Tag Archives: God

“I Will Lift Up My Eyes to the Hills”

 

Something about the mountains my soul needs regularly and loves always. There’s just something about gaining altitude, heading up!

“I will lift up my eyes to the hills,” writes the psalmist as he beautifully affirms that all of his “help comes from the Lord” (Psalm 121).

Reading the Gospels, I feel some sweet altitudinal affirmation when I read about Jesus “going up on the mountainside” to pray. Of course, we can pray and receive strength from our Father at any and all altitudes. But “up” seems a particularly good direction to go for the strength needed to deal with life back “down there.”

It’s no accident that it was up on a “high mountain” that Jesus was “transfigured” before the wide eyes of Peter, James, and John as that clear, crisp mountain air blazed with God’s glory.

What’s really needed, of course, is for us to ask God to help us live with our eyes open. But life just seems to run a lot better when our eyes are pointed in an upward direction.

Even in the muck and the mire of a sin-sick and fallen world, if we can find the strength to look up in the midst of the darkness, we see God’s stars, and their silvery light spells hope.

When our souls are oppressed by the weight of 24-hour news, much of it bad (and at least 23 hours more than we need), if we’ll just wash our hearts out with beautiful music, we’ll find that music can be God’s blessing to lift us up, if only for a few moments, to a much higher, more beautiful place.

When we’re disappointed and hurt by human failures—not least, our own—and we’re feeling bent over under the accumulated weight of the weakness that has appalled us yet again, often that’s exactly when God’s Spirit can use our bending to be the first step toward our bowing. Then in worship our eyes are lifted up to the sinless One dying to carry all of our sins—past, present, and future—away from us forever.

To accept that sacrifice and live in the light of that truth is blessing and uplift indeed, in the highlands, the lowlands, or the plains.

But I find myself especially “lifted up” and thankful to have opened my eyes in the mountains on this particular morning, the start of almost a week in the hills. And it’s easy for me to echo the words of John Muir: “Oh, these vast, calm, measureless mountain days in whose light everything seems equally divine, opening a thousand windows to show us God.”

Yes, the mountain peaks seem to point up to God like the spires of a cathedral.

The majesty of the mountains reminds us of the majesty of God.

The seemingly timeless face of a mountain reminds us of the timeless permanence of God.

The enormity of the mountain reminds us of the vastness of God.

The awesome power of the mountain reminds us of the unshakeable strength of God.

Yes, indeed, “I will lift up my eyes to the hills.”

 

      You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

 

Copyright 2017 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


Wonder of Wonders, God Signed on the Dotted Line!

How long do you have to live to learn to be really careful before you sign anything on that famous “dotted line”?

It seemed so easy at the time. That new ride was cool. But we were just a few “easy payments” into the seventy-for-darn-near-forever of them before we realized that they weren’t much fun and not very easy. Now we’re wondering if we’re working to one fine day finally own that vehicle or if it already owns us. Very legally. Our signature on the line was all it took. Hmm. Maybe “paid for” easily trumps cool. Dotted lines are speed bumps to rattle our brains into thinking before we sign.

We warn each other, usually from sad experience: “Better read the fine print! The devil’s in the details!” Most of us have learned that “what we don’t know” can definitely hurt us, especially if it’s in the fine print of a contract.

Along this line, dotted or not, I always feel just a little nervous when I’m installing a new computer program and that very familiar screen pops up so I can just click on “I Agree. I’ve read and understood the vast verbiage of legalese below.” Sure.

What do 99.95% of the best people you ever met do at that point? They lie. Cllliiiickkkk! And Mother Teresa or St. Francis of Assisi would do the same thing.

Of course, we haven’t read it and never intend to. Even if we tried, we’d need a Rosetta Stone course in legal mumbo-jumbo to understand a tenth of it.

But we click the button anyway. We all play the game, lest any software attorneys be rendered homeless and left unable to drop lawyer litter on our screens. Most of the time, it matters not one bit or byte. But for all we know, we might have just promised to dedicate our firstborn child to a cult of nudist vegans in Tasmania, or, heaven forbid, to never again scarf down a medium rare steak, or to swear off chocolate for the rest of our days.

Oh, it’s probably not that serious, but I guarantee you, and you already know, in lots of situations, you’d better read the fine print before signing on the dotted line, sealing the contract, doing the deal, agreeing to the agreement, consummating a covenant. Not looking before you leap has consequences.

Yes, our signatures say yes. To some sort of agreement. To some serious obligation.

Such agreements are no new thing. Covenants. The party of the first part agreeing to buy something, sell something, do something for, to, or with, the party of the second part. Nothing new.

Ah, but what if it’s the God of the universe who signs on the dotted line? “Testament” means “covenant.” Read in the Old Testament about the agreement God made with his people on Mount Sinai, and you’ll be amazed.

But far more amazing is the covenant we call “new.” (Read about it in the New Testament.) The Father initiates it, gives us his Word on it, fully pays the price for it with one Lamb, one Son, one sacrifice for all forever, an agreement sealed with the most precious drops of blood, infinitely costly to him, but free to all who believe. An amazing covenant! Grace indeed.

Wonder of wonders, God signed it.

 

You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com! And special news: An amazing, exciting, and inspirational story written by Capt. Red McDaniel, Scars and Stripes: The True Story of One Man’s Courage Facing Death as a POW in Vietnam, has now been narrated by Curtis as an audiobook. You can purchase and download the book, or listen to free sample, on Audible.com, Amazon.com, or iTunes.com. 

 

 

Copyright 2017 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

 


In a World Full of Questions, a Few Answers Matter Most

 

It is no proof of superior intelligence, but even as a young man I was theoretically sure that I would not always be a young man.

As I (rarely) contemplated middle or old age, though they seemed light years away, I figured that a major consolation of being old and crotchety, say, 45, would be that by then I would probably have found answers to a great many of life’s most vexing questions.

I’m an incredibly vibrant 60 years old now. Since I can’t imagine much worse than living to be 120, I’ll admit that 60 may, at the very least, bump the outer range of middle age.

The bad news (which is not really bad since it means I’m still seeking and inquisitive) is that I have more questions than ever. The good news is that the older I get, the more I realize how few of those questions really matter much. In fact, I’d say that life’s biggest questions could be numbered without getting much past the fingers of one hand. (I can probably do with five, if you would later let me add a related question or two beneath a couple of these.)

Does God exist?

What kind of God is he?

Has he revealed himself to mankind and how?

Is he absolutely good, absolutely powerful, and absolutely loving?

And, if the answer to that last one is yes, then why does God allow pain and suffering?

These are questions of belief. That does not at all mean they can’t be approached rationally; it does mean we will always, even when we’ve seriously and diligently sought their answers, still have to say, “I believe that . . .”

And, it seems to me, even after we’ve come to confident peace about the first four, and even the fifth, we will repeatedly face situations in our own lives and the lives of others that bring us back pretty regularly, and sometimes poignantly, to that last one.

Two words are “the answer.” Free will. Of this, I am sure.

And two more points here, one of which I know, and one of which I believe. 1) “Knowing” the philosophical answer to the “problem of pain,” does not take away pain. Agonizing pain is still agonizing. 2) With all of my heart, I believe that our deepest pain hurts our Father even more than it hurts us.

In The Cross of Christ, John R. W. Stott asks, “In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it?”

He writes, “I have entered many Buddhist temples in different Asian countries and stood respectfully before the statue of the Buddha, his legs crossed, arms folded, eyes closed, . . . detached from the agonies of the world.”

But he continues, “Each time after a while I have had to turn away . . . to that lonely, twisted, tortured figure on the cross, nails through hands and feet, back lacerated, limbs wrenched, . . . plunged in Godforsaken darkness. That is the God for me! He laid aside his immunity to pain. He entered our world of flesh and blood, tears and death. He suffered for us.”

God suffers to one day end all suffering.

 

 

     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

 

Copyright 2017 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


That God Loves Ordinary People Is Extraordinary Indeed!

God loves ordinary people, and that is one of the most amazing and hope-filled truths of the Christian faith.

It is a truth no other world religion is strong enough to handle. What kind of God would so lower himself?

It is a truth that religion of the self-centered, do-it-yourself, toxic type, as opposed to that which focuses on a real relationship with God, can hardly afford to consider lest its true colors show.

God loves ordinary people.

That frightening truth was Exhibit A in the Pharisees’ case against Jesus. Pharisees are hard people to make happy. As Jesus noted, “John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners’” (Matthew 11:18-19).

Maybe we still find the Lord’s choice of friends a bit troubling. We worry about his reputation.

We shouldn’t.

I don’t believe Christ was a glutton. But I’m glad he evidently enjoyed good food as one of God’s excellent gifts.

I don’t believe he was a drunkard, but I’m glad that when the time came to make wine, Christ made the best and shared it as a good gift from God.

I doubt it’s the Almighty who is in question when we catch ourselves being “nicer” or more scrupulous than God.

Did you hear about the old gentleman who, when he learned that Jesus turned water into wine, said, “Well, the Bible says he did, and so I believe it, but I’d have thought more of him if he hadn’t.” (Hmm. Maybe that’s why the hallmark of some misguided “religion” is that it spends so much time trying to turn wine back into water. To change the metaphor, it’s far more comfortable with cold tables of stone than with the living Spirit of God.)

Similarly, I suppose we can make allowances for Christ’s choice of companions. The Pharisees once scowled and pointed to a party that took place when Jesus was calling Matthew the tax collector to be an apostle. He had to go where Matthew was, right? Even if he wasn’t comfortable there, right?

Well, yes. So the Lord has a good excuse. We can be okay with Christ eating and drinking with “sinners” as long as he doesn’t enjoy it, right?

I could be wrong, but I’m afraid the truth is far more scandalous—and wonderful—than that. I’m afraid the Pharisees, wrong as they were, were right: God not only loves ordinary folks, he likes them! He actually prefers their company to that of the “high and holy.” What kind of God is that?!

If that is true, and if God is completely good, then genuine “goodness” is not the cold and scrupulous, thin and sterile, thing many folks, religious or not, have often thought it to be.

Maybe real goodness is not all about “Do this, but don’t do this,” the kind of rules that keep religious folks feeling religious and non-religious folks glad they aren’t religious.

Maybe the real purity and holiness God wants is something far deeper than either group thinks. Maybe real goodness is deep and full and rich, filled to the brim with joy and life, the very life of God, and a person truly in love with God is filled up with the wine of God’s genuine joy in a way that folks truly in love just with themselves as they center either on their “religion” or on their own earthly appetites and desires, can never be.

 

      You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

Copyright 2017 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

 


The Best Father Is the Father of Us All

Christians are commanded to confess their sins “one to another.” So, here goes. I hereby confess that I have at times succumbed to the temptation to be a kind of Father’s Day answer to Christmas’s Ebenezer Scrooge.

As a father, I’m perfectly pleased to see the day coming; it’s as a preacher that I can get grinchy about it. Father’s Day is tough.

Every year, here comes May, and here comes Mother’s Day. Fine. I don’t begrudge our moms the first spot in these quasi-holidays. Good moms have much more than earned much more than a Sunday a year when we honor and encourage them in their ultra-important role. From a preacher’s perspective, it’s not hard to find in the pages of Scripture a bunch of world class moms. (Granted, after you’re on your thirty-second such sermon in the same church, it’s a tad harder.)

But then hardly a month rolls by, and it’s Dad’s turn. Father’s Day seems to have some roots way back in the Middle Ages, though the American version is mostly a “Johnny-come-lately-we-probably-oughta” afterthought to Mother’s Day. The dad under my hat enjoys the day. If some of the kids/grandkids come, and I get to cook a steak, catch a nap, and veg a bit, I’m happy.

As a preacher, the day is good news/bad news. Children’s sermons can be difficult. Too many kids have slugs for fathers. It’s no secret who the “sexual revolution” lets off way too easy, and who pays the high price for “free love” with no commitment.

For the day’s sermon, well, really great fathers in the Bible are depressingly hard to find. And bad ones are bad for the same reasons bad dads have always been bad. A deadbeat is a deadbeat in any time period, whether he is the equivalent of the guy whose kids go hungry while he pays for his next tattoo or a guy who is a Fortune 500 exec who gives his kids absolutely everything but himself.

Joseph, Jesus’ “step-father” was an exceptionally fine man, but he drops out of the picture pretty early in the Gospels. Pretty desperate, I once preached a Father’s Day sermon using Jonadab, son of Rechab, as an example of one of Scripture’s finest fathers. But his name and his interesting story are pretty obscure (see Jeremiah 35).

Almost all of the greatest men of Scripture were fathers, but maybe the Father’s Day lesson that looms largest from Scripture is cautionary: Greatness in other areas in no way guarantees greatness as a father. Dads, if “success” comes at the expense of our children, it’s an awfully steep price not worth paying. As has been said, it’s pretty pathetic when a “‘big shot’ at the office isn’t even a ‘pop’ at home”!

Most preachers have figured out that they can “get away” on Father’s Day with just a kindly tip of the hat to good dads. A whole sermon is not required. (Don’t try that on Mother’s Day!)

Honestly, with so many deadbeat dads a dime a dozen, a good dad really does stand out. And the best example of fatherhood in Scripture is worth more than all the rest. It’s no accident that Scripture, from one end to the other, portrays God as the Father of us all. Absolutely loving. Absolutely merciful. Absolutely gracious. And always there for us all. What a Father!

 

     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

 

Copyright 2017 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


A Court Can Judge Actions, But Only God Judges Hearts

Being very suspicious of our own motives is wise. Not only are we not qualified to judge others, as we easily evaluate them too harshly, we often do a poor job of judging even ourselves, tending to give ourselves way too much slack. I’m trying to keep that in mind in what follows.

In the news recently was the report that someone painted a racial slur across the front gate of one of the homes of a famous athlete. For whatever difference it makes, which is none, this mansion is worth $21 million. Motive check: Is it possible I included that fact because I’m greedier or more covetous than I think I am? It’s more than possible that I can’t imagine a universe where anyone makes that much money for playing with a ball, even uncommonly well. But nobody should be spray-painting offensive words, graffiti, or anything else across anybody else’s home, shack, or mansion. Additional motive check: Does some insidious racism color the “hate crimes” opinion I’ll express below? I honestly don’t think so. (My dream presidential candidate is a woman of color.)

The sprayed-on word was a truly offensive racial epithet, a word that needs to go away forever. Of course, defacing someone’s property is already illegal, but I have two questions. Does the racist nature of the crime make it worse morally? Yes! That this sort of poisonous atrocity happens is disgraceful. Does the racist nature of the crime make it worse legally? It does. But, forgive me, I very much doubt that it should.

The incident is being investigated as a hate crime. Though that train, legally speaking, is already far down the track, I think it’s heading for a wreck that will hurt us all.

I did not say I advocate hate. Far from it. I didn’t say this crime wasn’t odious. I certainly didn’t say that many crimes already prosecuted as hate crimes, many far worse than this one, aren’t repugnant.

But defacement of property, vandalism, assault, rape, murder, etc., are already illegal. Conviction carries penalties, as it should. The whole idea, though, of a class of crimes and penalties that are worse because the perpetrator was thinking mean, nasty, hateful, and horrible thoughts, is a move in a frightening direction.

Who determines what constitutes a mean, nasty thought? Citizens in the old Soviet Union could find themselves locked up as “insane” if they expressed thoughts the government found unsuitable. In the United States, for all of our history (except for these days on college campuses), the right to free speech (and thought) has been a dearly-held blessing of the highest order. I may think your “speech” is horrible, vulgar, disgusting, and/or idiotic, but I hope I would be willing to suffer for your right to hold that position, even as I think you or society will pay a high price for such gravely mistaken ideas.

Crimes are already illegal. No government—however good, bad, or despotic—deserves to be trusted with the power to decide what constitutes hateful thinking. The consequences of giving the state that power are more than a little frightening.

It’s the state’s job to punish wrongdoers for criminal acts, not for hatred in their hearts. We can be sure, though, that the latter will not go unpunished. We can trust our God, the final Judge. He knows all of our thoughts, all of our motives. And Jesus has warned us all (read the Sermon on the Mount) that hatred or lust or greed will twist, imprison, and kill our souls a long time before we commit a hate-motivated crime.

 

     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

 

Copyright 2017 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

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“A Time to Mow, a Time to Rake, a Time to Shovel, and a Time to Sow”

 

Well, here we go again.

I’m talking about firing up the lawn machines, mowing, trimming, fertilizing, weed-spraying, weed-eating, weed-picking, and the whole nine yards of yard and lawn care.

Actually, in my part of the country, we’ve been moving slowly back into mowing for at least a month. An April 29th snow which, I admit, I had hoped might slow the grass down a bit, didn’t much.

Friends in lower altitudes/swamps or other areas that spend most of the year garbed in green, or friends with yards the size of postage stamps, or, on the other hand, friends whose yards are the size of Rhode Island or a mid-sized Texas ranch, will have little sympathy for me.

If you can trim your yard in fifteen minutes, or if you’re sentenced by your geography to mow your massive estate twice a week in the summer, you’ll not likely shed many tears for a guy who grinches about having to mow once a week when the grass is really ginnin’.

I’m not looking for sympathy. I actually like seasons. And I like living in a place where we have four of them that are generally distinct. I admit that the more time the grass spends under snow, out of sight and out of my mind in the winter, the better I like it. I’d much rather ski over snow than mow over grass. But I’m fond of green, growing stuff (except dandelions and crab grass); I’m just happy that here grass—and weeds—take a few months off.

In my better moments, I even like mowing. A little. Sometimes. In my work, I get to visit with plenty of folks who’d absolutely love to be healthy enough to mow. That gives some perspective when I’m out cursing one hill in my yard that’s been trying to mow me under or break my ankles for thirty years.

I will also admit that chasing a mower over 10,000 square feet of grass seems a more productive exercise to me than chasing my tail in gerbil-like fashion down the belt of a treadmill. (I particularly despise lining up on those things with a bunch of other waddling gerbils.) I also like the fact that my cell phone is in the house when the mower and I are out in the yard. So mowing is not without some benefits.

My mother was a yard person. Well, actually, she was a gardening person. She was not averse at all to tackling lawn mowing chores, but she was more of a plant artist. I inherited her love of green things but not her ability. (I think my younger brother got more of her gardening gene.) Still, I try. I plant plants. About half live a normal plant lifespan.

Mom spent decades growing really pretty plants in the High Plains where ice in the winter, drought in the summer, and wind most of the year around all conspire to kill vegetation. But she was more than equal to the challenge. Then we moved to Houston and Mom got a canvas worthy of her ability. While she was there, it was beautiful. Ten minutes after she was gone, it reverted to swamp.

But in God’s economy no genuine beauty is ever wasted or irrevocably lost. I can hardly wait to see what God grows and lets us help tend in the new heavens and new earth where the season for joy is forever.

 

     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

 

Copyright 2017 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


Who Do We Trust When Life Goes Off the Rails?

 

I still remember the movie, even though I’ve forgotten its name.

It’s been several years now since I watched it. I know this because it was a Netflix flick that actually came in the mail. Part of their movie sales pitch back then was “no late fees,” which was nice, but which also meant you could stack up a DVD or a few and let them sit around unwatched awhile. Truth be told, I was putting off watching it until my wife made me.

It was a love story, and early in the movie, the young husband died, tragically felled by a brain tumor. Chick flick, right? What was your first clue? Untimely death or cancer?

I was surprised by two things. First, I enjoyed it. Second, one great line from the movie made me think.

As the movie begins, the guy and gal are talking about whether or not to have a baby. Both of them are likable folks, as “successful” in their work as young folks just starting out can be.

But it becomes clear that the husband is carefree and impetuous, and she’s a (lovable) control freak who is probably a bit afraid (control is always about fear) to say, “Good morning!” without having some kind of plan in mind for both of them for the rest of the day—and probably the next month, the next year, and the next decade. He wants them to have a baby. She says they can’t afford to yet. Being translated, her protests mean that in her Life Plan “Be financially stable” shows up two lines ahead of “Have a baby with hazel eyes, weighing in at 7 lbs, 6 ozs, on a Thursday afternoon between 3 and 4, Central Time, in a month ending in R.” Her hesitance probably also means that she knows deep-down that the world has never seen a kid who could be completely controlled and that a long synonym for “baby” is “some degree of chaos and disorder from now on; the best-laid parenting plans will be broken and in need of change more often than the kid needs new shoes. Learn some flexibility or go quickly crazy. Welcome to parenthood!”

Like I say, the gal is a lovable control freak. She has the best of intentions. She really believes that most of life can and should be scrupulously planned, and if you plan it with all the right ingredients, life can hardly fail to turn out just like you have planned it. “To fail to plan is to plan to fail” and all that stuff has some truth in it and looks really great on the screen at “Success” seminars. It works fine—until real life bumps into it or roars over it like a freight train squashing a bug on the rails.

She doesn’t know that “real life” is racing down the track toward her and her husband. For them, it won’t be a baby; it will be a tumor. But they can’t know that yet. And so the argument rolls on until she finally blurts out her life philosophy (based on fear): “I just don’t want to make any mistakes, Jerry!”

Her smiling Irish husband replies with a wry wad of wisdom: “Well, you’re in the wrong species, love!”

Ain’t it just the truth!?

But the Creator of our species loves us completely, mistaken though we almost always are, and His is the only plan that ultimately matters. We can trust our Father and let go. No fear.

 

 

     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

 

Copyright 2017 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


“Shaky? Nauseous? Pale? Oh, You Turned Off Your Cell Phone!”

 

Face it. More than a few of us are addicts. For all addicts, the first step toward recovery is summed up in one word: honesty. That means admitting we have a problem.

And we do. Nomophobia. That’s the official name for cell phone addiction. The term actually means “no mobile phone fear.” Of course, a phobia is an irrational or excessive fear. And “no mobile phone” means, in this context, that the digital device might be (Careful! I warn you, these are terrifying prospects!) lost, misplaced, turned off, battery dying or depleted, left at the house or office or in the car, etc.

The designers of these devices and their “apps” have long been aware of their addictive potential. Of course, the design folks work their techno-magic to the best advantage for their company or advertisers to keep us checking, glued to, enslaved by, the devices we own that too easily own us.

The actual research regarding what happens in our brains, and, more sobering, the brains of our kids, when we/they feel a deep need to be constantly on or checking our phones or apps is as interesting as it is troubling.

In a Business Insider article by Madeleine Stowe (http://www.businessinsider.com/what-is-nomophobia-2014-7), Dr. David Greenfield, a leading expert in this arena, says that when we get a notification from our phones, an elevation in dopamine occurs in our brains. Dopamine is “a neurotransmitter” that “regulates the brain’s reward system” and is a key component in all addictions. Who knows? That notification might be something gratifying or important, and so, for our brains, our cell phones become the miniature slot machines we are compulsively checking as our brain wants a payout, a fix, a reward.

“Google” this, if you dare: “signs you are addicted to your phone.” And get ready to be uncomfortable. You’ll find a bunch of articles on “10 Signs” or “25 Signs” and most of us don’t need nearly that many to fail (or be nailed by) the test miserably. If you’re a little nauseated or ticked off by the prospect of looking at such an article, I rest my case. Maybe “1 Sign” will suffice.

We might also just try some simple experiments.

*Keep a log of how many times a day we check our phones.

*Notice how often we are phubbing others (“phubbing” is “phone snubbing” and there’s no courteous way to do it) by focusing on our phones, disregarding, and thus demeaning the people around us.

*Eat a meal with our phone off, put away, or throttled all the way down. I mean, really, is it vital for most of us non-emergency personnel to have our phones at the table during a meal—or is it just one more proof of addiction? Care about teaching your kids manners, parents? Teach them about this—and show them. Please!

I actually heard of a church recently where social media access is electronically blocked on their campus. Good!

Speaking of social media, here’s a way to get a daily dopamine fix by playing a game of chance. How about for a week or two or 52, flipping a coin each morning? Tails? No Facebook or other social media today. Faces? I mean, heads? Scroll your heart out, all a-twitter that day, as much as you want! How much courage/discipline would that test take from addicts like us? Probably more than we have. Still it’d be well worth a try.

Lots of blessings become curses—even idols—if we don’t use them wisely, throttle them back, give them away, quit bowing before them, or, in this case, just regularly turn them off.

One God is enough.

Note: I do not recommend tossing this column at your spouse or others—or whimsically sending it to their phone. 1) Addicts are easily angered, even dangerous. 2) Self-righteousness is as bad as addiction.

 

        You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

 

 

Copyright 2017 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


Mustard Seed Faith May Often Be Faith Enough

 

One Easter years ago (almost two decades!), I got to play the Apostle Peter in a community Easter cantata. I enjoyed it. For one thing, the music was really good; for another, I like Peter. I think everybody likes Peter.

But, another apostle really high on my list (I suppose it’s okay to have favorite apostles?) might not make the top slots on many folks’ lists. He does with me! I’m speaking of the Apostle Thomas.

I doubt that Thomas (See! Thomas and I get along already!) asked for any evidence just before he met the Risen Lord that the other apostles hadn’t already pretty much checked out before he had the opportunity. But his are the seemingly doubt-filled questions that make it into Scripture. I think his questions were excellent, and I’m glad he asked them.

I like Thomas, and I love the fact that once he saw the risen Lord, his “You are my Lord and my God!” is one of the most stirring affirmations of faith in all of Scripture. By the way, I appreciate the author who pointed out that nothing in Scripture ever indicates that Thomas actually retraced the nail prints in Jesus’ hands with his own; it was enough for him that Jesus loved him so much that He invited him to.

It’s okay to ask questions.

It’s okay (though rarely comfortable) to deal with honest doubt.

Oh, there’s a blessing in childlike faith, and Jesus tells us to strive for such. But there’s also a blessing in learning to work through and, when necessary, live with some honest doubt. Jesus never once turned away an honest doubter.

Thank God for days when the sun is shining, life seems very good, and faith seems to come easily.

But, in a different sense, on days when the sun of your happiness is cloud-covered, when even getting through one day at a time seems too great a task and you wonder if you can even manage one moment at a time, one heartbeat at a time—thank God for His assurance that sometimes faith as small as a mustard seed is faith enough to deal with a mountain of doubt.

On those cloudy days, thank God for another honest man in Scripture (Mark 9:24), much akin to Thomas, I think, who said, “Lord, I believe. Help thou my unbelief!”

On difficult days, maybe faith just means wordlessly making the same commitment Peter made when the crowds following Jesus (they liked free food and were hoping for more loaves and fishes) abandoned Him. When Jesus asked sadly, “What about you? Will you leave, too?” Peter answered, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of life.”

On some days, in the midst of all we don’t understand, don’t like, and have a very hard time dealing with, maybe simply praying, “Lord, there’s no other game in town! You’re my only realistic hope, my only choice! Just help me through one moment at a time!”—is faith enough.

And pretty strong faith, at that.

 

 

      You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

 

Copyright 2017 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


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