Review the Directions to Get to Your Destination

When my sons were young I decided they needed to learn how to read a map. We’d go through the basics: find your starting point, find your destination point, trace the options you could find between the two points, decide on your route, and drive. Usually these teaching lessons would be met with this reaction: “Why do we need to know this?”

Looking back now they had a point. Little did I know that by the time they would start driving and taking trips there would be such a thing as a smart phone and an app called Google maps. It does most of the work for you. I know. The boys had to teach me how to use the app. As long as you know where you want to go you don’t even have to log in your starting point. It already knows where you are.

When someone calls you and invites you to a destination spot that you are unfamiliar with, you can just use a map app to get there. And when God calls you to a destination, he will help you get there too. Your destination? Sanctification. Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification…”

“Sanctification” is a big word that you and I don’t use very often in day-to-day life. It can also be translated “holiness.” But we don’t use that word often either and even less when we think of ourselves. (Although sometimes, when I look in the mirror first thing, I exclaim “Holy Cow!”) We picture a holy person as someone in a robe living in the desert or somewhere no one else wants to be.

So let’s de-churchify the word for a minute. Sanctification, or “holiness,” simply means “set apart.” If something is holy, it is set apart from something else. Imagine some evening Karen is driving home from work. I’m at the house preparing a gourmet dinner. (I said “imagine.”) I’ve got her on speaker while I’m cutting up tomatoes when she tells me, “By the way, that new family from church is coming over. I invited them. We should all arrive in about five minutes.”

In my panic I twitch and slice my finger. At first I don’t notice the bleeding since I’m slicing tomatoes. But then I feel it. And when I look I see that I’ve sliced off the tip of my finger. I dig through the cutting board full of tomato slices and find it. I lift it up and I say, “This is sanctified. It is cut apart. It is holy.”

There you have it. That is what “sanctified” or “holy” means. God is holy because he is set apart from humans because he is set apart from sin. In just one of a multitude of examples, Leviticus 20:26 records God’s command to Israel: “You shall be holy to me, for I the LORD am holy and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be mine.”

It’s a succinct passage that reminds us that God is holy and therefore, if we are following in his ways we are to be holy too. Paul is helping his readers know what direction they are walking in life. That direction is towards God’s holiness.

The problem is we sometimes forget where we are going, don’t we? Before we were taught Google maps Karen and I were walking in Rome on our 25th anniversary. We were enjoying the sights until we realized it was getting dark and we didn’t know where we were in relation to our apartment. We had to pull out our map and look like tourists which makes you feel a little more vulnerable to anyone that might want to take advantage of you. Now, you can just pull out your iPhone, stare at it, and look exactly like everyone else who is staring down at their phones when they could be looking at something like the Vatican or Coliseum.

We had to look at the map to remember our directions. Paul says the same, that when you need directions, remember. Paul reminds his first readers and us, “for you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus…” He is saying to go back to their roadmap, the instructions that told them how to walk. But they will need to remember they have those instructions to keep on walking toward God’s calling of them towards sanctification.

And we will too. Wherever you are right now you can journey towards God’s destination for you. Just pull out the instructions you’ve been given and remember your destination.

And start walking.

Question: When you are confused about your direction in life where do you go for help?

 

 

 

 

You Can Make a Quiet Difference in this World

Our world is one that wants to get noticed. You need only look on Facebook where it seems everyone has to comment on everything, stream live what they are doing, and make themselves look as witty and wonderful as possible.

Or go to Instagram. People leaving pictures of themselves in exotic places or on a beach in their best bikini. The women, not the men. Sometimes younger people who are trying to get noticed by someone somewhere upload selfies they’ll wish they could unload someday.

Or move on to Reality TV. People who don’t do much of anything getting filmed so we can watch them not doing much of anything. Like a crash that is about to happen many cannot resist watching them. Which is exactly what they want us to do.

It’s a loud day we live in. People clamoring to be noticed using our modern-day connectedness of social media, streaming TV, and the internet to make themselves heard. People work hard at getting noticed.

It’s the way of our world today. But it wasn’t the way for the early church in Thessalonica, a city that was home to Greek gods as well as the Roman imperial cult. An oath of loyalty to Caesar would be administered to its people. It was also home to Jews. By the time the Apostle Paul arrived we can be sure there were Jews in this city living under the threat of worshiping a God other than Caesar.

Paul entered their synagogues and preached that “Jesus is the Christ.” “Christ” means “anointed one.” That title belonged to Caesar. Preaching that “Jesus is the Christ” caused an uproar. The city got real noisy. Paul had to sneak out by night.

Later, Timothy reported to Paul that the Thessalonian Christians had undergone more persecution and suffering. They were just hanging onto their faith. So Paul writes, “…aspire to live quietly.”

“Aspire” originally had the sense of “the pursuit or love of honor or distinction.” A person would work hard at promoting the spread of their name. They would do this through acts of benefaction or by getting their name inscribed on columns or in pavements. It was the first-century form of Twitter.

Paul tells his friends to do just the opposite of the culture. “…aspire to live quietly…” has the paradoxical meaning of “to work hard at not working hard.” He is not telling them to not work. Just don’t work hard at being noticed.

That was a countercultural message then. And it’s a countercultural message now. We live in an age where the one that gets noticed is the loud one, the humorous one, or the extroverted one. Now you not only have to sell a product. You have to sell yourself.

Paul says not to. And that’s good news for people who don’t fit that mold. When you’re told to “do big things for God” but you struggle to juggle all the plates you’ve got going in the air and just get through the day, you may wonder if God can use you.

Turns out he can. We don’t have to be obsessed with pushing ourselves into the public eye. We can be content to be unknown and unnoticed if that is the Lord’s will. We can make it our ambition to not be ambitious about getting noticed. We can be quiet and affect our world.

Rosa did. On December 1, 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama, a public bus pulled up to its stop in the early evening and a woman in her forties, dressed nicely, walked up the steps, entered the bus, and sat in the front row of the “Colored” section. The bus filled with riders and the bus driver asked her to give her seat to a white passenger.

This quiet, introverted woman inadvertently started a civil rights movement with one word: “No.” When Rosa Parks died in 2005, obituaries called her “soft-spoken, sweet, and small in stature.”

Want to make a difference in this world? Don’t start a riot. Just be quiet.

Question: What are some “quiet” ways in which you can make a difference?

 

 

How a Weighted Blanket Can Warm a Life

Johny is a new friend of mine. At least through email and Facebook. She wrote me to tell me about a great cause she is involved in. I thought it would be make for a great story for you to read.

Johny took an early retirement a year ago. (I had to ask for forgiveness right away as that line made me a bit jealous.) But she did not want to just sit. Instead, she wanted to give something back. But with many outstanding organizations to choose from where she could volunteer her time that decision was not easy. ­

At least not until she realized there was a specific group that tugged at her heart. Her youngest child is in Junior High and has had friends through the years with siblings who were autistic. Social interactions with these families created an awareness of the daily struggles these families encounter.

Knowing what to do when other opportunities to “give back” had presented themselves had been easier: making sandwiches to give to the homeless, gathering clothing for a women’s shelter, or assembling care packages for a teen crisis home. But how would she go about helping families with autistic children?

That’s when prayer can open your eyes to something right in front of your eyes. That’s what happened for Johny. She had been involved in her church’s prayer blanket ministry and at one point in time had made a blanket for a grandmother who was raising a grandchild who had Autism. That grandmother came to her and asked her if she could make a weighted blanket for her grandson.

What happened next is exciting. Johny conducted a lot of research to make him one. Along the way the process evolved, eventually finding a better way to make them than other options that were available. Word was sent out to organizations and families who could benefit from these special blankets as research shows that weighted lap blankets provide a calming pressure for those needing help with sensory processing.

After getting positive feedback and photos from families that were helped, she enlisted the prayer blanket ministry at her church to help produce the weighted blankets. Now, not only do families not have to pay to receive a blanket, they get one custom made for their child. Better yet, it’s been prayed over by many loving hands. Hands with a heart for these special children.

Imagine what it would be like to hear from a mother who tells you, “My child can finally sleep at night.” And imagine what it would be like to find yourself in the middle of this story.

You can, you know. Maybe you’ve wanted to do something too to give back but you didn’t fit traditional ministries at church or in the community. But you can sew. Johny says, “Anyone who can sew a straight line can learn how to do this and in turn, can start making these for their community.”

Or maybe you know a family that could benefit from these blankets. They may not see this article, but you have. You may be the “thread” that connects them to a resource that could have a warm effect on their lives.

And one last way this may help someone: Johny has received her first request for a blanket for an adult with PTSD. There is significant research that shows that weighted blankets put on soldiers who have PTSD is calming and helps them sleep.

So, if you can sew or you know anyone who could benefit from a weighted blanket, or if you would like more information, just write to weightedwonders@outlook.com. You’ll sleep better knowing you helped someone else sleep better. And that’s a good night for everyone.

Question: What can you do to give back today?

 

 

Open the Gift that is You

When you’re a young Jr. High kid and you realize there is something you want but you are unemployed and have no way to buy it you can only hope that someone will love you enough to gift you the desired object.

I was a budding tennis player wannabe who wanted to follow in Bjorn Borg’s footsteps. I grew my hair long. I watched every match I could find. I even tried to walk like him. The only problem was I did not have the tennis racket he had. And I just knew that it was the missing piece that would link me to future tennis stardom.

I don’t remember if it was a birthday or just a surprise, but one day I arrived home to find that my parents had found me the holy grail of my tennis world: a Bancroft Bjorn Borg signature racket. Complete with a cover and press.

It was high excitement. They handed it to me in its wrapping and the first thing I did was open it. I examined it. I ran my fingers in amazement at it. I gripped it with my hands—one on the forehand side and two on the backhand.

Maybe you remember a gift from when you were younger that made its mark on your memory. Or maybe it was as recent as the Christmas holidays. Regardless, if you enjoy receiving gifts, then read on. Because gift giving has been around longer than my childhood.

“…grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore, it says, ‘When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.’”

Each person in the body of Christ has received a gift.  The first thing we do with gifts is open them.

How do you know what gift rests inside you? Read the gift lists in scripture. Look at individuals in your life you want to be like in ministry. Pay attention to where you enjoy and have the most fun serving. Make a list of your natural talents and skills. God can use all of them in ministry. Add your g-ifts, i-ndividuals, f-un, t-alents and s-kills together and you will find your “gifts.”

We open gifts. But then we use them. Peter writes: “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace…” Your gifts that God has packaged inside you are not to be held onto tightly. They are to be developed and then used within the body of Christ. You have gifts that will help others grow into his likeness. And they have gifts you need too.

No one has all the gifts that Jesus has given to the church.  But each one has a gift to be used. We need to see ourselves and others in the church as Jesus does. That’s why Paul wrote in Romans 12: “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment…for as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them . . .”

“Sober judgment” means you understand your place in the body and you understand that others have their place. When functioning together, great things can happen. We can fulfill a purpose bigger than ourselves.

One thing my parents did not count on the day I opened their gift was that I also understood the intention of a gift. I wanted to use it. Right then. So they had to pack me and my brother up into the car and take us immediately to the tennis courts. I couldn’t wait for my first serve.

And you don’t need to wait for your first serve either. Open the gift that is you today. Then use it in service to the church and people. In the end, everybody wins.

Question: What is the thing you do best that when you do it you enjoy it and others seem to benefit from it?