Tag Archive: Christianity



 

On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks refused to obey a Montgomery, Alabama bus driver’s order to she give up her seat to make room for a white passenger. Although her action was not the first of its kind, Parks’ action sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott. 

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With that thought as my introduction, I want to propose to you that our destiny is determined by whether or not we seize the God-ordained opportunities presented to us.

In other words, are we seizing the God-ordained opportunities before us?

Like Rosa Parks did, we first need to see the opportunities that stand before us. Rosa Parks saw her opportunity AND she moved upon that opportunity (or in her case, she stayed, because of frustration and anger at the abuses she and those like her had suffered.} She stated that she was "tired of giving in.”

that reminds me of a biblical character, Gideon. Gideon, known as a Hebrew Judge or leader, almost missed his opportunity.

Judges 6: 11-16- “Then the angel of the Lord came and sat beneath the great tree at Ophrah, which belonged to Joash of the clan of Abiezer. Gideon son of Joash was threshing wheat at the bottom of a winepress to hide the grain from the Midianites. The angel of the Lord appeared to him and said, “Mighty hero, the Lord is with you!”

“Sir,” Gideon replied, “if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? And where are all the miracles our ancestors told us about? Didn’t they say, ‘The Lord brought us up out of Egypt’? But now the Lord has abandoned us and handed us over to the Midianites.”

Then the Lord turned to him and said, “Go with the strength you have, and rescue Israel from the Midianites. I am sending you!”

“But Lord,” Gideon replied, “how can I rescue Israel? My clan is the weakest in the whole tribe of Manasseh, and I am the least in my entire family!”

The Lord said to him, “I will be with you. And you will destroy the Midianites as if you were fighting against one man.” (NLT)Gideon threshing floor

In this narrative, the Messenger of the Lord, perhaps an angel … and some say God Himself in a pre-incarnate form, was standing before Gideon and was calling him to his destiny to lead the people of Israel.

Gideon was not only hesitant but he was almost defiant to the destiny God had before him.

But finally, Gideon realized that his destiny was a destiny from the Lord.

John Maxwell has paraphrased the saying, “The opportunity of a lifetime must be seized during the life-time of the opportunity.” Rosa Parks had seen enough and was moved to action … and she was terribly out-numbered in her endeavor.

Gideon, too, was grossly outnumbered.

Judges 7:1-7- So Jerub-baal (that is, Gideon) and his army got up early and went as far as the spring of Harod. The armies of Midian were camped north of them in the valley near the hill of Moreh. The Lord said to Gideon, “You have too many warriors with you. If I let all of you fight the Midianites, the Israelites will boast to me that they saved themselves by their own strength. Therefore, tell the people, ‘Whoever is timid or afraid may leave this mountain[a] and go home.’” So 22,000 of them went home, leaving only 10,000 who were willing to fight.

Gideon ParesBut the Lord told Gideon, “There are still too many! Bring them down to the spring, and I will test them to determine who will go with you and who will not.” When Gideon took his warriors down to the water, the Lord told him, “Divide the men into two groups. In one group put all those who cup water in their hands and lap it up with their tongues like dogs. In the other group put all those who kneel down and drink with their mouths in the stream.” Only 300 of the men drank from their hands. All the others got down on their knees and drank with their mouths in the stream.

The Lord told Gideon, “With these 300 men I will rescue you and give you victory over the Midianites. Send all the others home.” (NLt)

Then God gave Gideon instructions regarding how to defeat the Midianites and they were, seemingly, ridiculous.

In fact, when he had finished this paring down of his soldiers, Gideon was left with 300 brave men and he and his army were facing at least 135,000 enemies.

But Gideon took God at His Word, saw his opportunity, and realized that a great opportunity has been set before him … if he would simply obey what was placed before him.

From this idea, we should take the following to heart: Never underestimate your power as “one” … especially when you are equipped with the power of God.

Helen KellerHelen Keller, the famous deaf-blind girl who, by the way, was the first deaf-blind person to earn a college degree, once said, “I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.”

 

So with this in mind, I k\now want to ask you: How’s your Prayer-life going?

Many people don’t know that Rosa Parks was a strong and devout Christian, and that it was her faith that gave her the strength to do what she did that day in 1955.

Read here Parks’ words regarding her faith in Jesus:

"Every day before supper and before we went to services on Sundays, my grandmother would read the Bible to me, and my grandfather would pray. We even had devotions before going to pick cotton in the fields. Prayer and the Bible, became a part of my everyday thoughts and beliefs. I learned to put my trust in God and to seek Him as my strength."

So I want to ask you again, “How’s your prayer life?”

Gideon, too, had a vibrant prayer life that not only sought God … but heard from Him as well.

Judges 7:8-15- “So Gideon collected the provisions and rams’ horns of the other warriors and sent them home. But he kept the 300 men with him.

Gideon hears dreamThe Midianite camp was in the valley just below Gideon. That night the Lord said, “Get up! Go down into the Midianite camp, for I have given you victory over them! But if you are afraid to attack, go down to the camp with your servant Purah. Listen to what the Midianites are saying, and you will be greatly encouraged. Then you will be eager to attack.”

So Gideon took Purah and went down to the edge of the enemy camp. The armies of Midian, Amalek, and the people of the east had settled in the valley like a swarm of locusts. Their camels were like grains of sand on the seashore—too many to count! Gideon crept up just as a man was telling his companion about a dream. The man said, “I had this dream, and in my dream a loaf of barley bread came tumbling down into the Midianite camp. It hit a tent, turned it over, and knocked it flat!”

His companion answered, “Your dream can mean only one thing—God has given Gideon son of Joash, the Israelite, victory over Midian and all its allies!”

When Gideon heard the dream and its interpretation, he bowed in worship before the Lord. Then he returned to the Israelite camp and shouted, “Get up! For the Lord has given you victory over the Midianite hordes!” (NLT).

If we expect God to meet us in prayer, we must realize that He expects us to be obedient to that Word with which He has shown up and spoken.

Remember that prayer is only in (small part) speaking to God; it is also listening to God. … And a huge part of the art of listening in then acting upon when you have heard.

Here is another truth: If you wait for perfect conditions to seize an opportunity, you will be waiting until the day you die.

Judges 7: 2-7- “The Lord said to Gideon, “You have too many warriors with you. If I let all of you fight the Midianites, the Israelites will boast to me that they saved themselves by their own strength. Therefore, tell the people, ‘Whoever is timid or afraid may leave this mountain[a] and go home.’” So 22,000 of them went home, leaving only 10,000 who were willing to fight.

But the Lord told Gideon, “There are still too many! Bring them down to the spring, and I will test them to determine who will go with you and who will not.” When Gideon took his warriors down to the water, the Lord told him, “Divide the men into two groups. In one group put all those who cup water in their hands and lap it up with their tongues like dogs. In the other group put all those who kneel down and drink with their mouths in the stream.” Only 300 of the men drank from their hands. All the others got down on their knees and drank with their mouths in the stream.

The Lord told Gideon, “With these 300 men I will rescue you and give you victory over the Midianites. Send all the others home.” (NLT).

Gideon men dip waterGideon strategically did not have too many soldiers; in fact, he didn’t have nearly enough. He started out with 32,000 soldiers. (We don’t know exactly how many Midianites they were facing but according to Judges 8:10, there were at least 135,000.) Gideon had pared his men initially down to 10,000. But God still wanted fewer men in Gideon’s army. These were pared down further, to 300.

God’s ways and ideas are much higher than ours.

Isaiah 55:8-9- ““My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord, “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.

For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.”” (NLT).

God wants the glory for His fights.

Judges 7:2- “The Lord said to Gideon, “You have too many warriors with you. If I let all of you fight the Midianites, the Israelites will boast to me that they saved themselves by their own strength.” (NLT).

And in like manner, God wants the glory in your and my life too.

Rosa Parks was convinced that she had a right. And because of that, she refused to get up. "Since I have always been a strong believer in God," she says, "I knew that He was with me, and only He could get me through that next step."

Certainly, there is a whole lot more to this story than what I have told here … and perhaps I‘ll get to tell more in the not too distant future

But I want to close with this very simple set of questions:

1) Are you afraid to fail?

2) Do you want to be used by God?

3) Can you recognize when He places an opportunity in front of you?

4) Then, how’s your prayer life?Warriors strike

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Build Them a House


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I was recently having a meal with the children and staff at the Children’s Lighthouse in Perrysburg, OH. This place is certainly a bit of a haven for the kids … and also for the various animals. There are koi, chipmunks, cats, a couple of dogs … and two pigeons, Hope and Harmony.

Hope and Harmony come and go as they please … but they seem to love being here. In fact, it is nothing for them to eat out of the hands of the children or to stay overnight in the greenhouse on the property.

As we were all sitting out on the courtyard, I saw the two birds perched on the roof of one of the houses. My initial thought, as I was pondering how much these birds obviously love this place and feel welcome here, was: “Why don’t we build them a house of their own?”

Immediately, I was reminded of the Scripture surrounding the narrative we know as the “Transfiguration.”

Matthew 17:1-6- “Six days later Jesus took Peter and the two brothers, James and John, and led them up a high mountain to be alone. As the men watched, Jesus’ appearance was transformed so that his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as light. Suddenly, Moses and Elijah appeared and began talking with Jesus.

Peter exclaimed, “Lord, it’s wonderful for us to be here! If you want, I’ll make three shelters as memorials[a]—one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”

But even as he spoke, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy. Listen to him.” The disciples were terrified and fell face down on the ground. …” (NLT)

And it was as if I could hear the Father saying to me, “I have sent these birds here for several reasons. One of those reasons is this: that you might be reminded that I am pleased with this place and with the ministries it is carrying out to these children, the community, and indeed, the whole world.”

Certainly, there are many other truths that we can derive from this narrative BUT I am encouraged to look only at this one right for the time being.

What is truly done for Christ is what is blessed.

God empowers us to perform those tasks to which He has called us.

And He speaks over us, “These are my beloved children who bring great joy to me.”

I am not attempting to take the power of the Matthew 17 passage away from the words it speaks concerning Jesus Christ; it certainly speaks to His divine purpose … but I want each of us to know and to understand that God truly loves us. He is pleased with us … not because of anything we do or have done … but because of what Jesus has already done … because of Who Jesus is.

And He is pleased with the ministries to which He has called us.

And He empowers us to perform those ministries.

That makes me really excited about what God is doing in me, in the ministries in which I am engaged, about what God is doing in you, and in the ministries in which you are engaged. So let us go forth, knowing that He loves us, He purposes us, He equips us, and He is pleased with us … and it is all because of Jesus.


I had a very exciting conversation with a young lady today. She was telling me that she had once began her studies to become a veterinarian but gave up because she was having too many difficulties with the studies. She obviously does have a learning difficulty but she had determined that her difficulty was simply too hard to carry on with her task so decided to lower her expectations a little to switch and become a veterinary technician.

As she was telling me her new goals, which she has been working on for about a year now, you could visibly see her lighten up and you could hear the excitement in her voice. In fact, she told me that wanted to tell many people of her new goal in life.

The excitement I heard, and that I related back to her, was her passion. She was iterating her passion. And it was contagious.

I have no doubt that Amanda will go on to finish her studies and will become a veterinary technician.

And I am pretty sure that she will specialize beyond that.

Why?

Because she was and is in the zone of her passion.

Passion is that objective that you have to have. You eat it, drink it, dream it … and live it.

And passion will carry you through in times when otherwise you might want to quit or give up.

And I know passion.

And I think we all know passion.

When is the last time you ever dreamed something so hard that you couldn’t let it go?

When’s the last time that you really lit up when you were talking about something … or someone?

When is the last time that you wanted something so badly that you knew you couldn’t live without it?

That’s passion.

A story is often told of a young boy who desperately wanted to learn a martial art. It is said that he sought out the training of a wise, old sensei.

In the boy’s search of the old man, he did find him. And he found him fishing in the middle of a stream.

The boy waited patiently on the side of the stream for what seemed like hours … simply in pursuit of being recognized by the old man.

Finally, the old man looked over at the boy and said to him, "boy, what is it that you desire?"

The boy anxiously responded to him, "Oh great master, I desire to learn your martial arts."

The old man simply looked away and continued fishing … seemingly ignoring the young boy.

After a while longer, he again looked over at the young boy and said, "boy, what is it that you desire?"

Again, the boy responded, "Oh great master, I desire to learn your martial arts."

And again, the old man simply looked away and continued fishing.

Finally, after another hour or so, the old man looked over at the boy and said to him, "boy, what is it that you desire?"

And, as the boy had before responded, he said "Oh great master, I desire to learn your martial arts."

The old man motioned for the boy to come out into the water with him.

The boy, desiring NOT to show his excitement, waded out into the water to the old man.

When the boy reached the sensei, the sensei violently grabbed, pushed, and held the young boy’s head under the water.

The boy struggled violently as well.

..until at last, four bubbles come from his mouth

…then three bubbles

…then two bubbles

… then one bubble

At which the old man, grabbing the boy by the hair, lifted him out of the water … obviously (and literally) dying for air.

And the old man looked at the boy and said to him, "Son, when you want to learn the martial arts from me … as much as you wanted that next breath of air … come back and I will teach you.

This is an illustration of the power of passion.

Passion causes us to come back when all Hell is coming against us.

Passion is that thing that causes us to NOT give up when nothing else seems to be going our way.

Passion is what finds us successful.

Why?

Because passion creates within us an "I’ve got to have it … or die trying" attitude.

So again, I ask each reader today … what are you passionate about? And what’s it going to take to see your passion fulfilled?

And when you have answered those questions … carry on …. and see your passion come to fruition.

The Road


It was a hard, cold, snowy winter in the mid-west this year. Historical temperature and snowfall-level records were broken and new ones were set. And schools in my area surpassed their allotted levels of cancellations several times over. Some have even said that the students are going to have to go well into the summer break in order to make up for those cancellations.

And many people continually fussed about the depth of the cold. In fact, it seems that complaints about the winter of 2014 far exceeded the appreciations.

But I chose to take a different tack. This year, I am learning to count my blessings and to appreciate the winter, the cold, the snow, and all other parts of life. In fact, for four weekends in a row, my wife and I had to travel between Chicago and Toledo round-trip. We experienced icy roads, sub-zero temperatures, white-out conditions, cars and trucks driving too fast and dangerously, and a doubling of travel times.

But rather than complain, I learned (and am still learning) to embrace this winter. I learned (and am still learning) to appreciate the cold, the snow, the wind, and the long travel times.

Why?

Because the Bible tells us that we are to focus on “what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. (Philippians 4:8 NLT)

Our attitudes must be transformed from the negative, sorrowful ones that many display into that which is full of hope, purpose, and vision. In fact, one of my favorite Christmas movies expressed a similar attitude as Bing Crosby sang:

When I’m worried and I can’t sleep
I count my blessings instead of sheep
And I fall asleep counting my blessings
When my bankroll is getting small
I think of when I had none at all
And I fall asleep counting my blessings

As I looked at the snow, felt the coldness, experienced the wind, and drove through the extreme slowness of the traffic, I chose to count my blessings, and to enjoy the journey of being blessed by Him.

I embraced this winter season.

Can you embrace the winter season of your life? And THEN move beyond it.

Deadlines


As I write this, I am aware that recently, the last night of late night show host Jay Leno was on the air. My favorite part of his show has always been his Monday night "Head lines."

But in this blog, I want to mention something that sounds similar, but plays out much differently:

Deadlines.

Deadlines are those things that many of us hate and yet, others of us love.

The deadline is that final moment when all must be said and done … And all must be turned in and submitted.

As I said, many hate these things. For those of us, these bring unneeded stress and pressure. These have driven men and women to do things they would later regret or to live in such a manner that one’s life could be shortened or caused to be less than full.

And other people love deadlines. For those of us, deadlines bring something similar to an adrenaline rush … And cause greater and more concentrated focus of attention and on detail.. Somehow, the need to finish by a certain time causes that time to be a motivator.

We all respond differently to deadlines.

But I want to suggest to each of us that deadlines are nothing to be played with. In fact, we each have an appointed time when life as we know it will all be over and all will have been said and done.

For that reason, I urge each of us to respond more intently to that focus of the journey of our life.

Our journey is not about what we have done right or wrong. It’s not about what we have planned and dreamed. And it’s not about what we have succeeded in or failed.

Instead, it’s about how we have lived. It’s about how we love God. It’s about how we treat others.

As Martin Luther King Jr. has said (and others have repeated):

    • It’s not about how long you have lived …
    • It’s about how well you have lived.

And Hillary Cooper once said,

    • Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take
    • But by the moments that take our breath away.

So I ask you today as you live, as you breathe and as you enjoy the journey:

    • How have you loved God?
    • How have you treated others?
    • How have you lived and forgiven yourself?

Answer those questions before the deadline is upon you

… while you still have time to do something about them …

While you have time to truly love and honor God …

While you have time to show and tell those whom you love that you really do love them …

While you have time to stop beating yourself up for all your shortcomings and failures …

While you have time to forgive yourself and to love yourself …

You know the time I’m talking about …

I’m talking about that time …

Before the deadline is up.

Bumper Sticker Religion


We have a lot going around of what I call “Bumper Sticker” Religion. By this, I mean we tend to fill our lives with short, snappy statements that really sound good and really seem to make sense.

Such statements include: “John 3:16”, “Forgive and Forget”, “Let go and let God.” Of course, there are a whole lot of other, similar statements.

Obviously, few things are rarely as simple as they seem.

Surely, “John 3:16” is a simple statement that refers to the Scripture and is somewhat separated from these others but it is my fear that other such statements often do more harm than good.

I want to set the record straight.

Faith in Jesus is the beginning; faith in short, pithy statements is often a distraction.

Relationship with God is not initiated with cuteness and conciseness of communication; instead, relationship begins with revelation from God Himself and that revelation comes through prayer and/or the Word of God.

Relationship takes intentionality and some degree of work. And by work, I don’t mean accomplishment and defeating the impossible; what I do mean is that series of efforts of knowing Him.

(Of course, we could never get this part right on our own; we need His strength and His grace.)

And we are further equipped with the knowledge that as we draw hear to Him, He draws near to us. (And that’s the effort I’m talking about: drawing near.)

Never rest upon the concept that uttering the right words is enough.

Never rely on the thought that the summation of spiritual healthiness is achieved by a bunch of verbal gymnastics.

Instead, let us each draw near to God … let us establish a habit of seeking Him … and let us enjoy the journey.

If this article interests you, write me with your comments at: jgarrett1958@hotmail.com