I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. 1 Corinthians 1:10
Today we will take the 6 train up to the Bronx to work in the World Vision Storehouse. Yesterday we took the same train up to Harlem to purchase some supplies at Costco’s for our servant evangelism project. On our return trip, I was fascinated by the different passengers that boarded the subway.
The 6 train route runs through the heart of Harlem, down through the upper East side, continuing through the shopping district, midtown, Rockefeller Plaza, Grand Central Terminal and on to City Hall in downtown. There is such an interesting diversity of passengers, from the kids from the hood, to the preps on a field trip, from the Spring breakers to the shoppers, and from the nannies and maids to the executives and young lions headed to the financial district, all traveling together, not only on the same train, but in the same car, side by side. Some are laughing and talking while others quietly read or nap. It all happened together.
This got me to thinking about the church. Wouldn’t it be great if we could all journey together, celebrating the diversity of God’s Kingdom, without feeling the need to divide the passengers into different denominational cars?
The pilot is on the intercom announcing our cruising altitude when Sally starts rummaging through her seat pocket looking for a barf bag.
“I need a bag, I’m feeling sick,” my wife says. She leans back in her seat. I quickly find a bag in my seat pocket and hand it to her, but she doesn’t take it. A bit perturbed, I nudge Sally’s arm, but she still doesn’t respond. When I look up, I see her ashen face staring blankly into space; her mouth gaped open as if she has suddenly been frightened to death.
“Sally, what’s wrong?” There is no response. She just sits there frozen. My heart is pounding in my ears as I begin yelling her name and patting, no, slapping her face for signs of life.
“Sally, honey! Wake up! Sally!” my mind is frantic. People around us start taking notice that something is terribly wrong. I push the flight attendant button, but no one comes, so I push it again and again, then yelling and waving my arms for help. The feeling of helplessness overwhelms me.
I turn back toward Sally just as she comes to. She looks at me with confusion, wondering why in the world I am in her face. As the flight attendant arrives on the scene, Sally leaves me again. What is going on? Is she having a seizure, is she dying? I fumble for a pulse, but my heart is beating so loudly, it is impossible to tell if it’s her pulse or mine.
Another flight attendant runs up with oxygen, but it isn’t working, so they call for another tank. They place the mask over her nose and mouth, but I keep removing it to see if she’s breathing. Finally, the flight attendant has me move away since I am obviously hindering their efforts to help.
I hear the announcement over the intercom seeking assistance from any medical personnel on board and then I see the angel from five rows up stand up and walk toward us. Her name is Lori and she’s a nurse. She sits down next to Sally and begins checking her vitals. Low blood pressure. Clammy skin.
The flight attendants are discussing the need to divert the plane when Sally finally comes back to us, the color quickly returning to her face, but mine will take more time to recover. I’m pretty sure, I just aged a year or two. She spends the rest of the flight wearing an oxygen mask while I sit and watch her breathe. My heart slowly reboots as I see my love, my life returning in her eyes.
She’s fine now, thanks to God, Nurse Lori and two calm flight attendants. We’re chalking it up to no sleep the night before, not enough hydration and a pattern of fainting spells that occur once every 15 to 20 years.
I write this as she sleeps in bed next to me. She’s breathing and I’m grateful.
Zealots, eager to take St. Paul’s challenge;
Hunting down heretics,
And wolves in wool blazers,
Suspecting snakes in the baptistry.
Pharisees gobbling down Sunday dinner;
Dining on southern fried preacher
Smothered in peppered gravy,
Serving rhubarb pie a la goad.
Critical analysis, parsing the pastor;
The sermons are too long, too short,
His over-worn necktie
Becomes a hangman’s noose.
Churches filled with Inspector Javerts
Spiritual guard dogs unleashed
Smelling fear, tasting blood,
Unending hunger for dirt.
Where is grace? Where is God?
Where is trust and brotherly love?
Lost in the forest of suspicious minds
Dead is accusatory living.
1 Another time Jesus went into the synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. 2 Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath. 3 Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, “Stand up in front of everyone.”
4 Then Jesus asked them, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they remained silent.
5 He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored. 6 Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus. Mark 3:1-6
Mental illness is distressing not only for the person who struggles with it, but also for family members and friends. Unlike physical illness, that can usually be observed and diagnosed, mental illness is rarely seen or understood by others and difficult to diagnose. When they finally do receive a diagnosis, it often continues to be a struggle finding the best treatment. Folks with mental illness deal with a myriad of challenges that affect their personal relationships, their jobs, their finances as well as their physical and emotional well-being. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could just pray mental illness away?
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:9
One Small Step: We should certainly pray for God to heal mental illness, but I believe God still calls us to do our part, working toward our own recovery and supporting others who struggle with it. Check out NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) for helpful resources.
All of us have strengths and limitations, but some people’s limitations caused from physical disabilities can be overwhelmingly devastating. Disabilities from birth, disease or accident can create untold hardship and heartache for the individual and their family, but sadly adding to their pain is the stigma and prejudice they must endure each and every day from an uncaring community. Those of us who are blessed with fully functioning bodies could do a much better job at showing love and kindness and respect toward persons with disabilities.
As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” John 9:1-3
One Small Step: Don’t avoid, shun, or ignore a person with a disability. Even though our parents taught us not to stare at them when we were young, that doesn’t mean we are to shun them and treat them as invisible. Everyone deserves to be loved and valued. Perhaps God wants to use us in some small way to help display His good work in them or more likely, He wants to use them to do a work in us.
There are times I need to be alone with God to get spiritually recharged. But then there are other times I want to be alone without God, or anyone else, for my own selfish desires. God said in Genesis 2:18, “It is not good for man to be alone.” I believe that God knows when we isolate ourselves; it can lead to trouble. When we are isolated we have a tendency to self-medicate with addictive behaviors.
Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment. Proverbs 18:1
One Small Step: What causes you to go into isolation? Is it a fear of rejection? Does it feel safer to isolate instead of run the risk of being rejected? The next time you find yourself desiring to be alone ask yourself why. Is it out of hurt? Is it so you can imbibe in some sinful behavior or addiction? Instead of isolating, call someone and go have coffee.
I appreciate the story in the Bible about Jesus being tempted in the wilderness. It helps me to know that even Jesus was tempted. Being tempted, feeling the power of temptation is NOT a sin; even Jesus experienced it.
1Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, 2where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.
3The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”
4Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’”
5The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. 6And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. 7If you worship me, it will all be yours.”
8Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’”
9The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are theSon of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here. 10For it is written:
“‘He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; 11they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”
12Jesus answered, “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
13When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time. Luke 4:1-13
The big difference between Jesus and me is he never yielded to the temptation. He was equipped with all he needed to withstand every one of Satan’s snares. First, verse 1 says he was full of the Holy Spirit. (Jesus tells us in John 14 that we will do even greater things through the filling of the Holy Spirit). The second thing I notice about Jesus’s response to temptation is he didn’t allow his hunger or loneliness to trigger an emotional reaction and take the bait. Instead, he engaged his mind, recalling scripture passages that he knew and quoted them aloud to his tempter. In recovery we learn that we are most vulnerable to temptation when we are hungry, angry, lonely or tired (HALT). But if we challenge ourselves to be rational in those moments, instead of overly emotional, and apply the truth of scripture, we can withstand the temptations, just like Jesus. So take heart, friends, through the filling of the Holy Spirit and the Word, we have everything we need.
Joe dropped the hose at the preacher’s feet and ran to the entrance of the burning building. He had warned Jim not to go in, but had been ignored.
“Jimmy, where are you?” Joe yelled into the fiery hole. “Get out here! The roof is starting to buckle!”
Joe paced back and forth waiting anxiously for Jim to step out of the burning church, but he never appeared. In a moment of desperation, Joe sucked in a chest full of fresh air and ran inside to find his friend.
The pastor had finally connected the garden hose and was spraying the entrance with water when the volunteer fire department arrived. While the pastor got the fire chief up to speed on the situation, one of the preschool teachers noticed a tall black figure coming around the corner of the building, carrying a small child. It was Jim and his son, Justin, who’d escaped through the back service door. But before they reached the safety of the parking lot, Jim collapsed in exhaustion, sending him and his unconscious son to the muddy ground. Two of the fire volunteers ran over and dragged them to safety.
Both dad and son were blackened with soot from head to toe. Jim’s shirt had been burned off his back, exposing a nasty burn. Justin began to cough and cry as the other volunteer checked his vitals. Jim crawled over to his crying son and hugged him in spite of the excruciating pain. Tears dropped from his eyes, landing on his small son’s forehead. Jim tenderly wiped the tears away, smearing the ash into a wet fleshy cross.
Just then, they heard the fire chief yell out a warning as the roof caved in on the children’s wing. A woosh of hot air and smoke enveloped the playground, sending everyone further away from the building. As Jim and his son settled down next to his pickup truck, he began to search for Joe.
“Where’s Joe?” Jim shouted to the pastor. But the reverend seemed almost hypnotized by the hellish scene. He slowly raised his hand and pointed to the collapsed heap of fire and brimstone.
“He went inside to find you.”
“Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him.With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.” Psalm 91:14-16
Tomorrow is the First Sunday of Lent. While the season of Lent consists of 40 days of penitence, that does not include the six Sundays of the season. On Sunday the church always celebrates the resurrection.
The betrayal of a spouse is devastating to a marriage, but it is not necessarily a death sentence. Some marriages have not only survived, but thrived after an affair. But both spouses must be willing to work through it. Both partners will need to get out of their denial and do the hard work together in creating a healthy, happy relationship.
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 4:32-5:2
One Small Step: If you’ve never experienced infidelity in your marriage, be grateful, but do not become arrogant thinking it could never happen to you. Stay alert to your own lustful and deceptive thoughts and behaviors. Show gratitude toward your spouse and cherish him/her as a special treasure from God. If you have experienced betrayal in your marriage, seek godly counsel from a pastor or counselor. There are many helpful resources online, but be sure and review their credentials.