Tag Archives: Faith

On Being Blind…

Anyone who meets a testing challenge head-on and manages to stick it out is mighty fortunate. For such persons loyally in love with God, the reward is life and more life. James 1:12 (MSG)

The last few months at work have been filled with frustration. Four years ago, I headed out on a Spirit guided adventure to increase accountability in one component within my organization. It was a bumpy road, but one that was well worth the effort. With increased accountability came increased productivity. Each part felt responsible for itself as well as the whole, and each began to perform at unprecedentedly high levels, achieving impacts never seen before. As I completed the clearing of the path before us, I returned to the vision I had previously set, and began executing it in an unimpeded way.

Although my component made great strides towards our goals, we began to feel the resistance of the fully expanded bungee cord that tethered us to the rest of the fully-anchored organization. I explained the changes in the environment that required movement from our current position. I also explained how I had been successful at moving my component off of the rock it had handed on. At first my counterparts in other parts of the organization nodded with pleasant diplomacy and later rejected all offered assistance as uninformed arrogance from the blind and ignorant. Internally, I began to feel like a tugboat trying to tow two lost and disabled supertankers, whose engines are running in reverse, through a narrow shipping channel . Their wakes were much larger than mine and I did not have the weight to displace enough water to re-orient or dry-dock them. I was running full bore ahead to prevent the larger vessels from pulling me backwards and underwater. I began to cry out, praying that He would send some relief because it is impossible to lead the blind when they are afraid of movement and resistant assistance. In His normal, calm voice God said, “I am the shepherd who guides the lost sheep. I may use you as a small instrument in my larger plan to help guide them to the path of righteousness. However, their journey is one of choice. I have sent you out ahead to scout the landscape and to provide information, not instruction, back to them. It is up to them to accept or reject that information. You are not the catalyst of change that will save them from destruction. You are merely My utensil that is available to them to help them notice what is on the path in front of them. You cannot independently clear their way. That is what I sent my Son to do. You can only give them notice of what’s ahead. The actions they choose to take are their own. Stop trying to do more than I have asked! Move forward with what you have been given. I have plans for all of my children and am patient with them.” I instantly began to hum the lyrics to Mark McMillan’s How He Loves Us, “He is jealous for me. Love’s like a hurricane, and I am a tree, bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy. When all of a sudden, I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory, and I realize just how beautiful you are and how great your affections are for me.”

 I understood, at least conceptually, the message that had been given to me but I needed a visual to fully comprehend it. I did a little internet research on common instruments of the blind. I learned that a white cane is a long rod-like device used by visually impaired travelers to give them information about the environment they are traveling through. Using a cane can warn them of obstacles in their path, tell them of of upcoming stairs, warn them that they are coming up to a curb, and tell them of many other things in the environment in which they may have to deal.

To start using the cane, the person holds the handle at  waist level, using whichever hand is most comfortable. They hold the cane with their hand wrapped around the handle  with the index finger pointed along the cane shaft toward the cane tip, which is resting on the ground. While walking, the cane is swept from side to side in an arch a little more than the width of the body. As they walk along, the cane will touch the ground at the end of each sweep from right to left. It is done in such a sequence that the cane taps the spot where the next foot step will land. This allows the person to check things out with each step before their foot lands on the spot. If there is a hole there, the cane will find it first. If there is an object lying on the floor, the cane will encounter it and may prevent a  fall. Some are able to use the sound of the cane tapping on the walking surface to give them cues about the size of the area they are walking in, and other things that can’t be determined easily in other ways. However, the cane cannot walk for or take precautions for the user.

I had an Ah-Ha moment as I recognized I had been placed in this situation to learn many valuable lessons from the journey. I was also put there to be an assistance device available to those around me. But, my availability was not a guarantee of my use.

I then realized I have been frustrated because I have worked my knuckles to the bone yet continue to feel held back by those who cannot sense the wisdom around them or see the vision before them. I had rationalized that I am not seeking appreciation for my work, rather I simply want affirmation that I am doing well. The truth is that seismic change is happening inside the organization following the arrival of a new leader who is moving everyone in the same direction I moved my component. Rather than confessing that I felt justified and admitting my desire to remind others that they had rejected the information I provided about the road ahead, I have hidden behind a facade of humble righteousness. I immediately felt startled and anxious. The Spirit whispered, “relax and ask for forgiveness. Remember who you are and whose you are. Your purpose is still Kingdom building.”

We are His portion and He is our prize, drawn to redemption by the grace in his eyes. If grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking. So heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss and my heart turns violently inside of my chest. I don’t have time to maintain these regrets when I think about the way He loves us; Oh how He loves us!How He Loves Us

As I reflect on what I have been experiencing, I appreciate that work in the vineyard takes many forms. To fill the vineyard with trees that bear the fruits of the Holy Spirit, we must get to work now; not on the worldly taskings of our day, for they impair our vision, but on the Godly askings from our Lord and Savior. We need not fret. The vines of good news will overtake the grounds upon which the weeds of wickedness lay. That which is true will deliver independent evidence that will stand on its own accord.

Go forth and become an extension of Him! Remember, we are an apparatus of He who called us. Stay in sync with Him! “When the body is in motion, the cane is in rhythm”; meaning we must tap the cane from side to side, one tap per step, about two inches beyond the width of the user’s shoulders to be the best instrument.

The Spirit has told me, “Be satisfied with your calling and thankful for your execution because I will call you all home one day and expose the grand plan.” God frees prisoners. He gives sight to the blind, he lifts up the fallen. Psalms 146:8 (MSG)

What fortune lies beyond the stars; those dazzling heights too vast to climb. I got so high to fall so far but I found heaven as love swept low. My heart beating, my soul breathing; I found my life when I laid it down. Upward falling, spirit soaring. I touch the sky when my knees hit the ground. What treasure waits within Your scars. This gift of freedom gold can’t buy. I bought the world and sold my heart. You traded heaven to have me again. Find me here at Your feet again; everything I am, reaching out, I surrender. Come sweep me up in Your love again and my soul will dance on the wings of forever. Touch the Sky – United


Faithful Obedience II

“I think we’ve overstated that God is the God who wants us to obey. Obedience is not the end game. Obedience is only our calling so that we can step into our freedom.” – Erwin McManus

A few weeks ago, my girlfriend asked me to certify a single student in CPR. Although the ask and the circumstances were unusual, I honored her request. I was blown away by the experience. It continues to live in me, teaches me something deeper everyday, and is a place of strength from which I can draw when the day seems long. Whenever I go to this well, MercyMe’s You Are I Am comes to mind – I’ve been the one held down in chains beneath the weight of all my shame. I’ve been the one to believe that where I am You cannot reach.The veil is torn and now I live with the Spirit inside; the same one, the very same one who brought the Son back to life. Hallelujah, He lives in me.

The student humbled himself to accept any circumstance to get where he was being led. Hungry and apprehensive, he followed his faith that led him to the church where our gracious God hand-delivered him the hope he had been longing for. In a heart-felt act of absolute humility and vulnerability, he shared his tearful story with me. He said, 2 ½ years ago he was a school bus driver. He showed up to work everyday on time. He was married and has two daughters. He had his own place and he provided everything his kids needed. If he had to cut grass or pick up trash to get something extra, he had no problem doing that. He spent time with his family and everything was great. On his bus route, there was a little girl who was always late leaving her house. The rules allowed for him wait only three minutes for a passenger and then he had to go on to his next stop. Sometimes he would wait 10 minutes for that little girl because something told him he should. He knew in his heart that she was better off getting on the bus everyday than staying at home.

One day, his bosses called him into the office and told him a woman had accused him of getting off the bus while kids were still onboard and the engine was running. They said he got in a lady’s face and threatened her, then got back on the bus and drove off fast. Without even asking him his side of the story, they just fired him. Since then, he hadn’t found steady work. Pretty soon, he couldn’t pay rent on his apartment and his family got set out. He was separated from his family because his wife took the kids and moved back in with her mother so they would have a place to stay. He stayed here and there when he could but was mostly homeless. It didn’t take long before his marriage fell apart too. It was crazy! In a flash, everything was gone and he couldn’t figure out how or why.

His mother wasn’t in a position to give him anything. Every time she saw him, she offered him encouragement and prayed for him incessantly. She told him to have faith because God would work everything out. His sister told him the same thing and prayed for him also. Day in and day out, he remained homeless, hungry, and without hope. Whenever he was at his wit’s end and felt trouble looming, he went on long walks or rode his bike to remove himself from whatever mischief was lurking. He was proud of the fact that he could go anywhere and do anything as he was not restricted by an arrest record or conviction. But finding permanent employment and stable housing continued to evade him.

A few weeks ago, his former employer called him at 4pm on a Friday afternoon. They told him that someone had written a letter and cleared his name. They told him he could return to work the following Monday only if he could produce a valid CPR card because his certification had expired.  It turns out that the mother of the little girl who was always late for the bus, was addicted to drugs. While on one of her high spells, she fabricated the story that led to the man’s termination. The mother was later arrested and sent to a rehabilitation center for treatment. After her release and in a attempt to make amends, she provided a sworn statement to the man’s employer and admitted that her allegations were false.

He was elated about getting his job back but felt choked by the pressure to get re-certified in 48 hours without any support. He called everyone he knew. The best they offered him was the chance to buy a fake card from a document vendor on the street. He went to bed that Friday night feeling hope slipping back through his hands.

He woke up early Saturday morning and set out on a long walk to gain focus. As he was passing a building, he saw his sister’s car in the lot. He went in the building to find her. He found her and she introduced him to my girlfriend. The siblings told my girlfriend about his desperate search for a place to get certified in CPR on short notice. My girlfriend called me to see if I could do it. Holding on to hope for the next 14 hours, the man again felt himself losing his grip on the glimmer of hope he gained half a day earlier. At 9:00pm, he received a call from his sister telling him that the woman he met earlier found some lady who had agreed to certify him at the church at 11:30 the next morning. He fell asleep at his mom’s house that night while tearfully praying to God, asking for Him to make a way to allow things to work out so he could take the training and be able to provide proof to his employer that he had done what was asked of him. To him, having stable employment seemed so close, yet felt so far away. To help soothe him, his mother read this scripture to him before he fell asleep, 4 May you always be joyful in your union with the Lord. I say it again: rejoice! 5 Show a gentle attitude toward everyone. The Lord is coming soon. 6 Don’t worry about anything, but in all your prayers ask God for what you need, always asking him with a thankful heart. 7 And God’s peace, which is far beyond human understanding, will keep your hearts and minds safe in union with Christ Jesus. 8 In conclusion, my friends, fill your minds with those things that are good and that deserve praise: things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and honorable. 9 Put into practice what you learned and received from me, both from my words and from my actions. And the God who gives us peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:4-9 – GNT)

He woke up the next morning and came to the church. He spent several hours working hard to earn his certificate and was happy to know he could return to work with dignity and honor.

For the both of us, the Spirit illuminated the reward for obedience. Obedience brought him to a place where he could tell his story of how others set a trap for him so he would fall and fail; yet God delivered Him. He is now humble. What man designed to break him, God used to bless him. His trials cracked him in a way that allowed God’s light to shine through him. He now believes his can be the man God called him to be. Obedience allowed me to see the work of the Mapmaker as He drew the lines and created the path upon which this gentleman would start his spiritual journey. The experience reinforced that there are no coincidences. God’s name, El Shaddai, means All-Sufficient One who blesses with all manners of blessings. The gentleman’s name means dark or black; the culmination of all color in the vacuum of eternity. My name means God’s promise. Putting it all together – God used the two of us to deliver the message of His promise of many blessings and an assurance of eternity to those who are faithful and obedient to Him.

You’re the one who conquers giants. You’re the one who calls out kings. You shut the mouths of lions. You tell the dead to breathe. You’re the one who walks through fire. You take the orphan’s hand. You are the one Messiah. You are I am! You are I am!! (MercyMe)


Faithful Obedience

A few weeks ago, my girlfriend came to my house at 9pm. Her visit was unusual as folks call me before they come by and it is rare that I entertain anyone so late. Nonetheless, she arrived, hurried and on a mission. With a sense of urgency and directness in her tone and mannerisms, she asked me if I could certify a student in CPR the next day. As I began to explain that I didn’t have a class scheduled for the next day, she cut me off and said, “I need you to do this!” In an act of sheer and gut level obedience, I said “yes ma’am”, as I had never experienced such insistence and exigency from her. I explained that I did not have a classroom available and did not know how I could find one in such short notice. She smiled, said she had a place in mind, and reminded me that God works all things out for His greater good. She then dialed a number on her cell phone and said, “Hey! She can do it. Tell him to show up at the church at 11:30 in the morning.” She asked me for a cup of tea to go, told me to find a trustee at her church when I arrive, and said there is bound to be an unoccupied room available. She then scurried on her way. I thought to myself, “Lord, what has the cat just drug into her life and what am I about to get myself into? How can this possibly work when the church holds its largest service of the week at 11:00 and it lasts for two hours?” The Spirit reminded me that the power of obedience to Him has the ability to turn the impossible into the easy.

I was restless and anxious when I laid down. I fell asleep while reading this scripture, “To those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have been given a faith as precious as ours: 2 May grace and peace be yours in full measure through your knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. 3 God’s divine power has given us everything we need to live a truly religious life through our knowledge of the one who called us to share in his own glory and goodness. 4 In this way he has given us the very great and precious gifts he promised, so that by means of these gifts you may escape from the destructive lust that is in the world, and may come to share the divine nature. 5 For this very reason do your best to add goodness to your faith; to your goodness add knowledge; 6 to your knowledge add self-control; to your self-control add endurance; to your endurance add godliness; 7 to your godliness add Christian affection; and to your Christian affection add love. These are the qualities you need, and if you have them in abundance, they will make you active and effective in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1-8 GNT)

The next morning, after attending service at my own church, I drove 25 miles to my girlfriend’s church. When I arrived, I found a trustee who took me to the basement of the building and led me from room to room, looking for an empty space. He eventually told me that the best he could do was to allow me to use the child care class room for two year olds. He then cautioned me that the lyrical dancers from the special church service would also have to use the room to change clothes after their worship dance.  He unlocked the classroom door, wished me good luck, and returned to his post. As I entered the room, I said, “seriously! Let me see if I understand this. I have a strange adult male student in a classroom with Lilliputian furniture that we have to share as a dressing room with female dancers.” About that time, the heft of the music from the gospel organs began to fill the space. The Spirit said, “settle down. Your calling today is only about obedience and has nothing to do with questioning the Caller.” I nodded in acceptance, set my equipment up as best I could, and then went back to the lobby to wait for the student.

I called his name to two people I imagined might be him. They each told me I had the wrong person. Then a thin guy with a tight pullover and over-sized jeans walked in. He was holding his belt loops on one side to prevent his pants from sagging. I called his name and he answered, “yes ma’am.” After exchanging greetings, we returned to the basement and began our training, adjusting the volume on the computer aids as the church music  softened and then thundered between dances numbers. There was a rhythmic cadence to the interruptions to our lessons as dancers entered every 10 minutes or so to change their outfits.

We completed the video, lecture, and question/answer part of the training.  As I needed to set up the space for the practical exercises that would simulate recognizing and reacting to a breathing emergency, I asked him to stand in the hallway near the wall. When I looked up, I realized that he was facing the wall with his fingers interlaced behind his head and his feet spread far apart, as if I had placed him in a pre-arrest position. I thought, “Oh goodness! I am dealing with a convicted felon; a vulnerable soul whose expectation is that those who are in a perceived position of power will take advantage of him.” In that moment, he seemed willing to take whatever abuse I might dole out simply to walk away with an authentic certification card whose twin-looking faux could have been bought off of the street in a matter of minutes. I immediately began to pray, asking the Spirit to help me stay focused on why He brought me to this place and asked that my work be honoring and pleasing to Him. The lyrics to MercyMe’s You Are I Am came to mind –

I’ve been the one to shake with fear and wonder if You’re even here. I’ve been the one to doubt Your love. I’ve told myself You’re not enough. I’ve been the one to try and say I’ll overcome by my own strength. I’ve been the one to fall apart and start to question who You are.

 We worked through the practical exercises and he did well. I had already made up my mind that I was not going to give him a written exam because he was not well schooled or articulate. Doing so would have been a test of his reading comprehension, an exercise he would have likely failed. Nonetheless, I gave him 15 minutes and told him to use the time to study his manual in preparation for the exam. When time was up, I told him to put his manual away. I told him I wanted to ask him a few questions before the exam began. I asked him to tell me something new he learned in the class. He sighed! I said, ” just tell me one thing new, not everything in the manual.” He sighed again and then began to sob uncontrollably. I sarcastically said under my breathe, “Uh, what act of obedience am I supposed to follow now?” The Spirit said sternly, “chill and be still!”

After a few minutes, he recomposed himself and said, “I am a 40-year old grown man and I am sitting up here crying. It’s because you are a complete stranger; yet you cared for me. You are genuinely interested in my learning and you allowed me to earn something of great personal value to me. I have never had that experience before. You see, there are people I have known all my life who don’t mean any good for me. Here you are, a random stranger, and you care.” The Spirit then whispered, “Look, listen, and feel applies to more than just CPR, huh? In God’s great plan, humble obedience leads to the promised land. In all you do, remember whose you are and stay focused on what you were called to do.” Jeremiah 29:11-14 immediately came mind, 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. 12 In those days when you pray, I will listen. 13 If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. 14 I will be found by you,” says the Lord. “I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and will bring you home again to your own land.” (NLT)


Caught Up In The Moment

The last six weeks at work have been challenging as my observation of two and a half years’ worth of misguided movements came to a head.  Each step shifted the alignment of the organization off center, further and further away from its core mission.  I felt woefully inadequate as I was unable to cure the immediate hurts or address the over-arching cultural ailments.  I had been accustomed to working behind the scenes to reshuffle the pieces to almost any awry situation back to the center of the board.  By flipping switches and pulling levers, I could turn on the magnets that would draw people back between the bumpers.  As this situation continued to wobble further and further out of control, I leveraged every resource available to me to adjust the alignment back to center.  No matter how much strength I used or torque I created, I could not move the mountain.  My blood pressure then sky-rocketed, headaches ensued, and hope dissipated.  The Lord then said to me, “get somewhere and sit still!  To move mountains, you must have faith, you know, the size of a mustard seed.  I am not feeling faith.  I am witnessing you muster mortal strength in man’s world.  You are making a mockery of the miracle process.  I am responsible for those and simply sometimes use man as delivery vehicles.  As the devotional told you the other day, meet Me in the moment and leave outcomes to My Father.  Listen to the sage.  I sent her.  Calmly do these two things each day and leave the rest to Me:  Ask the Father what He would have you do today and work towards it with excellence.”

No words were rendered as no response was required.  I took a week of time off, went away, and did nothing but reflect on His guidance.  Each day I spent time with Him and I asked what He would have me do.  Everyday His answer was the same: love My people and see the wonders of My work.  And that is exactly what I did.  I engaged with as many people as I could and enjoyed the beauties of nature.  Five days after I returned to work, His glorious plan began to unfold.  The miracles of the Messiah moved the mountain.  He made a way for resolution to my plaguing problem and I am extremely thankful to Him.  As Lincoln Brewster tells us: Oh Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth.  The heavens declare Your greatness.  The oceans cry out to You.  The mountains, they bow down before You.  So I’ll join with the earth and I’ll give my praise to You.Majestic

The long, drawn-out difficult observation time that ended just before I took leave was chocked full of faith forewarnings for me.  Particularly, I had watched a high-ranking person determine that reaching the next rung on the ladder was worth everything and he was willing to do anything to get it.  In his haste to reach the next level, he failed to realize that anything received at any pace other than in God’s time can never bring fulfilment, but is merely an accelerant of spiritual degradation.  You see, “any cost” is the only price the devil is willing to pay and the moment we name that price is the second we sell our soul.  Every move from that point forward is a contorted turn or ill-conceived twist that leads to places of no return.  The intersection of greed and power is named Hubris Hill.  The crossroads of arrogance and opportunity is called Corruption Court.  “Corruption is like a ball of snow, once it’s set a rolling it must increase.” – Caleb Colton

At that point, anyone with half of the currency can now convince us to give the whole thing away, leaving us begging for borrowed time from hollowed hearts.  As the pace gets faster and the stakes get higher, we find ourselves over leveraging our diminishing worth while clinging to vacated promises backed by overdrawn credit. Suddenly, the suitors stop knocking and no one takes our calls.  It is then that we realize the time we spent perched in dark smoke-filled rooms sipping single malt scotch and savoring select cigars was likely in Lucifer’s Lounge.  We sat at the table listening to his lies while debating the Spirit’s voice in order to rationalize righteousness into a wicked situation.  By negotiating, we risked what we had to gain what we didn’t need.  We rolled the dice with the devil, the master of deception, and lost it all.  As two objects cannot occupy the same space at the same time, neither can God and evil.  By dismissing the Spirit, we gave the devil a foot hole.  The hunt is now over and it’s time for the kill.  The wicked one has won!

Or has he?  He is jealous for me; loves like a hurricane.  I am a tree, bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy; when all of a sudden I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory.  And I realize just how beautiful You are and how great Your affections are for me… And we are His portion and He is our prize, drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes.  If his grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking.  And Heaven meets earth like an unforeseen kiss, and my heart turns violently inside of my chest.  I don’t have time to maintain these regrets when I think about the way He loves us…Oh, how he loves us allHe Loves Us – John McMillan

Just like us, God gave the ranking person worth and his value comes through Jesus Christ.  Through our relationship with Him and community with His people, a paved path to the foot of the cross is always beneath our feet.  To the extent that we lose our way, simply say, “Jesus, please help me!”  He is a loving Lord and an eager savior, longing for a relationship with His children.  We strengthen that relationship through worshiping only Him, loving His people, reading His word, and praying.  As Matt Redman reminds us, When the music fades, all is stripped away.  And I simply come longing just to bring something that’s of worth that will bless Your heart.  I’ll bring You more than a song, for a song in itself is not what You have required.  You search much deeper within, through the way things appear.  You’re looking into my heart.  I’m coming back to the heart of worship.  And it’s all about You.  It’s all about You, Jesus.  I’m sorry, Lord, for the thing I’ve made it, when it’s all about You.  It’s all about You, Jesus Heart of Worship.  If we simply remember that we cannot sell what we cannot earn, His grace will remain on the forefront of our minds, preventing us from placing our salvation in the showcase window of Hell’s pawn shop.  This life is about advancing His kingdom, not our selfish pleasures.

Now is a time for prayer and encouragement, not casting of stones.  As we have done so much for which we wish not to be judged, forgiveness is a large paving stone on the path to the foot of the cross.  We’ve all had the experience of being caught up in the moment.  Remember, character assassination kills more than just a reputation.  It massacres minds and slaughters souls.  The scars on His hands are reminders of our redemption, not reverberations of our self-righteousness.  Offer healing to the hurt and love to the lost by being fast to forgive.  We are His beacons who have been called to shine His light.  So beam brightly!

I pray fervently for the ranking official.  Lord, may his resignation resign him to Your ways.  May he raise his hands and heart to You to receive the blessings You have in store for him.  May he live the rest of his days gaining strength from time with You.  May we heal from the difficulties and offer forgiveness to our brother, remembering the experience as a shadow that casts shade on the dog-day decisions that we may one day face.  May pride never prevent us from calling Your great name long before our darkest hours – In Your son’s name, Amen.

Romans 12 tells us, 1-2 So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering.  Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him.  Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking.  Instead, fix your attention on God.  You’ll be changed from the inside out.  Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it.  Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.  (MSG)


Calico’s Corner II

“Power will intoxicate the best hearts, as wine the strongest heads. No man is wise enough, nor good enough to be trusted with unlimited power.” – Caleb Colton

The captain was hubris and here are his officers:

Calico’s top brass of smiling faces and nodding heads did well because they appeared to be doing good.  Their pleasant demeanor and non-confrontational attributes earned them a place in the inner circle.  They were pleasing and loyal to the captain during peace.  When tensions erupted, they never rose above the battlefield to see what was really happening.  They hedged their bets that the captain would survive and wanted to remain in the good graces of the one they presumed would be in power.  As you cannot serve two masters, their smiling faces and nodding heads were of service to none.  Luke 12:48 tells us, 48 “But anyone who is not aware that he is doing wrong will be punished only lightly.  Much is required from those to whom much is given, for their responsibility is greater – (GNT). Was their search for the Savior obscured by the presence of a pleasant face?  Did their comfort of going along to get along outweigh their requirement to stand up?  Had they ever defined personal integrity such that they would know when that line had been crossed?

And then there was the top brass who cowered on the lower deck.  These faithful soldiers usually lived their lives in neutral, moving along when impacted by another mass stronger than them.  They were always propelled by institutional inertia but had no meaningful energy independent of other forces acting upon them.  When caught in the downspout of the realization that the captain’s experience amounted to less than that of the most junior yeoman and that his actions imperiled all of the sailors, the sensory overload of it all as well as the storm and the mutiny overwhelmed them.  They, opposite the ship, rocked onto their port sides.  The motion of their jousting thoughts swayed their minds as they wondered if they could have made a difference.  Everything they had previously heard along the way was worth repeating amongst themselves but they couldn’t find it within them to report any of it to anyone who could do something about it.  James 1:22-24 says, 22-24 Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener when you are anything but, letting the Word go in one ear and out the other.  Act on what you hear!  Those who hear and don’t act are like those who glance in the mirror, walk away, and two minutes later have no idea who they are, what they look like” –  (TLB). And so they lay, motionless on the lower deck of the sea-tossed ship.  Did they ever feel confident enough to make a difference?  Were they always only in it for themselves?  Was there ever a moment when they offered him wise counsel?  Where they rejected so much that they finally stopped trying?

The first officer had been one of Calico’s greatest supporters until he became the captain.  He believed the captain to be a person of the people until his ego grew above his rank.  He then believed the captain was a changed man.  At that point, the first officer began providing closely held information to the offended sailors and the fleet’s stakeholders.  He armed the sailors with sling shots and ensured the stone of the mutiny struck its intended target.  “We often pretend to fear what we really despise, and more often despise what we really fear” – Caleb Colton.  Was the first officer reacting out of scorn disguised as deception whose reality lay in the blindness that was before him?  Was he reeling from the shame that he had never walked with kings and the guilt that, at least for a time, he lost his common touch?  Open my eyes, so that I may see the wonderful truths in your law. – Psalm 119:18 (MSG)

The second officer operated with a spirit of courage and believed that, “Physical courage, which despises all danger, will make a man brave in one way; and moral courage, which despises all opinion, will make a man brave in another” – Caleb Colton.  She moved the fastest and got the most done when the major crisis struck.  She had previously advised the captain that the building material was inferior and pointed him in the direction of the craftsman but was counseled for the delivery of her interjection.  She spoke with a smiler and a nodder to let them know the state of affairs only to receive a reprimand.  She sent notes to her counterparts in the fleet and letters to regulators in the industry but no one responded.  She met with the cowards and prophesied the mutiny and the storm, but they simply stood still.  She listened to the first officer and encouraged him to take constructive action.  She knows that the third officer’s report to headquarters will be the third time they have heard the story.

The third officer, motivated by a sense of duty, was troubled to have to deliver such harrowing news to headquarters.  She knew that the captain’s actions were wrong and that sailors were in grave danger.  Following the lead of the second officer, she helped to loosen the ropes of the life boat.  Provided she lives, she knows others will ask her three questions: What she knew?  When she knew it?  What did she do about it?  She believes she must have something respectable to say.

The saga continues on the Mediterranean, five miles off the Italian coast.  While water permeates the ship’s hull, it allows the floating Rome to burn.  Will 48 sailors make it to shore alive?  What about the rest of the crew?  Will the capsized ship sink?  How will the officers answer for their actions?  I will respond to those questions when the story ends.  In the meantime, are there times in your life when you have exhibited the traits of each of these officers?  Where are you on any given day when you forget to put on or give up your armor of faith, the knowledge of His word, the spirit of courage, the guidance from prayer and wise counsel, or a line of sight to the foot of the cross?

James 1:2-12 tells us, 2-4 Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides.  You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors.  So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely.  Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.  5-8 If you don’t know what you’re doing, pray to the Father.  He loves to help.  You’ll get his help, and won’t be condescended to when you ask for it.  Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought.  People who ‘worry their prayers’ are like wind-whipped waves.  Don’t think you’re going to get anything from the Master that way, adrift at sea, keeping all your options open.  9-11 When down-and-outers get a break, cheer!  And when the arrogant rich are brought down to size, cheer!  Prosperity is as short-lived as a wildflower, so don’t ever count on it.  You know that as soon as the sun rises, pouring down its scorching heat, the flower withers.  Its petals wilt and, before you know it, that beautiful face is a barren stem.  Well, that’s a picture of the “prosperous life.”  At the very moment everyone is looking on in admiration, it fades away to nothing.  12 Anyone who meets a testing challenge head-on and manages to stick it out is mighty fortunate.  For such persons loyally in love with God, the reward is life and more life”  – (TLB). 

In You Are I Am, Mercy Me reminds us that while we doubt, God delivers.  I’ve been the one to shake with fear and wonder if You’re even here.  I’ve been the one to doubt Your love.  I’ve told myself You’re not enough.  I’ve been the one to try and say I’ll overcome by my own shame.  I’ve been the one to fall apart and start to question who You are.  You’re the one who conquers giants.  You’re the one who calls out kings.  You shut the mouths of lions.  You tell the dead to breathe.  You’re the one who walks through fire.  You take the orphan’s hand.  You are the one Messiah.  You are I am

When you choose to sit out, be prepared to stress out because the shame of standing by lasts a long time.  If you choose to get strung out be prepared to stroke out because the guilt that comes from abandoning others can never be medicated enough.  If you choose to stand out, you may strike out but you can rest with the dignity of knowing you gave it your all.


GenPop

Matthew chapter 14 tells us the story of Peter walking on water.  In verses 29-30, the scripture tells us, “29 Jesus said, ‘Come!’  So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. 30 But when he noticed how strong the wind was, he became afraid and started to sink.  He shouted, ‘Lord, save me!’” (GW)  In the beginning, Peter had great courage as verse 29 says, Jumping out of the boat, Peter walked on the water to Jesus.” (MSG)  When first called, Peter was strong.  Without hesitation, he left his place of security to do what he was called to do.  But the conditions he found himself in (the rough seas and high winds) made him doubt that he could do the very thing he was already doing.  He then lost his nerve and began to sink.

Peter’s experience is very similar to many of ours.  We begin exploring our calling with great intentions and strong convictions.  We then let fear (False Evidence Appearing Real) get a grip on us and cause us to do less than we are capable of or called to do.  We allow anxiety and uncertainty to destroy the promise God has given.  One could question how different things would have been if Peter had beaten back the flame of fear with the fan of faith.  There is no need to ask what if because Peter was not much different from us.

This weekend, I had the privilege of attending a professional baseball game and watching a team that has made the playoffs.  I was extremely fortunate to have received the scarce and in-demand tickets as a gift.  I did not pay attention to the section or seat numbers on the tickets when I received them.  My offspring and I enthusiastically entered the stadium, glanced at the seat numbers, and realized they were in an area we had not ever paid attention to.  We found our way around to the other side and settled into our seats in the sold out stadium.  I then went and stood in long lines for food and beverages.  I wasn’t able to return to my seat until the bottom of the second inning.  Agitated and sulking, I was resolved not to move again.

For those around me, the excitement of the post season prospects created a vim and vigor as well as a corresponding static electricity in the air.  The positive energy was accompanied by the enhanced acoustics of the crowd’s continuous roar.  I realized that part of my anxiety was because I was with a larger, louder crowd, in a more confined space.  I was not in a VIP section, on the lower level behind home plate or along the third base line.  I was up high, under the scoreboard, facing the sun, directly in front of a bar filled with game-goers with libation-induced lowered inhibitions.  I realized I was with the general population.

Christ died on the cross so that the general population, not just the high priests, could have access to the Father.  His ransom for our salvation extended God’s grace to everyone and ended the need for sacrificial offerings.  His redemptive death was the great access equalizer and Holier than Thou eliminator.  Those who had more or could do more did not have a place closer to the Father.  Everyone’s access point to God is now the same, through the Son.  All people now have the same requirement – to take up your cross daily and follow Him, starting strong and finishing hard.

On the morning of the game, I spent time with God, praying and listening to Him.  I left the house feeling strong and full of faith.  Like Peter, I leaped out there to do what I was called to do.  Likewise, I got distracted by an unfamiliar environment and became anxious because it felt different.  For two innings I was unable to be His positive energy or enjoy the privilege He bestowed upon me.  He was patient with me during that time.  But suddenly, in the sweet voice that is only His, Jesus said, “Hello!  I sent you here to be my light, yet in this moment you are a dim bulb.  Ditch the funk and let’s get back to My business.  I want you to be that curious, outgoing, fun-loving child I designed you to be.  Move about the people, smiling at them and talking to them, bringing them My joy.  Games are play time and social events that allow you to be My ambassador.  I got you free tickets.  Now make them worth your while.”

I bowed my head in thanksgiving and then got up to refill my child’s empty drink cup.  While in line, I had the chance to hold an infant for a father who was struggling to tie shoes and place orders for his other three boys who were all under 5 years of age.  As the crowd roared because the home team scored, I sang into the infant’s ear: “I hope you never lose your sense of wonder; you get your fill to eat but always keep that hunger.  May you never take one single breath for granted; GOD forbid love ever leaves you empty handed.  I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean.  Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens.  Promise me that you’ll give faith a fighting chance and when you get the choice to sit it out or dance, I hope you dance….I hope you dance.  I Hope You Dance – Gladys Knight

After returning to my seat, reflecting on Peter’s experience, and Jesus’ message to me, I realized this:

  1. Heaven has no VIP section
  2. Access to Him is not limited to affluence
  3. On earth as it is in heaven, He loves all of His children the same
  4. General population is where faith is built, the gospel is preached, and souls are saved
  5. There is no space for exclusion in His kingdom
  6. His followers are not fans cheering from the stands. They are fearlessly on the field every day.

I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance; never settle for the path of least resistance.  Livin’ might mean takin’ chances but they’re worth takin’.  Lovin’ might be a mistake but it’s worth makin’.  Don’t let some hell-bent heart leave you bitter.  When you come close to sellin’ out, reconsider.  Give the heavens above more than just a passing glance and when you get the choice to sit it out or dance, I hope you dance….I hope you dance.

Remain strong.  Answer your calling without hesitation.  Circumstances may change but the love of The Lord remains the same.  What fear is causing you to sink today?  Are you walking faithfully towards Jesus?  What earthly things are causing exclusivity in your life?  Does the general population of His lost children make you nervous?  Recapture the fearless faith of your first calling.  Reach higher, go farther, and dig deeper to plant seeds, fertilize ground, and collect the harvest that he has placed you here for.  Your passion and resilience are powerful and compelling to those who are seeking the love of our Lord.

30 But when he looked down at the waves churning beneath his feet, he lost his nerve and started to sink (MSG).  Be audacious and daring, especially among the masses.  Time is a wheel in constant motion always rolling us along.  Tell me who wants to look back on their years and wonder where those years have gone.  I hope you dance….I hope you dance.