Tag Archives: purpose

Pleasing God – Bible Thought

 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. 11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved;[a] with you I am well pleased.”

Mark 1:9-11 (NRSV)

The famous Gold winning Olympic runner and Christian missionary, Eric Liddell says in the movie ‘Chariots of Fire’- ‘God made me to run fast. And when I run I feel his pleasure’

However, we tend to think that we can never please God. Moreover, it is somewhat wrong even to think we could feel his pleasure. But that is to cast God in the false image of a overbearing father who can never be satisfied by what we achieve or even aspire to.

Our reading today reminds us that God was pleased with Christ. And so, by implication, we too can give him pleasure when we use all that we are to be all we can be.  Since, after all, who does not delight in being a proud parent!

 

Let us pray

Lord, God

Help me be all that I can be

All that Christ wants me to be

and all that you made me

capable of being.

Indeed, let me feel  your smile.

 

Amen

 

Thought for the week – how to wait

I waited patiently for the Lord,

He turned to me and heard my cry

(Psalm 40.1)

 

When was the last time you had to wait in a queue? Well, if you are like me, you start by avoiding them in the first place. Then, if that fails, there is nothing more enjoyable than complaining to the person next to you about the time-wasting.

It seems then we have lost the art of queuing – or more precisely – queuing patiently. This isn’t really surprising as everywhere today we see ‘express’, 24-hour delivery and fast food. Information, television programmes and a multitude of other experiences are split into bite sizes so that they can be instantly delivered an even more quickly consumed.

And that’s why this verse from the Psalms is so easy to read and inwardly ignore. Since the idea of waiting patiently on any one even God is an anathema to most.

Yet, in the end, God is not to be hurried, God has his own timetable, God in Christ Jesus will act only when he is good and ready.

 

How then do we cope with this constraint on our overwhelming demand for the immediate?

 

Well, that seems to depend on the type of waiting we can discipline ourselves to undertake.

For, we can wait aimlessly as if for a bus or train. We can wait complainingly as we do at supermarket check-outs. We can even wait fearfully as we do for that letter about a test result. Yet we can also do ‘Christmas type’ waiting. You’ll remember it from childhood. You’ll remember that expectant, gleeful almost rapturous waiting that dominated our Decembers. You’ll remember, as well, the joy of the waiting’s end – when God was with us.

 

So let’s try this week to wait more patiently on the Lord. Let’s try to be more expectant that God’s timetable will eventually bring the best for us. Above all, let’s look forward to the moment when God answer us handsomely but inevitably on his cue.

 

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Hope Springs Eternal

Hope springs eternal

 

Romans 5.1-11

 

I recently renewed

by broadband package

and in the process

decided to read

the small print.

 

Of course,

it meant little to me

as it was a mixture of

gobbledygook;

legal-ese

and contract speak.

 

So much so

that the famous Marx brothers

sketch came to mind.

 

You might remember it.

 

It’s when they are discussing

a contract a

and they start off

by read the document –

 

the first clause was

the first part will be known

as the first part

—– and so it went on.

 

Well I have to say

sometimes reading Pau

can feel like reading

a legal document

generated

in the bowels of the EU.

 

Since his pen produces

dense texts

that needs careful reading.

 

In fact,

like most theology,

we need to read it

three times

before sense

starts to appear.

 

Today I won’t foist

two further readings

on you.

 

So if you will allow

I will lead your eye

and ear

to what I,

at least,

think is important.

 

In essence,

let me bring a hope of understanding

even

an understanding of hope.

 

Now hope

is a very interesting word.

 

So much so,

that it features

in many

of our well known sayings.

 

Take the adages –

hope against hope,

living in hope,

hope springs eternal

or there is always hope.

 

Yet each of these clichés

has a negative connotation.

 

In fact, they are used

when hope

is really

not much of an option.

 

When indeed hope

is hardly even a chink of light

in a bad situation.

 

And that is why Pau

l is so very valuable.

 

Because he suggests that,

bleak as

apparently impossible situations are,

they not hopeless.

 

Instead they are the roots

of perseverance and character.

 

These qualities

in turn

germinate into hope.

 

Put bluntly, hope

comes from adversity

rather despite it.

 

Maybe that is the meaning

of a less well known saying –

where flowers bloom

so does hope.

 

Yet despite saying all that,

it still seems

that to blunder

into someone else’s

desperate moment

prattling about hope

is at best offering another cliché.

 

To offer

that tribulations

are a great road to character

is no less than crass.

 

To counsel that awful circumstances

are good for perseverance

can be utterly insensitive.

 

And it is for that reason

we need to read on

in Paul.

 

Since it is then

he adds the essential ingredient.

 

He introduces

the factor X t

hat turns wistful

even forlorn hope

into genuine expectation.

 

In truth, he gives the way

to turning platitudinous waffle

into real comfort.

 

Because he then points out

that the veritable soil

that allows

the painfully won

seeds of character

and perseverance

to blossom into hope

is faith.

 

To him, faith is seeing

in Christ’s selfless sacrifice

the unrestrained love of God;

a love that defies hopelessness.

 

To him, faith that Christ died

and rose

is proof that the impossible

is most likely for God.

 

Moreover, to him faith

is knowing

we can always to tap

into a greater glory.

 

Because it is the phrase

‘hope in the glory of God’

that gives us

not just an aimless hope

but a focus

what we can hope for.

 

Since we cannot hope

to avoid trying times

nor can we hope

to escape tests

that build character and persistence.

 

But we can hope

wholehearted

that through faith

we have a new purpose

and value;

that through faith

we have a refreshing

and everlasting destiny

and that through faith

our life’s meaning

will be eternally fulfilled.

 

Or as David Odunaiya wrote:

“Faith and hope

work hand in hand,

however while hope

focuses on the future,

faith focuses on the now.”

 

All of this is summed up

in a story told

by Linda Ellis.

 

Hope Stout

was a twelve-year old girl

who was offered

a “wish”

in early December 200

by the “Make-A-Wish” Foundation

after being informed

that she had a rare type

of bone cancer.

 

 

However, when she found out

that more than 150 children

in her area

were waiting for their wishes

to be granted,

she unselfishly used her wish

to ask that those children

have their wishes fulfilled.

 

She also asked

that it be done

by January  2004.

 

Unfortunately, however,

the organization informed her

that her noble request

could not be granted

as the funds

were simply unavailable.

 

They calculated that

they would need to rise

more than one million US dollars

in thirty days in order

to grant her wish.

 

Disappointed,

but not discouraged,

she turned her dismay

into an enthusiasm

that inspired caring individual

s to spearhead fundraising

to help grant the wishes

of the other children,

and eventually hers as well.

 

Newspaper columnists

and reporters

for radio and TV stations

shared the story

of this caring young girl

who had touched

the hearts

of so many

and as word spread,

the community was challenged.

 

Committees were formed

and schools, corporations

and various organizations

assisted in raising money

to help bring Hope’s dream to fruition.

 

Though she lost her battle in 2004,

knowing that her wish

was going to come true,

Hope lives on.

 

Her heartfelt efforts

were not in vain

as they continue to help others,

not only physically,

but spiritually

and emotionally as well.

 

At the initial fundraiser

and gathering

to celebrate her life,

“A Celebration of Hope”

In  2004,

the announcement was made

that they had

indeed

received donations

totaling more

than one million dollars

on behalf of Hope Stout.

 

Her wish had been granted!

 

Well I truly pray

you are not facing

the trails of young Hope Stout.

 

But other tests

seem to be in our paths

individually,

as a congregation

and as a nation.

 

In fact, there is much

to try us

each and every day.

 

Yet with hope

we will grow

in character and persistence.

 

With hope

we will be certain

that we will not just prevail

but achieve God’s purpose

as well.

 

Indeed, with hope,

we will know our new direction

in Christ

is toward eternal glory

and victory.

 

All we need do is

to have faith now.

 

Since as Paul’s great guarantee reminds –

faith is the assurance

of things hoped for

and the conviction

of things not seen.

 

Amen

 

 

 

 

Live your dreams

“You gotta be crazy!” That’s what Lee Dunham’s friends told him back in 1971 when he gave up a secure job as a police officer and invested his life savings in the notoriously risky restaurant business. This particular restaurant was more than just risky, it was downright dangerous. It would be the first McDonald’s franchise in the city of New York – smack in the middle of crime-ridden Harlem.

Lee had always had plans. When other kids were playing ball in the empty lots of Brooklyn, Lee was playing entrepreneur, collecting milk bottles and returning them to grocery stores for the deposits. He had his own shoeshine stand and worked delivering newspapers and groceries.

Early on, he promised his mother that one day she would never again have to wash other people’s clothes for a living. He was going to start his own business and support her. “Hush your mouth and do your homework,”she told him.

She knew that no member of the Dunham family had ever risen above the level oflaborer, let alone owned a business. “There’s no way you’re going to open your own business, ” his mother told him repeatedly.

Years passed, but Lee’s penchant for dreaming and planning did not. After high school, he joined the Air Force, where his goal of one day owning a family restaurant began to take shape. He enrolled in the Air Force food service school and became such an accomplished cook he was promoted to the officers’ dining hall.

When he left the Air Force, he worked for four years in several restaurants, including one in the famed Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York. Lee longed to start his own restaurant but felt he lacked the business skills to be successful. He signed up for business school and took classes at night while he applied and was hired to be a police officer.

For fifteen years he worked full-time as a police officer. In his off-hours, he worked part-time as a carpenter and continued to attend business school. And he had started saving and preparing for his dream. By 1971, Lee had saved $42,000, and it was time for him to make his vision a reality.

Lee wanted to open an upscale restaurant in Brooklyn. With a business plan in hand, he set out to seek financing. The banks refused him. Unable to get funding to open an independent restaurant, lee turned to franchising and filled out numerous applications.

McDonald’s offered him a franchise, with one stipulation: Lee had to set up a McDonald’s in the inner-city, the first to be located there. McDonald’s wanted to find out if its type of fast-food restaurant could be successful in the inner city. It seemed that Lee might be the right person to operate that first restaurant.

To get the franchise, Lee would have to invest his life savings and borrow $150,000 more. Everything for which he’d worked and sacrificed all those years would be on the line – a very thin line if he believed his friends. Lee spent many sleepless nights before making his decision.

He decided this was it. The years of preparation he’d invested – the dreaming, planning, studying and saving now had a vehicle to make them a reality. He signed on the dotted line to operate the first inner-city McDonald’s in the United States.

The first few months were a disaster. Gang fights, gunfire, and other violent incidents plagued his restaurant and scared customers away. Inside, employees stole his food and cash, and his safe was broken into routinely. To make matters worse, Lee couldn’t get any help from McDonald’s headquarters; the company’s representatives were too afraid to venture into the ghetto. Lee was on his own.

Although he had been robbed of his merchandise, his profits, and his confidence, Lee was not going to be robbed of his dream. Lee fell back on what he had always believed in – preparation and planning.

Lee put together a strategy. First, he sent a strong message to the neighborhood thugs that McDonald’s wasn’t going to be their turf. To make his ultimatum stick, he needed to offer an alternative to crime and violence. In the eyes of those kids, Lee saw the same look of helplessness he had seen in his own family.

He knew that there was hope and opportunity in that neighborhood and he was going to prove it to the kids. He decided to serve more than meals to his community – he would serve dreams and solutions. He was going to make their obstacles their stepping stones.

Lee spoke openly with gang members, challenging them to rebuild their lives. Then he did what some might say was unthinkable: he hired gang members and put them to work. He tightened up his operation and conducted spot checks. He continually taught his employees the need for honesty and a good reputation if they were to succeed in life. Lee improved working conditions and once a week he offered his employees classes in customer service and management.

He encouraged them to develop personal and professional goals. He always stressed two things: his restaurant offered a way out of a dead-end life; and the faster and more efficiently the employees served the customers, the more lucrative that way would be.

In the community, Lee sponsored athletic teams and scholarships to get kids off the streets and into community centers and schools. The New York inner-city restaurant became a hub for ghetto kids to get a new start and dream new dreams. And in the process, it became McDonald’s most profitable franchise worldwide, earning more than $1.5 million a year.

Company representatives who wouldn’t set foot in Harlem months earlier now flocked to Lee’s doors, eager to learn how he did it. To Lee, the answer was simple: “Serve the customers, the employees, and the community-dreams, goals and solutions along with hamburgers.”

Today, Lee Dunham owns nine restaurants, employs 435 people, and serves thousands of meals every day. It’s been many years since his mother had to take in wash to pay the bills. More importantly, Lee paved the way for thousands of African-American entrepreneurs who are working to make their dreams a reality, helping their communities, and serving up hope.

All this was possible because a little boy understood the need to dream, to plan, and to prepare for the future. In doing so, he changed his life and the lives of thousands of others.

 Cynthia Kersey
 Excerpted/Adapted from Unstoppable
 Copyright 1988 by Cynthia Kersey, www.unstoppable.net 

Fame or Fortune or..

As a child of the sixties, it easy to look back at that era with rose tinted spectacles. Of course, in some ways it was a more innocent and cohesive time. Yet within that greater trust and togetherness we now know that there were many dark corners in our national life; areas which are only coming to light today.

 

This can no better be illustrated than the celebrities of back then. Most have faded into well earned obscurity. Others are pillars of society or, even more cringe-making, awarded the status of national treasure. However, a few have been found to have been the proverbial wolf in sheep’s clothing. Whatever – however they are seen today, none have retained their ‘god like’ status of 50 odd years ago.

 

Nevertheless, despite the experience of history, we continue to thrust divinity onto celebs, politicians and other ephemeral worthies. It seems then that the time-honoured wheel of human psychology demands we ever confer immortality on humanity.

 

Now I think I said not so long ago that when I did my Naval Instructors course, we were taught to start each lesson with something to engage interest. Well, that day in Lystra, Paul and Barnabas certainly did that (Acts 14.8-18). Yet, I have to say, by conducting such a spectacular curing, Paul and Silas did rather ask for the adulation they gained. I am not saying they courted it, but it was pretty obvious what the outcome would be. Nevertheless, they quickly realised their danger and to their credit soon put it right. They made clear they were but agents of the living God; a caring divinity that stood just outside of the pagans’ line of sight. And as a result of rejecting this unmerited fame, they returned to being the type of followers which earn the highest honour – that of being called ‘disciple’.

So where does the Lystra story leave us? How do find our place within the short lesson from Matthew (Matthew 10.37-42)? How indeed do we find greatness within the sometimes uncertain framework of being Christ’s disciples?

 

Well, rather as Paul did, we need to keep our eyes open. For there is little point trying to serve as Christ’s disciples to someone whose mind is closed. Instead, like Paul let us spot faith no matter how ill-formed or ill-informed it is and use it. Let us respond to an openness to things beyond self. Let us work within that space created by the sense of beyond. Since after all, few here would claim to absolute certain of their doctrine on this issue or that, yet we can lay testimony of Jesus’ present and curing in their lives.

 

Next, we need to let matters not lie there. Instead we need to move the another’s spiritual awaking to a sharper focus. It needs to be – front and centre – aimed at the life and teaching of Christ. Because in the false deifying of Paul and Barnabas the greatest danger was not in them becoming too big for their boots. No the real threat was the distraction – the distraction from a God who nurtures humanity, provides for humanity and wants every human life to have meaning, purpose and worth.

 

But then what can we cure?

 

The university faculty gathered for their weekly meeting. A professor of Archeology brought with him a lamp recently unearthed in the Middle East. It was reported to contain a genie, who, when the lamp was rubbed would appear and grant one wish.

 

A professor of Philosophy was particularly intrigued. He grabbed the lamp and rubbed it vigorously. Suddenly a genie appeared and made him an offer. He could choose one of three rewards: wealth, wisdom, or fame. Without hesitating, the philosophy professor selected wisdom. “Done!” said the genie and disappeared in a cloud of smoke.

 

All the other faculty members turned toward the professor, who sat surrounded by a halo of light. At length, one of his colleagues whispered, “Say something. What wise insight do you now have?”

 

The professor, much wiser now, sighs and says, “I should have taken the money.”

 

Today, most people would have taken not the money but the fame. It seems worth is popularly measured in fame and attendant wealth. And if they don’t have it, then they feel their lives are humdrum, unfulfilled even worthless.

Consequently there is a huge amount of people around who suffer from a lack of self-value. Moreover, there are many whose  abject sense of  inner poverty is a genuine handicap to living a full and free life.

Here then is an affliction,we as Christ’s disciples can aspire to cure

 

 

For the sixties are well behind us. And the years may not have brought fame and wealth. They most probably have not brought outward beauty. Yet they may well have brought the internal beauty of wisdom. The wisdom to see that in using  our godly gifts we  can bring real healing. The wisdom to know we can bestow worth and meaning and purpose with simple listening. The wisdom to offer, through Christ, the quiet encouragement that transforms – transforms the everyday into  the outstanding – transforms the commonplace into the priceless and transforms the  ordinary into true greatness.

 

Above all, we need the wisdom to be ourselves.

 

Since others will then see a priceless dignity in our ordinary discipleship,  they will find the living Jesus in our cheerful everyday-ness and they will rediscover in our godly contentment their own way to inner valuing and meaningfulness.  For Thomas Moore said that by learning to discover and value our ordinariness, we nurture a friendliness towards ourselves and the world that is the essence of a healthy soul.

 

So go and don’t just have an ordinary day, instead be someone else’s great day!

 

 

Are you like coffee beans?

A carrot, an egg, and a cup of coffee…You will never look at a cup of coffee the same way again.

A young woman went to her mother and told her about her life and how things were so hard for her. She did not know how she was going to make it and wanted to give up. She was tired of fighting and struggling. It seemed as one problem was solved, a new one arose.

Her mother took her to the kitchen. She filled three pots with water and placed each on a high fire. Soon the pots came to boil. In the first she placed carrots, in the second she placed eggs, and in the last she placed ground coffee beans. She let them sit and boil; without saying a word.

In about twenty minutes she turned off the burners. She fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. She pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl.

Then she ladled the coffee out and placed it in a bowl. Turning to her daughter, she asked, “Tell me what you see.”

“Carrots, eggs, and coffee,” she replied.

Her mother brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots. She did and noted that they were soft. The mother then asked the daughter to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard-boiled egg.

Finally, the mother asked the daughter to sip the coffee. The daughter smiled, as she tasted its rich aroma the daughter then asked, “What does it mean, mother?”

Her mother explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity: boiling water. Each reacted differently. The carrot went in strong, hard, and unrelenting. However, after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak. The egg had been fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior, but after sitting through the boiling water, its insides became hardened. The ground coffee beans were unique, however. After they were in the boiling water, they had changed the water.

“Which are you?” she asked her daughter. “When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean?

Think of this: Which am I?

Am I the carrot that seems strong, but with pain and adversity do I wilt and become soft and lose my strength?

Am I the egg that starts with a malleable heart, but changes with the heat? Did I have a fluid spirit, but after a death, a breakup, a financial hardship or some other trial, have I become hardened and stiff? Does my shell look the same, but on the inside am I bitter and tough with a stiff spirit and hardened heart?

Or am I like the coffee bean? The bean actually changes the hot water, the very circumstance that brings the pain. When the water gets hot, it releases the fragrance and flavor. If you are like the bean, when things are at their worst, you get better and change the situation around you. When the hour is the darkest and trials are their greatest, do you elevate yourself to another level? How do you handle adversity? Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean?

May you have enough happiness to make you sweet, enough trials to make you strong, enough sorrow to keep you human and enough hope to make you happy.

The happiest of people don’t necessarily have the best of everything; they just make the best of everything that comes along their way. The brightest future will always be based on a forgotten past; you can’t go forward in life until you let go of your past failures and heartaches.

When you were born, you were crying and everyone around you was smiling.

Live your life so at the end, you’re the one who is smiling and everyone around you is crying.

By - Jack Jack Kornfield

From 'Morning with Dilbert' Blog