Standing in the Wrong Line Could Be a Good Thing

I’m fascinated with “chance encounters.” History is full of them. And so is your life.

  • Ever made a left turn when you should’ve gone right?
  • Ever knocked on the wrong door?
  • Ever stood in a long line only to discover 30 minutes later you were in the wrong line?

We don’t usually see these as life-changing encounters. But they could be. We may miss them for what they could be because we’re too busy complaining that we took a wrong turn … knocked on the wrong door … stood in the wrong line.


James Chadwick stood in the wrong line—and science is glad he did.

James Chadwick (whose birthday we celebrate on October 20) was only sixteen when he enrolled at Manchester University. This young upstart had his eye on studying mathematics—until he got in the wrong line.

Kids these days don’t appreciate the work it used to take to enroll in classes every semester. These days, they lie in bed, munch on a Pop Tart, and choose their classes over the Internet. They’re done before they ever get to the second Pop-Tart.  But back in the day, you had to walk from station to station, sometimes from building to building, to sign up for each class you needed. That was my experience in 1976.

Chadwick faced a similar routine in 1907. He got in line to register for mathematics, but it turns out he was registering for physics. He decided to stay enrolled, though, because he liked the professor he talked with: Dr. Ernest Rutherford.

This wrong line and chance encounter led to a lifelong friendship and partnership. Was that a big deal.? Well, yeah. Rutherford, who mapped out the atom, instilled in Chadwick a love for physics. Chadwick went on to discover the neutron and became a pioneer in nuclear science.

All because of the mistake of getting in the wrong line.


I’m not going to tell you that every mistake or wrong turn in your life is divinely ordained by God.  But since you’re there, look around. God may want to use you in that situation.

  • Does He want to teach you something in the place you find yourself?
  • Does He want you to talk to … pray with … encourage someone you encounter?
  • Does He want you to help or serve someone else?

Maybe. Maybe not. Just don’t assume your mistake is just that: a mistake. That mistake could be an opportunity.

The following verse pops into my head every morning when I first wake up. Seriously.

This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Ps. 118:24).

The truth of that verse really sets my mood. But let me modify it. (Pryorphrase it, if you will.)

This is the moment the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” 

See those wrong turns and “chance encounters” with a random person as opportunities. Seize the moment.

Seize this moment and encourage others by sharing this post on your social media page. 

 

 

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Here I Stand, I Can Do No Other

It doesn’t matter what “brand” of Christian you are: October 31 is the 500th anniversary of an event that impacts your church’s theology and background. And it’s impacted you.

On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther, in an act of frustration over the way the Roman Catholic Church had veered off course, nailed a document—95 Theses, to be exact—to the front door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany.

With a hammer and nail, Luther struck the first blow that would grow into the Protestant Reformation. Luther (and those who joined him) did not initially set out to be the 16th-century version of the church hopper. He set out to reform the church (hence, the term “reformation”) and bring it back to the foundation of God’s Word.

Martin Luther was a Catholic monk who saw the Bible for what it is: the Word of God and, therefore, our ultimate authority. He also saw in this ultimate authority the clear teaching that salvation is through faith in Christ alone. Over the centuries, the church veered from these two central truths, placing more faith and authority in the institution of the church. So Luther called the church back to its roots: the centrality of Christ and the authority of His Word.

But to do that, Luther had to “call the church on the carpet” for its errors—and that did not set well with the church leaders. So four years later, Luther was called before the Diet of Worms.  (To be clear, this is not one of those sketchy weight-loss programs involving tapeworms.  A “diet” was a formal hearing, and it was held in the city of Worms.) The purpose of this hearing was to get Luther to recant, but he was fully committed to obedience to the Word of God. He said:

“I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I can do no other, so help me God.”


What are you fully committed to? What calls you to say, “Here I stand, I can do no other?” Would you nail that commitment to the door?

Conviction and commitment should be second nature for the follower of Christ. Commitment to Christ should be so ingrained in us that we don’t think twice about whether we will be obedient to Him. We don’t have to think twice about whether or not we will compromise our convictions—or look the other way “just this one time.”

  • God’s Word does not change—and neither should our conviction to follow it.
  • God’s Holy Spirit does not abandon us—and neither should we abandon our dependence upon Him.
  • God’s love and grace does not fluctuate—and neither should our display of His love and grace to others.

Is your commitment to Christ nailed down? And is it on display for others to see?

One of my commitments is to challenge believers to stand strong in their commitment to Christ. Help me with this by sharing this post with others.

For a printable version: click here.

This Screen-Shot-2013-06-24-at-1.41.38-PM (1)post supports the study “Ruth: All-in Commitment” in Bible Studies for Life.

 

Is There an Eye Doctor in the House?

Guest post by Debbie Brown

Sitting in the chair that resembles a robotic octopus, I am told to look at the screen ahead of me.  A large bulky contraption that reminds me of some strange pair of glasses left over from an old sci-fi movie is placed in front of my eyes and posed on my nose. The technician asks what I see.

I have to be honest. “A large white glowing rectangle.”

As she begins to dial the knobs on the over-sized sci-fi spectacles, I begin to see more clearly.

“There is an ‘E’!” I finally exclaim.

Even though I’m tested every year, I’m always amazed at how I know there is supposed to be a big “E” on the chart, but I can never see it until the technician adjusts my focus.


Too often I walk around with my life in a blur—not because I left my glasses at home, but because I haven’t asked the Lord to set my focus.  I don’t want my vision dimmed and obscured by the world’s darkened view of life.  I want to see my Lord clearly; I want to see what He wants for my life.

So instead of climbing into the ophthalmologist’s massive straight-backed chair to gaze at a chart, I curl up in my over-sized comfy chair in the family room and open my Bible.  As I fix my eyes on the Lord Jesus Christ and His Word, He opens my eyes—and my heart—to His love, His truth, and all of who He is.  Having focused on Him, I can face the day and look out at the world  from His perspective.

When the world seeks to blur and even blind my vision with its lies and deception, I will go the “Eye Doctor”, the Great Physician Jesus Christ. He gives me just the right focus: Himself.

Dear Lord, I look forward to the day when I see You face to face clearly.  In the meantime, please forgive me for settling for the blurred vision of the world’s perspective.  Please focus my heart’s attention on You.  Thank You, Lord.  In Jesus’s name.  Amen.

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Wisdom in a World of Fake News

Who you gonna believe these days?

My journalism career did not extend beyond high school. I never wrote hard news. I wrote humorous features, but I do remember learning the basic tenets of writing a news story: You report the facts of the event. (See, Mrs. Knapick, I was listening.)

Times have changed in two ways:

1. News reporters now insert their opinions into the story. Surely, because they know the facts,  they know the right conclusions to draw, right? Hmm, maybe not. It’s dangerous because their opinion usually determines the way the event is reported. Important elements of the story can be downplayed or overlooked if they don’t fully support the reporter’s stance. And worse, they’ve been known to distort the facts.

2. Anyone with a computer can set up a slick-looking digital newspaper. Back in the day, you had to have financial backing, resources, and a major investment in a printing press. Not any more. In our digital age, a guy can mooch off the free wi-fi at McDonald’s, set up a news website, and look as slick as Rubert Murdoch—even though he’s living in his parents’ basement.

But this guy never learned about objective reporting from Mrs. Knapick.

We need wisdom and discernment to separate fact from opinion. It’s not like these news stories are outlandish—like something you’d see in Weekly World News. No, the things they report, the conspiracies they uncover, and the “truths” they expose (that Democrats—or Republicans—are trying to hide) all sound so legit.

Why  would anyone buy into what they’re saying? Because it’s in line with their own opinions or political persuasion.

I’m sure I’m not immune. So again I say, we need wisdom and discernment to separate fact from opinion.

Recently, a friend posted a story about the true history of lawn jockeys. In response to the idea that people who place these lawn ornaments in their yards are racists, this story reports that the lawn jockey speaks of a love for the African-American. The idea is that people along the historic Underground Railroad displayed these as guides for runaway slaves.

  • A green scarf on a lawn jockey meant an Underground Railroad supporter lived in a home and the slave was welcome.
  • A red scarf meant the house was under surveillance.
  • A striped jockey shirt meant the slave could swap horses.
  • A tailed coat meant food and lodging were available.

I’m cynical of a lot of stories, and I was no less cyncical of this. It seems awfully complicated. And in the dark of night how could a runaway slave tell what color the lawn ornament was sporting? So, I went to some sources I have found reliable (like www.snopes.com). The conclusion is the use of lawn jockeys as tools in the Underground Railroad is unproven, and possibly unlikely. I shared this with my friend, who forwarded links that supported the opposite viewpoint.

Without discernment, we believe what we want to believe, and we lean toward those sources that support our presuppositions.

Can I say it again? We need wisdom and discernment to separate fact from opinion.


If you could ask God for anything, what would it be? When Solomon was handed the throne of Israel, he asked one thing from God.

“Give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?” (1 Kings 3:9).

You may not be leading an entire nation, but you parent a child … supervise a team at work … speak up in a Bible study. You do something that calls for wisdom. You need wisdom for yourself and those under your influence.

Where do we get wisdom? We gain wisdom as we look to God, even as Solomon  did.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Prov. 9:10).

So how does that help me discern legit news reporting from the yahoos with a website?
I want my heart centered on Christ. I want to be influenced by His kingdom and not my own political leanings. I have found that the more I focus on Christ, the less I am blinded by my own opinions. I haven’t got this down perfectly, but I’m working on it.

Gaining wisdom from God is not a one-time event. We must look to Him and seek His counsel continually about what we should believe and act upon. Solomon is proof. Later in his life. he stopped looking to God, and he foolishly married women he should not have been marrying.

Seeking God’s wisdom and discernment is a daily, even moment-by-moment, endeavor.

 “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you” (Jas. 1:5).

 Keep seeking. Keep asking. When you depend on God, seeing things from His vantage point helps you discern the truth.

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This Screen-Shot-2013-06-24-at-1.41.38-PM (1)post supports the study “Solomon: Unfailing Wisdom” in Bible Studies for Life.

 

You Don’t Have to Be a Forger to Make a Good Imitation

Ever been so good at your work that it got you in trouble? Deep trouble?

Yeah, me neither.

Han van Meegeren on trial.

That was not the case for Han van Meegeren. This week marks the birthday (October 10) of one of Holland’s best painters. Yes, he was an incredibly gifted painter—of other people’s work. That’s right. He was a forger.

But it wasn’t his forgery that got him in trouble. It was his inability to prove he was a forger.

Early in his career (in the late 1920s), van Meegeren’s own art pieces were panned by the critics. He was cheesed by this, so he set out to prove he was as good as any of the masters. He studied their lives and techniques, crafted brushes like theirs, and developed paints that would mimic both color and age. He got good—really good—at copying the paintings of Johannes Vermeer. He copied 14 Vermeer paintings that were so good art critics praised them. The Rembrandt Society purchased one and Dutch museums showcased what they thought were original Vermeer paintings. Van Meegeren made, by today’s standards, about $25-30 million selling imitations.

“Christ with the Adulteress” – the fake Vemeer that got van Meegeren in trouble.

But then the Nazis arrived. In 1942, van Meegeren’s agent sold one of his fake Vermeer paintings, and it ended up in the collection of Hermann Göring. Now let’s cut to the end of the war when the Allies were recovering stolen art and returning them to their rightful place. They found Göring’s “Vermeer”and arrested van Meegeren because he had sold off art that belong to the Dutch. He was accused of being a Nazi collaborator.

The only way van Meegeren could clear his name was to fess up that the painting he sold was not an original, but a fake.  Which is worse? Going to jail for art forgery or for being in cahoots with the Nazis? Van Meegeren chose the former.

There was just one problem. Van Meegeren was so good at his work, no one believed it was a fake. It took six weeks to get others to step up and admit they knew van Meegeren was a forger and his works were fake.

Van Meegeren served one year in prison, but that was much better than what he could have faced as a Nazi profiteer.


“Be imitators of God, as beloved children” (Eph. 5:1).

I want to be so much like Jesus that people can’t tell us apart. To love like Jesus, to see people as Jesus does, and to be gracious like Jesus is my life-long goal. I’m a far cry from it, but I’ve come a long way.

I’m not this yet …

… but I’m no longer this:

And so I press on.

Does God Control Our Circumstances?

Does God control my circumstances, or are the circumstances in my life just that—circumstances?

Well … uh … yes.

God often uses our circumstances to guide us and show us what to do, but sometimes the circumstances surrounding us have nothing to do with what God wants us to do. Let me give examples of both.

1. God is behind our circumstances.
  • Ruth was not a Jew, but she came to Judah with her mother-in-law Naomi. Ruth went to find work gleaning in a field, and she “just happened” to end up working in the field of Boaz, a man related to Naomi. In their culture, Boaz could marry Ruth and be the “kinsman-redeemer” for two women in desperate straits. These “fortunate circumstances” brought the couple together who figure into the family tree of King David and Jesus of Nazareth. (It’s worth reading the short Book of Ruth for the full story.)
  • Esther was a Jewish woman in exile, yet she was forced into a beauty contest which led her to become queen of the entire Persian Empire. These circumstances happened around the time a law was created to exterminate all the Jews. Her cousin, Mordecai, challenged her to use her position as queen to save their people. “And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” (Esth. 4:14).
2. God is not behind our circumstances.
  • Samuel. God sent Samuel to Jesse’s family in Bethlehem to anoint the next king of Israel. Everything pointed to Jesse’s son, Eliab, as the obvious candidate. But God was not behind this.

“The LORD said to Samuel, ‘Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart'” (1 Sam. 16:7).

  • David. Saul was king of Israel, but everyone knew David would be king. Everybody. Even Saul, which is why he was set on destroying David. In spite of God’s promise and anointing to be king, David ran from Saul. On one occasion, David and his men were hiding from Saul in a cave, the very cave Saul ventured into to … um, take care of business. All the circumstances came together for David to kill Saul and take the position God had ordained for him.

But David wouldn’t do it. These circumstances were not directed by God. David said, “The Lord forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the Lord’s anointed, or lay my hand on him; for he is the anointed of the Lord” (1 Sam. 24:6).

So God is in our circumstances—and He isn’t. So how do we know the difference? How do we know when God is using our circumstances to say, “Take action”?

God uses several things to communicate His will to us: the Bible, other believers, and yes, circumstances. But the counsel of other believers and the “nudging” of our circumstances must always be in line with God’s Word.

Always.

Twelve Israelites ventured into the promised land to check out the land they would soon be moving into. But every piece of circumstantial evidence screamed this was a bad move. But God had already told them He had given them the land and He wanted them to move into what He had promised. They were not to worry about the circumstances because the circumstances did not line up with God’s word.

Discerning the “message” of our circumstances is intricately tied to knowing God’s Word. Obedience to His Word makes us sensitive to and in tune with the voice of the Holy Spirit.

“Teach me good discernment and knowledge, For I believe in Your commandments” (Ps. 119:66).

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom. 12:2).

We renew our minds with a solid diet of reading, studying, and meditating on God’s Word. And when we follow this diet …

“Solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil” (Heb. 5:14).

Unwavering faith is not grounded in our circumstances, but in the trustworthy Word of God.

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This Screen-Shot-2013-06-24-at-1.41.38-PM (1)post supports the study “Caleb: Unwavering Faith” in Bible Studies for Life.

 

 

Can We Return “Christian” to What It Means?

Names often have a way of losing their original meaning.

The original Motorola car radio

Motorola. This week (September 25) marks the anniversary of this company that we all associate with cell phones. But when the Gavin Brothers launched the company in 1928, they were working on a car radio most people could afford. Two years later, they had it, so they combined the words “motor” with the name of the widely-popular Victrola phonograph and came up with Motorola.

7-11. The original U-Tote-Em convenience stores changed their name to 7-11 in 1946 to instill in people’s minds their extended hours: 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.. That’s ironic, since for over 50 years, most of their stores are open 24 hours.

Canon. The company’s first camera was called Kwanon, named after the Buddhist goddess of mercy. To make the camera more appealing in America, they changed Kwanon to Canon.

Saab. At the outbreak of World War II, the Swedes needed airplanes. Svenska Aeroplan Aktie Bolag (Swedish Airplane Corporation) opened for business and supplied the Royal Swedish Air Force with planes. When the war ended, they switched to manufacturing cars, but they keep the name SAAB.

Lego. Want to say “play well” in Danish? Leg godt. 

Sharp.  In 1915, Tokuji Hayakawa invented the “Ever-Sharp Mechanical Pencil.” Although business was quite good, an earthquake destroyed the plant in 1923. They decided to move from pencils to radios, but they kept the name Sharp.

We have three examples of company names.

  1. Some companies are still accurately reflected in their names.
  2. Some companies have added extensively to their catalog of products and are known for far more than what they were originally known for.
  3. Some companies moved completely away from the product that established them.

I am aware of one name that, unfortunately, has done all three.

Christian.

Some people carry the name Christian, but they have added so much more to its meaning. They’ve added politics … or rules … or rituals … or cultural expectations.

  • If you’re a Christian, why wouldn’t you vote Republican?
  • Real Christians don’t  get tattoos … or watch those shows.

They’ve added so many layers that have nothing to do with walking by grace and faith in Christ.

Some people wear the label of Christian, but they define it by their own standards.

  • Sure, I’m a Christian, but I’m not hung up on the whole church thing.
  • I think Jesus can be found even in Hinduism, but I choose to worship Him as a Christian.
  • Being a Christian means you love Jesus who won’t judge you for your lifestyle.

Both approaches have made Christian something it’s not. The word literally means an adherent—a devotee— of Christ. The word only appears in the Bible three times, and each time, it carries a hint of derision.

  1. The Gentiles in Antioch first called the followers Christians (Acts 11:26). It was a way of making fun of them for the way they stood out from the culture.
  2. When Paul was defending himself before King Agrippa , Agrippa had no interest in the gospel and said, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?” (Acts 26:28). Can you hear the disdain in his words?
  3. Peter wrote to the church about persecution and how to respond “if you suffer as a Christian” (1 Pet. 4:16).

In each case, Christian had to do with how the outside world saw believers. They meant it in jest and contempt, but believers embraced the name along with the suffering they endured for the name of Christ.

Let’s return to our name. Let’s be identified as those who are truly devoted and committed to Jesus Christ. Let’s lose  it as merely a sign of family heritage. Let’s lose it as a political identity. Let’s lose it as just a way to explain our religious views.

Let’s be Christians.

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