Giants That Kill Our Passion – Part One

From the time he was five, Hudson Taylor was consumed by an intense passion to be a missionary to China. He dedicated every thought and action toward that desire. He learned Mandarin Chinese, studied medicine, corresponded with mission agencies, spent his money in mission training, and above all else, waited for God to send him.

The young man prayed as if it all depended on God and worked as if it all depended on Hudson Taylor. He was convinced that he would never make it unless he learned to depend on God for everything. Toward that end, he put himself under strict daily training. Her studied Latin, Greek, theology, and medicine while keeping up with his ordinary daily responsibilities. He flirted with the edges of financial disaster in order to allow God alone to meet his needs. He lived on a diet of oatmeal and rice and sent the savings to missionaries. Nobody would have questioned Hudson Taylor’s passion.

He set sail for China in 1853, filled with hope and excitement. When he arrived, he found that those who were supposed to meet his ship had either died or fled. Rebels had overrun Shanghai. There was fighting in the streets, hostility toward westerners, and not a friend in sight. His support system had evaporated. So there stood a young Englishman, Hudson Taylor, staring at the face of a giant named China. I can’t promise you that I wouldn’t have climbed right back on the boat and booked homeward passage. 

But then I’m not Hudson Taylor, who not only stayed in China but committed to going further inland with the gospel. There had been missionaries around Shanghai, but no one had ever taken the Word of God to the vast, mysterious provinces of the hidden China. He faced illness, heartbreak, setbacks, hostility from the Chinese and from other missionaries, and — I’m certain — the occasional feeling of being overwhelmed. There were so many millions of unsaved people in China and so few missionaries. How could the lost souls ever be reached?

Taylor simply kept trusting God and facing down the giants. By the time he died, there was a significant and fruit-bearing Christian presence in China. Even the era of communism hasn’t driven our faith out of that country. Hudson Taylor was the superior of that giant too.

When have you felt discouraged or overwhelmed? When have you felt that all your efforts were for naught, that maybe it was useless to go on trying? It’s no fun to feel pint-sized when facing a giant. And that giant can take many forms. It could be one person or a group of people. It could be a problem. The giant could be financial in nature, or it may be something within yourself. 

Anything that distracts from our focus on Christ, detours us from our service for Him, and drains us of our driving passion is a giant that must be slain. In order to live a life of purpose, passion, and meaning in response to God’s call, we must learn to take down the monsters that stand in the way of great accomplishments for God.

Who can show us how to be a giant-killer? My suggestion is that we couldn’t do better than the shepherd boy named David. He was a kid who knew nothing about military strategy, yet he went one-on-one with a grizzled warrior — a card-carrying giant. Goliath stood nine feet tall and had a snarling attitude to match. He had paralyzed Israel’s fighting force with his intimidating presence. He arrogantly mocked the children of Israel and their God. No one dared protest. With Goliath looming over them, this army — and the whole nation of Israel — was dead in the water.

Which giants have blocked your path to a life lived fully, all out for God? Which giant has robbed you of your passion for the Kingdom and the King? You many find them in this brief list of giant-sized problems that believers need to defeat so they can live passionate lives as believers.

Let’s list them and then look at them next time…

      • Resentment
      • Fear
      • Discouragement
      • Loneliness
      • Worry
      • Envy
      • Guilt and shame

And then we will look at how to slay your giant.

Step Out In Faith – Part Four

As we continue to look at stepping out in faith as a way of life for the believer, we need to look at “Freezing Fear” and “Feeble Faith”.

Two closely related enemies meet us at the threshold of passionate faith living: freezing fear and feeble faith. People of passion respond to these two enemies by being alert to  opportunities opening up in their daily lives and trusting God as they walk through them with boldness. These doors can appear in any area of our daily life. They may take the form of opportunities for continuing education, advancement at work, developing new skills, or meeting new people. They may come as opportunities for greater levels of Christian ministry: a deeper personal commitment to Christ, a new mentoring relationship, greater leadership responsibility, or increased obedience in financial stewardship. Od they may appear as opportunities for family growth: taking a class together, going on a mission trip together, or setting new priorities for family finances.

Watch for newly opening doors. God’s work is accomplished in this world through them. Don’t allow feeble faith to leave you standing at the doorstep. Be a person of passion who not only sees God’s opportunities but charges through them with faith in His provision.

God calls us in many different ways — we never know how or when He will call us to go through the next door he opens for us. That’s half the fun. Being surprised and responding in instant obedience when surprised by what He is calling us (asking us) to become involved in. An elder businessman once confided in his son, “The secret is to jump at every opportunity.” The son asked how he could know when an opportunity was coming. The father replied, “You can’t — you just have to keep jumping!” The same is true in our walk of faith.

Let’s end this series of blogs the same way we began … with a true story. A story of a young man stepping out in faith – defeating freezing fear and feeble fear to walk through a door God opened for him.

Ed nervously paced the crowded sidewalk outside Holton’s Shoe Store in downtown Boston. His brief lunch hour was nearly over, but he had not yet done what he had come to do. Inside the shoe store was an eighteen-year-old clerk who was a member of the Sunday school class Ed taught at church. The young man had seemed bored in class and generally disinterested in spiritual things since he began attending church one year earlier. Ed felt burdened to talk to him about his relationship with Christ, and today was the day he had planned to do so. But he was nervous about it. What if he won’t listen to me? What if he thinks I’m being too pushy and quits the class all together? What if he gets angry and throws me out?

Breathing a prayer for courage, Ed finally walked into the store and found the clerk busy at work. The young man was surprised to see his Sunday school teacher, but Ed quickly got to the point. “I came to tell you how much Christ loves you,” he said. They talked for several minutes, then the young man knelt down on the spot and opened his life to Jesus Christ. Later the clerk related the impact of his conversion: “I was in a new world. The birds sang sweeter, the sun shone brighter. I’d never known such peace.”

Ed left the store that day rejoicing that he had overcome his self-doubt and fear and let God use him to share the good news with the young shoe clerk. This fearful Sunday school teacher could not have imagined that during the next 150 years, millions of people would be just as thankful that he had overcome his anxiety and hesitation that April day in 1855 to share the gospel in a shoe store. Though unaware until now, you may be one of the people whose spiritual journey was influenced by this Sunday school teacher, Edward Kimball.

You see, the eighteen-year-old Boston show clerk Kimball talked to that day was Dwight L. Moody, who became one of America’s great evangelists in the latter half of the nineteenth century. Moody had an impact all over the world. In addition, Moody later counselled a young man named J. Wilbur Chapman on the assurance of his salvation. Chapman became a Presbyterian minister, evangelist, and Moody’s friend and colleague in ministry. Moody and Chapman strongly influenced a young professional baseball player named Billy Sunday, whom God also called to evangelistic ministry. It is estimated that three hundred thousand men and women came to faith in Christ during Billy Sunday’s two hundred campaigns.

But Kimball’s legacy didn’t stop there. A 1924 Billy Sunday evangelistic campaign in Charlotte, North Carolina, resulted in the formation of the Charlotte Businessman’s Club, which continued to evangelize the region. In 1934, the CBMC invited evangelist Mordecai Ham to conduct a campaign in Charlotte. A young man of eighteen reluctantly attended one of those meetings and then gave his life to Christ. His name was Billy Graham. No one has preached the gospel to more people than Billy Graham. 

Was Billy Graham instrumental in your coming to Christ? If not directly, perhaps the person who brought you to Christ was influenced by his preaching. At the very least, you likely know someone who became a Christians because of this great evangelist’s ministry.

The gripping reality is this: Countless millions of people have been brought to faith in Christ through the preaching of D.L. Moody, Billy Sunday, and Billy Graham during the past century and a half. What would have happened if a Sunday school teacher named Edward Kimball had allowed self-debut and fear to detour him from living out his passion for sharing Christ with others? 

He took a small step of faith, walked through the door that God had opened before him, and the angels are still singing over lost sinners being saved even today as a result of that one humble but determined man’s sharing of the love of Jesus. 

Step Out In Faith – Part Three

Stepping through God’s open doors leads to changed lives. As Christians, we will find doors of opportunity opening before us every day. The question is, do we have the courage and passion to walk through them?

Let’s agree on this: Any door God opens for you is a door you can and should walk through. 

Here are four considerations that will help set your faith and spiritual feet in motion.

1> Your faithful response to God’s opportunities will pay dividends in time and eternity.

It will cost you to walk through God’s open doors. At the very least, you will give up the security and comfort of the familiar — and usually more. But no harvest is reaped without first sacrificing a seed. Only when we learn to view life through the lens of the long view, even the eternal view, will we see that the sacrifices of this world are nothing in light of what is gained by going through God’s open doors. 

You may need to pay a price now to help a friend endure a crisis, find shelter for a homeless person, adopt an orphan, or any number of passionate ministries to Jesus and others, but think of the eternal dividends! Passionate, faith-filled people recognize that they must sow in order to reap, and they willingly release possessions, comfort, and security in order to gain the blessings of tomorrow.

2> It will cost you and others dearly if you fail to grasp God’s opportunities.

Just as you cannot estimate the positive outcome from passionately embracing God’s opportunities, neither can you guess what you and others will miss when feeble faith freezes you at the freehold. We do not have the big picture when we walk through that open door. We have no idea of what benefits we and others will receive by our step of faith into the future God has planned. But, this is certain; we will never receive the blessings and benefits that God has planned for us – still unknown and not yet within our grasp – if we don’t pay the price and step out in faith at the moment the door is opened for us. 

3> Your faithful response to God’s opportunities will be aided by those who encourage and support you.

We more readily act upon our passion when we surround ourselves with people of like passion. You need a team of supporters and encouragers on your side, such as your spouse and children, a Bible study or fellowship group, prayer partners, accountability partners, spiritual mentors, and counsellors. These individuals cannot act on the opportunities God has set out before you; that’s your job. But they can supply counsel, instruction, encouragement, comfort, and even correction to help you follow through with what God has given you to do.

4> Walking through God’s open doors will serve as an example for others.

Who is watching when you contemplate the open doors God places before you? Who is learning from your example as you express either feeble or passionate faith? Your spouse, your children, and your closest friends, to be sure. But there are doubtless many others of whom you may not be aware. A new Christian who is looking to you as a role model to follow. A Christian friend who is paralyzed by fear. A coworker or neighbour who has never learned to trust God. 

The apostle Paul did not hesitate to say, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). This was not a statement of self-promotion; it was the confident assertion of one who knew the will of God and was passionate about doing it. 

Can you make a similar, bold claim?

Step Out In Faith – Part Two 

As we saw yesterday — God opens doors but often our feeble faith prevents us from walking through those doors and grabbing hold of opportunities that He is offering us; an adventure waiting for us.  

The apostle John wrote from his exile on the Isle of Patmos to the Church in Philadelphia. He encouraged that church and us with these words, ““And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: ‘The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens. “‘I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name” (Revelation 3:7-8)

John is giving Christ’s words to the Church at Philadelphia, and he says that Christ has set an open door before them. I can’t imagine anything more exciting than the promise of new opportunity as a gift from the Lord Himself. I would like to think that Jesus has this message for every Church and every believer on the face of the earth: “I have set before you an open door.”

Yet we all know that most churches are filled with people who aren’t eager to walk through any door other than the one leading to the parking lot. Why are there so many people who fail to burn with excitement about the idea of newness and growth? I’ve watched Christians face this issue for many years, and I’ve come up with four observations.

1> God’s open doors are often disguised as problems. 

It was the brilliant cartoon philosopher Pogo who once observed, “Gentlemen, we are surrounded by insurmountable opportunities.” What we are certain are obstacles to our exploits for God — lack of money, machinery, methodology, or manpower — are often God’s opportunities in disguise. One person’s stumbling block is another’s stepping stone.

2> God’s open doors are often time-sensitive. 

An Arabic proverb says that the dawn does not come twice to awaken a person. When Walt Disney was planning Disneyland, he offered Art Linkletter an opportunity to buy land surrounding the site — land he knew would dramatically increase in value (see yesterday’s blog). Disney needed an answer quickly, but Linkletter balked, and the door to untold wealth slammed shut.

Passionate, faith-filled people are prompted to act on opportunities. If you fail to walk through a door God has opened, it doesn’t mean He is finished with you. But if you don’t step up in a timely manner, He will likely turn to someone who will not hesitate.

When Jewish leaders failed to accept Jesus as their long-awaited Messiah, God’s door of opportunity closed. Jesus said to them, “The Kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it” (Matthew 21:43). God turned to the Gentiles with the Gospel. Israel will yet have an opportunity to embrace Jesus, but only after many centuries of regret for having missed their first opportunity (see Zechariah 2:10). When God presents you with a door of opportunity, don’t hesitate to step out in faith. 

3> When we start through God’s open doors, we are often met by resistance.

Have you ever gotten caught in a revolving door? Few moments are more comedic — getting halfway through and deciding you don’t want to enter the building after all. Sometimes we try to back out of God’s doorways. We think, I must not have heard God correctly. I wouldn’t be experiencing opposition if God had opened this door. But if the apostle Paul anticipated opposition when approaching God’s open doors, we should too. He writes, “I will tarry in Ephesus until Pentecost. For a great and effective door has opened to me, and there are many adversaries” (1 Corinthians 16:8-9)

The opposition trials, temptations, tribulations, or testy people is not a sign that you’re entering the wrong door. In most cases it’s a sign that you’re exactly where God wants you. No worthwhile attempt will ever go unchallenged. Opportunity and opposition are natural counterparts.

4> Open doors are often missed because of fear.

I can’t think of one opportunity God has opened to me that I did not reach for with trembling hands. Why? Because all open doors lead into the future — whether in five minutes, five days, or five years. And since the future is unknown to us, we are often fearful to step out in faith. We defeat our fear of the unknown by learning more about God, who has made Himself knowable. He has not given to us a spirit of fear, but He has promised to go with us wherever we go in His will. You can walk boldly into the future when you know that the God of the future goes with you.

Is there is an opportunity in front of you at this very moment that has left you nervous, scared, weak, and faithless? Wonderful! You may be looking at a door God has opened for you. Take His hand, trust His promises, and step over the threshold. Every step of faith you take toward God will also take you one step away from your crippling fear.

Step Out In Faith – Part One 

Walter invited his good friend Arthur to take a ride with him out into the county. They drove past groves of fruit trees and dilapidated shacks to an area that looked to Arthur like a barren wasteland. Walter began telling his friend about the exciting plans he had for this boring parcel of land southeast of downtown Los Angeles, California. Walter’s express purpose was to give Arthur the opportunity to become an investor in his dream.

Walter had enough money for the main project, but he wanted to ensure that the land surrounding his venture would be bought up at the same time. He was confident that within five years the whole area would be filled with hotels, restaurants, and even a convention center serving the throngs of people who came to visit his development.

But Walter’s friend, radio and television personality Art Linkletter (born a Canadian but living in the United States), could not see the potential and turned down the opportunity to buy up the area of land that now surrounds Disneyland, the dream of his friend, Walt Disney. Today that “barren wasteland” in Orange County, California, is worth billons of dollars.

How would you feel if you were Art Linkletter? While open doors of opportunity that size come along rarely, if ever, for people like you and me, there are many smaller doors of opportunity that are presented to us on a daily basis. God constantly invites us to trust Him and experience ever-expanding dimensions of His faithfulness and blessing. But far too often we are like the hesitant Linkletter. We hang back, not sure of what we should do. Or we walk away from the open door altogether. We allow fear and feeble faith to quench the fire of passion for a product, a project, or a plan God has put in our heart.

Why do we so often freeze up on the threshold of a God-given opportunity? I believe that many Christians fail to walk through God’s open doors because of a faulty view of God. We see Him as incapable of taking care of us in a new and possibly risky venture. Our we fear that, once we walk through the open door, He will slam it behind us and leave us to fend for ourselves. We often cannot step out because our faith in God is feeble. If we had a childlike, trusting attitude towards our heavenly Father, we would walk confidently through the door He holds open for us.

It’s all an issue of trust, isn’t it? In one nation in which I work they have “In God We Trust” engraved on their coins. But, is it engraved upon our hearts? When the big decisions really come down to the moment of truth, do you really believe Go will care for you?

You may remember what Jesus observed about His own hometown, Nazareth. Mark 6:5-6 tells us, “And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. And he marvelled because of their unbelief.” I wonder how many people could have the same thing said about them: “He could do no mighty work in his/her life.”

God forbid that Jesus Christ should marvel at my unbelief or yours. Imagine how He must feel because He is the opener and closer of all doors. He is the creator of every opportunity and the master of every mission. When He opens a door, we need only walk through. But I’m like you; I hesitate for a moment. After all, it’s dark on the other side. We don’t know what lies in there!

Living with passion requires us to walk by faith — to go to the edge of the light that we have and take one more step. God gives me only the briefest, dimmest glimpse of what lies over the threshold of the door He is opening. He smiles because He knows that this next step, this hard step, will be a real character builder — a faith investment. As a result the next time I step through an open door, I’ll have an ounce more faith. 

The apostle John wrote from his exile on the Isle of Patmos to the Church in Philadelphia. He encouraged that church and us with these words, ““And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: ‘The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens. “‘I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name” (Revelation 3:7-8)

God opens doors … and we need to trust Him and walk through the door that He is holding open for us. 

More next time

Unwrinkling The Soul – Part Two

When you begin to take the time to unwrinkle your soul you find yourself in a war. As your spirit begins to settle and the Holy Spirit begins to bring supernatural peace to your soul, your flesh will rise up and fight everything that you are experiencing with the goal of shutting you down. If your flesh succeeds then your soul remains wrinkled and you continue in that deep hole feeling frustrated, disappointed, cynical, annoyed, and tired. (see yesterday’s blog – Part One)

Your flesh will begin to speak loudly … time to watch the news and catch up on what is happening in your world. You ought to go and find some cookies to munch on. You know you are missing the next instalment of your favourite sitcom. Some agitated place in me starts clamouring for relief. Even as you are seeing and feeling your soul unwrinkle and you are allowing your thoughts and feelings to untangle as you begin to experience peace and even God’s presence … desire starts jockeying for attention. I think there is some ice cream in the freezer. 

It feels like two kingdoms are vying for your soul at this point. The flesh is offering instant relief. Nature is offering long-term restoration. And the two are seriously leagues apart. 

Relief is momentary; Ir’s checking out, numbing, sedating yourself. Television is relief. Eating a bag of cookies (I’m guilty) is relief. Alcohol is relief. Coffee can also be a relief. And let’s be honest here — relief is what we reach for because it’s immediate and usually within our grasp. Most of us turn there, when what we really need is restoration.  Nature heals; nature restores. 

Think of sitting on the beach watching the waves roll in at sunset and compare it to turning on the tube and vegging (bing watching) the reruns of Star Trek, The Next Generation. The experiences could not be further apart. Remember how you feel sitting by a small brook, listening to its little musical songs, and contrast that to an hour on your favourite video game. Video games offer relief; nature offers restoration. 

This is what David was trying to put words to when he reported finding God in green meadows and beside quiet waters, emerging with a refreshed soul. Or as another translation has it, “He renews my strength” (Psalm 23:3 NLT). The world we live in fries the soul on a daily basis, fries it with a vengeance (it feels vengeful). We need the immersion David speaks of.

I was recently sitting out back in front of a roaring fire in my new fire pit (a summer project). I was unwrinkling my soul after an especially hectic and cluttered day. I was choosing to ignore the chorus of vendors trying to get me to leave in search of some relief (Your favourite show is on; maybe a strong Starbucks coffee would go good right now… ) I knew that if I left all I would find was relief and some sugar and caffeine. My soul would be no better off because of it. So I chose to let the evening and the fire in the fire pit continue to have its healing ministry. Remember, God doesn’t like to shout. His invitations are much more gentle.

Sunset was over; night had come suddenly into focus. Still I sat there. The night chill could be felt. It felt good. Over in the distance I could hear the birds settling in for the night in my neighbours tree. And, I could feel my soul settling down even more; the feeling was like unwrinkling or disentangling on a soul level, as your body does in a hot tub. Thanks for the gift of nature and this fall evening in front of the fire, I said, I receive it into my soul. 

Darkness, crickets, coolness, quiet, and the crackle of the fire as it was dying down for the night. I felt like I had been through detox. When I fell into bed that night, it was as if the hellish day had never even happened. Restoration. So much better than mere relief. 

Unwrinkling The Soul – Part One

Rarely are my days calm and restful. I would describe the vast majority of my days as hectic, demanding, with serious involvement in people’s life issues. Not just locally but around my nation and in other nations. The internet allows me to touch lives in many places without leaving home. Don’t get me wrong – I love every bit of what I do for the Lord, His people, and the lost who have yet to experience the love of God found only in Jesus. But it, at times, leaves me feeling exhausted. A favourite author of mine would describe it as a “fried-soul kind of day.” I am sure you can relate. It happens when you have a day where everything seems to go sideways from the moment you get out of bed.

Let me describe such a day…

There’s no milk, so there’s no cereal;, and you’re late anyways, so there’s no breakfast. You’re halfway to work when you realize you forgot your phone — and who can live without their phone these days — so you’re late to work because you went back and got your phone and now you’re behind on everything. People are tweaked at you. You can’t answer that urgent email someone keeps asking about, because you’re waiting for an answer yourself, but the person who has the answer took the morning off for a “doctor’s appointment” (Sure you did, you think, you’re out for a ride, you slouch). On it goes.

You look forward to lunch as your first chance to come up for air; but the line at your favourite taco joint is out the door, and though you should have stayed, you’re already well on your way to totally fried, so you leave in frustration, which only makes you skip lunch, which justifies your use of chocolate and caffeine to see you through the afternoon. But that completely takes your legs out from under you, and all you end up accomplishing is making a list of the things that you need to do, which overwhelms you. By the time you get home, you are serious fried. 

Of course, I work from my home office and study (two separate rooms) but my days can be just as hectic and frustrating even if I don’t commute. I can end the day – and there are a few each week like this – strung out. I feel like I am sitting in a vat of frustration, cynicism, fatigue, and exhaustion. It is a dangerous place to be. Staying there will ruin the evening and impact how the next day goes as well. So, I go for a walk in the park around the corner from the house.

There is something about nature that allows me to unwind, refresh, reboot. But first I need to allow mother nature to touch me physically and emotionally. I listen to the crickets. The sunset is amazing as it lights the shy up with pastel reds, oranges, and yellows mixed into the background of gentle blues and white. I can feel my body and my soul beginning to relax. It’s like they are taking a deep breath and letting it out slowly. I call these “Spirit sighs.” And I can feel my soul beginning to unwrinkled. 

What is a “Spirit sigh?” It means your spirit is breathing in and recognizing the Spirit of God and you find yourself letting go of all the mess, letting go of everything. They are not cynical or defeated sighs; they are “letting it all go” sighs. My body relaxes, which makes me realize how tense I had been all day. My heart (spirit) starts to come to the surface, as it often does when I can get away into nature and let beauty and the subtle “stillness” touch my soul. 

This happens best during my annual three week camping and kayaking trip where I get alone with God and nature (away from people) and simply let my heart and soul breath. An annual and lengthy ‘deep breathe.’ But it can be just as powerful at the end of ‘one of those days.’ It can happen sitting in my back yard watching a fire burn in the fire pit. It can happen on a slow and gentle walk on a warm summer evening or a brisk fall morning (like this morning when I am writing this). It is simply a time to reconnect to the eternal and letting go of the temporal – the every day rush of demands and details. 

It is life changing and life giving.

But — and it is a big but – we need to learn how to overcome the desires of the flesh that will rise up large and powerful as your soul begins to unwrinkled. 

More on that in Part Two tomorrow.  


Remember What It’s All About

Because societies have a need to remember, we fill our world with monuments. The Statue of Liberty reminds us about the beauty and grace of freedom. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier helps us never to forget the countless numbers of soldiers who gave their life for that freedom. Take a walk through your city or town and I imagine you’ll find monuments and historical plaques placed there by your city officials.

Naturally, we like monuments that inspire us — the general on his stallion, sword in the air, his horse rearing backwards; the pioneer’s open hand raised to the heavens. Our statues commemorate larger-than-life heroes — or, in one case, a smaller-then small insect. Enterprise, Alabama, United States of America, has on its main street a tall statue of a boll weevil. Of all  creatures, an insect; and of all insects, a particularly destructive one. Why would the town want to commemorate a six-legged parasite? The answer is that those who erected the statue were not celebrating the insect but the God whom they believes used the small beetle.

Like much of the south of the United States, this part of the state of Alabama was once cotton country. The region was totally dependent upon King Cotton. But then in 1915 came a pestilence from the direction of Mexico — the little insect that averages one-quarter of an inch in length but can destroy thousands of acres of cotton by puncturing the boll, or pod, of the cotton to lay its eggs. In no time, the region lost its ability to bring its crop to maturity. The city of Enterprise was looking economic distastes in the face.

But necessity is the mother of invention, and a number of scientists were roused to investigate alternative crops. The peanut, it was discovered, could be planted and harvested very efficiently. Farmers diversified in many other directions, and the economy was better off than ever before.

Many people saw the hand of God in this trial. They felt that God had used the little boll weevil to guide them towards the demands of a modern economy. And in 1919 the monument was placed in the town’s central location so that people might never forger — a towering statue of a woman holding a large boll weevil over her head.

Monuments are important not only to us but to God. Without the lessons of history, we are helpless to face the challenges of the future. Throughout the Bible, God led His people to memorialize the great moments. Here are some of the highlights of biblical monuments:

    • Offerings and sacrifices, which were tangible reminders of an element of God’s relationship with the people of Israel.
    • Blue tassels, placed on the corners of the people’s garments at the Lord’s command that they might “remember all the commandments of the Lord and do them” (Numbers 15:39).
    • National festivals, such as Passover. These celebrations reenacted God’s miraculous activity in Israel’s history (see Exodus 1:26-27).
    • A riverside monument upon crossing the Jordan River into Canaan, built with stones pulled from the dry riverbed. It was to help people remember how God dried up the river, facilitating the invasion into The Promised Land (see Joshua 4:4-7).

Perhaps the most significant memorial of all was instituted by Jesus in the Upper Room the night before He was crucified. Jesus served His disciples bread and wine, representing His broken body and shed blood, commanding them to partake “in remembrance of Me” (Luke 22:19). The apostle Paul instructed the Church to continue this practice to “proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes (1 Corinthians 11:26). Communion in worship, the Lord’s Supper, is a living memorial to pass the Upper Room experience from generation to generation.

God knows that our life is “but vapour that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (James 4:14). If our life is a vapour, our memories are misty at best. Our Lord works patiently to remind us, because in the wealth of experience comes the wealth of wisdom. When we forget, we are like children prone to every poor decision imaginable.

That kind of stumbling, fumbling life without memory drains us of all passion. To put the pedal to the metal and live life wide open with passion, enthusiasm, anticipation, and excitement, we need good rearview mirrors — and to remember, as those mirrors tell us, that “reflected objects are larger than they appear.”

The Rescue – Part Two

We are looking at the lack of personal time and space in today’s world of constant demand and connectedness. In a world where your soul just can’t do life at the speed of smartphones. And how that leaves our souls feeling exhausted and out of touch with who we really are. So, let’s add God into the issue we looked at yesterday and see if that might help.

I’m a Christian and so I believe that if we had more of God, that would really help. We could draw upon His love and strength, His wisdom and resilience. After all, God is the fountain of life (Psalm 36:9). If we had more of His lavish life bubbling up in us, it would be a rescue on this soul-scorching hour. 

But this frantic, volatile world constantly wilts the soul, dries it out like a raisin, making it almost impossible to receive the life God is pouring forth. How true.

I have tried to find more of God, knowing that if I only had a greater measure of His life in me, I’d be able to navigate this rough terrain. I was practicing the usual stuff — prayer, worship, Scripture, sacrament. But still I felt shallow. Sipping God with teaspoons, not drinking great gulps; wading not swimming. My soul felt like a shallow rain puddle (it’s raining today as I write this). But I know the soul isn’t a shallow puddle at all; it’s deep and vast, capable of symphonies and heroic courage. I wanted to be living from those deep places, but I was trapped in the shallows.

Because of the internet and television we are losing our ability to focus and pay attention longer than a few moments. We live at the depth of the text, the swipe, the “like.” This isn’t just an intellectual problem; it’s a spiritual crisis. It pretty hard to hear “deep calling unto deep” (Psalm 42:7) when we’re forced into the shallows of our own hearts and souls by this frenetic world. 

So, this past summer (June to August) I unplugged and stopped the frantic pace at which my life was being lived. I removed all my schedules and just let life happen. I took my calendar that I use to plan each day to make the most of it and removed all the preset events and activities. I simply stepped out of the “Christian rat race” and worked at doing life differently. I wanted above all else to “experience the ‘more’ of Him. And, in the process I began to get my life back.

God wants to come to us and restore our lives. He really does. But if our soul is not well, it’s almost impossible to receive Him. Dry, scorched ground can’t absorb the very rain it needs.

As C.S. Lewis explained, “The soul is but a hollow which God fills.” In place of hollow I let the word vessel, something beautiful and artistic. Our souls are exquisite vessels created by God for Him to saturate. You can picture the round, curved basin at the top of an elegant fountain, with water spilling down all sides, running over with unceasing life. Isn’t that the promise? “As Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them” (John 7:38).

And so it follows that if we can receive help for restoring and renewing our weary, besieged souls, we’ll enjoy the fruits (which are many and wonderful) of happy souls and also be able to receive more of God (which is even more wonderful). We’ll find the vibrancy and resiliency we crave as human beings, living waters welling up from deep within. And then — we’ll get ur lives back!

But the process needs to be something the Lord leads you into. There are no preset packages or prepackaged programs that you can buy into that will guarantee success and a deeper spiritual life resulting in a more meaningful life lived to the fullest. We have all tried exercise, diets, Bible study programs that began with vim and verve but over time got shoved to the side, lost in the chaos. So, don’t look to a pre-packaged regiment or process or program. You are a unique individual and God will meet you in a way that is specifically designed for who you are and where you are at in life.

All you need to do to get started is to recognize that you are living on the surface and that your life lacks meaning – real meaning and true depth. It has lots of activity and important things to do. But, meaning and true life does not come from the “do” in life. It comes from the “be” in life… and so you need to be … be who you really are; be in His presence; be still and know that He is God; be comfortable with who you are right now and where you are at …. Simply come to Him as you are and let Him guide and direct you on this new and renewing part of your journey.

God wants to strength you and renew your soul; Jesus longs to give you more of Himself. Come, you who are weary and heavy laden. “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life … and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly” (Matthew 11:28-30 The Message). You can get your life back; you can live freely and lightly. The world may be harsh, but God is gentle; He knows what your life is like. What we need to do is put ourselves in places that allow us to receive His help. 

So simply come to Him. Ask Him to help you; lead and guide you. Tell Him that you want to know Him more. That you want to experience Him in fresh and new ways. You will be amazed at what He will do.  

The Rescue – Part One

There’s a madness to our moment, and we need to name it for the lunacy it is. Because it’s taking our lives hostage.

First, there is the blistering pace of life. It seems that we are busier than ever. People send you an important text message where they are expressing what is happening in their life and we respond with thumbs-up emojis. I experience this personally on a daily basis as I send out a group text to everyone in my local house church. Worse than an emoji is simply total silence. People no longer interact with texts. At one time emails felt so efficient when it replaced the letter. Texting seemed like rocket fuel when it came along. But it didn’t give us more space to live life. It didn’t make our lives more spacious. We simply had more to keep up with, respond to.

Even as I write this I just had an email from a pastor I don’t know who visited my web site. He lives in Africa… then a phone call followed by a text. He is looking for immediate attention. He is impatience. He is expecting me to jump and respond. I didn’t. I deleted. This is a daily event in my life. And, I admit that I struggle to keep up with all the messages that come in daily via numerous apps. So, I delete the ones with whom I have no relationship and have not initiated the conversation. I currently don’t need more contacts, more relationships, more open doors to minister.

It seems that we are living at the speed of the swipe and the “like,” moving so fast through our days that typing a single sentence feels cumbersome. I feel busier than I have ever felt before. And, time for what is important seems to be lacking. For example, reading a book, writing in my journal, spending time reflecting, praying and reading Scripture. Coffee with a friend.

It seems that we have been sucked into a pace of life that nobody is enjoying.

Second, there is the deluge of media coming at us. We are spending three hours a day using apps on our phones, ten hours viewing media, consuming enough informations each week to crash a laptop. As someone recently wrote: “We talk about unplugging, but we’re enchanted — by the endless social media circus of love and hatred, the vapid, alarming, sensational, and unforgivable. We’re snagged by every new notification. And while we’ve always had our individual struggles and heartbreaks to deal with, now we have the tragedies of the entire world delivered to us hourly on our mobile devices.”

This is very hard on our soul.

Traumatizing, in fact. Exposure to traumatic events can traumatize us, and we’re getting lots of it in our feed. It’s like we’ve been swept into the gravitational field of a digital black hole that is sucking our lives from us. 

So, I get this text from the pastor in Africa and then an email and then a phone call on an app. And, I find myself totally ignoring every attempt to communicate with me. There are simply too many people wanting a piece of my time to add another demand to an already busy day. A day that has me feeling somewhat overwhelmed with just the basic demands and needs. 

I find myself flinching when a friend texted and asked for some time. I didn’t want to open email for fear of the demands I’d find there. I have a shorter and shorted fuse in traffic. I feel numb to tragic news reports. It makes me wonder — am I becoming a less loving person? I have little capacity for relationships and the things that bring me life —- a walk in the park, a quiet coffee with a friend, a day to paddle board and enjoy the water. And when I do steal a few minutes for something life-giving (like reading by an open fire by my fire pit), I feel so overwhelmed, so distracted, so exhausted that I can’t enjoy the time. I can’t focus.

It isn’t a failure of love or compassion. These are all symptoms of a soul pushed too hard, strung out, haggard, fried. My soul just can’t do life at the speed of smartphones. But I am asking it to; everybody’s asking theirs to do so as well.

I’m guessing that you have experienced something similar. I am not alone. I am not unique. And, like me, your soul its looking for something. Are you aware of what it is?

How would you score your soul these days:

      • Are you happy most of the time?
      • How often do you feel lighthearted?
      • Are you excited about your future?
      • Do you feel deeply loved?
      • When was the last time you felt carefree?

Our souls are bleary, seared, smeared. Still able to love, yes; still able to hope and dream. But at the end of any given day most people come home in a stay of exhaustion. Numb on our good days, fried more often than we admit. We feel stretched and living life on the surface. Stretched so badly that we can’t give our full attention to anything or any one. “Like butter that has been scraped over too much bread” as one author states it. 

The world has gone completely mad, and it’s trying to take our souls with it.

More next time…