Thursday, October 30, 2014

Bill Murray and Loving Your Neighbor

Bill Murray (the famous actor) caught a cab ride and struck up a conversation with the driver.  Murray learned that the cab driver loved to play his saxophone, but didn’t get to do so very often.  The driver explained that he drove cab fourteen hours a day, leaving little time for practice or performance.  He simply drove his cab with his saxophone in the trunk, wishing he could play more.

Learning about the driver’s love for music and unused instrument in the trunk, Murray got an idea.  He would drive the cab and let the cab driver play his sax in the backseat.  Long story short, Murray paid cab fair for almost an hour so that he could drive the cab and let the cabbie to play his music.  The actor went out of his way to allow someone enjoy what he loved.  That is a true story (according to Bill Murray).

Murray’s story is humorous, but also moving.  In some small way, Murray’s cab ride illustrates very Christian understandings of love and kindness.  Jesus tells His disciples, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” (Mark 12:31).  Most of us appreciate it when people go out of their way to help us enjoy something we love.  Why not get creative in doing the same for others – like driving a cab so that a music lover can play his sax.

As you go through the coming week, be on the lookout for opportunities love your neighbors in creative ways.  As you do, you will be following the instruction of Jesus.  You may also get to enjoy the music of a really great saxophonist!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Big Dreams and the Miracles of God

A friend of mine served as the Youth Director at a Salvation Army Church.  While serving, he got the idea to reach at-risk youth in his neighborhood.  He approached his pastor and shared the vision.  The pastor responded, “That is great, but I don’t think you’re dreaming big enough.  Lets not limit God.”  They put their heads together, prayed, got to work and watched Jesus move.  A couple years later, they celebrated the opening of a youth center, in a new building, intended to reach at-risk kids throughout their community.  It was awesome.  God indeed performed a miracle.

Remembering that miracle, I appreciate that pastor’s first response: “I don’t think you’re dreaming big enough.”  I love that response because I know that there are times when my dreams don’t do God justice. I try to manage my expectations with God.  I pray for modest results because I worry about being disappointed.  I dream for reasonable things because I think they have a better chance of happening.  In the end, God has to overcome my limited expectations.  By grace, God does.

We see that type of grace at work in Acts 19 when God does the extraordinary through Paul.  Acts 19:11 says, “God did extraordinary miracles through Paul…”  This assumes God did ordinary things too.  But, there were indeed times that God did the extraordinary.  It was important that Paul not limit God, trying to manage expectations.  God called Paul to dream big.

As you go through the coming week, dream big.  Pray big.  Believe big.  God can and will do the extraordinary.  As you do, you may just see God move in power.  You may also hear God say, “I don’t think you’re dreaming big enough.”

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Noisy Fans and Fellowship with God

Football fans are known for being noisy.  NFL fans yell and scream and hoop and holler to try and distract visiting teams. When fans are successful, visiting teams falter and make mistakes.  Fans wear their ability to distract their team's opponent like a badge of honor.

To combat the noise, teams often give up on verbal communication. Players practice in the week leading up to the game so that they can work together with little-to-no communication at all. This allows teams to stay connected in loud, and even hostile, environments.

I think that non-verbal connection illustrates our need for fellowship with God in a noisy world. Our world is filled with distractions and obstacles. That noise makes it hard to hear from God some times. The enemy tries to keep the noise at such a level, we can’t hear God’s voice at all. Because of that, it is vital we get to know God in preparation for life in noisy environments.

Knowing that noise was coming, Jesus taught his disciples to fellowship with God in preparation. At the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus tells Peter, “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak,” (Matthew 26:41). Getting to know God apart from the noise, helps us stay connected with God when things get loud.

As you go through the coming week, prepare for life in a noisy world. Study the scriptures, talk with the Lord and get acquainted with God’s presence. Fellowship with Jesus. As you do, you will find resources for navigating a life filled with distractions. You will also find ways of fellowshipping with Jesus that cut through the noisiest of environments.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Broken Elevators and God's Presence

A couple years ago, a nun got stuck in an elevator at her convent. The elevator broke down with the nun inside while her sisters were away at a convention. As a result, she was left stranded, alone for three days and four nights.

Having celery and a jar of water, the sister was able to meet her physical needs. But, the bigger challenges came in her spiritual and emotional life. The isolation was frightening. The nun wondered if anyone would come and get her.

In the midst of that difficult situation, the nun turned to God. The nun told Time Magazine, “It was either panic or pray.” The nun decided to pray.  In fact, the sister treated her alone time like a prayer retreat. She talked with Jesus for three days until her sisters came to her rescue. In hindsight, she described the experience as a “gift.”

That woman’s story is an important reminder of God’s presence in each of our lives. Challenges do pop up and make us feel like we are all alone. We are tempted to forget that God is near and available. Yet, we have Jesus’ promise at the end of the Gospel of Matthew: “I am with you always, even to the very end of the age,” (28:20).

As you go through the coming week, remember that God is with you. You are not alone. When challenges arise and you feel like you are all by yourself, pray. Call on Him. Speak to Jesus. As you do, you will find resources for facing life’s challenges. You might also find a prayer retreat in the most unlikely of places.