Did I ever mention that I have the world’s best in-law kids? They are each so special and “just perfect” for my kids! What gifts from the Lord!
This summer has been a whirlwind of festivities with our children and their children. From near the end of June and still ongoing (although soon to be over), we’ve been blessed by visits from all 30 of our kids and grand kids with many weeks of overlapping fun! Frankly, I’ve been delighted with how happily all the cousins have played and am a totally typical grandma in that I’d love to bore you with details about how sweet and clever they are.
However, I will readily admit that “kids will be kids,” and my angelic grandchildren do have their moments! One day as my daughter-in-law Grace and I were washing up the dishes, we were laughing about one of the videos my kids made when they teenagers. Her husband (my son Michael) made a movie called Quality Man about a guy whose super power was to SLOW DOWN in order to do all things well.
“If I had one super power, do you know what it would be?” Grace asked. I thought about it but was clueless, so she answered, “It would be to return good for evil.”
Isn’t that beautiful? Isn’t that so like Christ (and Grace really is)?!
As I was reflecting back on her thought this morning, it occurred to me that this is exactly what Jesus was talking about in the Beatitudes when he said to “Bless them that curse you” (Matthew 5:44). The ability to return good for evil, love for hate, and blessing for cursing is way above and beyond our frail humanity to achieve. Such love and goodness is not within us. It would be super human! Super natural! Even more miraculous than being able to transform our bodies! Iron Man is cool, but what about Pure Gold Grace? Even better? I think so!! Do you?!
Only God, through grace, can transform us from selfish creatures into people who love others enough to return good for evil, but that’s exactly what God’s Holy Spirit offers us if we’ll yield our lives to Him. Ready to possess a super power? Just think— We can if we will!
“The world has yet to see what God can do with a man fully consecrated to him” (Made famous by Dwight Moody, but learned from British revivalist, Henry Varley).
“Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not” (Jeremiah 33:3).
“O To Be Like Thee”
(—Thomas O. Chisholm, 1897, Public Domain)
1. Oh! to be like Thee, blessed Redeemer,
This is my constant longing and prayer;
Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures,
Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear.
Oh! to be like Thee, oh! to be like Thee,
Blessed Redeemer, pure as Thou art;
Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness;
Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.
2. Oh! to be like Thee, full of compassion,
Loving, forgiving, tender and kind,
Helping the helpless, cheering the fainting,
Seeking the wand’ring sinner to find.
3. Oh! to be like Thee, lowly in spirit,
Holy and harmless, patient and brave;
Meekly enduring cruel reproaches,
Willing to suffer, others to save.
4. Oh! to be like Thee, Lord, I am coming,
Now to receive th’ anointing divine;
All that I am and have I am bringing,
Lord, from this moment all shall be Thine.
5. Oh! to be like Thee, while I am pleading,
Pour out Thy Spirit, fill with Thy love,
Make me a temple meet for Thy dwelling,
Fit me for life and Heaven above.
Are you a leader or follower by nature? Do you think one is better than the other? American culture puts a high premium on being a leader, but this isn’t what Jesus taught, as Joe Stowell reminds us in his book, Following Christ. God calls us first and foremost to be Christ-followers, not leaders! In truth, I don’t think any of us make good leaders until we’ve learned to become good followers.
Joe is the president of Cornerstone University, where six of our seven kids began their college training, and I think this book is spot on! Ever hear of “Wrong Way Reigels”? He was the University of California center who became infamous for scoring a touchdown. . .at the wrong end of the football field during the 1929 Rose Bowl! His team lost to Georgia Tech by one point, and Joe points out that Reigels’s problem was living by “instinct without direction,” which is an issue for each of us.
Perhaps the most crucial of all life’s questions is: Do we want to be the master of our own fate and the captain of our own soul, as the poet William Ernest Henley wrote, or would we rather follow the guidance of a higher being (God!) who is infinite in his knowledge and wisdom, capable of accomplishing his will, loves us more than we love ourselves, and has our good (and that of all people) and his glory as his game plan?
The only hitch is, we have to surrender to Christ, and most of us are either afraid to trust him because we’re not sure he’s really God, or we don’t believe He truly loves us and has our best interests at heart, or we don’t want to share our “glory” with God! By nature, most of us find it hard to believe that God really loves us more than we love ourselves. We are also proud and resent the idea of giving God the glory. We’d rather seize control of our own destiny and bring glory to ourselves, so at strategic crossroads, even Christ-followers often fail to obey, even though we know good and well what we ought to do. If we want to be true Christ-followers, then we need to commit to obeying Christ even when it seems impossibly hard (and probably is, apart from God’s grace and strength). We’ve each been given one life to live. . .one challenging but glorious adventure. For those who do not believe in God, or have chosen to take a position of being agnostic, they must default either to being their own leader or following some earthly leader, but I would rather be a follower of Christ. Because, as Joe Stowell points out, having “the real, risen, transcendent, ever-present resident Christ to relate to me in the very depths of my being apart from the inherent trappings of visibility is an advantage with which no earthly relationship can compare.”
Amen! There is no Best Friend Forever who was with us at the day of our birth, can abide with us forever, and loves us with an everlasting love. God alone, in the person of Christ’s Holy Spirit, offers to indwell us and provide guidance, purpose, abundance of joy, and life eternal. Besides all this, there’s another wonderful promise attached to being a true Christ-follower: “If you continue in my word, then are you my disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32). Being a Christ follower offers us true freedom and can lead us out of the prisons we’ve made for ourselves.
One of my favorite books as a child was Follow My Leader, a story about a teenage boy who is accidentally blinded by a friend’s carelessness and has to find a way out of the hatred that poisons his soul as a result. If you find yourself feeling imprisoned by hatred or embroiled in sin, My Leader (Jesus) can help you find your way out! Don’t believe me? Well, it’s not about me, it’s about God, and He’s the one who made these promises: “Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not” (Jeremiah 33:3). “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29).
Will you join me and the multitude of pilgrims who’ve become Christ-followers?
Super Bowl LI set nearly 25 new records and tied another 7, making it the most startling and exciting in Super Bowl history! A sampling of the firsts included:
* First Super Bowl ever to go into overtime
*Tom Brady appeared in 7 Super Bowls, the most by any one player
*Bill Belichick won his 5th Super Bowl, the most games won by a head coach
*Tom Brady won his 5th Super Bowl (at age 39 no less), the most games won by any quarterback
*Most points scored: New England’s James White set two new records for a running back, 20 points and 14 receptions
*Tom Brady set a record for most receptions completed: 43
*Tom Brady also set a new record for most yards in Super Bowl history: 466
*New England Patriot’s set a new record for the largest deficit to overcome: 25 points (biggest before that had been just 10 points)
*Patriots set a new record for offensive plays: 93
*Tom Brady set a new record for most passes attempted: 63
Talk about an exciting game!! Did you watch the Super Bowl? I didn’t. Alan watched until near the end of the fourth quarter when Tevin Coleman received the six-yard pass that left the score at 28 for the Atlanta Falcons to only 3 for the New England Patriots. In all of Super Bowl history, no team had been able to recover and win with stats like that, so Alan didn’t want to stay up just to watch the bitter end. Fine by me. I was getting sleepy anyway, and I didn’t know one team from another.
Imagine our surprise the next morning when we heard that the Patriots made an unbelievable comeback, tied the score at 28:28 by the end of the game, and then went on to win 34:28 in overtime. As the beloved catcher for the the New York Yankees, Yogi Berra used to say, “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.” And, he should know, because he had a lot of exciting comebacks over the years after his games looked lost. He was a fighter! Did you know that Yogi’s record of winning 10 World Series Baseball Championships and being an 18-time All Star hasn’t been broken in the 45 years since he retired? Talk about never giving up. Super inspiring!
To me, this Super Bowl is also super inspiring! Are you struggling with something? Feeling discouraged and overwhelmed, like you’ll never be able to climb out of the hole you’re in? Your life and my life ain’t over ’til they’re over. Let’s keep fighting and never give up! Recovery from the “largest deficit in history” may seem impossible, but don’t give up and fall asleep! Victory is possible, whether it’s financial, moral, physical, emotional, spiritual, or whatever! By the way, if you’re over your head and need help, God is here; He loves you; He’s available! Just ask! It probably won’t be easy, and it probably won’t be pretty, but it’s possible. Know it. Do it!
“A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench, until he brings justice to victory“ (Matthew 12:20, ESV).
“The Lord appeared to him from far away.
I have loved you with an everlasting love;
therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you” (Jeremiah 31:3, ESV).
“Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known” (Jeremiah 33:3, ESV).
“But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ”
(1 Corinthians 15:57, ESV).
“For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith” (1 John 5:4, ESV).
Okay, so I’ve never bought or owned a T.V. and have hardly watched any since becoming a Christian back in 1960, so I can only give a blank look when people talk about things like QVC or HSN, but I really did enjoy watching Joy, and even if only 50% of the information was true and the other 50% from the amalgamated machinations of David O. Russel’s imagination (based on real and fictional characters), the life story of Joy Mangano is very impressive! A young divorcee with three children to support (two in the movie), Joy has had a meteoric rise from poverty to being worth 50+ million in about 25 years. This woman has 100+ patents to her name, some of the most famous inventions being her Miracle Mop, Huggable Hangers, and Forever Fragrant products. The real Joy Mangano is the president of Ingenious Designs, can sell a million dollars of product in one hour on T.V., and was honored by the Fast Company in 2010 as one of the “10 Most Creative Women in Business.” Besides that, I don’t think she’s been involved in any scandals, so what’s not to admire about her record? I was disappointed to learn that she didn’t do all this while living with a totally dysfunctional, crazy family (although I’m glad they weren’t as bad as depicted), but she still looks like a superwoman to me! All the trials and tribulations she went through to succeed, if not as humorous and horrible as portrayed on screen, were doubtless real and heart-rending all the same, and I think the message is worth hearing: It’s never too late to go for it if you have to good idea, so keep trying ’til it turns out right!I couldn’t find much about Joy’s personal life, which she (understandably) keeps very private, but in our own pursuit of good things, God encourages us to call on Him for help in working out our bright ideas: “Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not” (Jeremiah 33:3). I don’t know if Joy is aware of this offer, or if her faith has anything to do with her amazing success, but I do know that God’s open invitation is something I’d never want to refuse!
“The joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).
Last week my son Jonathan was in Bangkok as one of 3,000 evangelical Christian leaders from 120 different countries attending a world congress on theological education, and I was so thrilled hearing about it that I wanted to share a little of what’s happening with you. Did you know that around the world there are about 50,000 people converting to Christianity every day? That sounds like an incredible number, until you consider that the world population is growing by 200,000 per day, and that 31.5% of the world’s population are Christian. So, despite the huge numbers, Christian growth is not keeping pace with world population growth. Nevertheless, the central issue addressed at the Global Proclamation Congress is how to care for the needs of the staggering numbers of daily converts. How can they be nurtured in their faith and receive the pastoral care they need? During the intensive week (Jon was gone from his hotel room 7am-10pm daily!), there were plenary sessions where keynote speakers such as Ramesh Richards (from Dallas Theological Seminary) pastored the pastors by teaching, sharing stories (many of martyrdoms occurring every day), and encouraging communication and prayer support among the attendees. There were also many round-table discussions and seminars. Jonathan (Dr. Armstrong) presented on “Extending the Reach of the Traditional Seminary Classroom,” a concept he’s been working on incessantly in recent years. Jon said that 19 men signed up for his seminar, but it generated so much enthusiasm that they asked for a second meeting, which Ramesh Richards spontaneously announced to the entire assembly, and for that meeting 190 seminary presidents and senior administrators gathered! Long story short, Jonathan has been supercharged to continue his efforts to make global theological education within the reach of any person who desires to grow in grace, and he’s been using the internet as a major means of making such teaching available. Jon said the language barrier at the congress was probably the biggest challenge. Each plenary session was immediately translated into 11 of the most major languages, but just being able to communicate effectively is a huge problem. At any rate, Jon came home very excited about how to meet the overwhelming needs of the Christian church today, but he also feels great hope, as he saw God working in many miraculous ways. (Just one example: Two imprisoned Nepalese pastors were prayed for—and liberated—during the conference and able to fly in to attend before it ended!) Jon is taking up the task of writing to those 190 interested in his seminar, praying through how in the world they can stay in touch and help each other work out the problems associated with Christian growth. As he wrote in his last news letter: “The lesson in all of this for me is that prayer really does move mountains. ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible’ (Matthew 19:26; ESV). What are the places in our lives and circles of influence where we believe God would like to see us live and serve differently? It’s time we start identifying these impossible asks and take them straight to God in prayer.”
Beyond his role teaching at Moody, Jonathan started the Aqueduct Project in 2009, where his goal is to make Christian teaching available to all. If you think you might be interested in getting involved, either in learning or in teaching, please check out his website at http://aqueductproject.org/
If you actually happen to take me up on the suggestion from yesterday to discover King Tut while he’s in GR, I’d also like to recommend paying an extra $4 to see one of the awesome planetarium shows in the Roger B. Chaffee Planetarium (also at the Grand Rapids Public Museum), which had a 1.2 million dollar upgrade just last year in 2014. The planetarium was named in honor of the astronaut from Grand Rapids who lost his life in 1967 during the Apollo 1 spacecraft fire. Chaffee Planetarium’s own literature says it best: “All of the brand new shows feature the latest Digistar projection technology and immersive surround sound for an unbelievably rich and realistic experience. Recline, relax and experience the incredible forces of our universe.” We found this to true! It’s recommended for age 8 and above, but even our Giles got into it after the show began. For those of us who love star-gazing, there’s a really helpful program explaining some of the major constellations visible in the night sky right now in our area. The program we saw was a very inspirational documentary called “Back to the Moon for Good.” In less than a half an hour, it explains the history of space exploration and challenges inquiring minds to consider competing for Google’s Lunar X Prize, which has offered 20 million to the first team who develops a rover that can successfully travel to the moon and across 500 meters of surface before returning to the earth. Are you inspired? I think I’m too old, but maybe you aren’t, and who knows what our kids or grand kids might do?! Maybe moon exploration isn’t your area of expertise or vision, but may I challenge you to consider what is…and to pursue it with all the enthusiasm you can muster? My passion is writing, and one of my sons really challenged me to try to write even more, so I’m going to try to write a book this fall in addition to my blogging. How about you? Got a passion? I’d love to hear all about it!
“Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not” (Jeremiah 33:3).