Time to Panic or Surrender?
by JohnBagwell
 Faith & Family
Aug 08, 2011 | 2368 views |  0 comments | 20 20 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

The recent downgrade of the US Credit Rating seems to have many in government scrambling - to get out from under any responsibility.  The news media is giving voice to anyone who wants to get in front of a camera and point fingers, and many hold their breath waiting to see how the markets will settle out over this newest wrinkle.

Are you worried?

The truth is, no one knows what will happen next.  The economy seems to be on a daily roller coaster that is being built daily, and the future is impossible to predict.  I’ve had conversations with people about how to prepare for such an uncertain future, and suggestions of what to do have run from doing nothing differently, to some comical “end-of-the-world” preparations, and all points in between with some ideas I found pretty level headed.

We have all given it some thought, and when I search for something in the Bible to compare it to, my mind went immediately to the storm at sea the disciples experienced with Jesus asleep in the back of the ship.  The story is found in Matthew chapter 8 and Mark 4, but some points about their situation jump out at me as being similar.

First, they had a very huge problem come upon them.  This was not a theoretical, political, or personal problem.  This problem was tangible, it was immediate, and it threatened their very lives.  Second, for their part, there was nothing they could do.  The ship was full of water, and their future was in great doubt.  Third, they went to Jesus, but finding him asleep bemoan that He does not care for them, and that they may die.

Ever been in a situation where life is turned all upside down and it seems God is asleep at the wheel and/or does not not care about what is going on in your life?

As this economy plays out, there are some people out there in ships that are sinking.  Their problems are not theoretical, political, or personal.  They have very real problems that require very real answers.  They have gone to God, and from their point of view, it seems God is asleep.  They have cried out in their hearts, in their prayers at night, in frustrations and anxiety of an uncertain future “Carest thou not that we perish?”

Their concerns and fears are no less real than the concerns and fears the disciples had while on that ship in the middle of a raging sea that threatened to destroy them, and I think Jesus’ response to the disciples would be no different for us today.  Mark 4:40 “And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?”  The difference being that Jesus calmed a very real storm in their lives before uttering those words.  His actions showed what the intent of His words were.  He was always in perfect control of the situation.

Sometimes we simply want the storm to stop, and then we will trust God and be thankful.  I know that is where I would be in my mind.  We want to see the storm abate to know God is still in control.  Strange.  Why do we believe God is control when things are good, but when things go bad we doubt His sovereignty?  When things are good, faith is easy because we perceive the good blessings of God’s provision, but it is when things are not so good when our faith is tested.

The God in control of our lives in good times, is still in control when things go haywire.  When things are good, it is easy to give God control of our lives.  We should be equally prepared to surrender control in our lives when things are not so good, or downright terrible.  The way I see it, with all the uncertainty I have about the future, I think I’d rather have faith in God who really does control everything than trust myself.  It’s not easy.

Like being the passenger in a car heading into trouble, the impulse is to wrest control of the steering wheel away from the driver, but if the driver is an expert, and we really do trust him, faith dictates we be prepared to surrender complete control.  Now, you can start by taking your hands off the wheel.


See more daily posts at www.MenRising.com

All Hypocrites Please Stand
by JohnBagwell
 Faith & Family
Aug 01, 2011 | 2280 views |  0 comments | 24 24 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

Talking with a friend who had just witnessed to someone days earlier, he related the story of how he talked with the young man about Jesus, and about how the young man had responded that he didn’t believe in Christianity, and that everyone who called themselves a Christian were just a bunch of hypocrites anyway.  As he went on to tell the story, my mind was stuck on that singular stinging indictment of all Christendom.  Whether we like it or not, what the world sees when they look at Christianity today is not Christ, but a bunch of hypocrites who think they are better than everyone else.

Typically, Christians tend to react defensively to this.  When the world points out all the atrocities and horrors inflicted in the name of Christianity, we like to point out all the good things people have done in the name of Christ.  There are arguments and pointed examples for both sides to be sure.  There is also a tendency to point out that there are “real” and “fake” Christians, and that it is all the “fake” Christians out there who live ungodly lives that are giving the good Christians (like yourself) a bad name.

Think about that last sentence for a moment.  Go back and read it again if you need to.  In making that argument, have we not just clarified in the mind of the world that “Christians think they are better than everyone else.”

Step back from the scene for a moment and try to imagine how God sees it all.  The world is full of sin and sinners, and you and I are no exceptions.  From the Bible to the laws of men and even the internal mechanisms we all adhere to for a standard of right and wrong, we all, Christians and non-Christians alike, say we believe in a code of right and wrong and yet fail to live up to that standard whatever it may be.  We try to do what is right, but we often fail.  That makes all of us hypocrites.

Where the world sees a difference is that Christians don’t own that.  The world knows and understands, and even accepts that they do wrong.  Christians on the other hand are so busy trying to live a right life that they sometimes get consumed with it, and in that pursuit they see they are doing right things more than they were before and that can lead some to elevate themselves above others as a people who are better than others.  Going to church, reading your Bible, praying, and living a good life are all good things, but they do not make you better than anyone: Isaiah 64:6 ” . . . and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags . . .”

So how to respond when someone calls you a hypocrite?  Just own it.  It’s true, but understand we are all hypocrites.  Just because you go to church and try to live a right life does not make you better than anyone else.  Also understand, that Christ did not love you because you were good, Christ loved you because you needed to be loved.  Without His love, there would be no salvation.  The lost person who calls you hypocrite needs to see that love that Christ loved you with.  Even though you are not perfect, and even though you are a hypocrite who struggles to do right and often may fail to make the mark, you can still show the love of Christ.

Reposted from www.MenRising.com 8/1/2011

Action and Reaction
by JohnBagwell
 Faith & Family
Jul 27, 2011 | 2352 views |  0 comments | 29 29 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

A few nights ago, I was working on something in my office at home when I heard what sounded like my oldest daughter reading a book out loud in her room.  When I went to look, I saw my youngest sitting next to her, listening as she read.  Wanting to capture the moment, I went and grabbed my camera.  On my way to take the picture, I remembered that my camera has a function that illuminates an orange LED light just before you snap the picture, and this orange light had messed up some candid shots in the past because when someone sees it light up, they look, and it spoils the natural shot I was looking for.

So, instead of taking a picture, I decided to put it in video mode.  As I started the video, I edged the camera slowly around the corner, and just watched from the small LCD screen.  I listened and watched for a few seconds when my youngest daughter, holding a small Teddy Bear, announced “I’m going to take your temperature.”  She grabbed a toy thermometer, and began holding it to the mouth of the bear.

My oldest saw this, and stopped reading long enough to make a swipe at the thermometer, but missed.  She made another swipe at it, grabbing it away from her younger sister.  After very forcefully getting rid of the thermometer out of reach, she gave a glare as if to say, “Don’t do that again!” and started reading again.  As I watched this scene play out, I was shocked by two things: my oldest daughters action, and my youngest daughters reaction.

You see, my youngest did not react at all.  She just took it, and my heart broke for her.  If she had reacted defensively, I would have been on her side!  The injustice of the moment angered something inside me, but I just let it play out because it was on video, and I wanted to see if this was going somewhere.  It went nowhere.  It was diffused immediately because there was no reaction.

Too often have I made the mistake of reacting to injustice, whether real or perceived.  It is a quite unnatural thing for me to even think of remaining silent and “taking it” when I feel that someone has wronged me in some way.  Convinced of their wrongness and my right to defend myself, I can get very defensive very quickly, and my reactions are there to put things back in balance.  In the end, even if balance is restored, relationships are usually damaged and hurt.

For me, it is easy to say that my youngest daughter just took the injustice because she does not yet know another way to react, and though I may be right, I hope she never learns another way.  Once you begin to react, it becomes a very hard habit to break.

As for the video I took of my daughters, about 90 seconds had passed from the incident when they noticed it was there.  They had no idea how long I was there, and assumed wrongly that it was just a few seconds.  They wanted to see the video.

As I took my oldest daughter to the office and played the video, I paused it when she made the first swipe and asked her, “What was that?”  I restarted the video and when she made the second swipe I said, “What was that?”  Then, I restarted the video and when she got rid of the thermometer I paused for the third time and asked, “What was that?”  Her face was downcast.  She had just seen and heard what I had seen and heard, and she was feeling the heat from being caught.

“Want to see it again?”  I asked her.  “No, Papa.  Please don’t play it again.”  It was enough.  The point had been made.  In trying to catch my daughter doing something very good and very right, I had been given a very unique opportunity to catch her doing something else.  As I watched the video later, and saw how my youngest daughter just took the injustice, my heart was broken for her, but inside I knew she had reacted the right way.

Reposted from www.MenRising.com - my daily blog for Christian men

Some Really Great News
by JohnBagwell
 Faith & Family
Jul 19, 2011 | 2092 views |  0 comments | 32 32 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

I opened my mailbox today to find out that none other than Tobin Smith has written to me!  I felt I should somehow be very excited about this, except I did not know who Tobin Smith was, and I could not recall ever having written to him.  No matter!

I opened the envelope to see in LARGE BOLD LETTERS that a secret breakthrough has been revealed.  My first thoughts being somewhere along the lines of "so much for the secret".  The paragraph continued using really energetic sounding words like "unprecedented" which is much the same as precedented, only not so much.  I had not even opened the brochure from Mr. Tobin Smith when a letter fell out.  At the top of the letter was a note that said, "From The Desk Of Tobin Smith" and I knew right away that either this man had a well educated desk, or that this letter was somehow more important than letters say, from the dining room table.

The outside of the envelope bearing my name, now revealed itself to contain a more personalized letter titled "Dear Trend-Conscious Investor" which is not at all how my name is spelled.  I'm thinking at this point the envelope labeling person and the letter writing person were probably not one in the same, and quickly I have determined that this letter, and I am so disappointed to come to this conclusion, is quite probably in fact, (it pains me to say this), NOT from Mr. Tobin Smith.

Like many other "Trend-Conscious Investors" out there, I filed the letter respectfully in the wastebasket.  I do not take such things seriously, and I also do not think Mr. Tobin Smith will be too disappointed if he doesn't hear back from me any time soon.

However, there is an Investor that has written to all of us, and it's not "junk mail" either.  The Letter has been around for a long time, and the Investment He made was quite substantial.  You see, in very clear language, the Bible tells us in John 3:16 "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life."

You see, when it came to investing in the salvation of all mankind, God made quite an investment, and as Christians, we are the return on His investment.  Furthermore, we have been given the awesome opportunity to invest ourselves in this opportunity, for we were given a Great Commission - "Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel, to every creature." (Makr 16:15)

That is an investment we should all consider very seriously.

Taking Grace for Granted
by JohnBagwell
 Faith & Family
Jul 11, 2011 | 1985 views |  0 comments | 31 31 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

Ever stop to realize how much we as Americans take things for granted?  This past fourth of July, Independence Day, we celebrated a freedom many outside this country will never know, and many inside this country cannot comprehend.  It is a loss of perspective brought by the consistency of it’s presence, and it happens in the Christian life, too.

The other night, my youngest daughter was saying her prayers.  She still does the “Now I lay me down to sleep . . .” routine because she has not yet learned the meaning of prayer.  We work with her, but understand that talking to God is a difficult concept for her age, however, one night presented me with a teachable moment.  The girls were late getting into bed, and there was a flurry of activity of getting nightgowns on, bed’s made, teeth brushed, and getting into bed.  When I said it was time for prayers, my youngest took her cue and off she went saying her night time prayer as fast as she could.

When she finished, my other daughter started to pray, but I said, “Just a minute.”  I stopped what was going on and looked at my youngest daughter and asked her, “Why do we pray?”  She just shrugged her shoulders, but my oldest daughter then spoke up, “We pray to talk to God.”  I looked at my youngest daughter and asked her, “Do you talk to anyone else really really fast like that?”  She shook her head “no” and I told her, “When you pray, you are talking to God, not just trying to get to bed as fast as possible.  Try it again, but this time, talk to God.”

She did, and we all went to bed, but it had me thinking, how many prayers have I casually breezed through without ever talking to God?  I pray when I wake up, pray for different things throughout the day, pray for safety when I travel, and pray for my food before I eat, but how often am I talking to God, and how many times have I just said words to get through the tradition and ritual of prayer before meals?  Furthermore, in what other ways have I taken God for granted?

I soon realized that even having a Bible I can call my own is a gift, and how often have I failed to exercise my freedom to read its words?  Convicted, I saw many things that surround my life that I have taken for granted from my clothes and car, to my health and my family.  I have been truly given much.  When my thoughts turn to salvation though, I have no excuse.

Grace.  Salvation.  Mercy.  Words I understand in my own human mind that cannot even begin to compare to their real meaning on God’s scale.  All God really expects of me is to live a life that will glorify Him, and to take the message of the Gospel to others.  Yet my life is filled with so many other distractions, excuses really, that seem so important.  Then I realize, I have been living with this grace for so long now, I have come to a place in my life where I have taken it for granted.

While we may now access salvation freely, there was never a mandate from heaven that required God to give His only begotten Son to die for our sins.  When someone asks, “Where would we be without the grace of God”, just try to internalize that thought for a moment, and see if it does not change your perspective and guide you towards actions and a life that is lived to glorify God.

-reposted from www.MenRising.com 7/11/11

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