Tuesday, May 22, 2012

God Won't Let You Go!

Some years ago, on a hot summer day in South Florida, a little boy decided to go for a swim in the old swimming hole behind his house. In a hurry to dive into the cool water, he ran out the back door, leaving behind shoes, socks, and shirt as he went. He flew into the water, not realizing that as he swam toward the middle of the lake-- an alligator was swimming toward the shore.

His father working in the yard saw the two as they got closer and closer together. In utter fear, he ran toward the water, yelling to his son as loudly as he could. Hearing his voice, the little boy became alarmed and made a U-turn to swim to his father. It was too late. Just as he reached his father, the alligator reached him. From the dock, the father grabbed his little boy by the arms just as the alligator snatched his legs.

That began an incredible tug-of-war between the two. The alligator was much stronger than the father, but the father was much too passionate to let go. A farmer happened to drive by, heard his screams, raced from his truck, took aim and shot the alligator.

Remarkably, after weeks and weeks in the hospital, the little boy survived. His legs were extremely scarred by the vicious attack of the animal. And, on his arms, were deep scratches where his father's fingernails dug into his flesh in his effort to hang on to the son he loved.

The newspaper reporter who interviewed the boy after the trauma asked if he would show him his scars. The boy lifted his pant legs. And then, with obvious pride, he said to the reporter, "But look at my arms. I have great scars on my arms, too. I have them because my Dad wouldn't let go."

You and I can identify with that little boy. We have scars, too. No, not from an alligator, but the scars of a painful past. Some of those scars are unsightly and have caused us deep pain or regret. But, some wounds, my friend, are because God has refused to let go. In the midst of your struggle, He's been there holding on to you. The Scripture teaches that God loves you. You are a child of God. He wants to protect you and provide for you in every way. But sometimes we foolishly wade into dangerous situations, not knowing what lies ahead. The swimming hole of life is filled with peril - and we forget that the enemy is waiting to attack.

That's when the tug-of-war begins - and if you have the scars of His love on your arms, be very, very grateful. He did not and will not ever let you go.

You just never know where a person is in his/her life and what they are going through. Never judge another persons scars, because you don't know how they got them. Right now, someone needs to know that God loves them, and you love them, too . Enough to not let them go.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Is Everybody Happy?

Most people would tell you that their ambition in life is to be happy.  How often I’ve heard a mother say something like, “All I want for my children is to be happy.”  No doubt I’ve said it or thought it myself.
Happiness, for most people, would be a life without major problems, a life with no significant worries, enough money to do what you want to do, good relationships to fulfill your need for love and community, etc., etc.  Or, to put it another way, happiness is life the way I want it to be.

Then along comes Jesus and turns the whole happiness thing on its ears!  Imagine if you were listening to this itinerant preacher along the Galilee, thinking he was going to bring you free food and healing and hopefully freedom from Rome.  And instead, he says, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matt. 10:39).  And then he says, “A man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15b). 

This was revolutionary teaching, and you can be sure that not everyone bought it.  It went against their idea of happiness, and it goes against most people’s ideas today. What is your definition of happiness?  It is revealed in the way you live your life, the way you spend your time and money, the priorities you establish, and the friends you pursue.

Happiness is a by-product of losing your life for the sake of Jesus and the gospel.  That means, putting others first, investing major portions of your time and energy and resources into the lives of others, giving up your “rights” and relinquishing control of your life’s plan to the Lord.

For far too many years, I was determined to find happiness my way, and it took me about ten years to figure out that I had failed miserably.  But when I finally gave it all over to Jesus, he has proven to me again and again that dying to self is the way to the abundant life he offers. 

You’ll never find happiness until you take self off the throne of your heart, and put Jesus there.  It really is quite that simple.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Stretched Beyond Measure

Can you think of some moments in your life when your mental and emotional condition was so frail, so battered, so exhausted that you wondered if you were losing it? Bad news often comes in bunches and we feel bombarded at times.  I think of a woman who has recently received bad news about her health, on top of bad news about one of her children, and then she lost her job!  At times like these you truly can feel as though you’re losing your sanity.

It’s undoubtedly what Job experienced when his world suddenly collapsed on him.  And though he never cursed God, as you read his story you see how there were times when his mental and emotional strength was stretched beyond measure.  At one point he said, “I cry out to you, O God, but you do not answer; I stand up, but you merely look at me” (Job 30:20).

If that’s where you are today—feeling as though you could lose your mind because life is so hard—I want to encourage you to remember that God has not and will not let go of you.  To keep your sanity, keep your mind on Jesus.  Isaiah 26:3 says, “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.”  Paul wrote that “the mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace” (Romans 8:6).  When Satan is trying to literally drive you crazy, stand firm on the promise of God that he will keep you sane by his Spirit.  

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

"The Cleavage Gap"

A friend recently sent me an article entitled “The Cleavage Gap,” written by Sue Edwards, an Assistant Professor of Christian Education at Dallas Theological Seminary.  She was teaching a class on how to work with men in ministry, and these women were bemoaning the provocative way women dress these days, while four of these very women were, as Sue puts it, “showing enough cleavage to distract any man in our midst.” 

Let me include an excerpt from her article:
I don't expect immature believers, and certainly non believers, to dress modestly. But these are leaders, the ones who set the standard for others. I'm trying to get into the heads of these leaders who don't get the cleavage gap. What are they thinking? Maybe...
  • It's impossible to buy stylish clothes today without showing cleavage, so I'm giving in.
  • I've worked hard and long on this body, and, by golly, I'm going to show it off.
  • My husband might secretly be drawn to other women if they show theirs, so I better show mine.
  • I want to be loved and I'll never get a man's attention any other way.
  • It's hot and I want to wear something cool.
  • It's not my fault if men can't handle it. Women have been blamed too long for men's lust. I'll flaunt it just to show them, a similar attitude to feminist's bra burning back in the sixties.
  • I'm too busy to be bothered by this issue. Men need to get over it.
I wonder if these women realize how much their insensitivity hurts our chances of being taken seriously by men. Seems to me when we show cleavage, we back up what men have said and thought about women for centuries. We care more about the power of our sexuality than we do about its effect on our brothers. We aren't thinking about the long term impact of our choices, just about how cute we look today. Or maybe it's too much trouble for busy women to assess the effect of the gap. That's understandable for immature women who don't know better. But not for leaders with far-reaching influence.
Sue goes on to say that whatever the reason that women who truly love Jesus, who would never intentionally cause a man to lust, still dress inappropriately, she has found no solutions.  I share her frustration.  In the past we talked about the issue of dressing modestly at one of our luncheons, I’ve talked to various groups of women about it, I’ve interviewed and videotaped some men in our church and asked how it affects them, I’ve recommended Nancy Leigh DeMoss’s book, “Modesty: Does God Really Care What I Wear?”  Since it seems to be a message that embarrasses people, or makes them uncomfortable—or resentful or angry—I guess I’ve abandoned my efforts to do more on making women in our church aware of the “cleavage gap” and how it affects men—and what kind of testimony it presents to the world.  After all, I tell myself, I’m not the fashion police of The Moody Church!
It’s a topic that deserves our attention.  If you have any suggestions on how we can communicate the biblical message of dressing modestly to the women in our church in a more effective way, I’m all ears.  Meanwhile, I pass these thoughts on to you for your contemplation.