!

He Didn’t Watch Me Snow Blow 

It’s kinda funny, ya know

I have three kids

And I love each dearly

None more than another

But there is just something about my guy

Something that makes me realize how fast time is going by

You see, my oldest daughter, adopted at 8

Just turned 13

A young woman now, no longer a little girl

Yet for this monumental moment, no sadness did I feel

A bit of, oh my gosh, can it really be?

But no despair for days gone by

Then, there’s my baby girl… my precious baby girl!

The one who flails her arms  and calls “Dada”

before I’m even through the door

Just a month away from turning 1

My wife asked me, party is coming up, will you cry?

I don’t think so, I told her, but I’m not sure why.

Yet, my little guy, my little man

He does something to my heart

Any random night, it doesn’t take much

Just a little over tired and watching as he sleeps

I don’t want them to come

But yet the tears, they start

I don’t know what it is

What makes it seem so different

What makes it so hard to watch him grow

Could be that he’s the only boy?

Or that when I look at him,

I see myself 25 years ago

Whatever it is I realized today

That my little guy is getting older

My 4 year old little man is much different

Than my three year old Big Boy Helper or

My 2 year old Baby Victor

My little guy is changing by the day

It’s strange what made me realize it

It’s not that preschool is half complete

With Kindergarten around the corner

Not even seeing the change

from baby face to handsome boy

in the pictures I revisit much too often

It’s not that now he puts his straw

into the juice box himself

That I’ve watched the Mickey faze

turn to Cat in the Hat 

and on to Superheroes and now

currently standing firm at WildKratts

No, today what hit me like a ton of bricks

was that as I cleared the snow,

he wasn’t at the window

watching me as I snow blow

To tell the truth, I know this for sure

because I checked quite frequently

See my 2 year old guy,

he would watch the entire time

Daddy was his entire world

Whatever I was doing was the greatest thing around

Would rather watch daddy blow the snow

Than play with toys or even watch a show

Three year old V

would alternate between the window

and his imaginary play

And if I looked up twice from the snow to the window,

at least one of those times

his eyes and mine would mean meet

But my 4 year old guy

has other things to do

No longer am I the center of his universe

No longer is all I do to be worshipped

You see ,I know my guys I growing up

Because today, he didn’t watch me blow the snow

Stand if You Would Get Shot for Jesus

A year or so ago I shared this writing with my adult Sunday School class the week after my pastor preached a sermon and gave a challenge that will be explained below. It brought about great thought-provoking conversation and I hope it will cause you to stop and think as well.

______ _____________ _____________ ___________ ________

 

Our pastor was concluding his sermon. It was both a thought provoking and emotion-educing sermon. A call to live your life in a way that matters; big in the eternal perspective. He was wrapping it up with a headline drawn from the recent news; College students in Oregon willing to be shot in order to pronounce their allegiance to Jesus Christ. These students are now spiritual heroes. In their last moments on Earth, they have taken a stand that will echo for all eternity. I am awed by their commitment. I am deep in inner-reflection as I consider just how deep my allegiance to the Lord really is. Then he drops the bomb, “If a gun was in your face and you would still say, “I’m a Christian,” I want you to stand up.”

My emotional instincts are screaming at me to get on my feet. But, my mind is telling me, Be honest, you can not, with any certainty or  sincerity stand up right now.

I pick my head up to look around. I figure there must be dozens of people throughout the sanctuary grappling with these same feelings, wrestling with this sobering challenge pastor has just laid before us. But, wait…..

WHAT! SERIOUSLY! As I scan of the sanctuary, it seems as if I am literally the only person still seated.


______ _____________ _____________ ___________ ________

 

I would just like to take a few minutes to share why it concerns me that I was the only person seated in the sanctuary that day. And this comes from no place of judgment, as this has been a rough week this week, and I believe it was in large part due to the fact that I have not stopped struggling with the fact that I couldn’t stand. That in my heart of hearts, I know I should be ready and willing to live and die for Jesus, but that I don’t know that I’m there yet. So, if every other person in the sanctuary was certain of what they would do with a gun in their face, I guess you could say my words come from judgement, but from envy.

However, my gut tells me that there might have been more than a few who had some of the same thoughts and feelings as me. And if so,  this is for you. Or, maybe for some who popped up without fully thinking about the reality of that promise; I hope that these words might spur you on to contemplate what that stand meant.

 

______ _____________ _____________ ___________ ________

 

As I said, as far as I could see all those in the sanctuary where standing, including the teens. After each sermon I typically ask my teenage daughter about what she learned and how it applies to her life. So, after this sermon I asked her about how she felt about the challenge pastor had given at the end of service.

Keep in mind, my daughter did stand up, but she told me, “I didn’t want to stand up. I mean, I knew what I would want to do, but in that situation I don’t know what I would really do.”

My 13-year old daughter had just processed an emotional moment at church and articulated her true thoughts and feeling. I was very proud to say the least. She had also just stated precisely my first layer of thinking when I chose to stay seated last week. Pastor did not just ask if I’d like to have the courage to stand with a gun in my face (to which I could have answered yes adamantly), but in essence, would I commit to doing so. And in that situation, do I really know what I would do? Does anyone really know? And how does standing amongst this of this sea of people who are all standing make my commitment any more real?

 

______ _____________ _____________ ___________ ________

 

Let me share some of the reasons for doubting that I truly know what I would do in that situation. First of all, it is a panic situation. One full of feelings, emotions, stress and terror that I have never experienced. It’s really unfair to say I am certain of how I would handle it.

I do know that in situations where great consequences are sure to come from the choices made, the best and worst in people tends to brought out; in some, the most extreme courage to do what is right no matter what the cost, and in others, the greatest of cowardliness to save their own butt regardless of what will happen to anyone else. Now I know which group I want to fall into, but I cannot say for certain  in which actuality I would.

I do know my track record in panic situations and it is not too hot. You can ask my wife about  time I cut my hand while trying to pry apart frozen tacos with a knife. (I know, brilliant…) The cut was just bad enough to maybe need a stitch or two. However, as I sat on the floor holding a towel on my hand and trying to stop the bleeding, I kept telling her over and over how bad it hurt and that I thought I was going to pass out from the pain. Or ask one of my former students how well I do in pressure filled moments. At recess, she hit what we thought at the time was inside her eye (but thank God, turned out to be just above her eye)on a piece of metal fencing.  The wound was gushing blood. I told another teacher to call 911 (the only good thing I did) then promptly took her into the building and sat her right in the doorway of my classroom….. A spot that every other 5th grader entering the building from recess had to walk by and had a great view of her as the puddle of blood formed below her as they walked by.

 

______ _____________ _____________ ___________ ________

 

As I sat in my seat in the sanctuary last week, eyes closed, hoping that if it looked enough like I was in deep prayer not too many of those around me would judge me for not standing, the even scarier thought popped in my head of what would happen if the gun was to my face and I was actually thinking clearly.

If I was thinking clearly, would thoughts of Jesus have been what was running through my head? I like to believe he would be, but I can’t help but think of some of the other possibilities as I lay on the floor with the dead bodies of those brave enough to stand for their faith just feet from me.

I get a clear image of wife in my mind, then my teenage daughter,  my 5-year old son and my baby girl barely 2 years old. If I stand, I am not going home to them tonight. If I just stay put on the ground I will tuck my three children into bed and hold my wife as I fall asleep.

 

______ _____________ _____________ ___________ ________

 

And then there is another possibility. Might my fears of what is to come if I do stand and take the bullet rush to my mind. I mean, I believe that after death I will spend eternity in the Kingdom of Heaven.  If I didn’t, I would live a very different life. I believe, with all my faults and sins; my life and the choices I make demonstrate my trust in Jesus Christ as Savior and point me towards life everlasting.

However, although it is a matter of much prayer and much pleading, when it comes down to it, eternity scares me. First off, no matter what is going to take place forever, the very thought of forever brings me fear. Secondly, there is the thought that of, what if I’ve been wrong about the whole Christianity thing? That thought that when I die, that’s it…….terrifies me. I guess when it comes down to it, I am scared of the unknown. Because no matter what we say or think about eternity, what takes place after we breathe our last is unknown, until, well…..until we actually breathe our last. So, I wonder, with all of my fears of eternity, would I still stand?

______ _____________ _____________ ___________ ________

 

And then I get to maybe the most rational thought of all. We all believe that Jesus shows us the extent of God’s forgiveness with stories like the Prodigal Son. With his promise of paradise to the thief who hung next to him on the cross. I’d venture to say that we all believe someone in that situation in Oregon who did not stand; yet genuinely repented at a later time, would be forgiven.

So, if as I ways lying there with gunshots still ringing in my ears, and my mind happened to be clear enough to think all of that through, to tell myself that I can save my life and still be forgiven by Jesus; I am afraid I might not have stood.

 

______ _____________ _____________ ___________ ________

 

As I continued to try to process the question asked by pastor this week.  As I wrestled with the haunting thought of would I be willing to be martyred for Christ; I seemed to keep coming back to the a slightly different question: Will I daily take up my cross? I hope that being asked about whether or not we would make the ultimate sacrifice theoretically does not in any way keep us from making daily sacrifices in reality. Might we face physical persecution or even death for our faith? Yes. But we will certainly daily be granted opportunities to live a BIG life that require us to sacrifice by not making the easy choice. YES!

How often do I fail to sacrifice my fear in order to share Christ with co-workers? How often do I fail to sacrifice my selfishness in order to spend more time with my family? How often do I fail to sacrifice my laziness in order to take a shortcut at work? And the list of questions that hit a little too close to home could go on and on.

And so my challenge to myself, and to anyone else who left last week burdened by pastor’s question, is that we might share, first with God, and then with another human being who will hold us accountable, something that we know we must begin doing, stop doing, or do more consistently, in order to truly daily sacrifice for the sake of Christ, and to live a life of eternal significance. And once, with the help of the Lord and our accountability partner, we start to find ourselves achieving sacrifice in that area, we move on to the next and the next and the next.

And for me, maybe, just maybe, if I were truly in a situation where my faith was going to cost me my physical life, I would be so used to my daily sacrifices for Christ, that the final and ultimate sacrifice would come a little more naturally.  
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