"Do not worry about your life, 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? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these." (Matthew 6:25-29)
My son performed in a musical version of the Wizard of Oz at his school over the last few nights. Closing night was last night and Heather and I and some family friends were there to cheer him on. It was an original script written by the director and he added a number of current pop culture references and a very comic touch to the proceedings. Near the end the good witches of the North and South work out some sibling rivalry and then burst into song. It's a musical, right? Anyone who knows me well knows that I hate musicals but I love my son...
The good witch of the South was ready for her solo, had her mike at her lips. It shorted out. Dead as a doornail. This thirteen year-old just kept on singing. She could not be heard but she stayed focused and in character, as best she could, and finished the song. We were an appreciative and understanding audience. We clapped enthusiastically for her.
She stayed on stage. She rode the wave. What was her alternative? Throwing herself on the floor? Leaving the stage in shame?
She rode the wave. She had another opportunity to sing a few moments later and a stagehand ran her a working microphone. She sang her second piece and was again congratulated with applause.
On a daily basis, our mic shorts out. The bottom falls out of our paper bag. How we respond and how we choose to continue may say everything about how we trust (or do not trust) God.
*Ken Mitten is an employee at St. Jude’s Hospital.He was born in southern New Jersey and raised in upstate New York near Rochester. A theater major as an undergrad, he lived in Chicago for 15 years before relocating to Memphis to work at St. Jude. He and his wife, Heather (who has worked at St. Jude as a nurse in Endocrinology and Hematology), are proud of their son, Eric, who is active in the local theater community. Kenneth is also active in his church's Worship & Arts (including directing an annual dinner theatre) and men's ministries. He is writer and founder of Daily Courage, firstname.lastname@example.org.
≈ Devotional for Tuesday, February 17, 2009
"The High Cost of Self-Respect"
Parenting doesn't come with instructions when kids are born.Sometimes you have to make up the rules on the fly!And that's OK, as long as parents are more in love with the Lord than they are with their children.The balance between giving them everything and allowing them to earn their own way while making a few mistakes is the difference between self-respect and self-destruction.Erma Bombeck (not the best theologian of our day), provides this humorous advice in her book Motherhood: The Second Oldest Profession.
"We made a speech: 'We know you won't understand this now, but someday you will.We no longer want to deprive you of the poverty you so richly deserve.The HAPPY DAYS ARE HERE AGAIN BANK OF PROSPERITY is closed!Money is not related to love.It's only a shallow substitute.What you really need is a ton of self-respect.'He sat there for awhile in silence.Finally he said, 'Do I have to buy it with my own money?'We smiled.'It's the only way you can buy it.' " (page 159)
Self-respect is not bought, it is earned!And parents are an important link to teaching children how to earn it.Erma's idea is a good one to teach a child the value of money and the joy which comes from earning our way.
Another way might be to memorize a brief passage from Proverbs, chapter 3:3-6:
“Let love and faithfulness never leave you;
bind them around your neck,
write them on the tablet of your heart.
Then you will win favor and a good name
in the sight of God and man.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make your paths straight.”
GospeLines Prayer:Father, when the sunset years are past and I am only a memory to my sons, let them not recall the many times I failed as a father, but let them know that I tried to raise them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. And may their children experience confidence and self-respect because they had the advantage of a godly home.Amen and amen.
Offering timely words of response in the name of Jesus is a special acknowledgement of faithful service to a fellow Christian.What a blessing it is to be around a person who ministers in that way!We would call someone like that an Encourager.
"I don't serve God because I expect a pat on the back," you may protest.That's true.However, there are at least four occasions in the New Testament that teach us to encourage one another (1st Thessalonians 4:18, 2nd Timothy 4:2, Titus 2:6, and Hebrews 3:13).
I received an email from a pastor who responded to one of the GospeLines devotionals:
Thanks, friends.That is a good story.I had seen it before; was glad to read it again.As I read the part where the two teens talked to the older minister after the meeting, I thought, "At least they said something to him!"Too many times, I've heard nothing afterwards; and have been nearby when people said nothing to other ministers, as well.I'm not referring to the usual statement, "I enjoyed your message, pastor," but to some comment or question that would indicate even the tiniest bit of interest in God's Word and spiritual growth.My heart is breaking... Surely, somebody is hungry... You know, it seems to me that we are nearer to Jesus catching His bride away than we realize!
Maranatha!*See you on the way up!
Pastors are people, too.I don't know how you view your pastor, but from experience I can tell you that he is in need of encouragement from you.Tell him you love him.Let him know his words helped you.It will bless your heart and he will know that God has used him to meet your needs.
GospeLines Prayer:Father, remind us that those who are anointed to preach the Gospel are in need of encouragement, too.Open my silent lips so that I may boldly speak the words of appreciation which are on my heart, yet often remain private.Challenge me to become more sensitive to the efforts of others by sharing words of love and affirmation.Amen and amen.
* From 1st Corinthians 16:22 meaning "Our Lord Comes."
≈ Devotional for Thursday, February 19, 2009
“Touch my lips”
President Bush once said, “Read my lips…”That’s an expression that means he didn’t just want to rely on the audience hearing his words; but, he also wanted them to “see” the words (i.e. “read” them) as they rolled off his lips.He wanted to make sure that what he said was also what we heard – that we understood.
Most times we take a look in a mirror in the morning before we leave the house.We want to make sure that our hair, clothes, makeup, etc. is acceptable and as we prefer.We want to see ourselves as others are going to see us – to make sure that what others see is what we want them to see.
God wants us to see and hear Him as well, not with our earthly eyes and ears, but with spiritual eyes and ears so we can really understand our need for His grace.
Isaiah was a prophet, a man of God.But, after he “saw” God in a vision, he cried, "Woe to me!I am ruined!For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty." (Isaiah 6:5)
At that moment, Isaiah saw himself in the light of God.Isaiah understood why, hundreds of years later, the Apostle Paul would lament “What a wretched man I am!Who will rescue me from this body of death?”Both Isaiah and Paul realized that they could never be righteous on their own – they needed God’s saving grace...They needed Jesus!
In Isaiah’s vision, one of the seraphs from the Throne of God flew to him with a live coal, taken with tongs from the altar.With it he touched Isaiah’s lips and said, "See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for."
(Isaiah 6:6)What did the live coal represent…?Jesus!
The things that come out of the mouth come from the heart (Matthew 15:17-19) and a personal relationship with Jesus will change your heart.
The Christian Rock group Kutless’ song “Take me in” (from the album Strong Tower) asks Jesus to take us through the crowds of people and past the priests who sing His praise; to take us, by the blood of the Lamb, into the Holy of Holies where we can see His face.The song’s cry to our Lord and Savior is the same as Job’s, Isaiah’s and Paul’s:
“Take the coal, touch my lips, here I am…”
Has He touched your lips and changed your heart?If not, really see Him and hear Him right now, right where you sit reading this devotional.See Him in His Word and see Him in prayer… Realize that we all have unclean lips and live among people with unclean lips.But, our eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty. We don’t have to cry out, “Who will rescue me from this body of death?”Jesus will touch our lips and take away our guilt because His death and resurrection has atoned for our sins - IF we accept Him as our Lord and Savior.
Pray with me: Jesus, my Lord… touch my lips…
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
But beware of the morn, and watch out for daybreak.
For then you must hide... your life is at stake!"
(T. Harrison, 1962)
Darkness creeps upon us before we know it! The days get longer in the spring but they never seem to be long enough.Life is like that as well.We celebrate our good days, and for Christians there are many of them; but inevitably, they are followed by times of darkness.The question is, how do we handle the bad times?What can we do to help the situation when the light goes out of our lives?
In his Easter message last year, a pastor friend suggested five things we can do in times like these.
1.Pray... prayer is always appropriate in good times and bad.
2.Think it through... remain calm.God is able to overcome.
3.Seek encouragement... there is strength in numbers!
4.Hold on... don't listen to those who say, give up.
5.Trust God to hold on to you... His everlasting arms will never grow weary of holding you.
GospeLines Prayer:Father, it is easy to see your face in the daytime.But when the light goes out, I sometimes feel as though I am slipping into faithlessness, and it frightens me.Encircle me with friends who encourage me to hold on, and remind me that darkness is only temporary.Amen and amen.