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This was going to be a particularly difficult day. Pressures at work, a long line of demands had been queuing up for months, responsibilities were pushing the limits of our sanity. My bride and I were comparing notes and it was going to be a tough day to start the work week.
On top of our regular routine we have a major trip coming up in a matter of weeks. Details of overseas travel are horrendous! We had to find time to invest in that preparation.
Departure times and dates are already getting tangled in our scheduling. Today we would have to make sure we made those adjustments. Double booking ourselves is an inconvenience for everyone and could easily undermine our efforts to be effective at all of our responsibilities.
We both heaved a deep sigh of dismay, loaded up our car with our bags for our day and drove off into the dark morning for our long commute. My thoughts were lost in our need to get over the financial hump of needed changes, travel expenses and time investments. If I could I needed to think about relieving my bride of the pressure she was feeling.
Now, we discussed possible drastic changes in our circumstances. What dramatic changes could we live with if that meant the relief of life pressures? There were no easy answers.
Then, we rounded the arching on ramp to the Interstate freeway. The Houston eastern skies were waiting to cut short the threatening discouragement. In front of us the Creator was putting on a show.
Clouds burst out of the east, pointing to the west. Behind those finger shaped clouds were the indescribable colors of the divine palate, splashing reds, oranges and yellows in balanced effect. Blue skies in the background were pushing the loud colors , pressing the daylight splendor.
We both smiled at the interruption to our concerns. The God of all gods was breaking into our worrisome souls. It was sensational sunrise.
He was starting the day off with a splendid artistic masterpiece. In massive swathes of colorful strokes that were changing by the minute, we could only watch as He finished up the waking of a new day. No words but just splendor.
We got the message. What did we really have to worry about if He was in charge? Now, we had a day to look forward to instead of dreading.
photo credit: yvonne fong photography
Rats! Hiccup! My connecting flight got me to Denver EARLY! We were so early we had to wait on the tarmac for our gate to open up.
During our wait my phone vibrated quietly. There was no human being on the other end of the line. Instead, a text message announced that my last flight had been delayed.
There is a hollow feeling that comes with this kind of notification. Admittedly, I frowned like a kindergartener who hears that recess has been delayed due to the weather. That is where most of us learn to deal with disappointment, eh?
Adding an hour and a half to my travels was not too bad. A casual lunch in the airport would take care of that unplanned stretch of time. My sauntering through the airport was aimless and clearly without any hurry.
God never hurries, right? He is never surprised, correct? If my theology serves me correctly He is always right where He needs to be when He wants to be there.
If I am to be godly, then I guess I can roll with some of the punches of life’s little annoyances too. Too bad life is not as simple as that. One piece of unexpected news is too often the beginning of several more pieces.
My phone vibrated again. Another delay was posted for my plane. Then, another adjustment came.
By the time four changes had been announced, the host at the airport came on live. There was something nice about that. A real human being announced that my flight had been cancelled.
At the customer service desk, no one was smiling. All of the agents wore a stoic face. They looked like veterans of many wars.
My agent booked me on the last flight of the day to my destination. I asked, “What happened to my plane?” “It had mechanical problems.” “Well, I don’t want to get on that plane at any time.” She stared at me and laughed!
She gave me a dinner voucher. That was nice. I will get to where I am going eventually.
Worrying does not help. Anger does not work either. Patience can serve others just at the right moment with the right kind of elixir.
The traffic engineers made their intentions clear. At the intersection the left lane continues forward and merges on to the interstate freeway. The middle lane continues straight on the frontage road. The right lane may turn right or continue on the frontage road.
All of the lines that are painted on the road make these maneuvers clear. Solid lines indicate that crossing these lines if forbidden. Drivers learn that solid lines are to be treated as if they were solid walls or barriers.
My wife and I were driving in the entry ramp lane. It was time to increase our speed from surface street traffic to freeway speeds. All was fine until a car in the middle lane that was to continue straight on the frontage road decides that he wants to enter the freeway.
He merges into my lane right on my front fender. If I had not braked immediately, then he would have collided with me. God rescued us with divine protection!
When I braked I also sounded my horn. I wanted him to know that I was there and he was causing an emergency near-collision. The adrenaline was pumping.
Instead of speeding up and waving an apology, the driver in the wrong, maneuvering his vehicle without safe margins or yielding to the vehicle that had the right of way, he stops his car. He is now deliberately blocking the road for me and all of the cars behind me waiting to enter the freeway. He honks his horn.
Slowly he moves ahead. He is not accelerating but intentionally driving slowly to show his anger at anyone who would honk at him. He was wrong but he is unleashing his anger on others whom he has wronged.
Here is a man who cannot admit that he is wrong. He believes that if he bullies others around him with a critical domineering attitude he can cover up his own error. It is a distraction from the facts of the infraction.
He is arrogant. Pride, the bad kind, the wicked kind, the hurtful kind is what his life is. Pity those who are close to him who get burned every time he makes a mistake.
Finally, he speeds off on the freeway. He has embarrassed himself. He will spend the next several days justifying his bad behavior. Others around him will be victims of his displaced anger and self-righteousness. Are you driving out there this week? Be careful!
Today Old Glory takes center stage. She is ready and fills her role with vigor. As a symbol of sacrifice for freedom, stanchion for liberty and beacon of hope these flags will flutter throughout our country and call all of us citizens to celebrate what we all enjoy today.
This is a good celebration. It is a needed recognition. During this special day the elements of a divided people quiet down and what we share in common rises to the level of attention. Each of us is reminded of why we can share great cheer.
July 4, 2014 could be a low water mark if we let it. When trouble surrounds us, danger heightens or distractions claim more notoriety than they deserve Americans can discern and decide. There is no quit, no “give up” nor any “throw in the towel” in Americana.
Blessing has been imbedded in our nation’s very core. No one claims that we are better than any other people or country. However, we humbly acknowledge that we have been given great privilege.
This recognition is American exceptionalism. We did not generate it ourselves. It was given to us and we are grateful.
When blessing is a part of your life you do not flaunt it or insult others because of it. It is what we elevate as a fuel for our humility and generosity toward others. Furthermore, we correct those who mistakenly criticize it as arrogance.
The USA has been shown great favor in its history. Great people, stunning circumstances and remarkable turn of events in history have no explanation other than the unmistakable intervention of God’s gracious and kind hand touching our country. Who would not celebrate such goodness?
Our recent history has tested our great nation. Trouble in the world has hurt American families. Squabbles among those in a position to lead have discouraged many. Debt has loaded the minds of the responsible with concern.
Yet, this nation has not buckled. It has not given up. Voices have not been silenced.
That is why we can still celebrate today. Liberty gives allowances for those who have different ideas. Freedom means that contrast in initiatives can be explored.
Our vote gives us the variation of choice. Exceptionalism shows us how strong the fabric of our people is when the breadth of pursuit is allowed to express itself. We respect the rules and laws that give others a chance.
Nevertheless, the people keep speaking up. The moorings of liberty have limits. Tolerance is not acquiescence.
Keep strong America. Gather your strength once more. Hold on to the treasure of blessing. God gave it. Let this gift be at the heart of keeping us strong.
Happy Birthday, USA!
photo credit: brucefong photography
Our drive up north is becoming a familiar journey. Every other month I schedule a trip from Houston to Dallas. A face to face with key personnel is a small price to invest in our ongoing communication with the mother ship.
Dallas Seminary is branching out. It has several locations around the nation and overseas. I have the privilege to serve in the Houston Campus.
Part of my long list of responsibilities is to give oversight to the educational endeavors of our fine institution in the fastest growing city in the USA. Emails, text messages, Skyping and phone calls are countless. But, nothing beats 30 minutes of smiles, conversation, immediate feedback and details of initiatives with instant approvals.
Most of the time I drive up from our megalopolis to this gem in the heart of Texas. It is a four-hour drive compared to the 3.5 hours of commuting, checking in and flying via commercial airlines. That comparison does not even include getting from the airport to the campus once I arrive in Big D.
When I arrive my credentials and permits get me to a safe parking spot and on to the campus without any delay. A list of people are on my mind and I head for my first location. Invariably, I see someone and we stop and talk.
It is the unplanned spontaneous serendipitous meeting in the parking lot, in the foyer, in a walkway or along a stairwell that makes for strategic initiatives. Ideas are born. Personalities meld into operational plans.
During the day I am taking notes. When I end my day, I am at my computer rehearsing ideas, making notes, recording thoughts and linking those thoughts with people. The future is born out of those providential gatherings.
The sun is now setting. As I scan the changing hues and marvel at the city lights, the long trip has been worthwhile. Questions are answered and relationships with key people are deepened.
On my long drive home I will rehearse every one of those discussions. In my spirit certain thoughts will seal into further plans. Others will keep the back burners simmering until the time is ripe.
Sixty days will pass before I make my journey north again. But, by then several initiatives that were discussed today will be in the history books. I intend to make good ideas into real results in the near future. Tomorrow is all about today’s conversations.
photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography
Everyday the sun comes up, moves across the sky and then sets in the West. It makes this same repeated journey every 24 hours and does so right on time. Life follows the rising and the setting of the sun. When we are joyful or grief stricken, the pattern or every new day is relentless. Keep up with the dawning of every new day. When the days keep coming live each one with all of the enthusiasm that you can pour into your responsibilities, your routine and your daily regimen.
Maybe you are reflecting over your life. The years ahead are fewer than the years behind. Use your past as new skills to meet the future days that are coming your way. Rise up and live with a greater fervor. Determine to pass on your knowledge to the next generation. Give them a leg up beyond just what we can do humanly.
Now, see that faith is at the center of life. Choose faith as your great asset to make each new day a day that will be a part of your forever. It is a choice that each of us can make.
Those horrid days are long past, now. But, the memories are still fresh. You have a choice. Will you succumb to bitterness and resentment? Or will you take life by faith and look for better days ahead. The best is always yet to come when you make the choice of faith.
Yes, you have been hit hard. Everyone has. Get up and get going again. It is the best way. Let your past be your wisdom for the future. Live today with the insight of the past and make today count for your forever. In the aftermath of trouble, disaster or pain you are better prepared to live better, wiser and with great insight. For today and the rest of your todays, choose faith.
Read more. Order you copy of Choose Faith from https://createspace.com/4602632
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photo credit: cover design by brucefong design and photography
Pennsylvania was the venue for a major ministry in the cool winter climate. In my computer were five messages and one workshop ready to be delivered in the course of two and a half days. That is a load of work.
When I consider that each time a speaker delivers a word from God, the responsibility is massive. Representing Him accurately each time and then fending off spiritual challenges and physical challenges at the same time is a daunting task. All of us who preach and teach love to respond to God’s call yet we know that the preparation and delivery of our calling is weighty.
After the first presentation, I was feeling the task in front of me. It is a lot like the first lap on a long foot race. Or it is similar to the first leg of a long bicycle ride. Your mind wonders if your body is already spent.
It was time for a walk. So, I went outside. My coat and cap were tightly worn to insulate me against the cold winds of the NE.
There on a hill I could enjoy the scene of the valley below. Grass cushioned my feet. Trees that had long since shut down into winter mode stood like bare sentinels waiting for warmer temperatures in the distant Spring.
Clouds heavily laden with moisture fly overhead looking for comrades to share their moisture loads and find an excuse to drop it on the earth. Birds flitted about scarfing up stray seeds. Squirrels had escaped their nests and foraged for food and chased each other relentlessly as if their energy levels would burst if they stayed docile for too long.
Caught up in the middle of God’s great creation, I realized that my load had disappeared. The weight of representing Him was now a distant memory, swallowed up in the greatness of who He is and the certainty of His presence. Standing as part of His creative hand with life teaming around me reminded me that ministry is all about Him.
I breathed in deeply. The air was fresh and clean. My lungs relished the moment.
He would be faithful and I surrendered myself to His assurances. Faithful friends from around the nation and the world would be praying for this ministry. Studied up, prayed up and rested up I was ready to keep going through the weekend of service. God would do His amazing work and I was privileged to be a part of it.
photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography
My morning walk was through the cold windswept countryside of the Pennsylvania farmlands. Clearly it was winter. Grass was now a light brown with so much of the frigid months weighing heavily on the foliage and outside near-unfriendliness.
Dressed right for this climate and time of year, I enjoyed being outside for a moment of contemplation. Breathing in the freshness of air that had blown clear and struggling rare rays of sunlight sneaking through a heavy layer of low hanging clouds was invigorating. Often I would pause and look over the valley below.
A farm was quiet on the other side of the highway. There were a few hardy animals slowly meandering in the pastures. They would graze contentedly. God gave them a natural coat that grew thicker in this time of year. Each one was comfortable, unconcerned about any inclement weather.
Then a gust of wind moved me. Quickly, I pulled my cap down a little tighter and pulled on my gloves a little tighter. My down coat was doing its superb job of keeping me well insulated against the dropping temperatures.
I looked up and found a reason to gaze. The trees that surrounded me were mostly sporting naked limbs. All of the deciduous trees had gone into winter mode, hibernating for months until the temperatures rose again in Spring.
My stare above continued. A smile followed. The scene captured my mind for a long moment.
While the whole valley had tightened down to survive another winter, there was lingering presence of perseverance. Above in the limbs of a tree, several leaves had stubbornly refused to “let go”. They were still hanging on.
The wind was swirling about trying to bat them off of their perch. But, tenaciously, their grip kept them locked into place. They would occasionally flutter but they would not be moved.
A large blowing wind moved the tree trunk, swayed the branches and even shook the cluster of leaves. However, they remained rigid at their connection. Several hold out leaves from a neighboring tree surrendered.
The sky was dotted with the last of the Autumn leaves that were driven out of their high perches and laid out as another piece of the natural carpet on the ground. Millions of leaves already gave the ground an insulated coverage. This cluster was still holding on.
I smiled. With a wink of my eye, I left them to stay their course. The picture of perseverance is a power vision to behold.
photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography
Roberts’s ears were not happy with what his eyes were also seeing. There were a half of a dozen young men, college students. Five were laughing together by the steps of one of the entrances to the library. A friend, at least it looked like they knew each other came walking up with a cheerful disposition. Obviously he, like Robert, was heading into the library.
The group of guys had a louder-than-the-others boisterous type. You have heard them before you have seen them in your lifetime. He was calling the strolling student by name and gesturing for him to come over. Almost anticipating some friendly interchange, Robert’s mind sneered as the five berated the supposed friend, mocking him because of his appearance, size and pedigree. It was not funny no matter how much they laughed.
Robert called his name only because he had heard the bullies use it. “It is great to connect with you. We are chemistry lab partners. Are you ready to get started on the assignment?” Without even slowing down, Robert snatched this total stranger’s arm and led him into the library.
“Thanks,” whoever you are, “I did not know how to get out that mess. Are we really chemistry lab partners?”
“Nope,” Robert chuckled, “you would not want me for a Chem part. I don’t know one end of a test tube from the other.”
“Well, then,” smiled the victim of the bullies, “get ready to get your first A in the class because this is one my specialties.”
Do you remember being surprised by very bad circumstances that did not seem to have a way out? Have you experienced a surprise solution that was a total relief? Prophecy for Christians will be like that.
Not all people on the earth are the same. Some are of the darkness while others are of the light. Those who are in darkness are lost in sin. They have no knowledge of Jesus Christ as Savior or they may have even rejected the news of Jesus’ death and Resurrection as personal gifts to them. Without a redeemed soul they live in sin, hurt other people, take advantage of others for their own gain or in this story their own sport. They are dastardly types. These are people of darkness.
Paul distinguishes the Thessalonian believers as in total contrast to them. They will not be shocked or surprised when the Day of Lord comes. Instead, as sons of light, we who belong to the Lord will be alert not asleep.
Linked closely with those who are of the light and those who are in contrast with those who are in the darkness is the characteristic of self-control. Selfish people, like bullies and those who insult others are not of God. Those who are of the light control the self-absorbed.
Unbelievers are in trouble when it comes to the Day of the Lord. Like those who are asleep and not sensing any personal dangers that are about to consume them, they are in a pitiful situation. It is not a set of circumstances which they are just innocent victims. Rather, their spiritual choices, personal pride and unbelief are the reasons that they cannot see any spiritual truth.
Getting drunk is a metaphor that describes their lives. Something external pushes closer to spiritual disaster. Yet, they chose that life just as those who get drunk choose to imbibe in excess. They do this habitually. The solution is spiritual but they do not move in that direction but chose to dull their senses temporarily rather than consider eternal options and solutions through Jesus Christ.
People do not have to wonder if they are in the light if they so desire to be prepared for the Day of the Lord. Lives in Christ are in the light. Their lives validate truth by the faith, hope and love that they live
The solution for being prepared for the inevitable Day of the Lord is to enter into a permanent and personal relationship with Jesus Christ. When a person does that by faith God appoints him to enjoy the benefits of salvation forever. That appointment includes a bypass of the suffering to come.
The suffering does not seem to be general difficulties that all humans experience. Instead, the context suggests that this is Tribulation that is introduced by the Day of the Lord. Those who are believers are not appointed to experience this horror on earth.
Salvation has one objective. It is about life. Life is gained by Jesus giving Himself as our substitute. He died for us so that we could live. That new life will be forever with Him.
Christians who know this truth about prophecy should live their lives encouraging each other. Tearing each other down is not an option for those who are Sons of the Day. Building each other up is the way that true believers live.
What would happen if everyone who wrote books in the Christian community only encouraged others? What if there were no print wars on controversial issues within the church? This exploration is not to be at all Pollyannaish but to wonder realistically about this amazing passage of Scripture.
Have you heard enough gossip, slander and sanctified bullying in the church? We all have, right? Let’s live like the Bible says. Let us be all about encouraging one another and building each other up. The Thessalonians were doing it. They are a great example to all of us.
LAPP (Life Application): We cannot change the bullies or stop those who use words or circumstances to demean others. However, we can take the initiative to step into the lives of others and press courage into their souls. Find someone every week to build up with genuine and sincere encouragement.
Thanks for joining me on this journey of living the Scriptures.
We enjoy the blessings of life even more when we have contrasting days of bitter pain. Sometimes those hurtful days are caused by people, sometimes by circumstances. Those moments take our breath away. They threaten our will to live.
When those inevitable moments brashly intrude into your life, one indomitable lifeline gives us a reason to keep on living. It is hope. Never give up hope.
Yes, I know. People can be very cruel. Sometimes that even justify their reasons to be hurtful. Do not focus on them. Revenge will never give you lasting satisfaction. It is the very essence of the motive of the bad people who heaped pain in your life. Instead, look beyond and hold on to the hope that is there.
Sometimes it is the hope to be with the people whom you love. Or it may be to return to a place where you enjoy life at its best. Never give up. Hope will give you what you need to persevere. Here is a look at this book that is one its way:
One of my writing projects tracks through the days when life was tough. Here is a description. It is going to be released soon. I hope that it will give you a reason to always hope.
Abandoned? Betrayed? Fired? Victimized? Disillusioned? Disappointed? No one plans for these painful moments in life. They happen no matter how much we try to live a life that is free from troubles. People are a part of the problem. Sometimes we are tempted to think that life would be great if it were not for people. Yet, life is all about people. We need them and want them. It is just certain ones that we could do without.
Then there are troubles that put a hitch in our step. Circumstances beyond human control crowd into our lives, uninvited intrusions of the painful type. Sometimes it is loss. Other times it is missed opportunity. We watch as good things happen to others. Now, we purse our lips and wonder why we could not be the fortunate ones just once.
One treasure in life that we who have lived through the agonies of life can know better than anyone who has never had difficulty is hope. We can choose to search for the bright side. By sheer determination and unabashed faith we can resist the urge to quit and choose to never give up. Instead, we optimistically keep going and believe. Life will get better. Never give up. Always hope.