Sunday, August 25, 2019

A Heart Condition

If you are serving the transition of someone who is your employer or supervisor, your main task is to watch the condition of your heart. 
In a healthy, honor-filled work environment, the person transitioning may be blessed by financial gifts, severance packages, and trips to nice locales. These can all be part of a working relationship that honors long-term faithful service. 
Early on, choose to celebrate each blessing the outgoing person receives. Celebrate the honor they receive like you were the one receiving the gifts. Don’t miss the joy of blessing another person. Give honor where honor is due, even to someone who may have been hard to work with. You will never fail by giving honor. 
(An excerpt from the book, A Good Place)

Saturday, August 24, 2019

A Gentle Change

The coming change will be different than what has taken place in the past. Those were abrupt, painful, and stark transitions. This time you will step through the border between two seasons without obstruction. It will be like someone passing through chiffon-like drapes moving gently and slowly across their face. There will be no clinging only a gentle passage into a new place.

Accusers and Accusations

An accusation, especially a public accusation, can be devastating. Imagine the sin you deplore above all others. Then imagine you wake up tomorrow morning and began reading through social media to find out, to your horror, you were being wrongly accused of that sin. You would then begin to read statements from people who chimed in to the comment section agreeing with your accuser saying the equivalent of “I had my suspicions!” No amount to public comment or explanation from you would ever be able to retrieve your previous reputation. 

Accusations are a tactic of hell. That is why Satan is called the accuser of the brethren. Be care to whose opinionated wagon of accusation you choose to hitch your honor. Accusers are a dime a dozen. Redeemers are few and far between. Redemption takes courage and will require the integrity of silence in the face of ongoing accusation until a process of restoration is complete. Anyone can publish a list of sins and bring accusation before the full story is known. Be careful. Be wise. Be slow to speak and even slower to believe the first draft of any accusation.

Digging Through Our Spiritual Trashcans

Yesterday, I made a mistake that could have become a real hassle. I went into town to run a few errands and ended up at a large shopping center. When I got out of the car, I had a hand full of trash and my car keys in my hands. I headed for one of those large trashcans located at the entrance of the store. It had a flip-top opening. I open the flipper door and dumped in my trash and unthinkingly, also my keys. Off I went into the store to shop ignorant of my mistake.

When I left the store 15 minutes later, I did my normal pocket pat down looking for my keys. After a few moments of patting down my pockets like a frantic bongo drum player, the shock hit me, “I lost my keys!” In my developing sense of shock, I finally realized where they were. They were in the trashcan! I hurried over to the can and opened the plastic flip door and stuck my head inside.  There was my pile of trash still on top of the other trash. As I looked into the dark interior of the trashcan, I saw the slight glimmer of the end of a single key. I had to pull out some of the trash to get to my keys. I found them! On the keychain were keys and key fobs to our vehicles, house keys, and all the keys that unlocked all the other locks in my world. I was so relieved. Then another reality hit.

Jan and I are on vacation. I had not shaved in a few days. I was wearing some old work clothes.  I looked a little rough. Then it hit me. I fit the image of a poor homeless guy going through garbage looking for cans or maybe something to eat. One man walking into the store looked over at me with compassion and started to make his way toward me. I could sense I was about to be slipped a couple of bucks to get something to eat. I raised my head and gave a weak smile to all the other folks who were also watching me. With keys in hand and my trampled pride in tow, I hurried off to my car talking out loud to the Lord thanking Him for the keys when I realized talking to one’s self in public after rummaging through a garbage can might affirm someone’s original suspicion.

Jan and I have people in our lives that we love dearly who struggle with mental illness. That condition has led some of them into seasons of homelessness. We have a new level of compassion for people in that situation. We don’t look through them. We look at them, and when nudged by the Lord, we help them out. This was different. Digging through the trash and realizing I was being viewed as a homeless person struck a deep chord within my heart. It hit something more profound than my initial response of shallow pride. I realized I was only looking for keys. In a few minutes, I would go home to a clean house, a wonderful wife, and a hope-filled future.  My experience was only a personal embarrassment. Those who walk our streets and eat our garbage don’t have that blessing. 

The next time I see someone digging through the trash in a public place, I want to recall my experience trying to find my keys and what I felt that day and then multiply it by a thousand times before I start to interact with someone. I want to remember the need for personal mercy before I open my mouth or give someone something to help them out. None of us know the full story of another person’s life. Compassion and kindness are powerful things to experience in a world that has grown so angry, distant, and separated.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Our Secluded Place

Jan and I have entered a time in our lives where we have chosen to spend extended seasons of time in seclusion apart from many of the things we have been doing for years. We didn't arrive at this place early on in our life journey. It became our reality as we matured and grew older wanting to finish well. 

This seclusion is not about becoming spiritual hermits. It is making a conscious and calendared choice to step away from the constant demand to produce and be visibly active.  It's a place where only God knows our exact location. If He needs us, He knows where to find us and bring us out for specific Spirit-directed assignments. When those assignments are completed, we will withdraw once again to our secluded place, a spiritual garden seeded by rest, reflection, and purposed reserve. 

Too much of a life of faith can become a counterfeit of the real thing. It can look good on the surface, but down deep in the human soul, it dismantles the very things we need to live a good and prosperous life. A failure to engage seasons of seclusion will leave us weary, always driven to be industrious at the expense of a true and lasting Kingdom impact. 

Thursday, August 22, 2019

When God Reaches Down

The fears we live with made their initial appearance when we chose to listen to their lies. In moments of fearful uncertainty, is where hell can speak its deceptive script in the most effective ways. These lies will always contradict God's truth about our redeemed past and the hopefulness we should have about our future.  God is not locked in time like we are wondering what will happen next. 

Scripture tells us “Sing to the one who rides across the ancient heavens, his mighty voice thundering from the sky” (Psalm 68:33). God rides back and forth across history – across the ancient heavens - without the limitations of time and physical space. He sees history as a whole, not in part. He sees time outside the bookmarks of our earthly beginning and end. He is the all-knowing God of all things.

If you want to know the way forward or where to place your foot for the next step in your journey, the answer will not found by examining your past, present, or future. It will be discovered in our heart. “For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His” (II Chronicles 16:9). 

This God is the One who rides back and forth across the heavens looking for hearts that are completely His. When He finds such a heart, He reaches down to touch the carrier with the intent to release things not possible for those whose hearts are compromised by fear and unbelief. The evidence that we have experienced the perfect love of God is seen most clearly when love's presence in our life is actively expelling the very things that compromise the full expression of love.  

Examine your heart. If your heart is entirely His above all else, the God of Heaven will find you. He will reach down and touch you to let you know you are not alone. By that touch, you will know you are being supported by the God of all time and eternity.  That touch will heal the sorrow of your past and give you great confidence and hope as you move forward into the future. You will move forward with new freedom because in your heart you now carry a new level of faith in the unfailing love of God.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Retreat Into Your Future

There will be times when people invite you to advance with them – to move forward into something new. Advance, accelerate, and breakthrough are some of the words typically used to craft this kind of appeal. 

In some instances, when you receive these invitations, in your spiritual gut, you will know your assignment is not to move forward but to retreat into a place of isolated intimacy with God. When faced with that decision, always choose the retreat. 

The anxious crowd who issue these advancing invitations believe the best is always ahead of them, never in the present moment.  It will take courage to say no and let them move on without you. When you make the decision to retreat, you will discover a place of rested revelation not available to those who equate constant motion with a healthy and vibrant faith. As the prophet Isaiah said, “In quietness and trust is your strength.” 

Retreat to that quiet place, and you will be refreshed and empowered for a journey only the rested ones can make. A soul that has rested in a place of retreat with God has gained the strength and endurance required to move forward into a future not seen by weary eyes.