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Friday, March 25, 2016

Life lesson from a dog with 3 and 3/4 legs

I was recently doing electrical work at a new home in the country. There were several dogs roaming the property inside and out.

It was cold outside and I was in the house waiting for the power company to show up. As I stood there, a German Shepherd came up to me with a tennis ball in her mouth. She dropped the ball right in front of me, eager to play.

The ball was covered with dog slobber, so I kicked it across the large concrete floor. Every bounce of the ball left a gooey wet spot as the slobber spun out of the ball.  

As she took off running, I noticed she kept one of her back legs elevated. If it did touch down to the ground, I could see it was very painful for her.

But here she came again and again - ball, slobber and eagerness  - despite the pain she was in.

This little game made me think about life. How easy would it be for her to just lay around in less pain than when she ran?

It's as though the thought never crossed her mind.

God created her to be playful and to run and to enjoy life. And she knew she could still do this despite a bad wheel. Her circumstances may have slowed her down, but they weren't going to stop her. 

"I'll wait 'til I'm 100%"

Sometimes we two-legged creatures tend to avoid doing things that involve pain in our lives. The pain could be emotional or physical or both. The pain could be major or minor.

We lay around, choosing to live a life with the least amount of pain. But this isn't a very satisfying life. The laying around can actually bring its own kind of pain - depression, guilt, loneliness, etc.

You can't avoid pain in your life. If you're alive, life will deliver pain right to your front door - free of charge.

Jesus said in Matthew 6:34, "Each day has enough trouble of its own."

I think we'd all agree. Each day has some trouble. Again, some of it's minor, some major. But there it is - every single day.

Will it stop you?

Image result for German shepherd images
♪♫ "Nobody knows the trouble I've seen ..." ♫♪
The dog wanted to chase the ball, which meant running, which meant being a little slower than she preferred, which meant putting up with pain from her damaged leg. To her, the positive outweighed all the negatives. So she played - and had joy.

She wasn't going to lay around 'til she was 100%.

Who's 100%? Nobody I know.

If you wait in life for the day that you're 100%, you'll eventually get there - when you're 100% dead. Not much joy in that.

Don't wait.

Jesus looked beyond the cross to the good stuff

Jesus knew severe pain was coming His way as His torture and crucifixion approached. But He also knew extreme joy was waiting for Him after the pain. 

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before Him He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12)

The hardest part of His mission was over. He had painfully paid for the sins of the entire world. He's now with His Father in heaven experiencing joy.

Instead of going to the excruciating cross, Jesus could've avoided all that pain, sat on the couch and watched the Jerry Springer marathon on Fox TV. Much less pain - absolutely no gain.

He endured extreme emotional and physical pain for all of us, for Himself, and for His Father. Thanks Jesus.

Pushing through the pain of life benefits not only you, but those who care about you. They want you to have joy in your life. 

What joy lies beyond the trials you're facing?

There's something good for us when we overcome the pain we face.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)

What's the good waiting for you in your situation? Look at your life. Maybe try a new perspective.

Image result for lazy German shepherd images
"It's just too hard out there!"
If you can't see it yet, ask God to open your eyes. Ask Him to give you encouragement along the road. Ask Him for wisdom - we could all use more of that. Keep your eyes open.

Sometimes we can't see or experience the joy until we start moving through the pain. Get going.

Focusing on the negative and the current pain is too easy, but not profitable. There's good to be seen, but sometimes it's a little more work.

Talk with your closest non-negative friends. They may be able to give you a perspective that you're currently blind to - a perspective that may make a world of difference.

Moving at the speed of life

For those who may be on the opposite end of the activity spectrum, maybe God is using a trial or some pain in your life to get you to slow down long enough to think a little deeper about your life.

Too often as we move at the speed of life, constantly doing stuff, we don't take the time to just stop and think. Here's some questions to get you started.

  • "Where am I heading?"
  • "Am I even on the right road in my life?"
  • "What can I do differently?"
  • "What am I doing well?"
  • "What can I do better?"
  • "What should I stop doing?"
  • "Have I forgotten God?"

Shut the TV off. Shut the radio off. Shut the cell phone off (yes, it actually has an "OFF" button). Get out of the house. Get away from all distractions ... and think.

The still, small voice of God can get drowned out by the constant noise we surround ourselves with.

God created you to enjoy life with Him regardless of your circumstances. He's near. He'll help. Let Him help you.

Will you overcome your pain, or will you be overcome by it?

I know you can be an overcomer and experience the joy set before you.


P.S. - I encourage you to read in the Bible what Jesus went through for you (see Mark 14:32-16:8). 


Thursday, March 10, 2016

You will be immortal!

Eat right. Exercise. Take your vitamins. Say your prayers. Die.

No matter how you live, you will die.*

We're surrounded by the enemy. The enemy is Death. Someday Death will barge through your front door. And you won't be able to resist when Death comes for you.

You are mortal.
Ethel taking reservations at Harrisburg Temporary Housing.

"Wow, Wes, this is kind of depressing."

"Yeah, I know. It sucks. But don't stop here. It's about to get good."

Wake up sleepy head

Don't get too comfortable when you're placed in your grave. It's only going to be a temporary dwelling.

Someday the alarm will go off on your dirt nap - no matter how long it lasts.

You'll be raised from the dead by Jesus. Then you'll be made immortal. You'll never experience physical death again.

Immortality is a gift from God and His Son to you. God is immortal in His nature. He is the source. 

 15 ... God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 Who alone is immortal and Who lives in unapproachable light, Whom no one has seen or can see. To Him be honor and might forever. (1 Timothy 6)

His plan for all of mankind is to make them immortal.

"You mean I'll have to look at this mug forever?"
I hope this gives you hope.

You're a seed that will become a ...

Many people have told me they don't want to live forever. But I think they're usually saying this with the mindset that they'd be old, saggy, wrinkly, crotchety and frail for eternity.

Yeah, nobody wants to wear adult diapers forever.

But that's not the picture of immortality in the Bible. Here's what it says,

21 For since by man came death, by Man came also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.... 35 But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?” 36 How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. 38 But God gives it a body as He has determined, and to each kind of seed He gives its own body.... 42 So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; 43 it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.... If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. 46 The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. 47 The first man was of the dust of the earth; the second Man is of heaven. 48 As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the heavenly Man, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we bear the image of the heavenly Man.... 53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” 
55 “Where, O death, is your victory?
    Where, O death, is your sting?”
57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
(1 Corinthians 15)

Your resurrected body: imperishable, glorious, powerful, spiritual, immortal. Not bad if you ask me. 
Can you say "resurrection traffic jam?"

And along with this comes an incredible promise from God, "The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death." (1 Corinthians 15:26)

With death destroyed, only life remains.

"OK, Wes. I'm not depressed any more."

"I told you it was going to be good."


P.S. - The fact that God has immortality in store for all of us tells me that He has so much for us to do and enjoy in the future that we'll need eternity to take it all in. But you can begin to enjoy life with God right now. If you don't yet know Jesus, call on His name, turn from your sins, ask Him to forgive you, trust Him, ask Him to give you His Spirit, and He will give you new life - better life - starting today.  See 85 awesome benefits of knowing Jesus that you can begin to experience today.

* There's an exception to this rule. One group of Jesus freaks won't encounter physical death. I'll write about this in a future post. Here are two Bible passages you can examine to see this mystery: 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and 1 Corinthians 15:50-52 

Monday, March 7, 2016

"Only weak people follow Jesus." - Exactly!

"Look at my awesome power puny Jesus freaks!"

I'll freely admit I'm weak (my hand is raised).

And I'll freely say that I follow Jesus (hand still raised).

Who likes to admit they're weak? No one (unless you're a hypochondriac).

But millions who go to doctors and shrinks every day are basically admitting they are weak and need help.

Nearly 4 million viewers watch Dr. Phil every day - some seeking help. About 2 million watch Dr. Oz every day - some seeking help. And those who watch Jerry Springer? I have no idea what they're looking for.

But there's nothing wrong with admitting you're weak. This can actually be the first step toward gaining lasting strength.

The Surgeon of the Spirit

The world is starving for cures because the world is weak and sick and needs cured - spiritually and physically.

The world has fallen and can't get up.

But my question to you is this, "Will you go to the ultimate, completely free, no-insurance-required, no-appointment-required Doctor of doctors - Jesus?"

Image result for bodybuilder with small head
"Admit I am weak? Never!"
I've read numerous stories of people who knew God was drawing them to Himself. But they were worried about what their friends, co-workers, and family would say if they became a follower of Jesus. So they resisted and fought against God out of fear of appearing weak.

And this fight against God sometimes lasts for years. Some eventually come to Him after much resistance. Many are still resisting God's grace, love and power for their lives out of fear. Many will go to their graves resisting the One that can give them the greatest love and power they'll ever know.

No one should be ashamed to go to the Doctor of the Soul, the Healer of the Heart, the Surgeon of the Spirit.

What about you? Is God moving in your life? Are you resisting Him out of fear, shame, or some other reason? 

Would you care what others thought if you sought treatment for your cancer, or diabetes, or heart condition, or bunions? Probably not.

Your spiritual health is way more important than other people's opinion. It's your life - live it! 

Sink or swim or get in the boat!

Not realizing and not admitting your need for God is nothing new.

15 While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with Him and His disciples, for there were many who followed Him. 16 When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw Him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked His disciples: “Why does He eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 17 On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”(Mark 2)

Jesus' words to the self-righteous religious leaders went right over their heads. They thought they were the ones who were "healthy" and had no need of a spiritual physician. Were they right? Let's see. The Apostle Paul, a former self-righteous Pharisee and former hater of Jesus wrote this,

What then? Are we better than they? No, in no way! For we have before proved that both Jews and Gentiles are all under sin. 10 As it is written: “There is none righteous, no, not one; 11 there is none that understand; there is none that seek after God. 12 They have all gone from the way; they have together become unprofitable; there is none that do good, no, not one.” (Romans 3)
"I cannot swim."

Well, there you have it. We're all helplessly drowning in the deep waves of the disease of sin and spiritual sickness until we come into the safety of the mega-ship that Jesus captains.

Like Noah's ark was salvation from the flood, the ship called Salvation that Jesus' runs is your only hope to be rescued and healed from sin and its nasty side effects.

There's plenty of room in the boat for you, even if you're massively muscular.

Are you weak?

Maybe you don't think you're weak and need Jesus. Do you suffer from the disease of sin? Well, are you going to die? If so, then you're weak.

None of us have the physical or spiritual strength to sustain our own lives. We're mortal. When our time's up, we're totally powerless to resist death. But let's be honest - there are a lot more signs of our weakness and need than the fact that we're headed toward the grave.

But be encouraged - these weak, sin-ravaged bodies will be raised to new, immortal heights at the resurrection.

42 So also is the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; 43 It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: 44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.
(1 Corinthians 15)

You don't just go into the grave and that's it. Just as the awesome redwood tree comes from a tiny seed, your body is planted and will someday come forth as much more than the seed that was planted.

And who do you think is going to raise you? Jesus, the One Who lifted Himself out of death. Yes, you need Him.   

But what can you do now? You need strength now!

King David, the mighty warrior, cried out to God, "Lord, have mercy on me. I’m so weak. Lord, heal me. My body is full of pain" (Psalm 6:2). He realized his weakness and where his healing would come from. And God continually sustained him. He can do the same for you.

Copy and paste David's words into your life.

God chooses the weak

Notice in the story above at Levi's house that the self-righteous Pharisees weren't eating at the table with Jesus and the sinners. They were merely critical observers looking down their noses while the sick enjoyed the company of their Savior.

God works with the weak while being at odds with those who think they are strong and think they have no need of a crutch called Jesus. Paul wrote,

26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before Him. (1 Corinthians 1)

The Apostle Paul had many weaknesses. And God sustained him through them. Sometimes God doesn't remove the source of our pain, but strengthens us through it with a supernatural level of strength we are unable to get on our own. Paul wrote,

Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12)

Nobody said life would be easy. But do you want to go through it with the power of Jesus on you or not?

He still makes house calls

Jesus isn't just sitting in His clinic twirling His stethoscope.

Jesus knocking the door
"I know you're in there."
He's actively coming to those who are sick and need Him. You don't have to set an appointment to see Dr. Jesus. And He won't fill you full of symptom-masking drugs with life-threatening side effects. He'll actually heal and strengthen you spiritually. He may even heal you physically. But your spiritual health is His main concern.

Some of us won't realize and admit our true weakness and need for The Doctor even on a deathbed, or as life fades away. Many won't see their need for God until the judgment.

It's good to admit you're weak. This relieves you from the stress of trying to be strong when you're not. Letting Jesus strengthen you and lift you up is much easier, because His strength is lasting. When we try to manufacture our own strength, it can cause us to become weaker through the energy it takes and the stress it causes. There's nothing wrong with being weak. We get into trouble when we think we're strong - then we don't seek the One Who is strong.

But all will eventually see their weakness and need.

Let this invitation from Jesus to all people sink deep into your heart - then just do it.

28 “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11)

Isn't it time to lighten your load and connect with the true source of strength - Jesus?

Call out to Jesus now - "Lord, have mercy on me. I’m so weak. Lord, heal me. My body is full of pain."


P.S. Share a story of how God has strengthened you.