What Are You Passionate About?

I think my blood pressure must have risen one night a couple of weeks ago, when I was watching a basketball game. It’s normal to get upset, though, when the referees are so obviously prejudiced towards the other team.

I didn’t sleep very well that night, nor two nights later when my team lost again.

Then one night this week, I watched a shoot-em-up western before I went to bed. Lots of injustice from the bad guy, who was really bad. The good cowboy won in the end though and got the girl, which is the way life works when it’s working right (my preference anyway). People like westerns because of the advanced problem-solving techniques of the cowboys; if things don’t go your way—shoot! My heart rate got up again because the bad guy didn’t get it until right at the last. Before that good guys and bad guys were running and shooting in all directions.

Didn’t sleep too well that night either.

I’ve decided that if I’m going to snooze, it’s better not to get too worked up right before bedtime.

Course that’s not the only thing that keeps me twisting and turning in the middle of the night. Problems seem to do it pretty well. Thoughts and feeling that I dominate during the day seem to wake me up and run wild in the middle of the night. The Lord is teaching me to trust Him, but I was kind of hoping that I would have this faith thing down pat by now.

In reality, I think that’s just what happens when you feel strongly about things in life. Imagine how it would be if your attitude were:

“Oh, well, my team just lost for the thirty-third time in a row. But at least they’re polite to the other teams.”

“Sure, I lost my job today. But that’s life, you know? Wonder what we’re having for dinner.”

“Yes, honey. Little junior got mad and beat up three classmates today. Uh, huh. He was kicked out of school for the foreseeable future. But he’s a good kid. Let’s not be too hard on him, even if this is the fifth time this has happened.”

Try these:

“Yes, the boss said he liked my work. He’s tripling my salary. That’s kind of nice, isn’t it?”

“The Boston Red Sox won the World Series? What the big deal? They win it all the time don’t they?”

Passion is AWOL in all these examples. We don’t live like that.

Now, some of you ladies can’t understand why in the world anyone would be excited about sports. And you guys don’t get too worked up by new curtains, do you? The things that excite us —positive or negative — reveal a lot about us. What turns your crank? Fishing/hunting, politics, family, job? Or in the Church, maybe it’s our project for the Lord or the choir or … All of that is good and can even be excellent.

But I’ve been asking myself a few questions. “When is the last time I lost sleep because I was burdened for someone who didn’t know the Lord?”

Do I get so excited singing God’s praises that I can’t sleep? The Psalmist was so full of the Lord’s joy that it seems he sometimes sang out as he lay upon his bed (I’ll bet Mrs. Psalmist really jumped when he did that).

“Let the saints be joyful in glory: let them sing aloud upon their beds.” (Ps. 149:5, KJV)

Do I get passionate about spending time in the presence of God in prayer, worship, and in His Word? Busy Martha ran about the kitchen trying to get all the kosher food ready for their special guest. The harder she worked the madder she got. Where was Mary? This was her responsibility too! Finally Martha stalked out to get her little sister.

“Martha was worried about all that had to be done. Finally, she went to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it bother you that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her to come and help me!” (Luke 10:40, The Message).

Peter, James, and John might have agreed with Martha as the good smell from the kitchen set their stomachs to growling.

But the Lord would have none of it. He replied kindly,

” … Martha, Martha! You are worried and upset about so many things, but only one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen what is best, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41, 42).

Am I so passionate for the Lord’s presence that I would rather be with Him than to eat?

Here is a question we should all ask ourselves. “What am I so passionate about, that it causes me to lose sleep?” The answer to that tells us a lot about ourselves.

Think about it

“Your days are your life in miniature. And as you live your days, so you create your life.” (Unknown. Taken from Roger Lewis’ devotional)

Prayer team

  • Some readers have passed along the French version of Coffee Stains to some young Muslim men in Burkina Faso and in Niger. Pray that God touch their hearts and save them.
  • A school of evangelism for young people is opening in Paris shortly. They need our prayers for finances and the myriad of details that opening such a school entails. Pray for the program which is named CIJEM Force.
  • France rolls up the sidewalks and heads for the beaches in thesummer. Pray that people will be challenged with the Good News of Jesus as they are on vacation. Lord, touch and save.

More Spiritual Than God?

Have you ever thought yourself more spiritual than God ? Of course, we’d never say anything like that aloud, but sometimes our actions hint at it.

Once I was praying and meditating. I thought of something I would like to do for the Lord. But that thought quickly gave way to another, “If I did that and was successful, I might get puffed up with pride. Then God would have to put a thorn in my flesh, like He did for Paul, so that I wouldn’t be proud. I don’t want that, so I’ll just forget doing this thing.” Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” was something hard that God allowed to happen to him so that he wouldn’t be filled with pride, because God had used him so much.

Sounds pretty holy doesn’t it? Old David’s nearly a spiritual giant because he doesn’t want pride in his life. (Actually pride didn’t worry me. It was that specter of a thorn in the flesh that had me concerned).

Do you know what God spoke in my heart? “David, you’re like the man who took the talent that I gave and buried it in his backyard.” I thought of the story in the Bible where an important man had given three of his employees money to invest. Two of them had put the cash to work and done well for their employer.

The third one was a timid sort. When it came time to report, he said in effect, ” I knew you were a hard man. I was afraid of losing your money, so I hid it. Here it is!” Nothing lost, but nothing gained either. No interest. Nothing. I suppose the fellow brushed the dirt off the money and tried to hand it back.

His boss came unglued. Fired the fellow on the spot. You don’t trust people to invest your money, so that they can bury it in a cookie jar somewhere. If you give someone something to invest, you expect your money with a profit on the venture.

But what if you goof up?

I finally understood: it’s better to fail, trying to do what God asks you to do, than to successfully do nothing. A THORN IN THE FLESH IS FAR BETTER THAN A BURIED TALENT. (Excuse me for screaming but I didn’t want you to miss that).

Have you looked around your backyard lately? There with all those old bones that Rover and Fido buried, did you hide something that God gave you to do? “I’m afraid I can’t do it! I’m afraid I’ll fail! I’m afraid I’ll get proud and God will have to humble me! I’m afraid that..”

If God put something in your heart, do it. If you fail, you fail. If you get proud, He knows how to deal with you (in love). But do it.

Don’t try to be more spiritual than God.

Indiana Porter” and the Lost Bike Path

Have you ever wished that you had listened?

I ride my bike often to try to stay in shape–three miles out to the top of a hill overlooking grain-laden fields near the village of Variscourt, a small prayer pause while I admire what a beautiful painter the Lord is, and three miles back huffing and puffing the last 100 yards.

Monday the 9th of June was a holiday here in France (Pentecost Monday), so instead of following my normal trajectory I decided to return by a bikepath next to a canal on the other side of the village. Phyllis and I had ridden through these fields and woods last year but from the other direction.

I crossed the old canal bridge and headed down the path through the trees. On the other side of the water people picnicked, fished and generally enjoyed the warm, afternoon sunshine.

Funny though, after a while grass and weeds obscured the bike trail. “They’re not taking very good care of this,” I thought. Finally to my surprise I came to a barrier, a plastic ribbon stretched between two poles, with a sign warning me I didn’t have the right to enter. Said there were “traps.”

“Traps!” I scoffed to myself. I was nearly sure that the main road wasn’t far ahead. What was going on with this bike path? (I had taken a wrong turn, but I didn’t realize it yet). I decided that I was going ahead anyway. “What are they going to trap around here?”

I ducked under the ribbon and pushed forward. Pushed was the word because the grass quickly got too high to pump my bike comfortably. At the top of a little hill I looked down from the lip of a sort of grass-covered bowl with a little lake at its bottom, off to the side. I startled some wild ducks.

This was beginning to look more difficult than I thought. Turn back? Who me? Never! Besides, it was a long way back now and I didn’t want to prolong this trip. This was an ADVENTURE. Something like “Indiana Porter and the Lost Bike Trail.” Got a nice ring doesn’t it?

I followed the rim of the artificial bowl as that looked easier than wading through waste-high grass straight across. Looks can be deceiving. I soon found myself fighting through high grass, briars, and bullnettle. I was wearing short pants and the front of my legs stung. “The path must be just ahead.” Instead of turning back I plunged on, often in tangles as high as my bicyle. I had to carry it a good part of the way.

Several times I thought, “I wish I had paid attention to that sign. Why in the world did I come in here?” I wondered if anyone would find me if I died of a heart attack. Probably some future hard-head would wander by this place, ignore the sign and find my bleached skeleton, staring hollow eyed into space, my faithful bicycle rusting next to me.

I finally fought my way through and sure enough on the other side was the bike path. It didn’t look promising to the right so I turned left and followed a wonderful path. And followed it and followed it and followed it, forever it seemed, until I saw a little bridge over the canal and off to my right people picnicking and fishing.

I had come back to where I started and still had three miles to go!

Had a hard time sleeping that night, because my legs were screaming, burning, itching, and throbbing from my knees to my ankles. Several times I thought, “I wish I hadn’t ignored that sign.”

Have you ever ignored a sign? God teaches us how to live by His Word, but we think we can do a little better. “He probably put that there so that we wouldn’t be happy. That was for back then. We know better now.” or “Usually it’s wrong but my case is an exception.” Or simply, “Things have changed.”

We know we shouldn’t and we do it anyway. And like “Indiana Porter” we discover that God really knew best. “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. (Ephesiens 5:6, NIV)

Are you tempted to get involved in something that you shouldn’t? READ THE SIGN!–God’s Word. This thing really is dangerous. You really will suffer from it. Are you already caught in the trap? Go back to the start! “But’s it’s tough. I’m tired. I’m sure there’s a way out of this just ahead.”

Don’t buy that line. Go back to where you left the right path, even if it costs you something. It will cost you a lot less than if you persist in trying to make a wrong path right.

By the way, if you need it, I found a good cream that sooths bull-nettle stings. I’ll give it to you. I’m not planning on needing it again.

Police Ladies and Truck drivers

What’s wrong with this picture?

A shrill whistle pierces the bubbly mood of the Paris sidestreet. Pedestrians crane their neck to see, as a look of raw fear flashes across the face of the driver of a big truck.

He’s lost. He’s going the wrong way on a one-way street and he’s caught.

Down below his cab waits a 5 foot 2, 105 pound policewoman—a blonde her friends call Gigi. She’s mad. “Just what do you think you’re doing?” she asks shrilly. “Get down from there immediately.” Horns start to honk as the hairy-armed 6 foot four, 280-pound truck driver climbs sheepishly out of his realm.

D.D. (Denis DeGalle) is worried. Honestly he’s scared to death. He shakes as he stands before this pert officer of the law. She pushes her too-big policewoman’s cap back off her eyes, while reaching for her ticket pad. “Stupid uniform,” she thinks. “They never could find one small enough for me.”

Wait, wait, wait. What’s going on? This big ruffian could smash her into the sidewalk with a blow from his ham fist. A little sideswipe with the back of his hand and she would fly into the tables in front of the nearby sidewalk café. She doesn’t even have a gun. How does she intimidate him so?

The lady has authority and D.D. knows it.

All the power of the Paris police force backs her up. If needed, gendarmes from all over France could help her. Who knows? She might even call in the French Foreign Legion, if they are not too busy. She’s not too scary by herself (though her husband might argue that) but she has a delegated authority that is impressive.

God’s kingdom is similar to that.

Jesus told a story of a Roman soldier, captain over one hundred men (Luke 7). He desperately wanted Jesus to heal one of his servants but he didn’t feel worthy to have the Lord come to his house. No problem. He understood authority.

To him it was simple. When he gave an order it had better be obeyed. Or else. And when one of his superiors told him to do something he snapped to it. Or else. He knew that Jesus was at the head of the universe and whatever He commanded was done. All Jesus had to do was give the order to set in motion a chain of spiritual events. All the Father’s power backs Him up.

Hang on just a minute and I’m going to shake you up. When God gives us a job to do He delegates all the authority we need to accomplish it. I know some have been somewhat silly with this, trying to make everyone think they have authority. They make lots of noise but not much happens. Like Barney Fife trying to arrest the town drunk, they blow their “whistle” but the devil just laughs.

Either they don’t believe or they are not really doing what God has told them to do. But when we do the will of God we walk in His authority and those spiritual “D.D.s” shake. “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples…” (Matthew 28:19, NIV). He speaks of the powerful signs which will follow those who believe (Mark 16:15-18) and the clothing of power from him that he puts upon us (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:8).

Our little police lady knew what kind of power backed her up. Do we?

Bear On His Back

I never saw any particular reason to run unless I had a ball in my hands and someone was chasing me, or someone else had the ball and I was chasing him. That was fun. But track and field events were a waste of time as far as I was concerned. You run and there’s nothing to take you mind off the pain.

Nonetheless, our football coach thought we should all participate in track in the spring in order to stay in shape. I threw the discus and the shotput and suffered through the required running. The worst was at track meets when the coach decided that everyone who wasn’t running in another event had to run the half mile. Aaaugh !

There were usually about a half dozen of us fifteen-year old Mineral Springs Hornets, unwillingly drafted into this event. You didn’t have to look at the uniform color to figure out who we were. We were that gaggle bringing up the rear. The goal wasn’t to win the event. We tried to avoid finishing last. It wasn’t too hard because there were usually one or two short fat guys with us. Everyone trotted leisurely until the end of the race, whereupon we sprinted (actually we trotted a little faster) for the finish line, leaving the short fat guy bringing up the rear.

One day my friend “Bug” told me before the race, “Today I’m going to run hard. I’m going to try to finish among the first ones.” I was impressed. Sure enough the gun sounded and Bug took off. Rounding the first curve he was challenging for the lead. Two-hundred yards into the race he still figured among the leaders. “Look at ol’ Bug!” I wondered.

Unfortunately my ambitious friend had forgotten one thing: to run half a mile you have to work hard in training. You have to prepare yourself. “Want to” isn’t enough, you body has to be ready. Bug began to fade like sunlight, late on a winter’s afternoon. We had an expression for it-a bear climbed on his back.

Soon others passed my red-faced friend. He was sucking air violently when I jogged past him. To his credit, he finished the race, but dead last. Even the little, fat guy beat him.

It’s hard to run with a bear on your back. An old time “track coach” gives us some advice about how to run our race,

“Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus”(Heb. 12:1, 2).

I’ve noticed a few “bears” that are slowing me down in my race for the Lord. One is the tendancy to dread things that are coming up. A new teaching assignment, messages for a week-end youth camp, an article that I have to write, desk-work that piles up in the in-box (you recognize it because it’s been in the inbox so long that green spores have grown upon it). I agonize and then finally I do it and think, “That wasn’t so bad. Actually, it was fun. What was I worried about?”

Don’t dread! “Help me Lord by your Spirit.” Don’t dread. Look forward to these opportunities the Lord gives you.

Do you have any “bears” that are slowing you down? An attitude full of doubt? A tongue that can’t stop criticizing? A life lived with self at the center? Days on end where worry and frustration replace joy? A constant search for something “big” to make you happy, ignoring the small joys that the Lord loads us with each day? Hidden sin? Laziness in prayer and study of the word?

Lay aside those weights. You can’t run like that! Ask the Lord to help you conquer the tendency to live with that grinning bear perched on your shoulders. Old Grizzly won’t get down of his own free will. You have to decide to make him descend and you have to do it each day, until he goes away and bothers someone else. It’s called discipline.

The goal in this race is not to avoid losing. “Run in such a way as to get the prize,” “coach” Paul bellows (1 Cor. 9:24). We’re motivated because we’re daily looking at Jesus our Lord. Don’t just run to beat the slow guys.

Run to win!