The Men’s Ministries Director at my church is a layman who is also a licensed clinical social worker on Leukemia Service at one of our major hospitals in the city.As part of his ministry to Calvary Church he writes a daily article of encouragement: (http://www.memphiscalvary.org/content/blogsection/13/112/).I invite you to read his articles regularly, and especially the one I have posted below.
The link above is meant to provide a visual image that I may not be able to fully capture just typing away for those of you unfamiliar with a particular film. The Nightmare Before Christmas is an animated film originally made in 1993. Tim Burton, director of Edward Scissorhands, Big Fish and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (to name a few) produced the film. For the purposes of this encouragement I am not going to dwell on the plot, but instead focus on one character, The Mayor.
The Mayor is a portly wide-bottomed man always in a suit and pinstripe pants with a blue ribbon-type nametag that identifies him as The Mayor. He is a glad-handing man of the people, desperately trying to keep up appearances. His eyes are constantly spinning and scanning and there is always a transfixed smile on his face. He is a character fraught with anxiety about his town, his leadership, his image. The unique thing about The Mayor is when he is anxious, angry, at his wit's end his head spins around to reveal a gloomy, pale, anxious scowl. Who he will be at any given moment is up for grabs. He has no control over his shifting emotions and bottled up anxieties (always ready to boil over). Regardless of this lack of control his entire existence is an attempt to keep these emotions under wraps.
Does this sound at all familiar?
I am focusing on this character because my wife, Heather has, at times when I am let's say... unpredictable (a.k.a. impossible to live with) referred to me as The Mayor. My head will spin around (not really!) revealing an emotion polar opposite to the one I had been displaying just a moment before. These are usually times of stress and preoccupation with some internal struggle (makes it sound so noble!) and Heather will exclaim, "Morning Mayor!" to clue me in to my... unpredictability. One reason why I love my wife is that she knows me. At times, she knows what I am feeling/how and why I am hiding/struggling with something before I do. I need this. I am thankful for this bond with my wife. I am not always thankful at the time but… well you know what I mean.
When we are ever-changing like heaven's lights... shifting shadows we have the example of our perfect God.
This means that our response to our shifting emotions should not be an attempt to conceal them at all costs. Remember the Snake in a Can practical joke? Spring-loaded toy snakes are shoved into a tiny mixed nuts or peanut brittle can. You screw off the lid and snakes come flying. When we shove our snakes deep down inside/when we are not surrounded by or do not seek out those who know us well whether it be wife or family or Christian brother (those who will remind us when we are having a Mayor moment) there is a significant amount of shrapnel when the lid comes off (and eventually the lid comes off).
≈ Devotional for Tuesday, October 23, 2007
I love a good western and ‘3:10 to Yuma’ fit the bill!It had many key elements of a typical western – lots of blood and violence (maybe a little too much at times) and the good guys vs. the bad.But, there were a few other surprise elements.
The lead character Ben Wade (played by Russell Crowe), recited scripture several times during the course of the movie.[Proverbs 13:3 stuck with me… (Amplified Bible)—3He who guards his mouth keeps his life, but he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.]Even the grip of his gun had a cross on it, which made it easily identifiable.I don’t recall noticing that in a western before.
During a discourse with another character, Danny Evans, Ben noted that he once read the Bible from cover-to-cover as he waited at the train station for his Mother.She abandoned him there at eight years old.We could sense his anguish.
While I wonder if that was partially the reason for his life of crime, there was another side of Ben too as Danny Evan’s son, William, discovered.“You’re not all bad,” William says.
But Ben knew the truth – he had killed, robbed and done plenty that was not worth admiring and was really unforgivable.Early on in the movie he killed one of his own gang for not doing his job properly.Can you imagine?What if our employer took such drastic action when we didn’t do our jobs properly?More importantly, what if God actually meted out what we deserved?
Danny Evans had issues too.He took on his role in the story to get much-needed money to keep from losing his ranch, for medicine for his gravely ill younger son, Mark, but mainly to “save face” before his eldest son, William.You see, Danny had a physical handicap…part of his leg had been blown off.He was ashamed to admit it was due to [in today’s terms] friendly fire.He needed to stand for something… because he felt a failure in the eyes of others.
Perhaps his character was like the man at the pool of Bethesda.Sometimes, due to our circumstances, we become paralyzed and as a result, we don’t take responsibility in life.We have become comfortable with the status quo…the same sinful life.We really don’t want things to change, we drag ourselves to “our pool,” but we don’t really want to be healed.
But just like the healing water in the pool of Bethesda, Jesus offers us living water and He rescues us from our wicked ways, our very sad and pathetic existence.Hear His word --
Colossians 1:13-15 (The Message)
13-14God rescued us from dead-end alleys and dark dungeons. He's set us up in the kingdom of the Son He loves so much, the Son who got us out of the pit we were in, got rid of the sins we were doomed to keep repeating.
Christ Holds It All Together
15-18We look at this Son and see the God who cannot be seen. We look at this Son and see God's original purpose in everything created. For everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible, rank after rank after rank of angels - everything got started in Him and finds its purpose in Him. He was there before any of it came into existence and holds it all together right up to this moment. And when it comes to the church, He organizes and holds it together, like a head does a body.
Without telling the ending of the story, rest assured he “came to himself” and in a very tortured way, put himself out of his misery; the status quo.He must have been tired of his previous life.
God offers us redemption… our salvation from sin through Jesus' sacrifice.It doesn’t get any better than that!
GospeLines Prayer: Father, Your story manifests itself in most unexpected ways.How could I possibly see so much symbolism in a western movie?It’s through Your light that You’ve brought me out of the darkness.
As Anne Graham Lotz references in her book, Just Give Me Jesus, “Jesus knows one of the greatest barriers to our faith is often our unwillingness to be made whole – our unwillingness to accept responsibility—our unwillingness to live without excuse for our spiritual smallness and immaturity.”
Father, I do so want to get well!I want my sin to be cleansed; I want the guilt to be removed; I want any habit to be shattered; I want the anger to dissipate; I want the bitterness to disappear; the emptiness to be filled, the joy that comes from You and the relationship to be restored.
Father, rescue me!
In His Love,
≈ Devotional for Wednesday, October 24, 2007
"Surrender or Die"
What prompts a man to choose death over life? Hundreds of al- Quaida and Taliban fighters in Afghanistan have readily made that choice. (REUTERS News quote follows)
‘’The battle was very intense at times.There was mortar fire, machine-gun fire.The enemy has heavy weaponry,’’ U.S. Maj. Bryan Hilferty told Reuters at Bagram Air Base north of Kabul, where much of the U.S. ground force has been shifted to support the assault. ‘’This battle is going to go on until they all surrender or die.’’
The chilling story of Saul the persecutor demonstrates the righteousness of Almighty God. “As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" (Acts 9:3, 4) In that brief attention-grabbing moment, Saul made a decision. He could rebel against this powerful force and die, or he could surrender and live. It is a battle we face daily.
The Christian witness is one sin away from disaster. Make a deliberately wrong choice and you destroy your testimony. On the other hand, complete and total surrender brings life to you and to countless souls around you who read your life as they would the Bible. Godliness is something we choose. It isn’t a title easily bestowed, as we might receive a gold star for perfect attendance.You don’t earn it, you surrender to it.That awesome decision is the difference between a dynamic Christian testimony and an anemic churchgoing failure.We must choose... surrender or die.
GospeLines Prayer:Father, I choose to surrender to Your will for my life, even though sometimes I don’t even know what it is. Let my testimony be a blessing and not a curse, heaven sent rather than hell-bent, accepting more than rebellious, and uplifting instead of discouraging. Amen and amen.
33But when they came to Jesus, they saw that he was already dead, and they did not break his legs.34One of the soldiers stuck his spear into Jesus' side, and blood and water came out.35We know this is true, because it was told by someone who saw it happen. Now you can have faith too. (John 19:33-35 - Contemporary English Version)
20/20 had a news story recently that defied the imagination.It was a story about Army Private Channing Moss, whose Humvee was attacked in Afghanistan and he suffered the unthinkable – a live Rocket-Propelled Grenade pierced his lower abdomen from one hip to the other.
Members of his unit called MEDEVAC to get him out, but didn’t tell the entire story.They knew protocol was to “set him aside” and they refused to do that!
It was a while before the chopper could get there due to heavy fire-fighting in the area.So, members of the unit kept squeezing Channing’s hand and talking to him.Private Moss said he prayed, “God I’m not ready to die,” as he thought about his wife, daughter and baby that was on the way.
The chopper finally arrived, but were extremely hesitant to carry him – knowing that this live RPG could kill all of them.
Somehow, with God’s grace and protection, they safely arrived at the hospital in the middle of nowhere and again, the surgeons had no idea about the real situation at hand, but once they did – they cleared all unnecessary personnel.They were also keenly aware of protocol, but opted to put their lives on the line to save once of their own.
As luck would have it, one of the best weapons experts was there and he would assist during the surgery and in the destruction of the RPG once it was removed from the Private’s body.
Again, despite the fear for their own lives, God’s grace was sufficient.HIS hand was with them and they were successful in repairing the massive injuries after the removal of the RPG.
Private Moss was ultimately transferred to Walter Reed Medical Center in Bethesda, MD to have extensive rehabilitation to learn to walk again.He even delayed his receipt of the Purple Heart because he wanted to be able to stand and walk during the ceremony.
All of the men who made those decisions against policy have been to visit him and his family.Most shed tears during the story and I could relate to the emotion.
GospeLines Prayer:Father, we thank You for being with our service men and women no matter the circumstance and where they are located in the world.We particularly thank You for being the hands that guided the surgeons and for imparting the wisdom necessary for their decision to go against protocol.
Most importantly, thank You for Your son who was pierced in his side, feet and hands and who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our sins.We are grateful for the blessings You have bestowed in all of us.
Lord, thank You for not “setting us aside” and for brave hearts!
In His Love,
≈ Devotional for Friday, October 26, 2007
"That Extra Mile"
“Driving down the highway one day, I saw this slogan on the back of a well known trucking company’s vehicle: ‘We Go That Extra Mile.’ Then I noticed another phrase scrawled in the dirt just below it: ‘Because We Missed the Last Exit!’ ” (Reader’s Digest, May 2000)
In a time when Roman soldiers could compel a man to carry his heavy armor to the next mile-post, Jesus said, “If a man compels you to go a mile, walk two miles with him.”It must have been an aggravating life to live as a servant and follow the whim of a man whom you despised!
Today, our taskmasters are less empowered, yet we are called upon to perform unwanted tasks on our jobs or in the marketplace, and we do what is required of us because we must, not because we want to do it. Our performance is sometimes less than it could be. What kind of testimony could we be to a lost world if we followed the command of Christ?
GospeLines Prayer:Father, this is one command I wish you hadn’t given me. Work on my rebellious spirit, Lord, and make me a willing servant so that your Name will be glorified at my place of employment, in my home, and wherever I am compelled to be a follower. Amen and amen.