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March 2015 entries

You are Unique

Both a cactus and a possum wood tree are vigorous long-living plants. The cactus is ideally suited to thrive in environments where water is scarce. The plant has the ability to embrace the little water it receives and sparingly draw from it over weeks of drought. So cacti are found in environments where drought like conditions are likely to occur. A cactus flower is a beautiful sight to see in an otherwise barren desert.

The possum wood tree needs lots and lots of water. These giants grow to nearly 200 feet tall. They prefer wet soil and lots of rain. You'll find the possum wood tree in the rain forests of South America. This lush tree produces a toxin in it's sap that natives if that part of the world place on the tips of arrows for hunting.

Each plant, the cactus and the possum wood tree, need sun and water to live. But their needs for each are much different. A healthy cactus planted in a rain forest will not last long. The tallest and mightiest possum wood tree in a desert will soon wither and die. Keep them both in their unique environments and they thrive. Remove them and they die.

I am different than you. You are different than your neighbor. I would be happy if I never visited the beach again. Give me the mountains and a cold mountain stream. You, on the other hand,  may just as soon the good Lord just take you on up to heaven if you never had another day at the beach. Mountains, in your opinion, may be too boring and isolated. Neither opinion is wrong. They are just different.

I believe God made us different. If we were all the same we would be redundant. God has made us all similar in that He has called us all to know and glorify Him. However, how we do that may be as different as the cactus and the possum wood tree. So don't always be comparing yourself to others. I don't preach like other preachers. I'm good with that. I want God to use me in the way He created me to be used. How has He designed you? How do you best express your calling? Have you attempted to be like some other believer you appreciate and admire just to fall flat on your face? They may be a possum wood tree and you just may be a cactus.

Why did God plant cacti in deserts? So they would thrive. Why do possum wood trees grow in rain forests? They would never survive in a desert. Our Creator knew this when He planted them where they are. God planted you where you are. If you have wandered away from where He designed you to grow, get back there. Quit trying to be someone else. Be who God made you. Thrive where He planted you. Don't envy others for their gifts or situations. Thank Him for strategically placing you where you are and get on with your calling.

"I urge you to live worthy of the calling you have received." Ephesians 4:1      


Is Perception Always Reality?

I joined with about 40 others at church in a "Biggest Loser" competition. We were divided between two gyms and several trainers. The contest started in early January and ended last Sunday. Several people lost over 20 pounds each. My goal was 20, but if I came anywhere near that I was going to be satisfied. Six weeks into the eight week process I had lost 16 pounds and I thought I might have a shot at that 20 pound goal after all. The final two weeks I checked the scales every other day or so. Each day the same weight. No weight loss. One day I was shocked, even though I was eating better and working out twice a week, to find that I had actually gained a pound. The next day or so that pound disappeared, but once again I had fallen to the sixteen pound loss plateau.

 

So eight weeks finally passed and my weight stabilized at that plateau. During that time period I had only tasted a piece of cake that a friend insisted that I taste. I had not bought or made french fries in two months. No sweetened beverage had touched my lips. I had only one piece of grilled chicken pizza. I had been a good boy. Now with all restraints cast aside I have become less careful as to my consumption of delectables. Since Sunday I have eaten 3 pieces of pizza, several pieces of cake and hash-browns from the Huddle House. Well as long as I'm confessing, although I ordered unsweetened ice tea at said Huddle House, the server brought sweet tea. I didn't send it back.

I began to feel like I had lost all momentum and gained several pounds by this morning. As early as yesterday, clothes had already begun to feel tighter. So this morning I decided to step on the scales and see how much damage had been done. Preparing for the worst I stepped up and squinted down at the number just beyond my toes. I HAD LOST ANOTHER POUND! ARE YOU KIDDING? I had now lost seventeen pounds. Why did I feel heavier than last Sunday when the contest ended? The answer: PERCEPTION. My perception because of my actions was that I was heavier. For most of us our perception is our reality.

Good story you say, but where is the spiritual application you ask. Really, do you have to ask? How many of us feel more "saved" after we have shared our faith. How many believers feel more "righteous" after a month of consistent church attendance, Bible study or tithing. All of these things are good in themselves and should be practiced. Just like eating right is a good thing. But on the opposite extreme, when we stumble or become lax in our faith walk we perceive that we are less that righteous. Or if we lapse into an old habit that plagued us before we gave our life to Christ we begin to doubt our relationship with Him. Remember, perception is a powerful thing. To many, perception is their reality.

In times like these we need to step on the scales again. Get the facts instead of relying on feelings. The truth is we have become new creations in Christ. When you were saved you didn't go from bad to good. You went from dead to alive. You were never accepted into His family because you straightened up your act. You were adopted as a child of God because you were forgiven. Don't let the enemy tempt you to doubt by having you focus on your weaknesses instead of His tremendous grace. Perception is not always reality.                   


I Don't Have Favorites

A question often posed whose purpose is to get to know someone better often begins, "What's your favorite.....?" The phrase is then followed by options like "vacation spot", "food", "sports team", or "color". This is a first date question. It's a way of quickly making an evaluation of a potential long term relationships or a security question before your forgotten password may be revealed. 

What happens when you don't have favorites? This has been a issue with me for my whole life. I really don't see the world through eyes that elevate one thing above another. I don't have a favorite color, restaurant, song or movie. I like a good steak, but I also love pinto beans and cornbread. Banana pudding is great, but so is a chocolate eclair. I love the first Star Wars movie but no greater than The Chronicles of Narnia. I enjoy the gospel of John, but sometimes the Book of Daniel stirs my heart. Those who know me well or have heard me preach often may think there is one exception to the rule: Christmas. I can see why you would come to that conclusion. I am crazy about Christmas. I love everything about it. However, Christmas must never be ranked above Easter.

I remember the first passion play I ever attended as a follower of Christ. I was in my early twenties and my future wife and I had been invited to one her friends church's Easter event. We had to sit in the balcony because of the size of the crowd and our late arrival. Different scenes interspersed with song were played out before us. There were the healing miracles of Jesus portrayed as those pretending to be blind or lame were brought back to health by the man playing Jesus. It was all good, but not up to Broadway standards. I admit I was getting a little fidgety as the performance passed well into the second hour. Then it happened. Jesus had been carried off stage near the end of the last scene by some men acting as rough looking Roman soldiers. I was not prepared with what happened next. Some forward thinking church volunteer had decided that the man playing Jesus should now be paraded off the stage and through the crowd. His bloodied back and wet matted wig jarred me to my soul. The man bent under the weight of a wooden cross. The actor playing a Roman soldier was slapping his back repeatedly with a prop made to look like an ancient instrument of torture. Jesus, I mean the man playing Jesus, fell under the weight of the cross in the aisle.

I suddenly was moved by a wave of emotion I had not felt at any other time in my life. I began to openly sob. What had always been just an ancient story in a moment became a sobering reality. Jesus had endured much more than I had ever allowed myself to imagine. Even this church portrayal of His suffering was almost more than I could bear. When the actor finally reached the apex of the stage, created to resemble Calvary, my tears were more than I could conceal. I began to understand for the first time what God was really trying to convey in John 3, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son..." He didn't give Him to live, but He had sent Him to earth to die...for me!

Now Easter and Christmas are held in equal regard in my mind. The joyous sound of the angels at His birth cannot mask the angry mob's railing, "Crucify Him!" on Golgotha. The magi lifted up gifts of precious metals and costly spices to the newborn King. Thirty-three years later Roman soldiers lifted up sour wine to the lips of the King of the Jews. The cold hard stone of a borrowed tomb is now where Mary lay her Son's head. A far cry even from the warmth of the manger and the soft hay beneath her Child's tiny head. Without Christmas, Easter is not even possible. Without Easter, Christmas loses it's meaning. One day cannot be held above the other. One is a gift given and the other a promise fulfilled. I get just as excited in the days leading to Easter as I do in the days prior to Christmas Day. I anticipate that morning in Springtime with equal longing as I do December 25th. I hope that if you are a follower of Christ that you begin pray as we prepare for Easter. May His death and resurrection be celebrated in your heart as if you were celebrating His birth. Both rely on the other for their meaning and purpose. If you are not a believer ask God to make the story of Christ's death more real to you than ever before. Let your heart hear His cry of pain. Hear Him say, "Father forgive them" and know He's talking about you.