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Archive for September, 2018

“What if . . . ?”

“What if . . . ?” Depending on how, when, where and why this is asked, it is an interesting question.

Several years ago, a computer manufacturer ran a commercial on television that featured this two-word question. Obviously, the bottom line goal of the commercial was to get those who were in the market to buy a new computer to purchase the one they were selling.

Companies pay millions of dollars to advertising experts to design commercials that both attract attention and leave a positive impression. It is why the ears of those who listen regularly to the radio are assaulted by so many commercials. Click on a video via the Internet and you likely will find several commercials attached. Many of them are annoying and inane; others are obnoxiously redundant.

But, I like a commercial that begins by asking the question, “What if . . . ?” It refuses to accept the status quo. It says unashamedly and with a degree of excitement that improvement is both desirable and possible. It calls for action. It is positive rather than negative. It focuses on the future, not on the past. This two-word question can be asked in ways other than in a commercial. For example:

WHAT IF . . . all the people who say they are Christians were genuinely dedicated to the task of carrying out the Great Commission found in Matthew 28:18-20? What impact would this make on our churches, our nation, and our world?

WHAT IF . . . every person who says he/she believes that the Bible is God’s Word read it regularly and made an earnest effort to incorporate the truth found on its pages into their daily lives? What difference would it have on their attitude — toward themselves, toward others, and toward their daily work?

WHAT IF . . . every Christian who professes to believe in prayer actually engaged in prayer every single day? How much more could be accomplished that would never be accomplished otherwise?

WHAT IF . . . those who are not Christians in the community could say of every Christian family and every church congregation, “My, how they love one another?” This is what was said of the Christians in the first century A.D. The way they loved one another was a major reason why Josephus, the early Jewish historian, described them as “those who are turning the world upside down.”

WHAT IF . . . every Christian attended Bible study and corporate worship every Sunday unless he/she had a valid reason not to attend? How much more effective would your church and my church be?

WHAT IF . . . every Christian couple who stood before God’s altar to pledge their lives to each other in marriage “until death parts us” kept those vows all the way to the end of their lives? What impact would their determination to keep Christ central to everything their family does have upon their children — and especially upon the people they know who have never accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord?

WHAT IF . . . every Christian patterned his/her lifestyle after the Good Samaritan rather than after the self-righteous priest and Levite described in one of our Lord’s best-known parables?

“WHAT IF . . .? “ Just wondering!

 

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A few years ago, newspapers and television networks carried a news story that literally grabbed my attention. It involved a US Airways flight from Philadelphia to Seattle. There is nothing unusual about an airplane flight, for thousands of passenger planes are in the air over our country at all times. But this flight had an interesting passenger on board – a huge pig. I had not heard of a flying pig before – even in comic books.

Two passengers convinced the airline representative that the pig needed to fly with them as a “therapeutic companion pet” – like a seeing-eye dog – so the US Airways representative decided to permit the pig to sit with them in the first-class cabin of the plane. It was a decision he was destined to regret – and it didn’t take long for a high level of regret to begin.

Passengers described the 300-pound pig as “enormous, brown, angry, and honking.” He was seated in three seats near the front of the plane, but the attendants reportedly had difficulty strapping him in: “He became restless after takeoff and began to saunter through the cabin,” one passenger said. “He kept rubbing his nose on people’s legs trying to get them to give him some food and to stroke him.”

Upon landing, things only got worse. The pig panicked, running up and down through economy class and squealing. Many passengers, also screaming, stood on their seats. It took four attendants to escort the beast off the plane. And when they reached the terminal, the pig escaped only to be recaptured in another part of the airport. When asked to comment on the story, US Airways spokesman David Castelveter said, “We can confirm that the pig traveled, and we can confirm that it will never happen again.”

Have you ever had a day like the one the pig’s fellow passengers had? Who hasn’t? You have undoubtedly never been on a flight that had a 300-pound pig on board, but you have probably made a decision about something you regretted and later said, “That will never happen again.” Every day we make decisions, big and small, that determine our future. Decisions determine our destiny. It only stands to reason that the best way to minimize your regrets is to learn how to make good decisions, quality decisions. This is true in every area of life – especially with regard to our relationships with others.

There are three decisions we should make concerning our relationships that are always right:

Decide to apologize when you are wrong. “I’m sorry!” When was the last time you uttered these two words? More important, when was the last time you knew you needed to apologize, and didn’t? One of the most productive decisions you will ever make is to apologize when you are wrong. Saying “I’m sorry” has the power to repair harm, mend relationships, soothe wounds, and heal broken hearts. It has the power to both disarm others of their anger and prevent further misunderstandings. An apology involves three R’s: Responsibility – “I know I hurt your feelings”; Regret – “I feel terrible that I hurt you”; Remedy – “I won’t do it again.”

Decide to tell the truth when tempted not to. Telling the truth is better than telling a lie. A lie may help you to escape from a problem momentarily, but it contains within itself the seed that will sooner or later reap a harvest of difficulty. Therefore, always tell the truth – even when you are tempted not to do so.

Decide always to give your best. When you decide to give your best, it is because you are emphasizing the importance of serving the best interest of others. When you give less than your best, it is because you are looking out for your own interests. The reward you receive from serving others is the satisfaction you have in your own heart. The roots of happiness grow deepest in the soil of service.

 

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“What does God look like, daddy?” a preschool child asked his father. It is the kind of question small children often ask without any warning whatsoever – and usually at a time when fathers least expect it. Trying to sound wise, dads would probably stall for time and search for a suitable answer, one that a four-year-old can understand. They would swallow hard, and say something like, “Well, what do you think God looks like?”

“I don’t know,” the child might say. “But you know what God looks like, don’t you, daddy?” At this point fathers find themselves on the horns of a dilemma. They either ignore their child’s curiosity or change the subject (and miss a golden opportunity), or they deal with the question in an honest and forthright manner.

If a father is asked this question and is wise, he will seriously ponder it, “What does God look like?” How can he answer his child’s question correctly and intelligently? He tosses it over and over in his mind until he realizes that it is not just a question children ask. Adults also need to know what God looks like.

Anyone who wants to see a portrait of God needs to look no further than the opening statements of the gospel of John in the New Testament. John declares that God came to earth in human flesh as a baby and later walked among us. In an amazing touch of wonder this Galilean carpenter – fully divine and fully human – walked the dusty streets of first-century Palestine. He wore our skin. He showed how great our Creator’s love is and how far He would go to make reconciliation and redemption not just possible, but available, for sinful humankind. To be in the Son’s presence was to be in the presence of God. Every place He went, God was there. Every person He healed was healed by God. He said, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30).

God did more than come near — He came here. He left His footprints in our sand. He breathed the air we breathe. His tears spotted our dirt. He was nailed to a Roman cross made of wood that had grown as a tree out of the earth’s soil where we live. His blood spilled from that cross to the ground on which I personally walked in 1973 when I was in Israel. It is not that He was “like us.” He became one “of us” — born of woman.

I tried to express these thoughts in a poem I wrote in 1981 that I entitled, “The King.”

“The rulers of this world march by

In purple and in gold;

They rise, they flourish, and they die,

And their entire story is told;

One king alone is divine,

One banner triumphs still;

He’s King and servant – and His sign

Is a cross on a hill.”

It is time to return to the child’s question, “What does God look like?” He looks just like Jesus!

 

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Tell God about it!

Are you deeply bothered by something that you have done in the past? If so, you can stop it! The past is over. It belongs in your yesterdays. The greatest days of your life can start today – if that I what you choose can happen. God wants you to believe that things in your past — whatever they may be, or however difficult you assume them to be – do not have to keep you from having a productive today or a wonderful future.

Consider Moses, the lawgiver and liberator of Israel, to whom God gave the Ten Commandments, who wrote the first five books of the Bible. He was a murderer, and was on Egypt’s Most Wanted List. He became a fugitive and fled to the backside of the wilderness. Though he did not know it at the time, God was just getting him ready for a major assignment.

Or consider King David, the young shepherd boy who killed the giant Goliath of Gath. After David became King of Israel he committed adultery with Bathsheba and had her husband killed in cold blood. Yet he confessed (see Psalm 51) and was restored to fellowship with God. God did not allow his past to determine his future. He also has the power to keep problems that happened in your yesterdays from stealing your joys today or from determining what happens in your future.

When Jesus called Simon Peter to follow Him, He knew what a tremendous vessel he would be. Yet, even after three years of intimate fellowship with Jesus, watching Him perform miracles, and listening to Him teach, Peter denied three different times that he ever knew Jesus. It was definitely not one of Simon Peter’s better moments. Jesus not only forgave him, but He called Him back to be a rock and to feed His flock.

Is there anything in your past that paralyzes your potential and fills your heart with shame? If God forgave Moses, King David, and Simon Peter, what makes you think that He will not also forgive you? Confess your past sins to God and ask Him to cleanse your life. He has forgiven everyone who has ever asked Him to do that. He will also forgive you. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9 NIV).

You do not have to live your life in a way that leaves you totally or partially paralyzed by past decisions and/or actions. Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone goes through adversity, rejection, and reversal at one time or another. God’s Word says we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). It also reminds us that sin – any sin, all sin – if confessed – will be forgiven. You can believe it.

Have you been hurt? Tell God about it!

Have you been criticized? Tell God about it!

Have you been betrayed? Tell God about it!

Have you wronged another person? Tell God about it!

Have you sinned against God? Tell Him about it.

It would be impossible to estimate the number of jobs lost, promotions missed, sales not made, opportunities not accepted, friendships destroyed, marriages ruined, and churches divided and detoured from their assigned mission by people without determination, focus, or fortitude who were having a pity party.

If you are held hostage by anything in the past, why not try what the Apostle Paul suggested to the Christians in Thessalonica: “In everything give thanks.”

When you are living on easy street or dwelling down deep in the dumps, give thanks. In prosperity or in poverty, give thanks. In health or in pain, give thanks. “Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting” (Psalm 100:4-5). When you are able and are willing to demonstrate gratitude, God will give you a new attitude. He or she who forgets the language of gratitude can never be on speaking terms with happiness.

When your outlook is bad, I recommend that you try the “up look.” Nothing is outside the reach of prayer except that which is outside the will of God. He is greater than any difficulty you have ever had, now have, or will ever face – and He is never more than a prayer away.

In other words, every time you have a problem or a burden, tell God about it!

 

 

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