Being a Godsend

An article in the USA Today newspaper told the story of a couple who boarded TWA flight 265 in New York to fly to Orlando and see Disney World. Thirty minutes into the flight, the woman, who was was almost seven months pregnant, doubled over in pain and began bleeding. She was going into premature labor.

A doctor was badly needed and fortunately there was an internist from Long Island, New York, on the flight. He volunteered his services and with his help the woman soon gave birth to a boy. But the baby was in trouble. The umbilical cord was wrapped tightly around his neck and he wasn’t breathing. The lack of oxygen had already turned his face blue.

At this point two paramedics volunteered to help, and one of them just happened to specialize in infant respiratory procedures. He asked if anyone had a straw because he planned to use it to suction fluid from the baby’s lungs. But the plane didn’t stock straws and so there were none to be found.

However, a flight attendant happened to remember that she had a straw left over from a juice box she had brought on board. That straw was quickly located, and the paramedic inserted it into the baby’s lungs as his fellow paramedic administered CPR to the child. While they were doing all that, the internist used a passenger’s shoelace to tie off the umbilical cord.

Four minutes passed as the three men worked feverishly to save the lifeless baby. Then, at last, the child whimpered. Shortly afterward the child was breathing on its own. Cheers went up all over the plane as it was announced that the little boy was fine. The parents named the boy Matthew, which means “Godsent” or “Gift From the Lord.” According to the father, the people on board the plane “were all godsends.”

This true story is a perfect example of how God meets peoples’ needs through other people. He didn’t send down angels from heaven to deliver that baby. Instead, He orchestrated events to have an internist and two paramedics on board that flight. He didn’t cause that straw to miraculously appear out of thin air. Instead, He arranged things so that a flight attendant could carry it on board that airplane.

So, my question to you right now is: Who do you know that has a need that God could meet by using you as His Godsend? People with needs are everywhere. We just have to start looking a little more closely and listening a little more intently to find them.

Posted in Giving, God's Provision, God's Work, Ministry, Money, Needs, Obedience, Service, Stewardship | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Making Music Out of All the Noise

Famed American composer/pianist George Gershwin was standing on a crowded beach talking to a friend. The waves were crashing into the shoreline. Other people were engaged in conversations. A nearby merry-go-round was operating in full volume. Venders were trying to drum up business by shouting out the praises of their products. It all made for quite a noisy scene.

Gershwin, who was a man who understood sound, music, and symphony far better than most, paused to listen to it all for a moment and said to his friend, “All of this could form such a beautiful pattern of sound. It could turn into a magnificent musical piece expressive of every human activity and feeling with pauses, counterpoints, blends, and climaxes of sound that would be beautiful. But it is not that. It is all discordant, terrible, and exhausting — as we hear it now. The pattern is always shattered.”

Gershwin had it right. The sounds of life don’t naturally align themselves into beautiful music, do they? To the contrary, they exhaust us and make us long for quiet peace and tranquility. Rather than symphony, we get stress.

It is only by you placing saving belief in Jesus Christ and bringing every corner of your life under His Lorship that all your noise can become God’s symphony. Psalm 23 and John 10:11-15 explain that Jesus becomes the Christian’s life shepherd. Psalm 37:23 tells us the Christian’s steps are ordered by the Lord. Romans 8:28 promises us that all things, even bad occurrences, work together for good for the Christian who loves God.

What these passages are trying to get us to understand is that Jesus brings a divine order to the Christian’s life. High notes. Low notes. Flat keys. Sharp keys. Sweeping movements. Subtle movements. Fast beats. Slow beats. Core sections. Transitional sections. Majors. Minors. Ensemble parts. Solo parts. Jesus can orchestrate it all into a rhythm and harmony that makes for a beautiful symphony that runs the gamut of all aspects of life. Without Him as your Maestro Conductor, though, life is just noise to you, noise with no order, direction, flow, or purpose. And that’s no way to live.

So tell me, when you stop and listen to your life these days, can you hear God’s music in it? Can you hear what He is doing in your life? Can you hear where He is taking you? Can you hear how He wants to use you? If you can’t, then I advise you to pray a simple prayer. I offer it in closing:

Jesus, right now I give myself completely to you. Take me wherever you want to take me and let me experience every ounce of the scenery along the way. Your will is now my will. Do with my life as You see fit. You be the Shepherd and I’ll be the sheep. You supply the leadership and I’ll supply the followship. Take the podium as my Maestro Conductor and organize this mess I call a life into a beautiful, harmonious symphony. I’m tired of just hearing noise. Help me hear the music.

Posted in Belief, Brokenness, Choices, Commitment, Discipleship, Dying To Self, God's Will, God's Work, Human Life, Peace, Prayer, Priorities, Problems, Restoration, Salvation, Suffering, Trusting In God, Worry | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Day Wasted

Scotland’s James Boswell was a lawyer and writer. He is best known for The Life of Samuel Johnson, his biography of the famous English literary figure Samuel Johnson. That biography is considered by many to be the greatest biography ever written.

James Boswell was the oldest son of Judge Alexander Boswell. As a child, James suffered from a nervous condition. He also felt that his father was too strict. Perhaps this explains why one particular day from his childhood made such an impression on him. It was a day in which his father took the day off to take young James fishing.

In his adult years, James would frequently talk about that day and recount the things his father taught him over the course of it. He spoke of the day so much that someone eventually decided to check Alexander Boswell’s journal entry for the day. And what did they find when they dug out the father’s old journal and turned to the day in question? Alexander had entered only one sentence on that page. It read: “Gone fishing with my son; a day wasted.”

A day wasted. Can you believe that? Going into that day, Alexander Boswell assumed that the day his son would later classify as the highlight of his childhood would be a day lost on the seemingly unproductive task of fishing. Dads, if that doesn’t send a chill down our spines, it should. You just never know what seemingly inconsequential event, trip, vacation, conversation, moment, etc. will make an indelible impression upon your child, an impression the child will carry throughout adulthood.

This is why you must always be on the job, always at your post, always walking in tune with Jesus Christ. Only He knows what your child needs from you and precisely when he or she needs it. So, in order for you to be the best dad you can be, you need to not only place saving belief in Christ but also get up each day and let Him guide you through the day. That’s your best shot at ensuring that you won’t miss an all-important, perhaps even life-changing, experience with your child. I realize it’s a scary thought, but the fact is that, in actuality, a day “fishing” (or whatever word is applicable to your child’s situation) just might be the hinge upon which the course of your child’s life hangs.

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“Christian Verses” Podcast: Proverbs 24:23

This week’s “Christian Verses” podcast uses Proverbs 24:23 in relation to the sin (yes, that’s what it is) of showing favoritism. Bosses promoting favorites at work. Coaches showing favoritism toward certain players. Deacon elections at church becoming little more than popularity contests. A parent showing bias toward a certain child. The motivation behind all of these situations, as well as many others we could name, is the sin of favoritism. Join Malcolm and I for a 25-minute discussion on this subject that somehow seems to affect so many corners of life. Just click on the link below:

Posted in "Christian Verses" podcast, Church, Fatherhood, Favoritism, Motherhood, Parenting, Sports, Work | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Ministering in Humility

Louisiana televangelist Jesse Duplantis made national news recently by asking his followers to pay for a new $54 million jet he wants to buy. If his followers come through for him, it will be the fourth time they’ve bought him a jet. Duplantis claims that if Jesus was physically alive on the earth today, He’d be flying around in an airplane preaching the gospel rather than riding a donkey. I had to laugh when I saw a video clip of Duplantis and his televangelist buddy, Kenneth Copeland, complaining about having to fly commercial. Copeland said it was like being in a long tube with a bunch of demons. For the record, Copeland owns his own personal jet, too.

Let’s contrast these two men — and their high-flying ministries (pun intended) — with the apostle Paul. In 55 A.D., he wrote the letter we call the book of 1 Corinthians. In that letter, he said, “I am the least of all the apostles” (1 Corinthians 15:9, N.K.J.V.). Obviously, that’s quite a statement of humility right there, but, after all, we are talking about the apostles. Even the least of them should rank far above any average Christian, right?

Approximately five to seven years later, sometime in 60-62 A.D., Paul wrote the letter we call the book of Ephesians. In that letter, he calls himself, “the least of all the saints” (Ephesians 3:8, N.K.J.V.). Since the New Testament plainly teaches that every Christian is a saint (Acts 9:13; Romans 8:27; Philippians 1:1, Philemon v.7; etc.), Paul was classifying himself as the least of all Christians. Wow. Things just went to a whole other level in regards to the man’s humility. But, of course, even the least of Christians should rank far above any lost person, right?

A year or two after Paul wrote Ephesians, he wrote the letter we call 1 Timothy. In that letter, he says that Jesus came into the world to save sinners, “of whom I am chief” (1 Timothy 1:15, N.K.J.V.). Okay, so who is a sinner? Only every person in the world! So now Paul is telling us that he is the biggest sinner of them all. Such a statement calls for an even louder WOW.

By now you might be thinking that Paul must have been wired with some kind of inborn self-esteem problem. But you’d be wrong. In Acts 22:1-3, Galatians 1:14, and Philippians 3:4-5, he lays out his impressive resume. He was “a Hebrew of the Hebrews.” He advanced in Judaism beyond his contemporaries. He was a Pharisee. He studied under Gamaliel, the most celebrated Jewish rabbi of the day. That resume caused him to assert, ‘If others have reason for confidence in their own efforts, I have even more” (Philippians 3:4, N.L.T.).

And it’s not like Paul became a nobody once he converted to Christianity. Remember, this was the guy through whom God worked unusual miracles, so unusual that handkerchiefs and aprons that he used in his work as a tent maker had the power to cure diseases and cast out demons (Acts 19:11-12). This was the guy who raised a young man named Eutychus from the dead (Acts 20:7-12). This was the guy who had personally seen the resurrected, glorified Christ (Acts 9:1-9). This was the guy who wrote half the New Testament. This was the guy who had the backbone to rebuke the great apostle Peter (Galatians 2:11-21). Not one of these things lends itself to humility.

So, what made Paul so humble? What compelled him to call himself “the least of all the apostles,” “the least of all the saints,” and “the chief of sinners”? I think we can name at least three reasons:

#1: He never forgot his shameful past. Before he became a Christian, Paul “made havoc of the church” (Acts 8:3), tried to destroy it (Galatians 1:13), went house to house to drag Christians off to prison (Acts 8:3), went around “breathing threats and murder against the disciples” (Acts 9:1), and persecuted Christians “to the death” (Acts 22:4).

#2: He was afflicted with a thorn in the flesh. In some way in which even he himself didn’t fully understand, Paul was granted a visit to heaven. He records the story in 2 Corinthians 12:1-10. In the wake of that incredible experience, a “thorn in the flesh” was given to him to keep him humble lest he be “exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations.” I won’t speculate here what Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” might have been, but if you are interested in the subject, please read these two posts:

https://russellmckinney.com/2012/02/03/what-was-pauls-thorn-in-the-flesh/

https://russellmckinney.com/2018/03/15/what-satan-did-to-paul-a-thorn-in-the-flesh/

#3: He walked closely with the Lord. Like the prophet Isaiah before him, Paul learned that the closer you walk with the Lord, the more sinful you see yourself. When Isaiah saw the Lord, sitting on His throne, high and lifted up, with seraph angels singing His praises unceasingly (Isaiah 6:1-3), Isaiah said, “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips” (Isaiah 6:6, N.K.J.V.). Surely Paul, as closely as he walked with the Lord, understood why Isaiah had said that.

I can only imagine what Paul would say about Jesse Duplantis needing a new jet to fly around the world and preach Jesus. Landing in your own $54 million airplane doesn’t exactly scream, “I’m a humble servant of Jesus Christ,” does it? I know what I would think if I watched such a man fly in to save me. I’d think, “This guy can’t possibly relate to me and my problems because he runs in a different league than I do.” I guess this is why Jesus ministered as He did, never owning a home, never charging anyone for His services, never focusing upon worldly wealth, and never turning down anyone’s invitation to dinner, even when the invitation came from a scandalous man or an enemy. Such humility has always appealed to the masses and always will. For that matter, ministering in humility will still work today if we will try it. And we won’t need new jets to do it.

Posted in Brokenness, Contentment, Current Events, Evangelism, God's Work, Humility, Ministry, Money, Preaching, Pride, Prosperity, Service, Sin | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Remember Lot’s Wife

When the burgeoning camps of Abraham and his nephew, Lot, became so large the same area could no longer support their flocks, the two men separated (Genesis 13:1-7). Lot took one look at the lush, fertile, well-watered plain of Jordan, and said, “That’s the place for me” (Genesis 13:10-11). While that might have seemed like a no-brainer choice, it was actually an unwise one. Why? The answer was simple: Sodom, Gomorrah, and the other ungodly cities of that plain were located there.

Lot began by dwelling at times in each of those cities, but it wasn’t too long before he took up permanent residence in perversely wicked Sodom (Genesis 13:12-13) . It seems likely that he sold all his flocks his herds, moved into town, and became an official “city boy.” That accounts for him living in Sodom when the soldiers of an alliance army of eastern kings raided the city, looted it, and carried off him and Sodom’s other citizens as prisoners of war (Genesis 14:1-12). Fortunately for Lot, Abraham (known then as Abram) had 318 well trained and well armed servants in his camp, a personal army formidable enough to attack the alliance army, defeat it, and rescue Lot along with everyone and everything the enemy army had taken (Genesis 14:13-24).

Lot’s capture and subsequent rescue should have been enough of a scare to keep him out of Sodom, but the next thing the Bible records of him he is “sitting in the gate” of Sodom (Genesis 19:1). Since the trials and other legal matters of ancient cities were conducted at the gates, any man who held a seat at a city gate had to be a prominent citizen, perhaps a judge or a member of the city’s ruling council. The point is that rather than separate himself from Sodom as a result of him becoming a prisoner of war for a while, Lot not only resettled in the city but actually immersed himself deeper into it in the years that followed.

Accordingly, it was at some point that he took a wife — evidently she was a woman from Sodom — and became a father many times through her. So by the time God’s two angels showed up to rain fire and brimstone down upon Sodom, Lot had sons, unmarried daughters, married daughters, and sons-in-laws (Genesis 19:12-22). The Bible indicates the total number of family members was ten (Genesis 18:32-33).

As for Lot’s wife, the Old Testament never tells us her name and only mentions her in regards to the story of the destruction of Sodom. She was along with Lot and their two unmarried daughters when he led them out of the city and away from the fire and brimstone (Genesis 19:15-16). Lot could force those three to flee with him because they all lived under his roof, but he couldn’t force his other family members so they ended up dying in the city’s destruction (Genesis 19:14). Perhaps he would have had more influence with them if he hadn’t lost his testimony through years of being a player in Sodom.

But what happened to Lot’s wife? Once she, Lot, and their two unmarried daughters were out of Sodom, she looked back longingly toward the city and was immediately turned into a pillar of salt as God’s judgment upon her (Genesis 19:26). Why was God so hard on her? It was because He knew that her heart would always be in Sodom. Even when He made His disapproval of the city obvious to her, she sided with the city over Him.

It’s obvious that Lot’s wife was right at home in Sodom. Every day she looked upon the city’s pride, laziness, unconcern for the poor (Ezekiel 16:48-50), and homosexual culture (Genesis 19:1-11; Jude v.7) and saw nothing wrong with it all. As backslidden as Lot was, at least he was bothered by the city’s litany of sins and spent his life under conviction for continuing to live in the midst of such a place (2 Peter 2:6-8). His wife, on the other hand, had no such qualms. She was almost certainly a lost unbeliever, which (if the assessment is correct) made her marriage to Lot an “unequal yoke” (2 Corinthians 6:14-18).

It’s no wonder that Jesus left us with the solemn reminder, “Remember Lot’s wife” (Luke 17:32). He wants us to hate sin as much as He hates it. He wants us to be convicted by the way we (at best) tacitly approve of the sins around us, or (at worst) take part in those sins (Romans 1:26-32; Ephesians 5:11). He wants us to value holiness over worldliness. He wants us to pursue repentance rather than carnality. Most of all, He wants us to choose Him over all the allurements this life has to offer. The love that Lot’s wife had for her “Sodom” cost her everything. So tell me, do you have a “Sodom” that you refuse to give up? If you do, you had best be on the lookout for God’s judgment because it it surely on its way. Such is always the case with Sodoms.

Posted in Angels, Backsliding, Choices, Coming Judgment, Conscience, Current Events, Desires, God's Judgment, Homosexuality, Influence, Marriage, Sin | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Christian Verses” Podcast: Psalm 42:5

The verse for this week’s “Christian Verses” podcast is Psalm 42:5, and the discussion centers around the topic of depression. Millions of people suffer from depression. This past week alone two famous people — fashion designer Kate Spade and chef/author/television host Anthony Bordain — committed suicide. And would it surprise you to learn that an alarmingly high percentage of Christians struggle with depression?

Malcolm and I don’t claim to have all the answers concerning this sobering topic, but our discussion features many of the relevant issues and keeps the topic rooted in scripture. So we trust that it will be a blessing and help to those who listen. Even if you, yourself, don’t struggle with depression, you might know someone who does. And if you are one who does struggle with it, you can take heart in the fact that even a man as great and as godly as David faced bouts with it. Here’s the link:

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