Friday, October 26, 2007

1 Corinthians 9:22b-23

1 Corinthians 9:22(b)-23-“I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. Now this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I may be partaker of it with you.”

Hey, I just wanted to talk to you for a bit. I wanted to get in writing that I feel your pain, and I understand you’re hurt.

See, I’ve been where you are right now, even if you don’t believe it. In 1996, my wife and I were having issues. Our marriage was close to finished. I was a bad father, and a worse husband. I was mad at the world, and didn’t even understand why.

My wife stuck by me through those times, and I didn’t even realize how much I made her cry until afterwards. She would call her Mom and tell her about our problems, and her Mom taught her to stay in and fight. She helped us and I didn’t even know it.

I was so far away from God, and I couldn’t fathom how I got there. I used to go to work and just wish that something would happen-a wreck, a sickness, anything-to make the pain go away. I wanted to be done with life. I was tired of fighting to be happy; fighting to just stay sane.

One evening, it was particularly bad. My wife and I had argued, and I sent her to bed crying, and my two oldest kids (at the time, they were 8 and 6) as well. I was inflamed at the world and just wanted to be left alone.

I met Jesus that night. He came to me, right where I was at, and told me that He had been watching over me. He told me that He loved me, but He couldn’t rescue me from myself until I surrendered control of my life to Him. He told me that I wasn’t really alone.

He cared.

The next day started a roller coaster ride that has become my life. Some days it’s a suffocating drop from a wild altitude; some, a series of hairpin curves. But always, ALWAYS, my car stays on the rails. I always stay safe.

You feel alone now. You’re hurt, you’re angry; you’re a lot of things that you’re trying not to show right now. You’ve got to be strong, because everyone is looking to you for strength. But you don’t have any, do you?

I want you to know, that I care.

Even if we don’t talk that much, I care. I may not see you every day, but I care. You may not think that anyone knows what you’re going through, but I do, and I care. It hurts to get up some days, I know. I care.

You need to understand that you are not weak alone. You need to understand that you are not scared alone. You need to understand that you are not going through the valley alone. Have you seen the phone commercials on television, with all the network people walking behind the person with the phone?

I’m right there. And not just me, there’s a whole herd of us there following along, behind you and beside you, being your network. You may not know we’re there, but we are.

See, I didn’t know how many people were praying for me, until I came out from under the shadow Satan had cast over my life. I didn’t realize that the lights I saw were not the oncoming trains, but the candles of the believers who surrounded me in my weakness and took it upon themselves to petition God for me.

I’m not telling you this to say that you’re doing something wrong, or that God is punishing you for something. I’m telling you this to let you know that things happen to people just like you and me. I’m telling you this to let you know that love covers a lot, and right now you have a down blanket of love over you.

I’m telling you this, to let you know that I’m here if you need me. I’m sure that you are proud and don’t want to tell people that you are having problems, or you don’t want to seem like a whiner.

I’m here. We’re here. We are whatever you need us to be, in order to help you get through this time in your life. I can be a sounding board, a punching bag, a fireside chat, or a shoulder just to lean on and cry.

I will be whatever you need in order to help you see Jesus.

I don’t need to know anything, other than that you need a friend. We’re here for you when you need us.

I know that you know Jesus loves you. But it’s awful nice sometimes to have a good ole flesh and blood hug every now and then.

Be blessed in the Lord today and always,

Bo J.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Jeremiah 17:7-8

Jeremiah 17:7-8-“Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, and whose hope is in the LORD. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear when heat comes; but its leaf will be green, and will not be anxious in the year of drought, nor will cease from yielding fruit.”

You know what? Sometimes it’s really hard to be me. Sometimes, SOMETIMES, a VERY, VERY, VERY small part of me wishes I didn’t start doing this. I SOMETIMES wish I didn’t have whatever it is that asks me to put myself out like this-baring myself for everyone to see.

It’s been one of those weeks. Not a bad week, just one that you wonder about and ponder the sense of it all.

I work around a lot of people who seem to have it all together. They have all the stuff that I want-the electronics gadgets, the radio controlled this, the HD that…all the stuff. They have their 401(k) and their IRA and their bank account that has more money in it in savings than I make in a month.

They’re getting the deals around town and making the most of their life. They seem to be enjoying everything while I just seem to get by. Then, I really listen to them. I listen to them talk about God. Oh, they believe in God, they just don’t listen to Him.

They believe in God, but they think they’re just being good enough and that is enough. They don’t like RELIGION (neither do I for that matter-I love God), and they definitely don’t want to be reminded about God’s if/then statements in the Bible.

They tell you that their life is going great now, so why should they change? If their life needs to come under God’s protection, how come they got that great deal on furniture/their vehicle/money windfall/whatever?

If you listen, you realize that their belief in God, if they have one, is based on their stuff. And if I take what they say into my heart, and don’t compare it to the Word, I will start leaning toward that as well. I’ll start wondering why I don’t have this or that, these or those. I’ll start wondering and dreaming and thinking that I’m missing something.

But am I? Are we missing something? You know the answer to that as well as I do, yet here we are again.

One of the greatest statements I can hear people say is, “Well, I’m just going to live my life the way I want. You only live once.”

What if you’re wrong? What if our God really is the only way to true happiness and peace? What if God really has a plan for you that doesn’t involve you chasing the next big thing you want in your life?

If I’m wrong, and Christianity is just a crutch, and Jesus really didn’t do all that stuff He said He did, and we’re just living a lie-how am I worse for it? If it makes me try and be better for Him and those around me; to love and think outside of my four walls, am I that bad?

But if those others are wrong, then all they got is stuff now and Hell in the future. And you try and tell them that, but they’re blinded by the noise and shiny things of the world.

So when the heat does come, as it will, and the drought and famine comes, as it will, who is more prepared?

If I know that God is already taking care of me, and I have stood back and seen that, time after time, He lavishes His love on me, the deserts will come and go and I’ll still be blessed.

Those who don’t believe, who don’t have their life centered on God, well, I’m betting they’ll be blaming Him and calling Him a liar and a cheat. “You didn’t give me what I want, so I refuse to believe that You even love me,” they’ll say, even as they can’t show when they appreciated Him before.

Don’t worry, this isn’t for you. It’s for me. I know you don’t have these questions. I know that you don’t look around and sometimes, SOMETIMES, wonder if it’s worth it. You have your salvation firmly in mind, and a good grip on the Lord’ tassels.

Me, I’m still learning. And you know what? I’m not afraid to tell you that. So, if in the dark one night, when you think you’re all alone and no one knows how you feel, maybe you’ll remember this letter. You can understand that one person can sympathize with you. I’m still growing in this walk, and God will finish the work He started. If He’ll do it for me, He’ll do it for you, too.

I had a doctor’s appointment yesterday. On the way home, I was listening to a CD. A song came on that brought tears to my eyes and made me realize that I’m okay. It was the gospel group MaryMary, singing “Dance, Dance, Dance”. I started singing in my truck, because it told me what I needed to know about God. I worshiped on my way home through traffic and had a great time with God.

“Maybe you don’t understand why I gotta dance, there was something had me down but it’s over now. I’m a throw my hands up wave ‘em all the in air, cause all I wanna do is dance, dance, dance!” (Okay, don’t imagine ME singing it. Look ‘em up or I can let you hear the song.)

Anyway, it helped me. You hear all this stuff from the world, and you have to decide Who you believe. I came to the realization that, sooner than I think, I get what I need when I need it. I don’t have to look around, just up. And I’ll know that it’s not about me being right. It’s about Him not being wrong.

Come on; throw your hands in the air with me and dance, dance, dance.

Be blessed in the Lord today,

Bo J.

Friday, October 12, 2007

1 John 4:19

1 John 4:19-“We love Him because He first loved us.”

I’m really struggling with writing this today. I had something else I wanted to use, but I got my day started, and this struck me right between the eyes. I wrestle with it, not because I’m scared I’ll offend someone; it’s so vivid to me that I’m wondering if anyone else will get it.

Fridays are my day off now on my schedule. I work 10 hour days, Monday through Thursday. On Fridays, I walk my youngest daughter down to the bus stop and take my wife to work and other things that I’m assigned.

Today, as my youngest and I started down the street toward the bus stop, we had a surprise waiting for us. It kind of startled my daughter, as she almost walked right up on it.

It was a small grey kitten. It was right in the middle of the road, and it looked like it had been struck partially by a car. (Please understand I know that this will tear some people up. It affected me. I’m not telling you this for the shock value.) The kitten looked in bad shape. It was bleeding from the mouth, and it was dazed and confused.

I didn’t want to risk picking it up and hurting it even more. When the light from my flashlight hit it, it immediately started hissing and crawling around the street. We used the light to guide it onto the curb and into the yard. Right now, as I write this, it’s in my next door neighbor’s yard, beneath one of her trees.

I want to try and catch it and get it help. But it’s so tiny and I don’t know how to do it without hurting it more. She called animal control this morning, and they said they would come pick it up, but it’s been a while, and we haven’t heard from anyone yet.

It bothers me; it really does. The little kitten is a miniature version of my cat. It has the same coloration and markings, everything. I hate sitting here knowing that it’s out there and cold and alone.

Some of you are probably envisioning that kitten right now. Some of you are probably wondering why I’m in here writing this instead of taking care of it. You think I’m cruel and heartless for using this kitten for God knows what of my own purposes.

Let me ask you this then, and answer honestly. How many of you have people that you go to school with, or go to work with every day? How many of us see that person in the halls that everyone else has abandoned to the world, because they just got to be too much trouble? How many of us see that person that we work with that may shy away from someone because he or she has been hurt so many times before by people?

How many of you can love a poor little kitten that you walk up on, and you have people around you who are in the same broken, bleeding, and dying condition and you turn your back on them because you don’t feel like doing something? You can feel for that kitten that I saw this morning, but you can be dead inside to the people around you dying and going to Hell?

I’m crying now, it’s getting hard to type this. See, we all do it. We all forget that once we were unloved, broken, and cast off. The world used a lot of us up and spit us out like yesterday’s news. We were out in the street, waiting for the end to come and just make the pain go away.

But Someone came along, and shined a light on you. He saw you and had compassion on you in your circumstances. He knew that you needed a Doctor, a Lawyer, a Friend, a Husband, a Wife, whatever you needed. He came down from His house, and took it upon Himself to stand watch over you. He kept you warm and dry, and He cried whenever your pain was so great that it caused you to shy away from His loving touch.

He loved us, not because we did anything to deserve it; but just because it’s His nature to love. And in return, we learn to love Him back. But it doesn’t and shouldn’t just stop there. We should learn to love outside of ourselves. We should want those who don’t know the love and care that we feel now to feel it themselves.

We should love the broken, bleeding, cast off refuse of the world; that’s what Jesus did when He died for us all. He loved everyone, and He didn’t make a snap judgment that not everyone was worthy. I’ve heard it said, and have said it myself, and it bears repeating. I believe that even if it was ONE SINGLE SOLITARY PERSON who was going to die and go to Hell, Jesus would have laid down His life for that person.

One man, one life-given for many for the forgiveness of sins.

Please understand I don’t have this down myself. I’m STILL learning this walk. I’m still under construction. And I’ll be honest, I’ve written all this, and I don’t know quite where to go from here. But I’m going to trust in my God and His work in me. I’m going to believe that He who has started a good work in me will complete it.

I’m going to try and love, because He loves me. I’m going to try and be more compassionate to the kittens (people) who have been struck by life and left in the middle of the street for traffic.

I’m gonna go now, and see if I can somehow coax that kitten I found this morning into a cat carrier and take it to my vet. I want to see if I can get it some help. My wife and daughters may come home today, and we have yet another pet cat. And we’re not even cat people; we love and want a dog!

But it would sure be a good reminder of God’s love for me and my household. It would remind me that no one is too broken or beyond God.

You were worth it to Him. Who is worth it to you?

Be blessed in the Lord today,

Bo J.

Friday, October 05, 2007

James 2:13

James 2:13-“For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment."

I have been going around today, trying to figure out how to put into words how I felt today. I think what is going on in my heart is something centering around the term entitlements.

Now, I know some of the students are scratching their heads right now, thinking to themselves, “What the heck are entitlements?” Instead of instructing you to look it up in a dictionary, and getting a blank stare, I’ll help you out.

Entitlement-a right to a benefit that is granted by a law or a contract.

That verse above speaks to me about entitlement-my right to have my way, my desires, and my wants, regardless of what it does to others. I feel like I am OWED something because I’m so smart, or so intelligent, or a good provider for my kids or whatever else my warped, twisted mind can come up with to justify my feeling.

In other words, God OWES me something, and when things don’t go my way, it’s obvious that He doesn’t understand our relationship. He doesn’t understand that inside I’m a good person, and I mean well. Everyone else needs help, but I’m okay. I’m as good as I need to be to pass.

In my job, we sometimes have to take tests on various subjects. The minimum score you need to pass is 80 out of 100. There is a saying there that “80=100”. That means you only have to try hard enough to get the minimum. Anything else is overkill.

How many times has our walk with God echoed that sentiment? How many times have you shorted God on quiet times, or tithing, or anything else? How many times have you looked at the Almighty and told Him, “You know what God, 80 percent is passing. That’s good enough; You should be happy with that.”

When you see it written down here, you realize how absurd it looks. But, how many of you can look back on your life recently and realize that you’re giving God the bare minimum? You’re giving Him just enough to make YOU feel good; and to put God in YOUR debt.

That’s not the way it works. God is not indebted to me for anything. That statement is so important, that I’m going to give it to you again.

GOD IS NOT INDEBTED TO ME, OR YOU, FOR ANYTHING.

We don’t hold anything over God’s head. We aren’t entitled to anything just because we did something around the spiritual house today, and want God to reward us for it. Salvation doesn’t work like that at all.

Remember, God could have left us right where we were in our lives. Jesus could have come down from that Cross, or worse yet, never even allowed Himself to be placed there in the first place. We could have to try and get into Heaven on our own merits.

Yeah, let me know how that’s working out for ya.

God had mercy on us. He could have tossed us in the ole judgment box, but Jesus had compassion on us and God showered us with His grace and mercy. It’s a shame that we forget that and want mercy for us, and justice for everyone else.

We want what we want, because we feel like we’re entitled to it. We don’t want to be told that we are learning a lesson, or being made more like Christ every day. We want our due NOW and we’ll throw a tantrum to get it.

The funny thing about it though, is that sometimes, when you throw a tantrum, the adult of the relationship has no choice but to show you the error of your ways. Sometimes, you get disciplined.

Did you notice how close the word discipline is to the word disciple? As a disciple of Jesus, sometimes I forget that I need to be disciplined. And it’s not always a bad thing to be disciplined. It just gets that way when I choose to exercise my entitlement gear and forget that I’m not owed anything.

Then, God cracks His knuckles and gears up. He loves me too much to allow me to keep this attitude. He loves you too much, as well.

So let me ask you this-do you hear the still, small voice in your quiet times disciplining you for your good, or do you hear the familiar “swoosh” of a wood switch branch in your ear ready to teach you how much you don’t want to know about entitlement?

As for me, I hope one day to get tired of not being able to sit down. Help me God, to learn to be more like You, and less like me.

Be blessed in the Lord today,

Bo J.