JFK and the King

50 years ago today, John F. Kennedy was the most powerful man in the world. Money, fame, power, adored by a nation, influence around the globe; he seemed to have everything a person could want. JFK

But in less than 3 seconds everything changed. The king of Camelot was instantly stripped of all titles and honor as he found himself face to face with the real King of kings. Suddenly nothing else mattered. All the hard work spent building his empire was now worthless. The election, the Cuban missile crisis, all the dramatic speeches encouraging and rallying the people, his stellar approval rating, none of that was anywhere near enough to buy him a ticket into heaven.

At that moment, there was only one thing that did matter – whether he knew and believed Jesus. That single item would determine his status for all eternity.

No one is promised tomorrow. No one is promised their next breath. “I’ll come around to Jesus someday” does not work when you don’t know which might be your last. He just wants you to know Him. All you have to do is tell Jesus you want to know Him, and the gates of heaven will swing open so that whether you live on this planet another five minutes or fifty years, your future in heaven will be secured.

Settle your eternity so you can enjoy your today.

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Rebuilding The Ancient Ruins

Recently I worked on a project for a neighbor who wanted her picnic table painted. Sounds like a quick and easy job, right?P1070848

Not so much.

The old paint had been flaking off in spots, leaving an uneven surface.  And some of the wood had pretty significant rotting.

Most notable P1070841was one of the lateral support pieces and the top of that set of legs. The worst parts crumbled if you touched them.

The top boards were no longer connected to the rest of the table because they had nothing to hold on to.

I advised her that it would be easier to just get a new table and scrap this one, but this particular table had sentimental value to her.P1070851

Now, it was personal.

So I set out to see if or how we could restore this table. I cut away the rotted pieces, screwed in new supports, and added bracing so the table was once again strong and stable.

After a good sanding, the surface was ready for a nice chocolate brown paint.

Here is the finished product: P1070852

My neighbor was ecstatic and moved by the end result. She said the table had been “Brought back to life.” Most people would have looked at the mess and sent it to the junk pile, but because it was personal, we put the effort into reviving it and it turned out fantastic. And that uneven surface created a beautiful pattern that gave it character.

Isaiah said that Jesus came to bind up the brokenhearted and to rebuild the ancient ruins. No matter what has happened or what state a person is in, God takes it personally. He will never give up on you.

There is no pain you have experienced that Jesus cannot heal. There is no pit of sin so deep that God cannot pull you out. It is never too late. He can  do so much more than add some support and a fresh color. God is life and He is in the business of restoration. He can breathe new life into any willing heart. He can strengthen weak legs. And in Him all things hold together.

Whether your life is falling apart or you just need a new splash of paint, Jesus is more than able. The One who was a carpenter is also the Resurrection and the Life.

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Works Don’t Work

Recently I spent an entire day helping someone. I spent a tremendous amount of energy caring for three children, one dog, and two houses, coordinating logistics, driving back and forth, helping with swim lessons, supervising a play date, and serving at church.

Late in the day, as I started to get tired, I made an error in judgment. No one was harmed, nothing was damaged, it was no big deal in the grand scheme of things, but it did make someone feel uncomfortable. I apologized to that person and all was forgiven, so, end of story, right?

Not so much.

Even though I had done so much good all day long, and such important work in keeping children safe and sound, only one thing seemed to matter.

It felt like a dozen demons were circling above my head, all pointing at me and reminding me that I made a mistake. No matter how hard I had tried all day, that one negative seemed to completely overshadow all the positives.

Historically, I am prone to try to seek approval and affirmation through achievements, because that is the only place I found worth or value growing up. But when you “keep score,” seeking validation through the good things you do, that system also requires you to be condemned when you fail. The Score

Works don’t work because all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Even the most ascetic person will at some time make a mistake, and standing on your accomplishments is like building your house on sand – the next big wave will wash everything away.

Hence, the need for grace. Jesus came to abolish our sin debt, and therefore there is now NO condemnation for those in Christ. None. Not now, not ever.

So, rather than keeping score of works that don’t work, thank God for His inestimable gift of grace. Next time the enemy tries to tell you that you failed, tell him that he has already lost because Jesus has overcome the world!

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His Voice

I have been in a nebulous season where I have been desiring direction and structure but finding none of it. I often ask God what I should be doing, yet I have not heard answers to the biggest questions.

So then, as any good over-analyzer would do, I ask why.

Why have I not heard clear direction? God has a plan, and He can make that plan crystal clear at any moment in any number of ways. I want to be in God’s will and for sure He wants me in His will. So, where did the communication break down? Or did it?

I came up with two possibilities which are not mutually exclusive.

1. Maybe I am exactly where He wants me to be right now.

2. Maybe I am not listening.

To hear from God, I must be tuned into His voice and disconnected from all other noise. I cannot expect to hear significant things from Him if the only time I pay attention is during a short morning prayer time. Big questions need big answers, and big answers need time and attention to tune into the still, small voice.

God does not call us to focus on the problem, or even the answer. He calls us to focus on Him. He promises that when we call His Name, He will answer. We must set aside the unimportant, shut out the other voices, and tune in to Jesus.

When you exalt God’s name above all others, you will hear His voice above all else.

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When my friend and I were shopping at our regular grocery store today, we encountered an obstacle. Every week, we enter the store and head directly into the produce section. We shop at the first part of that section, and then cut through an opening over to the bakery to pick up a donut, then come right back through that opening to proceed with the rest of the produce section and go on from there.

This morning, our opening was gone. Walled up. The store built a wall section and installed some display equipment in that space, in effect sealing up the opening and eliminating our pathway.

My OCD self was infuriated. For a while I was stuck in the first phase of grief – denial. No, this cannot be closed, we need to get through this space. There has to be a way. They cannot do this. The donuts seemed a world away.

We ended up going around that whole section, which in actuality wasn’t that far, but it seemed like an endless trek compared to our previous short-cut.  I was miffed about this change the entire rest of the way through the store, hence, grief stage 2 – anger.

But now, after some time has passed, I wonder if there is not an important lesson to be learned in this trivial story.

I am not in control of the store setup. The manager does not need my permission to change things. Just like most things in life. A criminal can strike when you least expect it. The company can lay people off without warning. A loved one can die. Even in ministry – a church can decide we cannot lead that class.

Some obstacles we can see coming, some hit us suddenly, but everyone experiences road blocks of different kinds. Sometimes it seems that so many things are outside our control – including our own emotions at times.

The question becomes – what do we do then? How do we react when our plans are not going to work out as we had hoped?

1. We can sit and stew about it. We could get lost in anger and resentment, but who wins?

2. We can try to change it. For most people, this rarely works because our power is limited.

3. We can trust God. He has ultimimate authority. Nothing on this planet happens without His consent. The Bible says that not even the gates of hell will prevail against His efforts.

If God wanted that short-cut to the bakery left there, no construction crew on earth could change it. No one can ever usurp His authority.

So, if you find yourself facing an obstacle, in life, in work, in ministry, or in relationships, it must be there because God caused or allowed it. And if God allowed that road block, that must mean He has another plan for you. He knows the plans He has for us, our job is to cling to Him so tightly and attentively so we cannot help but walk where He wants us to be.

Seek Him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and watch the new path clear.

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