Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Don't Miss the Moment

I have been reminded lately about the importance of slowing down enough so as not to miss the moments that God has prepared for us. Ken Gire, in his book The Reflective Life, shared one such seemingly insignificant moment when his daughter shared through tears the despair she felt at school because she saw herself as the outcast. Unloved and unwanted. Ken and his wife walked through this with their sweet daughter. They helped her understand that she, of all people could learn things about Christ that she could never learn as the most popular kid in school. For He too was rejected by His friends-even His own family. He too was well acquainted with sorrow. They helped their daughter understand that what she was going through would help her know Christ more, appreciate Him more, and love Him more.

Admittedly, I read this and thought, "I don't know that I would have taken the opportunity to share such profound spiritual wisdom with my son as they did with their daughter." But what they did next, I was more apt to follow. They asked if she would like to take a day off from school and this offer, of course, was accepted. She then asked her dad, "What are you doing tomorrow?"

For a moment, he thought about the deadlines he had to meet, the projects he was behind on and all the very legitimate reasons why he truly did not have the time to take an unplanned day off. But, he knew he should, so he did. What followed was nothing spectacular. No deep conversation or revealing truths. Just a few errands, a trip to the mall and a movie. Yet, at the end of it all, his daughter says this: "You know, Dad, this is one of those memories I'll treasure for the rest of my life."

I, not unlike the author, stopped to reflect on all the similar opportunities I have missed in the past. The call of deadlines and projects to complete spoke louder than the simple voice of a gentle request. It makes me sad to consider the loss of similar moments I could have shared with those I love but missed in the hurried pace of life.

So, I am reminded today slow down and look for the moment. Simple moments like the smile to the flight attendant as I boarded the plane and I asked, "How are you today?" Or the moment to ask my friend from work how his family is doing or the call to my brother to say, "Hey, when you go hunting just let me know because I would like to hang out with you when you do. I'm not a deer hunter but I would sure love to be your spotter and just spend the day with you."

Maybe it was the extra time I take to play "Little Man" with my youngest and hear his out loud laugh that still rings in my ears. Or the extra time to stop my morning ritual to tell my oldest good morning, give him a hug and tell him how much I love him as the first thing he hears to begin his day.

Who know what these moments will turn in to and which ones God will predetermine to have life changing significance. Like the simple prayer for a co-worker while in the hospital, who later shared his hopeless life, who then found hope through trust and faith in Jesus Christ. A simple moment with eternal significance.

We are all surrounded by moments like this. Divine encounters God has placed in our life according to His love and mercy. Do we see them? Better question: Do we slow down and expect them enough to recognize them when they occur. Oh, they are there...every day. May we have a heart that is inclined to see where God is at work and the courage and humble gratitude to join Him in these moments. This is my prayer today.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

My Thanksgiving List

It may seem odd, but as I considered my devotional from yesterday, I realized that we often overlook this area when we consider all the things we are “thankful” for during this time of year. Sure, we consider all the blessings of God such as friends and family but how many of us put trials on the list? Not me! Yet we are reminded by James that we should rejoice in trials because they are often the means by which God can do his greatest work in our lives. I then read a devotional from another source this morning with the same point. Well…maybe God is trying to tell me something. Perhaps I am to be reminded that we should not judge God’s blessing by our personal definition of what is good or makes my life easier or better. In fact, the things that I would naturally leave off the list (such as trials) may, in fact, be God’s greatest gift in my life. By these I am transformed by the renewing of my mind. By these I recognize my dependence on Him. By these my selfishness is broken so that it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me. Consider these things during this week of Thanksgiving.


According to James 1:2–4, 12, there are two reasons why Christians should rejoice when they face trials of various kinds. Other reasons are articulated elsewhere, but these two are remarkably comprehensive.
First, we should rejoice because we know that when our faith is tested, the result is perseverance (1:2–3). As an athlete endures in order to build up endurance, so a Christian perseveres under trial in order to build up perseverance. Perseverance contributes something important to our character. It “must finish its work so that [we] may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (1:4). The alternative is a personality that may love the Lord when things are going well, a character that is bold and happy on bright days in the Spring, but knows little of steadfastness under duress, of contentment when physical comforts are withdrawn, of quiet confidence in the living God when faced with persecution, of stability in the midst of a frenetic pace or a massive disappointment. In other words, in a fallen world perseverance contributes maturity and stability to our character—and trials build perseverance. So James is very bold: we should, he says, “consider it pure joy” whenever we face trials of various kinds. This is not a perverse form of Christian masochism, but an entirely appropriate response if we remember the Christian’s goals. If our highest goals are creature comforts, this passage is incomprehensible; if our highest goals include growth in Christian character, James’s evaluation makes eminent sense.
Second, the Christian who perseveres under trial is blessed “because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him” (1:12). In other words, perseverance is a necessary ingredient to genuine Christianity. A real Christian, on the long haul, sticks: he or she perseveres. There may be ups and downs, there may be special victories or temporary defeats, but precisely because the One who has begun a good work in us completes it (Phil. 1:6), real Christians stick (cf. Heb. 3:14). They continue to be “those who love him.” Thus Christians facing a trial must perceive not only the threat or the unpleasantness or the disappointment, but also the challenge for which God’s grace equips us: to press on—always to press on—knowing full well that the ultimate reward, meted out by grace, is “the crown of life”—the crown that is life, life in its consummated splendor, the life of the new heaven and the new earth, the heritage of all Christians. Thus, once again James is entirely realistic to perceive that the person who perseveres under trial is “blessed.” It is an easy calculation, provided we remember the Christian’s goals.


In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world
John 16:33

Tribulation is God’s threshing—not to destroy us, but to get what is good, heavenly, and spiritual in us separated from what is wrong, earthly, and fleshly. Nothing less than blows of pain will do this. The evil clings so to the good, the golden wheat of goodness in us is so wrapped up in the strong chaff of the old life that only the heavy flail of suffering can produce the separation.
J. R. Miller

[1]D. A. Carson, For the Love of God : A Daily Companion for Discovering the Riches of God's Word. Volume 1 (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 1998), November 19.
[2]Samuel G. Hardman and Dwight Lyman Moody, Thoughts for the Quiet Hour, Originally Published: Chicago: Revell, c1990. (Willow Grove, PA: Woodlawn Electronic Publishing, 1998, c1997, c1994, c1990), November 20.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

A Pleasant Surprise

It was a book required for my most recent class and one I had not heard of before. It was written by Tony Evans, and here again, I had not read anything from this author prior to this class. I must admit that I was skeptical at best. However, I must say that this book has turned out to be one of the best books I have ever read. No kidding!
Tony Evans is the pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Church in Dallas, Tx. He is a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary and a very respected man among his peers. His style of writing is what I would describe as conversational. Having never met him, I can only assume that he writes like he talks. He uses several well placed stories and illustrations to make his point and he was very easy to read and follow. A topic such as the Holy Spirit is often "untouchable" but Dr. Evans has made my personal understanding of this amazing gift to believers more real and life changing than anything I have ever read on the subject.
This author makes a point early in His book that I found most enlightening. He says, "The Holy Spirit is a Person we can know and relate to, not just a force or power to be used." It was this early point in his book where he caught my attention and I knew I was in store for something significant. My instincts did not disappoint as Dr. Evans following a consistent biblical study of the Holy Spirit that was most impacting in my life.
I won't spoil the book so take my word for it. Go buy this book and enjoy the read. You won't regret it! In future posts I am sure to refer to the ways I was impacted by Dr. Evans' insight.