Tuesday, February 07, 2017

It came around

In my previous post, ‘It will come around’, I wrote about my interactions with a woman in the grocery line who claimed my ‘good deed’ in letting someone go in front of me wouldn’t go unnoticed. God’s economy is a little different in principle, ‘it’ doesn’t have to start somewhere and slowly work its way around so that eventually some deserving soul can receive what’s due them. If we (collectively, society, and individually if we’re critically honest, warts and all) are taking an honest look at ourselves in the mirror and really got what we truly deserved for our contributions to the universe, it’s not hard to see there’d probably be a lot less smiles and a lot more pain. Thankfully God doesn’t treat us as our differences with Him deserve (not a license to live however we feel or want), it’s God’s kindness that leads us to repentance. He can afford to extend this invitation to us because our differences with Him have been paid for by the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross. He’s taken our shame, removed it as an excuse to not talk to Him - but I digress. I wanted to let you know the sequel to this story.

I went to Target one dark and chilly evening last week and as I was walking towards the main entrance  saw out of the corner of my eye what appeared to be a homeless man walking on a converging path towards me. I walked a little faster as I heard what sounded like muffled grumblings from the man that I thought may be muddled requests for cash - if I can’t tell what he’s saying, I don’t have to feel bad for not giving him money - and if he’s not speaking clearly, that’s probably a good thing, I wouldn’t want to be enabling the man’s dependencies. I felt bad, yes. I’m not saying I did the right thing, but I went into the store and completed my shopping. When I went to check out I got inline behind a woman who saw I only had a couple items - and in front of her were two other people - the ‘homeless man’ I saw outside and a young couple.  Did God put me there for a reason, was I supposed to help this person somehow? But how? “Why don’t you go ahead of me?” The woman in front of me said. Really! What! Oh, it does come around doesn’t it. I debated, outloud. What if God wanted to use me to bless this man? Maybe pay for his order.
 “Yes, thank you” I stepped in front of her with my couple of items. As the young couple left the register, the man smiled and turned back toward the cashier and handed her some cash and motioned it was for the man behind him, the ‘homeless’ man. That’s awesome! So cool to see that. She rang up his order - he only bought a pack of Hanes white t-shirts. Came to $14 and something. She counted the money the previous customer had generously donated $10 - “Do - do you have another $5?”, the man started to look around, didn’t seem like he expected to find anything. This is my chance! While he was looking I reached into my wallet and pulled out $5 and gave it to her. She silently lipped ‘thank you’ and said, “it’s all here, let me get your change.”
 As she counted out less than a dollar for the change, I could hear “really, that’s all you’re going to leave him with?” Nobody said that, but God has been so good to me, I can do better. I quickly reached in my wallet to grab a small chunk of cash I had left and handed it to the guy, “God bless you, Jesus loves you” I said as he walked away. Don’t recall whether he said thank you - he didn’t have to. The woman at the register said “I’m so grateful to see what you and the man before him did. Makes me believe there’s hope out there.” I said, “praise God”. She continued, “My sister volunteers in downtown San Jose, by the church - there’s so many homeless people there, whole families too. I help her out sometimes.”
 ‘That’s awesome’, I said to encourage her. “How’s your day going?” I added.
 “Better now” she said and smiled. “Did you want a bag? No charge-?” I thanked her for her kindness and politely declined. She said “God bless you” as I left and I said the same. Love does come around, sometimes when you least expect it and for those who don’t deserve it, but for those who need it most. God is love. “Against such things, there is no law…”  

Friday, January 27, 2017

It All Comes Around...

 While I was waiting in line at the grocery store, I noticed the woman behind me only had two items and I had a cart stocked full of groceries (and individual cat food cans that the cashier needs to scan one at a time for some reason). I insisted she go ahead of me. A minute or so later another woman brings her cart up behind and a young man came to me in front of her, ‘she just let me go, I only have two items, can you let me go before you?’. I was slightly annoyed, he was expecting me to let him go first, no longer relying on the generosity of my heart, the woman behind me let him go, wouldn’t I?
 She reiterated, “I let him go, he’s only got two things”, fine - I half heartedly said ‘sure, go ahead’. But my heart wasn’t in the right place. ‘You know it’s funny, that’s the second person I let go who only had two items, the person before him had two items.’ I just had to let her know why I sounded less kind - because it’s the second time in a row. I could feel I was approaching the situation poorly, with the wrong attitude. I tried to shift my demeanor, ‘it’s no big deal, where’s the two item or less aisle when you need it right?’ making a joke to bring levity. ‘It will come back around you know’, she said. What do you say to that?
 ‘Yeah..’ was all that came out. I knew this was an opportunity to share something, but my heart wasn’t there and I wasn’t ready. She went on to tell me a couple stories about how she and her husband did good things - returned a $100 to someone who dropped it, went back to the store to pay for groceries that they had forgotten were in the bottom of their cart, they were ‘good people’ you know?
 ‘Yeah… that’s good you did that’, ‘it all comes around, you know?’ she repeated. ‘I know, God is good’ I said. I wish I had more to share.
 When I left the store I realized I forgot to pick up bread for my wife, so I unpacked my groceries and went back in. This store had a Starbucks and today was my birthday, so I figured, I’d stop by and get my free birthday coffee ‘it all comes around, you know’? I waited in line and asked and no, it turns out, that Starbucks doesn’t honor the free birthday drinks. It doesn’t come around. Come to think of it, she never mentioned anything good coming back to her, she only mentioned what she did, like she was trying to justify that she and her husband were good people. Breaks my heart, no one is ever ‘good enough’ to make it to heaven on their own merits. That’s why we need Jesus. He did what we couldn’t do.  We do things that are selfish and by nature are against God, this is called sin. And the only punishment for sin is death (separation from God). Jesus paid this debt by living a perfect life, dying according to scriptures, on a cross and was raised to life so that anyone who believes this - who takes God at His word, are given the right to be called children of God. That’s heaven, being with God, forever. Heaven isn’t a nice place ‘good people’ go. No one is good enough, all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
 I wish I had responded to her statement about it all coming back with ‘I’ve already received mine - and you have too, in fact, if you’re willing to believe. Through Jesus’s gift, giving His life for mine, for us, I have an outstanding debt to love always - there’s no disagreement, argument or sin God won’t forgive you or I for because of Jesus’s work on the cross. I can’t pay the debt for my mistakes, I’ll never be good enough.’ Fight the judgmental voices that argue I’m becoming preachy - of course, people need to know.
 This world has redefined sin as indulgence when ‘everything in moderation’ is best, versus what it really is, a cancer we’re all dying from. Hell wasn’t made for people, no God’s will is that none should perish. Hell was made for the devil and his angels - don’t believe in the devil and his angels? Look at the world around you - in a world with free choice, things are looking pretty dark. Hell is where they go to be separated from God forever. And God’s given us free choice, we can choose to ignore Jesus, we can step over the cross, we can walk away from God - but when the time comes and we stand before God and He asks, ‘why should I let you into heaven’ I want to say ‘Because I believed you, took you at your word’ and have Jesus step in ‘I paid for this one to be with Us’. I feel utter loss for the person who says ‘I was a good person, look at all the wonderful things I did without you God’. When He says ‘be gone from here, I never knew you’ there’s nowhere else to go but Hell. Again, that’s not God’s intent, but He’s given us the choice to choose and His invitation is welcoming, to choose to believe in His gift to us through Jesus who says “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life, no one comes to the Father but by me”. What will you choose? Or will you wait to see what comes around?  

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Mid-Week Encouragement 5/4/16

I shared the following with my prayer group and wanted to fwd to you also. 

Hello Brothers and Sisters, 
God has equipped us uniquely to build each other up (Eph 4:12), I pray this word encourages you also  and pray your week is blessed. Praise the Lord for His goodness! 
  Yesterday I found out my credit card number had been stolen and used to make several hundred dollars worth of purchases. I called my credit card company and they told me they'd take care of the fraudulent charges and send me a new card. What a blessing and relief! 
  But in Christ I know I've been forgiven a much greater debt of "purchases" that I can't blame on anyone else - yet when we were still sinners Christ died for us (Rom 5:8).  God is our shield, fraud protection can make you feel safe, but only God can save our souls and offer hope that won't disappoint (Rom 5:5).
I'd like to share with you some portions of my journal from this morning with a friendly reminder to be a Berean and check everything against the Word of God (Acts 17:11). 
God is with us as He's promised (Matt 28:20). He has so much good in store for us (Ps 31:19), from all His promises, see how He fights for us to have the life He's promised (John 10:29) & abundant (John 10:10). He course corrects our paths to bring us into His hope (John 15:2). He is faithful to His word and all His promises (Deu 7:9). He will refine us for maturity, to hold on to what He's given us to make us the blessing He's promised and to be ready to move as He calls us. He reveals His plans to us (John 15:15) and calls us to be part of them, active - and He is not a burden (Matt 11:30), but He shows us how we can be part of all He is doing. Don't be afraid to love in His Name, but trust Him for strength and for the outcome, and don't give up hope - we don't see the end, leave that to Him (Is 46:10), He moves pieces we aren't even aware of for His purposes (Is 55:8-9), so let us play our part in love and trust Him for the results - and love each other - that's why He has us together - to experience His love and to share it with each other (1 John 4:11). Think of each other first and build up (1 Thess 5:11), lift up, seek to bless and know in this God too is blessed (2 Cor 9:10-14). He equips us with everything good for doing His will (eg creativity, energy, desire, will to accomplish what He's called us to) (Heb 13:21), even greater love. He hears our prayers and is actively at work (1 john 5:14-15), don't worry its not all up to us (Matt 6:25-34), it will be Him moving, that's how we can have peace, because we know its Him from the start  (Phil 1:6). So hold on and don't give up, trust in Him to guide us (Prov 3:5-6), trust He hasn't brought us this far to drop us (John 10:28). Keep praying. God is merciful (Deu 4:31) and He takes action, so be grateful, He moves in power (Josh 4:24).  
I pray you'll find encouragement in our Lord Jesus, King Faithful, God's one and only Son who came as a man, died for our sins and was raised to life and who is seated at the right hand of the Father (He 1:3). 

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Thank You

One beautiful evening, I find myself alone or so I think. Just walked outside to see what could be seen.

I stand before a stretching beach; its soft sand sometimes cold against my feet seems warm in the setting sun’s light. The mountains off to the side once seemed insurmountable impossible to traverse now support cascading walls of beauty framing the wonder before my eyes. The waves, once so tall and threatening in the storm now stroll regularly over the cooling sand, the heartbeat of the ocean. The sky, once so cold so dark and so unforgiving rests peaceful in the sun’s fading light. The breeze once a gale force wind that pound the doors and windows demanding audience now gently tickles wind chimes singing me their song.

Was all that made my life seem so difficult really now the objects of beauty I cherish? For what memory would I have, who would I be if every day were as today? For today I am truly thankful, but if not for yesterday’s pain , struggle, turmoil and angst for what would I now know to give thanks?

One beautiful evening, I find myself among friends. Ones I feared to know I now call friends for they are those who challenged me and who shaped me into who I am.

I just walked outside to see what could be seen and find I have only one thing to say.

Monday, May 30, 2011

When all I have to say isn't enough

I've been so busy in my own world I haven't realized how my attitudes and actions over the past couple years have affected those I say I care about. After finding out I’ve stabbed a friend in the back, and seeing I’m the one who needed grace extended to me, I've written the lament below. He's forgiven me but said pain still remains.

Comfort me oh God, I cry to you
The one who made me, have mercy on my soul!
I’ve lied to you, belittled you, made light of all your promises
In all of you I’ve cast aside my very life, my heart

Have mercy on me Father, I need your grace
The only one who's ever loved me like you do
I’ve run away, I’ve disowned you by my actions
When I left you I left all I had worth living for

Heal me Great Physician, I’m bleeding out
Your the only one who's seen eternal value in my life
I’ve brought shame to you, I’ve disgraced you
When I chose to bury you I dug my own grave

When I think of hope, I’m reminded of your Name
Your the only one who can restore me
King of the Universe, Author of Life
Friend, Father, Healer
Reach down inside, cause this heart to beat
Bring life from death and make me new

All I am is yours
All I can be is grateful for you
I owe you all I am, all I have and all I’ll be
Take me back in your mercy
All I want is to be yours
Will you please forgive and take me back again?


Saturday, October 02, 2010

Just Thanking God in Advance

I've felt inspired to think about God's promises for me, my life and what I believe to be true about my wife. I wanted to thank God in advance through eyes of faith for my wife and the life He's blessed me with. As of writing this, I don't know who she is yet but this doesn't change what I believe because I know God is faithful and good in every way. I apologize for any grammatical errors that weigh on you as you read this- I literally copied this from my daily journal. --

Lord I thank you for my wife. I thank you for the peace I have around her, knowing she's given her life to love me- in your sight. I don't have to fear her loving another man. And because of what you've said, she does sing to you, and she loves the thought of your Name. She praises you with words that flow from her heart. She challenges me to see the world and the lost as you do. I see hope now in the lost- this ember of fire rather than the pit of hell. I see compassion as my preference and forgiveness as my right arm. With her and because of her heart I have been more involved in serving you, not by signing up at church, but by opening our home and hearts to new and backslidden believers and non believers who are struggling through life.

God I see hospitality and generosity. I see a home and a heart that are one. I see peace between our families and a relief no one was expecting. I see maturity- spiritually, emotionally- in truth and in love. I see deep deep moments of bonding with my wife- in a deeper way than I ever imagined possible. We are sewn together, written together in your book before all this should happen. And we will never grow cold in our love, you fan the flame of our hearts, beating together as one with yours. You have provided, in ways I never thought of, and you were faithful to provide in abundance- we never lacked the ability to share with those in need- ever. I am amazed. You always spoke truth and encouragement into our eyes. You've given extra grace to our families when we've asked- when we've poured out our hearts to you- you were there & you heard our cries and did not delay- but in your perfect provision and timing rescued all we prayed for and more.

You watched over us as we traveled. When we were too busy or too tired to pray, you were faithful. You took us around the world to places we never thought we'd go. We met your family there. We felt the love of people touched by you there. We felt your warmth, the light of our true home. You always kept us safe. You showered your favor on us to all peoples we interacted with- even those who were skeptical of us at first. You gave us more grace and allowed us to love to love them and shine your light even in these circumstances. You've shown your light through us (to your people) around the world.

Its my joy to say you were right. You have been faithful in all you said you'd do. My wife has been pure joy, totally worth the wait. She has challenged me to live the life you've called me to. I always wondered how it would work- how I could be so madly in love with someone- that I wouldn't just make them the idol in my life. But you've kept me straight and her love for you and for the world really helped me focus in spite of myself- and you grew in me the desire of her heart to love others- and she never runs out of love for me. That's what I've found so incredible- she keeps giving- keeps loving- and always loves me- deeply. I have so much peace, I am so grateful. I never imagined life could be like this. I'm not worried about my job- you so sustain us. You're so faithful- money's not even a worry- our business is loving people- money's just something you shower on us because you're faithful and the most generous God, the only God & Father.

You were faithful in giving me time to meet and grow with my wife. You were right, I did know her, I did love her. You did bring me to a place of peace where I would develop skills- that I use every day. I never could have imagined this. I'm so sorry for doubting- you had this planned all along. I see as I look back through eyes of faith just how great you are- how much I could trust you- with my entire life, all I am. You always showed love for me- for us- overflowing to the world. God You are so amazing, so powerful, so sensitive, so respectful, so gracious and compassionate, so rich in love, so much bigger than I ever dreamed- and I know I've still only seen a glimpse of all you are. So I thank you from the heart you created, fed, cared for and never stopped listening to- with all my heart I thank you Father God.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Everyday Style

How you live your life- a simple but routine way of viewing common things- duty, responsibility, what defines a chore- more than just your character, integrity. The how and why of everyday life adds up, plays a big role of "You", who you are. As you grow and learn your style may change. You may have good habits and bad habits that seem to "fit" in this style or pattern.
I want your life pattern to reflect the joy of God. I want this style to be of praise and freedom. I want you to choose to surrender the mundane, ordinary to my divine glory & purpose. Totally sold out- doesn't mean actually selling everything and moving to a land strange to you for the sake of just that 'looking' like your literally sold out. It means taking the ordinary of everyday life, handing it over to God to bless and make a blessing- now extra-ordinary. It means humble acknowledgment that everything in your life is surrendered to God's purposes. They belong to Him & so do the outcomes of all events in your life.
Give praise where praise is due. Give prayers where prayer is needed. Trust your loving Creator and Good Shepherd as He fulfills His purpose in your life- in its entirety.
Just as it may not be safe to keep a loaded gun on display- you load when your ready to go shoot. You are prepared in advance for an outcome, a purpose, shooting at the range. Surrendering the ordinary and everyday says your always ready for the range and everyday becomes a day at the range. Its hard to celebrate Christmas when the presents aren't purchased or wrapped. Be ready, day in and day out, and bless. Life is short- be a blessing.
To bless is to touch the heart of God. To seek to bless is to understand the motives of God. When you hunt down people loved by God to bless them- everyone is blessed. Have a gift mindset ready- to treat a stranger as a friend and friends as close family and honor family as such. Be ready to bless and give your gifts in the sight of God who is the primary giver of all things good. Salt and light- flavor, preservation and environment. Bless, bless, bless. Amen.