Hundreds of passengers survived the Titanic. The most well known tragedy the sea has to offer had survivors. People who could say I was on that ship, it was a nightmare, but I made the lifeboats! Whatever you’re facing today, survival is more than a possibility. You just have to reach for the lifeboats.
I understand what they meant, but I gladly disagree with the phrase they used. Recently I saw a Christian post that spoke of serving in a post Christian age. While I realize the intent, I had to react to the term.
Yes, we are living in a time where Christianity is either an after thought, or completely discouraged. Yes, there is little or no attention given to God by the culture today. However, since the birth of our Savior, from that time until today, we’ve faced struggles.
A Herod chased the Babe in the manger, and another one’s soldiers beat Him. Yet, He saved the world, and walked out of the tomb! All but one Apostle was martyred, along with countless believers who followed. Today, persecution ranges from mockery to murder.
The idea I take exception with, is that this somehow indicates a post Christian age, and that’s what excites me. Christianity has never depended on the popularity of it’s beliefs, but on the power of it’s Christ. As long as He lives, and He lives for ever more, there can never be a time where Christ is anything but in control.
The only way it can be a post Christian culture, is in another definition of the word. The word can mean a social post, a marker, i.e. goalpost, or the delivery of letters. So, in that sense, I encourage you to post Christian.
Social media is a fun medium, but it’s also a platform. I can think of no better one, than the message of a loving God to a hurting world. The cause of Christ is still, and will always be, the greatest news in the world.
It is also our goalpost, our target, as well as our support. The Lord Jesus carries, strengthens, and directs His people to victory. Seek ye first the kingdom of Heaven, and everything else will be taken care of.
Finally, the Bible says we are epistles, or letters, known and read of men. We are love letters, written by God, to a world of hurting people. The fact that culture ridicules the message, must never stop the messengers.
Christ served in both the year of opposition, as well as the year of popularity. Indifference and persecution are realities of our modern era, but not dictates of it. Jesus said, they don’t take my life, I lay it down, and He did so when He was ready.
The Apostle Paul stood before Nero twice. That means the mad fiddler didn’t behead him the first meeting. Paul didn’t die until The King Of Kings, not an emperor, decided it was time.
There will be a day when this world plunges into horrors. A day when the majority of it reject any version of true righteousness. There will never be a day where Christ, and His Church are powerless, irrelevant, or unimportant. This message of salvation can only, and forever, be the most relevant message ever spoken!
Hebrews 7:25Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.
God knows when to speak, how it will be most effective, and what to say. That sounds pretty obvious, but so many times I forget. That’s when He steps in, speaks, and alters everything once again.
It was one of those mornings yesterday, where I was awake before five, wrestling with my own insecurities. It was then He placed this verse on my mind, and as strange as it may seem, this isn’t one of my go to verses. You those verses that you hold onto in the midst of a struggle?
Those tried and true chapters that are life ropes when you feel like you’re drowning? Psalms, Isaiah, Galatians, verses in these books are usually my battle cry. David’s words, Isaiah’s vision, and Paul’s unshakable confidence are typically the weapons I choose. If you held a verse literally, there would be worn grooves where I’ve clutched them in the fight.
This verse though, it was one that I have read, and yes sung the hymn, but it was not something I had memorized. I say that to explain what I hadn’t picked up on at first. A day or so before, the hymn had come to mind, but not the verse. The morning when I was struggling with doubt, this verse came to mind.
I felt compelled to look it up, and to tell you the truth, part of me didn’t expect this exact wording to be there. I thought I was thinking of the old song, “… I’m saved to the uttermost, and I know that I am.” I failed to remember the verse inspired the song, and not the other way around. I can promise you though, I’ll never forget it again.
Before you, like me, begin the recounting of all of our own self built obstacles, focus on this. There was no greater obstacle than the one that separated God from His creation. The mocking Black Death known as sin, challenging God to either destroy His people, or put up with something inside them that was utterly unlike Himself.
I believe that the enemy thought He had placed God in an impossible situation, one that even The Creator could not resolve. Arrogance told our adversary that even God could not scale this wall. How wrong, on both counts, was the accuser!
God, neither condoned sin, nor condemned us. Instead, He turned the world upside down, that’s in the book too, to rescue us. He, sinless and spotless, took our sin, condemned Himself, and gave His life. He converted us from the infestation of sin, to the innocent children of Calvary.
What we received was not a transfusion, but a transformation. Through His blood, He didn’t inoculate us, that involves placing the disease inside you, instead He eradicated the deadly disease. His blood, and His innocence, replaced our iniquities.
After this, we still question our own self worth, our own ability to be what God would have us to be? I know it’s crazy, but I’m guilty of it too many times. If He scaled the chasm of righteous God and sinful man, then He is strong enough to help us through any battle we face.
One of the meanings of save them here is this, “To save from the evils that obstruct the reception of The Messianic deliverance.” God is able, not only to keep us, but to keep our eyes locked on Him when things attempt to distract us.
That’s what He did for me yesterday morning. When my flesh was trying to worry me, His word calmed me, and reminded me. Christ is not only big enough to face my enemies, He’s big enough to silence my own self when it attempts to scare me with my own feelings of inadequacy.
27 That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.
Growing up, this verse was quoted throughout my childhood. As Christians, we spend a lot of time focusing on the part about without spot and without blemish, and we should. Lately, I’ve been drawn to the part about the wrinkles.
A wrinkle is found in three places. First, in a face aged by time and worry. Second, in an un-ironed, or overly worn garment. Third, a wrinkle is an unexpected event which messes with our plans. Yet, God declared, at the end, He would return for a wrinkle free Church.
5 Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
Our Savior never intended for us to be dominated by worry, nor does He want the Church to be wearied by this world. He knew we would be tempted to, but that we could overcome through Him. As time waxes worse and worse, He plans for us to wax stronger, and more faithful.
When we focus on Jesus, He renews us. Christ is able to keep us through our journey. He is our fountain of living water that revitalizes us.
The Bible says that robes of white linen represent the righteousness of the saints. This is why it’s so important to have lives without wrinkle. It’s not that we are anything in and of ourselves, but that with Christ’s help, we can live free from sin and focused on Jesus.
Distractions are wrinkles. People are so busy with the cares of this life, that Church gets neglected. For some, Church attendance is no longer on the top of the to do list. For others, they attend, but they’re not involved. They mistake physical presence for emotional interaction.
When you first interview for a job, your hair is combed, your shirt or blouse is ironed, and you look great. Over time, after being there a while, you wake up a little late, throw what’s clean on, and head out. After you get there, you try to either hide or ignore the wrinkles.
It’s easy to be that way spiritually, if we’re not careful. When we first come to Christ, we are overwhelmed that a loving God would give His life to save us. We are completely committed to Him. Over time, cares of this life can distract us.
Distractions are like weeds which slowly overtake a garden. The garden is still there, but it’s not in the condition it was in. It’s possible to love, and serve God, without Him being our first priority. That is the danger of the wrinkle of distraction.
Finally, there is the wrinkle of unexpected events. Those things which alter our plan, change our course, and derail our future. Personal tragedies, family crisis, and other situations can, if we’re not careful, throw our lives into a tailspin. If we allow them to, they draw our minds away from a close relationship with God. Christ must be the center of our lives, only He is able, to keep us balanced when our world is rocked to it’s core.
Jesus said, “In the world you shall have tribulation, but I have overcome the world.” This means that we don’t have to allow worry, distraction, or the unexpected to rob us from a strong relationship with God. No matter what we face, we can do so fully committed to Christ.
This world is a temporary place, one which we can’t afford to be our first priority. The old song says our life here is just a changing room for Heaven. Very soon, we will hear a call to meet our Savior, and we must be prepared. Every hair in place, clothed in pure white, without spot, without blemish, and without any wrinkle.
This is a traditional watercolor called “Ocean Cliff”. Traditional watercolor are, in my opinion, the hardest medium to master. While I love acrylics, watercolors fascinate me. This is a rough watercolor at best, but I love the crest of the left mountain, I hope you will too.
Mountains in Scripture are so significant, they represent hope, comfort, and salvation. The Psalmist David said”I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.” They gave him hope.
They also gave him comfort. Psalms 125:2 says, “As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the Lord is round about his people from henceforth even for ever.” God was letting us know, through David, that He surrounds us with His protection.
Finally, The Root and Offspring of David brought us salvation on a hill called Mount Calvary. I love the tops of the mountain, and The God that gives me strength to climb higher each day!
This story about love and perseverance, was inspired by the great teachers and mentors in my life. Though fictional, it’s set against the backdrop of the region I was born in. I hope you enjoy the lesson found in The Battle Of Payne’s Bridge.
The battle of Payne’s bridge isn’t a story of smokey battlefields, cannon fire, and military strategy. It’s the story of a man who wanted to better his family. It was in the foothills of Virginia, that Hadley Payne lived with his wife Lindsey, and his two daughters Reilly and Anne.
Hadley worked in the coal mines of the early 1950’s. Like most at that time, money was short, but they loved each other very much. Hadley and Lindsey did their best to make life enjoyable for their daughters. Which is how the battle of Payne’s bridge began.
The closest town was Grundy, and they lived on one of the nearby mountains. Cider’s mountain was the common name for it, but the girls calked it Grandpa’s mountain. Grandpa Nells had lived there since before they were born. To get to town, they had to go half way around the mountain to reach the main road. The other side was much closer to the highway, except for one thing. Smucker’s pond, a stream off of the Levisa Fork River, separated the mountain from the road.
The one thing that Hadley Payne and those who inhabited Cider’s mountain were rich in, was timber. It was covered in trees, which weren’t exactly valuable in coal country at the time. It was after Anne, their youngest, had a bout of sickness, that the problem weighed on his mind.
Thoughts such as, ‘What would happen if we needed to get one of the kids to the doctor sooner?’ He dwelt on this through the winter, and into the Spring. One warm Saturday morning, before breakfast, Hadley was on his way.
He rounded up every friend and relative with a strong back, and a sharp saw, then went to work. Every weekend for months, they cut and shaped timbers. He had never built a bridge before, but that didn’t matter to him.
Hadley reasoned, ‘I never was a coal miner until they hired me, but I’ve done it for twelve years now.’ He knew it would be a tough ordeal, but he was up for the fight. As part research, part recreation, Hadley and his brother Tom swam, and explored how deep Smucker’s pond actually was.
To their surprise, it was much more shallow than anyone had thought. Confident that their plan would succeed, they went forward. Soon word spread through the county that crazy Hadley Payne and his bunch were planning to build a bridge.
It was these stories that caused Sheriff Tipton to make a trip up the mountain. “Hello Sheriff, what brings you here?” “You do Hadley. People all over are talking about your bridge.” “Well, we’ve needed one for a long time Sheriff. My family aren’t the only ones on this mountain, we need a bridge.”
The Sheriff took off his hat. “Yes, yes, you do. Hadley you’re not an engineer, bridges aren’t in your background.” “That’s true, but the county always says it’s too expensive to build. So far, I’ve proven that wrong.”
“Bridges aren’t just wood timbers, they need to be strong enough to carry cars over.” “Sheriff, this bridge isn’t going to be used like a main road. Families on the mountain may go into town once or twice a month.”
“Except for us miners that is, and we get up before dawn to take the long way round. This isn’t to tread on every day, it’s for emergencies. What if your child was sick, and it took half the day to get her to a doctor. What would you do?”
The man sighed. “I’d build a bridge over a shallow pond just in case. Still, you know the county isn’t going to let you build it. There’s a hearing next week, until then, the Mayor gave me specific instructions. I’m ordering you to cease and desist, pending the results of the hearing.”
Hadley agreed, and the Sheriff left. They say great strategists never show their hand until they’ve tied their opponents in a knot. Hadley had never been a bridge builder, but he had been a soldier in the war.
He found the army fascinating, particularly the planning steps which officers undertook to win the war. They would distract their enemy with a diversion, and attack elsewhere.
One of his old commanders had a favorite way of stating it. ‘If you cry wolf long enough, they may not run back to stop the wolf. They will however, run back to shut you up. That’s when you spring the trap.’
Hadley had never said that his trees were to be the materials of the bridge, just that he intended to build one. There’s more than one way to build something. Often simple ideas are more creative, and sneaky, than they seem. No one took the time to inspect the trees the men had shaped. If they had, people would have noticed, they would make a better barn than a bridge.
The night of the public meeting, the entire city council gathered for a fight. Mayor Cooper, a college graduate, was prepared to reason, degrade, and humiliate this simple coal miner. His opening statement pointed out the dangers of a homespun bridge, as well as how unneeded it was.
Hadley kept his cool, and his seat, right up until the Mayor’s last statement. It was then that Hadley raised his hand “Mr. Mayor, may I ask a question?” Reluctantly he agreed. “Are you saying that anyone who backs this bridge is crazy?”
“I wouldn’t say it exactly like that, but I would say they’re somewhat disillusioned.” It was then that Lindsey stifled a smile, and Hadley cleared his throat. “Does that include yourself sir?” “Of course not. I never advocated you building a bridge just to satisfy some whim.”
Hadley raised his voice. “No sir you didn’t, but you did promise these people five years ago, when you were trying to get elected. You promised them if they’d vote for you, you’d build a road from the other side into town.”
“Last winter, my daughter had to suffer longer than she should, just to get to the doctor. How many kids on that mountain had to suffer because you failed to keep your promise. Sir, like you said, I’m not a bridge builder, I’m just a coal miner, but I know enough to keep my word.”
Hadley sat down. That day, the coal miner beat the politician, and the battle of Payne’s bridge was won. It was completed the next spring, just about the time, Hadley was painting his new barn.
Without a single shot, or an engineering degree, Hadley proved something to his daughters. With the right approach, you can build anything. Don’t allow what you don’t have to side track you, instead start with the resources you have. Once you do that, you’ll find passion and determination are much stronger and richer than gold and steel.
Carlos was worried. He looked at his wife Nita and could see that she was unhappy. Holly and Joquin were miserable. Why shouldn’t they be, the family was supposed to be in New York for Thanksgiving. They had an amazing view of the Thanksgiving parade thanks to Carlos’ Mom’s apartment. Instead, they were stuck in a small airport outside of Toronto, snowed in.
It could have been a recipe for disaster, had it not been for a single sound, Holly heard a sneeze. She looked over to see a young boy crying. Holly, thirteen and afraid of nothing, went over to see what was wrong. Neil’s Aunt Paula explained. “His Dad is coming back from a tour overseas. This is going to be their first holiday together in four years. Now it looks like we may miss Thanksgiving.”
That was when everything changed. Holly looked at her Mom, Nita looked at Joquin, and they all looked at Carlos. He wasn’t sure what they were asking, but he instinctively agreed. Holly whispered something to Paula, who wrote something down and handed it to her. Holly promised she would be back, and made her way to the small restaurant in the airport.
Nita went with her, and in a few minutes, they gave Carlos and Joquin their instructions. For an hour, they made their way to every store and person in the airport. Everyone agreed to help and soon, Neil could hear music coming from the far end of the airport. Before he knew it, he was watching a make shift Thanksgiving Parade filled with security guards, home made costumes, and one man who was handing toys out from the gift shop.
The music came from assorted smart phones, portable speakers, and a few singing travelers. Everyone knows that the last float in a Thanksgiving parade is Santa Claus, so naturally Neil looked for a make shift sleigh. What he saw was more than he could have expected. It wasn’t a sleigh, there were no reindeer. It was a small cart with a tablet computer, and on the screen wasn’t Santa Claus.
“Hi sport, I told you we’d be together on Thanksgiving.” Neil and John wiped the tears away as they talked. “I just wish it was in the same room.” “It will be, but don’t worry. Grandma is keeping the dinner warm, we’ve taped the parade, we’ll still celebrate Thanksgiving together.” “But I won’t get there until tomorrow.”
John smiled. “Son, it doesn’t matter what time you get here. I’m so thankful to be with you, and I intend to give you all the love in the world. Do you know what that means?” “What?” “That Thanksgiving isn’t about a day, a parade, or a dinner, it’s about being thankful for the people that God has placed into our lives.”
The two talked for almost an hour, and then all the stranded passengers were guests of a make shift Thanksgiving dinner. The little restaurant was a hamburger place, so the closest thing to Thanksgiving was an apple pie milkshake. It didn’t matter, one little girl had rescued everyone’s Thanksgiving.
The next day the snow let up, and soon everyone was on their way. No one felt cheated, or sad, it wasn’t the Thanksgiving anyone planned, but it was what they needed. For years to come everyone that spent Thanksgiving in that airport would cherish both it, and every Thanksgiving that followed.
They were reminded, Thanksgiving isn’t a commercial holiday, it isn’t about the turkey. It’s the people, not the side dishes that matter. The day isn’t measured by how big the floats are, or how well dressed Santa is. Instead, our Thanksgiving is a success when we review the parade of blessings that God has placed in our lives.
Have you ever noticed, that the trees are at their most colorful, when their leaves are at their oldest stages? This time of year, we celebrate the red, yellow, and even brown accents that Fall brings. We know the next stage will be limbs of glistening white, and those are filled with beauty as well.
Every phase of life should be appreciated, whether it’s the energy of youth, the practicality of middle age, or the wisdom of graying years. Age brings color, it adds diversity, knowledge, and excitement. I’d like to share three suggestions that will help add value to whatever time of life you are in.
First, smile at what you can, where you are. Every person born, will experience problems, there’s no escaping it. What you can prevent, is from allowing the bad to rob you of taking pleasure in what is good.
As humans, we mistake the lack of problems as a prerequisite for enjoying our days. Laughter doesn’t live free from tears, it exists alongside them. Don’t wait for the perfect conditions to enjoy life.
Second, appreciate those around you. A grateful person can not be miserable. They are too busy being thankful for what they have, to worry about what they don’t have. When we are thankful, we reflect the kindness our loved ones pour into us, and that is always a beautiful scene.
Third, remember life is filled with seasons, this too shall pass. You will not always be where you are, feel the way you do, or face what is in front of you. By its nature, a season is limited, so is your battle.
The Scripture said “Seeing you have done all to stand, stand…” God, Our Creator, knows our limitations. He will not allow us to face anything that He hasn’t already planned for.
Like the trees, we don’t have to defeat our season of life, only to stand tall in it. You and I were made in His image, crafted in His likeness, we can make it through. The color of our leaves may change, or fall out, but we will thrive, glistening in His love.
Over thinking and under thinking are two parallels of the same extreme. I’ve been guilty of both. At times, I’ve practiced one when needing to sharpen the other.
Some people are waiters, others are jumpers, and a few are balancers. Balancers are those people who determine when to plan, and when to leap. The question is, when to wait, and when to jump? I believe there are some tools we can use to understand which is needed in a particular event. I would like to share three of them with you.
The first is to evaluate your situation. Where are you in your challenge? Do you have time to weigh all of the obstacles? If we practice both awareness and quick observation, we can normally get a reliable assessment of the problem.
We may not know everything, but we will know enough. Enough is all that will really benefit you anyway. If you have too much information, you need to narrow it down to what is relevant for the task ahead.
Once you have done this, tip two is to plan what you can. No matter what your predicament, there will always be factors you can’t assess. Equally true is the fact that they’ll be about the same number that you can.
Most people don’t know that the actor Jimmy Stewart was the World War II fighter pilot and later General, James Maitland Stewart. Jimmy’s father counseled him before ever leading bombing missions in World War II. He advised to plan for everything you can, and then place in His hands what you couldn’t plan for.
He addressed what he could, and then placed his faith in three things. First, in His Creator. I strongly believe in Faith being the deciding factor in any challenge I face.
Second, he placed faith in his training. They didn’t just hand him a plane because he had been famous, in fact, that worked against him. They placed him in command, because they had trained him to successfully carry out the mission.
Third, he had faith in his equipment. He knew that he had the best plane America could make, and no one could make them better. He made himself as ready as he could make himself.
The third tool is quick adaptability. Whether a fighter pilot or a businessman, you can’t make room for every contingency. What you can do is to quickly learn to adapt them to for your benefit.
To do this, ask yourself three questions. How does this new information alter my situation? How can I use it to make the impact positive instead of negative? What does this not change about the problem?
If the change is superficial, then it doesn’t really affect you. Don’t allow the suddenness of it’s appearance to throw you. If it does alter the situation, how can you make the change beneficial instead? If you can, you’ve gained, if you can’t, it’s just one more factor you’re facing.
If it doesn’t completely change the outcome, the. It will only add to your success or defeat. This may seem elementary, but once you know it’s not a game changer, then merely continue to play the game. If an advantage isn’t at hand, either be or make your own game changer.
Often the difference between winning and losing is only a few seconds. It isn’t that something simply guessed the right answer, they just assessed quicker than anyone else in the room. A bonus tip is to continue to practice these three tips. The more you do, the more efficient you’ll become. Then you’ll be ready whether it’s time to pause, to pounce, or to practice balancing some hybrid of the two.
There are times, when all you need is to play the melody. Musicians call it an instrumental, there are no words, spoken or written for this interlude. All you can do is play the music, often, it’s because you don’t know what to say. At other times, you’re too busy choking back tears to make your voice work.
Either way, that’s okay, just play the music. You’ve got the notes, you’ve got the talent, and you’ve got the instrument, just play. Sometimes, all we are meant to do is to accompany the singer. The spotlight shines, and someone walks out of the wings, a microphone in their hands.
They smile, start to count, then before you know it, you’re playing, and they’re singing. Now the words and the melody are in sync, and the song is over. The music soothes, and maybe you even join in at the chorus.
You may have figured out by now, I’m not talking about music. Maybe you’re going through something today that you don’t know how to handle. You don’t know how to react, but that’s okay. Just keep doing what you know to do.
Go through your day, get up, get ready, go to work, play the melody. In other words, go through the motions of your day. For a day, just 24 hours, stop trying to figure it out. Pray about it, thank God for an answer, and go into your day.
Ask Him to supply the words, and to write the ending that you can’t begin too comprehend. The music is easier than the words because it comes natural to you. It’s an extension of your soul. We are good at routine, God is great at the extraordinary.
Today, do what you can do, and just play the music. Don’t worry about the timing, God knows where the intro should be. He also knows how to lift your melody from chop sticks to a symphony, by adding other musicians.
Don’t worry today, for the next few hours, just play your song. Trust the Writer, the brass section will start when they’re supposed to. Before you know it, you’ll hear the violins and the cello’s join in, and your simple tune, is now part of The Master’s composition, just as it was always intended to be. He’s The Conductor, we are just the accompanist.