Unshakable Hope

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)

Archive for the tag “Joy”

TGIF

I was thinking about Good Friday when I woke up early yesterday morning. Then I thought about people using the phrase “Thank God It’s Friday” to celebrate the end of a work week and the start of the weekend.

Even though I haven’t worked in over 19 years, I remember that feeling of being so glad a work week was over as I was sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic on a Friday evening or landing at the airport after being gone all week on a business trip.

Then I thought about the darkest Friday of my life.

After three days of grueling tests, which included cutting muscle samples out of my thigh without any anesthetic and a spinal tap that left me with a debilitating headache for three days, the neurologist, flanked by a group of interns, told to Mary and I that I had ALS. He went on to say that I would continually get weaker, be confined to a wheelchair, lose my ability to speak, and that I would die in three to five years.

That was not a Friday I was thanking God for.

Do you think when the disciples were staring up at Jesus dying on the cross they called that day “Good Friday?”

Yeah, I don’t think so either.

I’m sure there was a lot of confusion and crying on that dark day. Maybe they were like Mary and I on the long drive home from the medical center that Friday evening; not even looking at one another for fear of dissolving into tears.

Like Mary and I, I’m sure they were thinking, “This isn’t the way it was supposed to be.”

To add insult to injury, Jesus and the disciples were surrounded by people that were mocking and celebrating His crucifixion.

For the disciples, this day was anything but TGIF.

Jesus knew differently.

…for the joy set before Him (Jesus) endured the cross…” (Hebrews 12:2)

It was “for the joy set before Him” that Jesus was able to endure the insults, the flogging, the beatings, and being nailed to the cross.

It wasn’t until Sunday morning that the disciples understood that God’s plan was so much bigger and better than they could have imagined:

…let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who (like Jesus) for the joy set before Him endured the cross…” (Hebrews 12:1-2)

We can endure the cross we have to bear, no matter how heavy it might be, if we “fix our eyes on Jesus” and focus on “the joy set before us” – eternal life with the One who suffered and died for us.

This does not mean that we have to abandon our hopes and dreams for this life – far from it. God wants to bless us in this life too.

But, making a commitment to follow Christ is the only Unshakable Hope that God offers for this life and the next.

Today is a great day to make this commitment or to renew your commitment.

The Will To Live

I almost made it through a whole year without being hospitalized or having any additional health problems. Almost. Then, with just a few days left in 2016, I caught a cold. The “common cold” is not much more than an annoyance for otherwise healthy people, but for someone like me with weakened breathing muscles and only 30% of my lungs functioning, the common cold is much more than an annoyance.

On the morning of the last day of the year, I was having an extremely difficult time breathing even wearing my breathing mask. In addition to that, I couldn’t keep anything down. I was a mess, more than usual. Mary and I both assumed it was pneumonia again so she called 911 and within minutes we were in an ambulance en route to the hospital. ALS has brought us one adventure after another over the last 20 years.

We waited in a small emergency room for twelve hours while waiting for a room to open so I could be admitted. It was during this time that I began thinking about the will to live. I was thinking, “if I didn’t have a sense that God still had a purpose for even a broken down mess like me or if I was an atheist or adhered to some other fatalistic worldview, I would have wanted a doctor to give me a shot that would have ended this suffering. It was as if my opposition to euthanasia was being tested.

Billygraham.org
If you are convinced you’re going to heaven, where the Bible says there will be no more pain, suffering and tears…, why continue to go on fighting to live?

Apart from the fact that the Bible teaches that life, including our own life, isn’t ours to take, it’s a very logical question; a question I’ve pondered at length over the last 20 years.

It’s a question that really confuses atheists.

Years ago I was watching a Barbara Walters special on heaven. She interviewed representatives of many different faiths to get their take on the after life. For some reason her last interview was with an atheist. I remember so vividly the closing sentence of this atheist: (If we believed in a heaven) “we’d all be killing ourselves now.”

But the reverse puzzles me: if atheists believe that this short life is all that there is, why do studies on assisted suicide show that atheists are the most likely to choose that option when facing a terminal illness?

Last year, Mary and I watched a movie titled “Me Before You.” It was a fictional “love story” about a wealthy self-centered 33 year old playboy in England that becomes a quadriplegic after a tragic accident. He’s obviously depressed and becomes a recluse in his parents mansion. He begins researching assisted suicide and finds a beautiful facility in Switzerland that provides “death with dignity” for wealthy people from all over the world (unfortunately, this facility really exists).

I’m obviously not a movie reviewer so let me wrap this summary up: his pretty young caregiver convinces him to travel to many exotic locations and they fall in love, but he still goes through with his plan to end their travels at the Switzerland death clinic. Not a very happy ending.

While watching this “love story,” my mind began to wander. I began thinking about a woman I admire so much. Fifty years ago, this woman was a beautiful and carefree 17 year old swimming with friends in the Chesapeake Bay. She dove into shallow water and hit bottom. This tragic accident resulted in her becoming a quadriplegic, virtually the exact same injury as the man depicted in the movie. Like him, she became depressed, reclusive and also had suicidal thoughts, but…

Joni Eareckson Tada had made a commitment to follow Christ three years earlier while attending a Christian summer camp. It was a renewal of this commitment and the support of family and friends that gave her life new purpose. For 50 years she’s been serving others all over the world while confined to a wheelchair. She shares the Gospel on TV and radio, hosts summer camps for mentally and physically disabled youth and, a ministry that is so needed, she provides wheelchairs to the disabled in third-world countries, like the boy below in Haiti. Her ministry has given away over 150,000 wheelchairs so far.

wheelchair-haiti
It’s really amazing what God can do with broken (humbled) vessels, regardless of our physical state. This year, give God permission to use you – this is the ultimate expression of His gift of a freewill. We are Christ’s hands to help a hurting world.

And, as the Apostle Paul wrote, when we’re done fulfilling God’s purpose for us in this life, it gets so much better:

“For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21)

aim-at-heaven
No matter how depressed you might be over your current circumstances, please don’t give up, your story doesn’t have to have a sad ending.

“Therefore we do not lose heart (don’t give up). Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” (2 Corinthians 4:16)

think-of-heaven

Becoming Perfect

I’ve learned so much about following Christ over the almost twenty years that I’ve been dealing with this frustrating disease known as ALS. It’s been a long and, in every sense, a painful road to travel. But, from a Christian perspective, it’s these difficult trials that are supposed to shape and perfect us:

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4)

One word stands out to me when I read the above passage – perfect.

Perfect: being entirely without fault or defect: flawless b: satisfying all requirements: accurate.

Jesus did say that His followers were to be perfect (Matthew 5:48). That’s a tough standard; the toughest of all standards. It’s kind of funny to think about now, but before making a commitment to follow Christ, back when I was still committed to following myself, Matthew was the first book I read; I’m kind of surprised I didn’t throw that Gideon Bible across the hotel room when I came to that part about being perfect.

I was so far from perfect back then, but I’m still so far away; “perfect” seems as far from me as a tiny star in the darkest of nights. But it was a tiny star that led the kings of east across the wilderness to Jesus. Like that tiny star, “Perfect” is unattainable for even the best of Christ’s followers, but it should always be our focus. I think that’s what Jesus meant.

Even late in his life, after suffering through many difficult trials, the Apostle Paul knew that he still wasn’t perfect, but he still had perfection as his goal:

“Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead…” (Philippians 3:12-13)

If I asked for some examples of spiritual imperfections, most of us would give examples like gossiping, angry outbursts, impatience and so many other faults of our words and/or actions.

One would think, as I once naively thought, that if a person was unable to speak or move, it would be easier for him or her to become spirituality perfect. As someone who can’t speak or move, I now know this isn’t the case.

Religion is all about right and wrong actions, but Christianity is a lifelong journey of perfecting the spirit and the soul (mind, will and emotions) of man. Actions are important, of course, but only if done with the proper motives.

“But the fruit of the Spirit (Godly character) is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23)

Before ALS paralyzed my body and silenced my voice, I wrongly believed the above passage only applied to our actions. Now I know different. ALS (not being able to move or speak) has forced me to focus on my spirit and thought-patterns. This can be a frightening process, like confronting long-entrenched demons. But, on the road to becoming perfect, this is a process that we all must go through, and it shouldn’t take a terminal diagnosis to force us into it.

Over these difficult years of struggling with this dreadful disease, I’ve discovered that the fruit of the Spirit, or lack thereof, is more about our inner man. Good actions can just be an act.

How do you know if your actions are directed from godly (perfect) motives?

The first and most important thing is to determine whether you’re doing the act to please God or man.

A people-pleaser will never be viewed as perfect in the eyes of God. Christians motivated by a desire to please God will be viewed as perfect in His eyes. But, their words and actions will not be viewed favorably by all men. Jesus is proof of this.

Jesus is the only perfect (flawless, sinless, righteous…) being that’s ever stepped foot on earth. He was despised by both secular and religious people. Keep that in mind when you’re standing up for what you believe; this is the greatest and most difficult action of all.

“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)

Trials Can Make Us Stronger

makes us stronger
I never thought that I would be using a quote from the atheist philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche in one of my blog posts, but…

This quote came to my mind the other day and I began thinking about it and the man that wrote it. I spent most of February sick or recovering from the flu and other health issues. What little strength and energy I had before the illness has finally returned in the last few days. I’m definitely not physically stronger than I was before the illness. But I do feel spiritually stronger than I was before my battle with “that which did not kill me.”

As an atheist, Nietzsche only believed in the physical world so I can only assume that this quote was referring to trials making people (himself) physically and/or emotionally stronger. I wonder if he still believed those words while lying helpless and suffering from the effects of Syphilis for the last eleven years of his life.

As someone who has relied on caregivers for even longer than Nietzsche had to (ALS, not Syphilis), I empathize with the helpless, the suffering and their caregivers. But I feel great sympathy for those that do not place their hope and strength in Christ, regardless of the state of their health. I feel sympathy because, like Nietzsche, the “strength” and “hope” that they derive from physical/temporal pleasures do not provide genuine and lasting joy or peace. As King Solomon concluded, it’s “all vanity.”

I am convinced that the following is the only strength that can be gained from “that which does not kill us”:

“…we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed (strengthened) day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

There are so many great earthly pleasures and blessings, but not even the best of them deserve our hope. If Christ is our hope, the pleasures we enjoy on earth will be so much more enjoyable because we’ll have our priorities in order and we won’t have to rely on the physical/temporal things for happiness.

aim at heaven
“For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.” (Romans 8:24-25)

Happiness :-)

happy baby

From what I’ve observed, healthy babies, like my 6 month old grandson, are generally happy babies. It seems that we are created to be happy, so why are so why are many adults unhappy?

I recently read a thought-provoking article titled “10 Things to Give up in Exchange for Happiness.” The article wasn’t written from a Christian perspective, but I think everyone, regardless of their beliefs, would probably agree with the author’s following suggestions.

exchange for happinessThey’re good suggestions, but…

According to research, only about 10% of those who make just one New Year’s Resolution will succeed in keeping that resolution. I think the problem with the list is that the author is essentially asking us to make multiple resolutions in our pursuit of happiness. What are the odds?

Even if some strong-willed person succeeded in overcoming every one of these 10 happiness thieves, do you think they’d really be happy? My experience with battling and, to some extent, conquering some of my many character flaws, is that, like to-do lists, it’s never-ending. My almost 18 year battle with ALS has confirmed this. ALS has completely taken away or greatly reduced almost every item on the above list. Let me give you some examples:

1. Give up caring what other people think of you. If you’ve been through a trial that has diminished your physical appearance and/or your abilities (having to use a wheelchair or losing your hair to chemo, etc.), you quickly discover just how image-conscious you are. You either decide to give up caring what others think of you or lock yourself away in a remote cabin in the woods. (I considered the latter, but I knew that Mary and the girls wouldn’t come with me so I reluctantly chose the former). Over the years I’ve become really good, maybe too good, at not caring what people think of me. I laugh to myself when Mary or my caregiver spend time trying to fix my hair and become frustrated if a few hairs won’t cooperate. As they’re fussing with my hair, I’m thinking to myself; I’m completely paralyzed, wheelchair-bound and can’t speak, I don’t think people will be looking at the hair.

2. Give up trying to please everyone. It’s hard to please anyone when you’re completely helpless.

3. Give up participating in gossip. I don’t think that I was ever a gossip (that’s probably what all gossips say), but it’s been so much easier not to gossip or say hurtful and dumb things since ALS stole my voice 17+ years ago. With the help of my new eye-tracking computer, I am still able to blog and email, etc. so I haven’t completely lost my ability to gossip or say dumb and hurtful things (my family and friends can attest to this). But, like most people who’ve been humbled by a difficult trial, gossip has hopefully been replaced by words of hope and encouragement.

8. Give up spending money on what you don’t need in effort to buy happiness. Before ALS, like most people, I spent money on unnecessary things and activities, like taking vacations, eating at nice restaurants and buying sporting equipment, etc. I don’t think that I was “attempting to buy happiness,” I just thought, and still think, that I was enjoying God’s blessings. Since ALS, I cannot go on vacations or go out to eat, and I certainly have no use for things like sporting equipment.

10. Give up control. I really fought thisone, but ALS finally forced me to give into Mary wearing the pants in the family. (I do still control the TV remote most of the time).

The problem I have with the list of “10 Things…” is that it’s advising us to give up emotional highs and weaknesses in exchange for happiness. But happiness is just another emotion, and, like all emotions, happiness is subject to our circumstances. For instance, sadness over the loss of a loved-one or other bad news, immediately destroys any happiness that we might have had.

Joy is much different. For Christians, joy might be hidden for a time, especially -
when we hear bad news or at the onset of a trial, but it’s always there. Hope in God is like a compass that leads us back to joy. And, as Webster’s dictionary defines it, joy is “the source or cause of great happiness.”

Don’t go crazy trying to balance your emotions in a pursuit of happiness; just look to God for hope and you’ll find true and lasting joy and that joy will result in happiness.

What Satan put into the heads of our remote ancestors was the idea that they could ‘be like gods’—could set up on their own as if they had created themselves—be their own masters—invent some sort of happiness for themselves outside God, apart from God. And out of that hopeless attempt has come nearly all that we call human history—money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery—the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.
God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.”
CS Lewis Mere Christianity

 

The Greatest Christian I Know

Who is the greatest Christian you know?

I will give my answer to that question at the end of this post.

I realize that questions such as this could be classified by some as judging others. But the Bible does tell us to “test ourselves” (2 Corinthians 13:5) and to test spiritual claims and people (1 John 4:1 & Revelation 2:2). The Bible also gives us attributes to look for when conducting these examinations of ourselves and others.

Here are some of the attributes (of great Christians) that I’ve found in the Bible:

  • Compassionate, Kind, Humble, Gentle, Patient, Bearing the burdens of others and Forgiving (Colossians 3:12-13)
  • Encouraging and Building-up others (1 Thessalonians 5:11).
  • A reader and a “doer” of God’s word (James 1:22).
  • Hospitable, Sensible, Just, Devout and Self-controlled (Titus 1:8).
  • Loving, Joyful, Peaceful, Faithful (Galatians 5:22)
  • Prayerful, Thankful (to God and others) and Hopeful (Colossians 1:3-5).

If you tested yourself by the above criteria and concluded that you deserve an A+ on every one these virtues, you’re either delusional or off-the-charts self-righteous. Everyone, even the person I chose as “The Greatest Christian I Know,” struggle with some of these.

But, according to Jesus, a truly great Christian possesses one quality that sets them apart; “But the greatest among you shall be your servant.” (Matthew 23:11)

“True greatness, true leadership, is achieved not by reducing [people] to one’s service, but by giving up oneself in selfless service to them.” Oswald Chambers

“True greatness, true leadership, is achieved not by reducing [people] to one’s service, but by giving up oneself in selfless service to them.” Oswald Chambers

When I read passages like the following, I think of caregivers; “For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me…to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least [most helpless] of them, you did it to Me.” (Matthew 25:35-40)

I think of people like my sister and her husband who care for their 18 year-old severely Autistic son. People like my mother-in-law who took care of her ill husband until he recently passed away. And even paid caregivers, like the woman that helps Mary take care of me, qualify as “Great” in my book.

But the Greatest all-around Christian I know is Mary, my wife and best friend of 28 years. Since being diagnosed with ALS years-ago, she’s also been my full-time caregiver. She is the best example I know of a truly selfless servant.

And, no, I didn’t just choose her as the greatest Christian out of fear that she’d stop feeding and clothing me.

“…whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve…” (Matthew 20:26-28)

Prioritizing Our Hopes

When you go through a trial, especially an extended trial that disrupts or even destroys your earthly hopes and dreams, you either learn to focus and depend more on your eternal hope or slide further into despair.

I imagine that every Christian that has gone through an extended trial will remember coming to this difficult crossroad and facing this choice. In truth, seek firstit’s a decision we should have made when we committed to follow Christ – whether or not we were going through a trial at the time. By definition, a Christian is someone whose primary hope is an eternal hope in Christ.

“…we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast…” (Hebrews 6:18-20)

I know that God wants us to have hopes in and for this life, but, for the Christian, those hopes must be secondary to our heavenly hope. Our heavenly hope must govern our earthly hopes. This is the only formula that leads to the “Abundant life” that the Bible talks about. If Jesus is not the Christian’s primary hope, he or she will have a really difficult time when (not if) a trial comes. Even when everything is going great (by the world’s standards), the Christian that does not have his or her hopes in order will not be experiencing the inner joy and peace that the Bible tells us we should have.

Unfortunately I speak from experience. If asked, I probably would have said that eternity was my primary hope before being diagnosed with ALS, but aim at heavenlooking back now I really don’t think it was. It’s so easy to get caught up in our career, our marriage, raising kids, our homes and so many other things involved in day-to-day life that, without even realizing it, our earthly hopes and dreams can become our primary focus.

In this context, I think it’s fair to say that hope and love are synonymous. If Christ isn’t our primary hope, He is not what the Bible calls “our first (most important) love” either. I remember when I began reading the Bible, I had a real hard time with the following verse: “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.” (Matthew 10:37)

Probably because I didn’t understand Christ’s nature at that time, His demand seemed harsh and even narcissistic. After reading the whole New Testament and getting a better understanding of His selfless nature, I realized that His demand had nothing to do with harshness or ego; it is a simple matter of priorities. It’s only by loving Christ more than anyone or anything that we are able to demonstrate His unconditional love to and for others. Likewise, it’s only when Christ is our greatest hope that we are able to fully appreciate and enjoy our earthly hopes. And, it’s only when Christ is our primary hope that we will know if our secondary hopes are also God’s hopes for us.

Pacing Your Productivity

Our 24 year old daughter, Lauren, is a blogger too; she posts with a group of women at http://sozowomen.com/. I thought I would share her latest post with you.

I have an addiction. It causes me to be on an emotional and energetic high, but when it is all said and done, at the end of the day, I am left exhausted and sitting in a big heap of unrest and heaviness.  It’s an addiction that comes in all forms, to all personalities, and all life stages.  For me, it has looked different in every season of life but somehow leaves me with the same end results.  Ok, I’ll just say it: I am addicted to productivity.  I am addicted to my to-do list, in how much and how well I can accomplish, do, create, become.

productivity pic

“That’s a great thing to be addicted to,” I hear others, “at least you get things done!” Well, no, I have realized that although productivity gives me a buzz in the moment, I can’t seek God at the same time.  This is where the challenge lies.  As I quiet my soul and take my mind off “to-doing”, I find a complete indirect correlation between my productivity addiction and those infamous words that Jesus whispers in my ear. They creep up in my heart and strike a chord—comforting, yet painful.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

-Matthew 11:28-30, ESV

Don’t get me wrong, productivity is good. God loves it (have you read Proverbs 31, yikes!), but when it pulls us away from resting in Him, stealing our peace, we labor (toil, strive) and are heavy laden (burdened, weary). As I read those few verses above, I want to scream, “That’s me! He came for me! He understands!” He came for the weak, the heavy hearted, the one who doesn’t necessarily know how to “find” Him.

We are all on a journey to learn how to constantly hold Jesus’ hand as we walk throughout each day, to find Him in the secret place, to be whole and complete in Him.  Would you join me on this journey? I am going to use these 3 practicals to help me along:

  1. Slow Down.
  2. Pray over your to-do list and what the day holds.
  3. Every time you find yourself focusing on all you need “to do” or heavy situations in life, refocus your mind on Jesus and maybe find a verse (or this one above) to hold on to.

In what ways do you find yourself losing peace? In what ways do you learn to find peace in the midst of labor and busyness?

I'm thinking Lauren will get some help overcoming productivity when the baby arrives.

I’m thinking Lauren will get some help overcoming productivity when the baby arrives.

One Day At A Time

At the beginning of this trial, so many people, mostly long-time Christians, would advise me to “Just take one day at a time.” I’m sure that every one of these wise people thought they were the first to give me this sage advice. Of course, I always acted as if they were the first to give me that advice and I politely thanked them. (If you are one of those that offered me this advice 16+ years ago, I’m sorry I didn’t tell you that a hundred people already gave me that same advice).

To be honest, even though a hundred people repeated this “Take one day at a time” cliché to me, I really didn’t understand at that time exactly what it meant. Like so many clichés, I think people throw them out to fill dead air space in awkward moments when they have nothing else to say. But, I now know this advice is much more than a wise-sounding cliché and the title of an old Southern Gospel song;  I discovered it’s also a Biblical principle.

Let me explain how I came to this conclusion.

The Christian going through a trial will quickly figure out something they wish that they’d known all along—today is all that we can properly manage or were meant to manage. Agonizing over our yesterdays and worrying about our tomorrows is just too great of a burden to carry; it will literally overwhelm us emotionally, spiritually and even physically.

today

In chapter sixteen of the book of Exodus, while in the wilderness (a Biblical metaphor of a trial), God fed the children of Israel with Manna. Jesus said that Manna was “bread that came down out of heaven.” This bread had a very short expiration date; it was only good for that day. If you attempted to put it in a Ziploc bag to save it for the following day, as some tried to do, it would spoil and you’d find maggots crawling on it. God was trying to teach them to trust Him only for today—yesterday’s “bread” is useless (unless you like maggot protein) and tomorrow’s bread hasn’t yet been delivered.

“Give us this day our daily bread.” (Matthew 6:11)

The Old Testament uses “types and shadows” of things to come when the Messiah arrived. As Jesus said; “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.” (Matthew 5:17)

Manna was a type and shadow of Jesus; He’s our daily bread—our spiritual sustenance; “I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died…I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.” (John 6:48-51)

In a very real sense, the life of faith in Christ is only about today; we’re told to forget about yesterday and not to worry about tomorrow:

“…one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14)  

[Between these two passages is a day we call “today.”]

“So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:34)

I believe that we should do everything within our power to resolve our past (asking God and those we’ve wronged for forgiveness, paying our debts, etc.) and to plan for our future. But I don’t believe that God designed us to carry guilt from our past or to worry about our futures. Christ suffered and died to offer us forgiveness of our past and to secure our eternal futures in heaven. Knowing this puts our earthly troubles in perspective. We can live in peace, joy and hope one day at a time because: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8)

This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. (Like Manna) They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:21-23)

A Temptation I Can Relate To

Do you ever feel as if your Facebook friends have more exciting lives than yours; that by comparison your life is boring?

I recently read about a study, which concluded that Facebook and other social networking sites are leading many users to feel “dissatisfied with their lives.”  The study found that, “Witnessing friends’ vacations, love lives and work successes on Facebook can cause envy and trigger feelings of misery and loneliness.” Additionally, some people admitted that Facebook caused them to feel “frustrated or angry.”

Covet: To desire what belongs to another. (Webster’s Dictionary)   

As someone who rarely leaves home, I can relate to this. If it wasn’t for the Discovery Channel and the Travel Channel, I’d never even have imaginary adventures or vacations. When ALS forced me to quit work and began limiting my ability to travel, I quickly figured out just how dangerous and depressing coveting (the health and lifestyle of others) could be. Thankfully, with God’s help, I’ve moved beyond that temptation and am now genuinely happy when I see family and friends enjoying the health and wealth that God has blessed them with.

“Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” (Romans 12:15)

Thankfully, a few years after being diagnosed with ALS, I figured out that one of the problems with jealousy, or what the Bible calls covetousness, is that it keeps you from truly Rejoicing with those who rejoice” and, when you’re having a pity party, it’s also impossible to genuinely empathize with others – we cannot “weep with those who weep” because they’re stealing the spotlight that we think should be on us.

If you are one of the 33 percent of Facebook users that gets jealous when you read posts about your friends successes or see pictures of their fun vacations etc, ask yourself if you would be happy if none of your friends had any successes and never took vacations. I hope, like me, that’s the last thing you would want. In fact, to be honest, I only get frustrated with able-bodied couch potatoes; if I could speak I’d tell them to get up and go enjoy their life – like my mom used to tell me when, as a teenager, I was sitting on the couch watching Gilligan’s Island on a beautiful summer afternoon. If medical science ever makes it possible to do head transplants, watch out couch potatoes – I know of a lot of people with ALS and other disabilities that would make good use of your sedentary bodies.

The problem with sites like Facebook is that most people only post the highlights of the lives; they post pictures of their vacations, but rarely do they post pictures of themselves working. Mary’s sister is an executive with a large airline and for several years she would take our girls on exotic summer vacations; fun places like resorts in the Caribbean and Cabo San Lucas or the mountains of Colorado. Because their Aunt Kathy lives far away in another city, these trips were usually the only time the girls got to spend with her; they never saw her coming home exhausted after one of her frequent long days at work. Like our girls only seeing the good part of Aunt Kathy’s life, I think that Facebook, and the Internet in general, can give us a distorted view of reality.

You cannot be grateful for what you have when you’re focusing on what you desire.

“Thou shalt not kill,” “Thou shalt not commit adultery” and “Thou shalt not steal,” seem to get all the press these days, but “Thou shalt not covet” is still one of the Ten Commandments.

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