We Need a Hero!

Hebrews Chapter 11 is called the “Faith Hall of Fame” as it lists some remarkable men and women from the Old Testament whose stories encourage and challenge us in our faith walk—some Old Testament heroes. I encourage you to read this Scripture; here is a partial list and where you can find their reference in the Book of Hebrews:

– Abel—the first martyr (11:4)
– Enoch—a man who walked with God and was spared death (11:5)
– Noah—a man blameless among the people of his time (11:7)
– Abraham—the father of the Jewish Nation (11:8-19)
– Sarah—the mother of the Jewish Nation (11:11)
– Isaac—a man of faithful living (11:17-20)
– Jacob—father of the 12 tribes of Israel (11:21)
– Joseph—the interpreter of dreams for a king (11:21-22)
– Moses—giver of the law (11:23-28)
– Rahab—obedient servant of God (11:31)

We need heroes. Sometimes they are found in our own family. Like a dad who says, “What disability?”, or a mom who says, “I will prevail!”, or a wife who says, “Satan, get behind me!”, or your children who say “I’m following my dreams!”, or loved ones who say “No!” to disease and infliction. Sometimes they are found in those who I had the honor of serving with in the military. Sometimes they are found everywhere: where you work, your neighborhood, the gym, etc.

Recently we heard about two men who died, both of whom I never had the honor to meet, yet I consider heroes.

First was Aaron Feis, the football coach murdered at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida. He lost his life defending the lives of others and as his Pastor said during his funeral, “We are celebrating not just a husband and a father, and a brother, and a son, and a friend, but we celebrate a hero.” From what I have learned about Aaron, he was a man who put his faith into action and epitomized what Jesus taught in John 15:13, “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Aaron is a hero.

Second, Reverend Billy Graham went to claim his victory at the age of 99. Since the news of his death the testimonies as to his “greatness” and “loving ways” have been plentiful. But we need to remember that during the height of his ministry he was often subject to threats, mockery, and false accusations (by the way, he wasn’t the first to endure this persecution in the name of Jesus). Billy never wavered in his faith and conviction; in fact he embraced the opposition and grew from it once saying, “I feel sorry for the man who has never know the bracing thrill of taking a stand and sticking to it fearlessly. Moral courage has rewards that timidity can never imagine. Like a shot of adrenaline, it floods the spirit with vitality.” Billy is a hero.

All these men and women I have referenced are by definition “heroes”. To me there has only been one “superhero” and that is Jesus Christ! Now I enjoy the stories of Batman, Superman, Spiderman, Wonder Woman, the Black Panther and all the other “superheroes”. But none of them, nor anyone, else but Jesus did what He did, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29) Jesus Christ is the superhero.

A Word from the Wise

I recently took a spiritual gifts assessment. I was reluctant to spend the time because I have taken these before and the results are always the same: 1) Teaching, 2) Leadership, 3) Administration. But it had been about 10 years since I last took one, so I decided to take it, just in case something changed.

1 Corinthians 12:4-11 is just one place where the Bible explains these spiritual gifts, “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, …”

As I was reading the results of the assessment, I was a bit complacent because I knew that I knew what the results would be and there it was: 1) Teaching, 2) Leadership, 3) Wisdom. What? Wait a minute that cannot be what it said! It said “Wisdom”! Wisdom, really? Where did that come from where did Administration go? Wisdom is just for those my senior, right? Then God started revealing things to me. First, it has been a long time since I last evaluated the spiritual gifts He put in me—that means my age begins with a 5 instead of a 4 and I now qualify to join AARP—so technically I am a senior. I’ve had the blessing of joining the grandparent club—one beautiful grandson and another grandson coming this summer! Since retiring from the Air Force (ironically about 10 years ago) I have had a myriad of experiences—but the best part of that is the diverse people I have met and interacted with. And I only have to go to the barber shop to see the gray hairs fall to the floor. So, wisdom? Okay, maybe in my human definition, I qualify to have it—but the question is, what do I do with it?

I am smart enough to know if God gives you a gift He wants you to use the gift to glorify Him and serve others. I am also smart enough to know where to go for the answer. James 3:17 says “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.”

This convicts me that to use the gift of wisdom I must engage with others providing them comfort and perhaps even guidance as they go through this life journey. It’s not about being in my office doing research—which I contend is important—but rather taking that knowledge into the world and sharing it in a considerate and merciful way. Wisdom is about taking what the Lord is blessing me with and sharing it with others. I am praying for God to reveal where and how He wants me to serve—I pray you do the same.

Talking with God

This week over 1,000 people at our Church begin a covenant we made with God and with each other. We have committed ourselves to pray daily for 40 consecutive days. The pastors of our Church are visibly excited about this potential life-changing process of people—I share their excitement!

Quite frankly, my prayer discipline often lacks. I get caught up in the busyness of the day and get easily distracted (Satan likes that). Often when I do pray it ends up being like a child writing out their Christmas wish-list or I only take the time when I really, really need God’s intervention in my life or in someone else’s life. If you are in crisis let me know—I really will pray for you!

But, I know that prayer is much more than a wish-list or crisis management tool, so during these 40 days I am personally committed to instilling what Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

Let’s break this down:

– “Be joyful always”: In the Greek language this is the shortest verse in the Bible (not John 11:35 “Jesus wept”) but I contend this is probably the toughest verse for us to follow. How are we to be “joyful” when we face so many tragedies and hardships? The problem is that we confuse “joy” with “happy”. Happiness is a temporary emotion based on a feeling or event, joyfulness is a condition of contentment and security that can only be given by God.

– “Pray continually”: Paul is not telling us to spend our waking hours with our heads bowed and eyes-closed, verbally praying. I believe he is telling us to continually be in an attitude of awareness and surrender to God, realizing He is actively engaged in our thoughts and actions. By doing this, “dedicated prayer-time” becomes something we long for and make time for. Let’s face it, if we make it a priority it will happen. There are TV shows we just will not miss

– “Give thanks in all circumstances”: I have realized that “pride” is the one thing that brings me down faster than anything else—I’m sure I’m alone with this. I have tried to be humbler to overcome pride but found that did not work very well; it tends to lead to avoidance of an issue or circumstance. Rather, I am trying to follow this passage in giving thanks to God no matter what I face. Reflecting on the circumstances of my life that I would have preferred not to have experienced I have realized that God used those times to strengthen me, give me empathy towards others, and to see His power and glory at work. For that…I give Him thanks!

– “God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”: When praying I must remember that God’s answer is summed up as “No, Slow, or Go”.

  • “No” is not the answer we wanted. Sometimes things that we pray for are not meant for us. Even though we pray for it continually, God has another plan. When we get this answer, we are disappointed at best or our faith waivers at worst while figuring out why God didn’t provide. We won’t realize until later when we get something so much better. Then looking back at the prayer, we understand that it was not meant for us.
  • “Slow” usually means what we are praying for is not meant for us…at least not yet. The Universe is set on God’s timing and not ours. But we can be like little kids keep saying “I want this now”. There are reasons why we are not given these requests when we ask. It is typically something we are lacking, and we must learn before we are given our requests. This gets tricky because it is not a “no” answer but because we are not given it right away, we think it’s a “no”. Strong faith keeps us believing it will happen at a point, being in the Word reminds us that God is faithful and all things are possible through Him.
  • “Go” this is the answer we desire—otherwise we would not have even prayed. If we are meant for it, and it’s the right timing, our prayers are answered. God does answer our prayers. It’s not because we keep asking. But because we are ready for that prayer we are requesting.

As I enter this 40 day covenant I not only pray for revival in my Church and community…but also for revival within myself!

 

 

 

Root of Relationships

I recently graphed out my genealogical and relational tree and was surprised at the number of branches. It is a bit amazing when you conscientiously look at the relationships you have had with others during your life. As I was looking at it through my eyes, I decided to look at it through the eyes of God, specifically through Ephesians 4:31-32 “Stop being bitter and angry and mad at others. Don’t yell at one another or curse each other or ever be rude. Instead, be kind and merciful, and forgive others, just as God forgave you because of Christ.” (The Promise)

Certainly, I remembered many occasions when I was kind and merciful, even forgiving of the people represented on this tree, but I was also convicted of being bitter, angry, and mad, even yelling, cursing, and being rude. What was particularly troubling is the number of people who were on both lists! How can I be kind, while being bitter? How can I be merciful, yet angry and mad? How can I forgive while yelling, cursing, and being rude to another person? I cannot…none of us can and that is the premise God designed and desires for our relationships.

We all exist in a network of relationships—the quality of which goes a long way in determining how happy and effective we are. It sounds so obvious, doesn’t it? Our relationships are a key to our self-understanding, happiness, reputation, self-esteem, balance in our personal lives and social networks. Yet few of us give much thought to making them work.

If we maintained our cars the way we maintain our relationships, most of us would be in the ditch. But the fact is, most of us still manage to keep going. Our relationships are often in poor shape, and on some level we are aware of this, but we choose not to do anything about it. Most of the time we merely work around the discomfort these unintended consequences from relationships cause in our lives rather than addressing them head on.

Good relationships don’t happen by accident – they require work. What happens if we take seriously the idea of prioritizing relationships, not just in certain contexts, but systematically across the whole spectrum of life? Intentionality is the key strategy: conscious planning and review is required as our sheer habits and learned behaviors often handicap us.

Relationships underlie not only Christian ethics, but our whole understanding about the nature of God.  The pursuit of right relationships lies at the heart of the Bible; the root of a strong relationship is Jesus Christ.