Ridiculed

I remember Patty, in my seventh grade, who wore braces on both legs. Always pleasant and never grumbled or complained about her handicap, she struggled from class to class and her laborious effort to maneuver her crutches echoed on the oak floors. When I heard her, I held the heavy oak door open for her.

Generally, Patty was ignored but sometimes she was ridiculed. One time the boys hid her crutches. When the dismissal bell rang, she reached under her chair, feeling around for her crutches, and almost fell. The hot water radiators had ledges above them and someone had laid the crutches there. I got them for her.

As I stepped into the hall, a student grabbed my arm and laughed in my ear,“Maybe she’d go to the basketball game tonight with ya. You wouldn’t have to hold her hand.”

As he took off, I grabbed him by the shoulder, and asked, “Suppose she was your sister? Would you want her treated that way?

He walked away, but I stood there, as she labored to leave the building, my mind asking, God, why are we humans so cruel to one another? Then I burst through the heavy oak doors myself, pleased that I had confronted him. I passed her scooting down the three concrete steps, dragging her crutches. I ran to the bus and didn’t look back, wiping my eyes on my shirt sleeve.

An Old Testament prophet Jeremiah was derided all the time for preaching the unpopular Word from God and so he complained, “God, I am ridiculed all day long, everyone insults me all day” Jeremiah 20:7b. “I became the laughingstock of all people; they mock me in song all day long” Lamentations 3:14.

Why do we ridicule the handicapped, oppressed, and less fortunate? Psychologists tell us that it is to get pleasure from the misfortune of others, to fit in with the group so we’re not different, and to make ourselves important by putting others down. Human nature wants others to conform and to think and act as they do, an admirable trait if the conformity is positive and Godly.

Here are a few Scriptural burs under our saddles to help us find out where we are in our attitudes toward those who are belitted.“He who despises his neighbor sins” Proverbs 14:21a. Then Sarai mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her” Genesis 16: 6b. “They oppress the poor, the needy, and mistreat the aliens” Ezekiel 22:29. “Remember those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering” Hebrews 13:3. This remembrance ought to motivate us to remove a few of the burs.

“Eternal compassionate Lord, give me eyes to see and feel as the less fortunate. Forgive my insensitivity when I ignore helping others and tenderize me with your compassionate heart so I feel like Jesus who healed the crippled, made blind eyes to see, cast out tormenting demons, fed multitudes, calmed storms, and raised the dead. Show me that same Power as I interact with those different from me, particularly the mistreated. Please keep the truth of Hebrews 13:3 alive in me, deep down in my heart and mind. Then and only then will I learn to reach out to those who are ridiculed and mistreated. Amen.”
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Excerpted from my memoir Naked With Clothes On soon to be published

Post-Christmas Reflections

 

 

 

Now that credit cards are maxed out, gifts exchanged and/or returned, resolutions vowed to spend less next Christmas on gifts, rethinking the real purpose for exchanging gifts, and shredding Santa’s wish lists, can I take the liberty to share a gift idea?

When faced with a gift for my wife, I asked what can I give she can’t wear, she can’t eat, and she can’t set around the house as a trinket? I awoke one night with The Twelve Days of Christmas on my mind, a song my wife really likes.

Bingo! Why not a play on those words with The Twelve PRAYERS of Christmas?

So I started writing down some of her needs and wants and eventually had a list of twenty. I prayed for wisdom as I reduced them to twelve prayers. I hope you enjoy reading three of them as much as I enjoyed composing them.

On the First Day of Christmas my true love prayed for “more meaningful occasions to fulfil my music needs.” On the Sixth Day of Christmas my true love prayed for “me to find more opportunities to socialize and fellowship with my sisters in the Lord,” and On the Ninth Day of Christmas my true love prayed for “me to strengthen my holy habit of daily, personal Bible study.”

I have written this devotional to “stir up in my brothers and sisters in the Lord to love and good works.” It’s something I wanted to share. Maybe it challenges you to come up with a special idea for your loving spouse. Anyway, just enjoy something different from me.

God’s Indebtedness

I had never thought of God as being indebted to anyone. Well, recently He changed my mind.

“Kindness to the needy is a loan from God and God pays back those loans in full” Proverb 19:17. and “God will not forget the love you have shown Him as you have helped his people” Hebrews 6:10. God recognizes an obligation on His part to reward his saved ones for their service to him.

What a concept! We lend to the Lord–the wealthiest Banker in the universe, who owns the Angelic Bank of Heaven and we borrow from him periodically. Then exactly how do we lend to the Lord?

In my hometown in Florida, an exciting lender to the Lord is Rock the Silence, a ministry of hope and help in music, interpretive dance, signing, and drama to the hearing challenged. It’s the only religious entertainers our community mall invites back to perform at Christmas. I’ve witnessed their performance. They are collecting massive loans from their Lord.

Another lender is my cousin, a young gifted violinist, who donates her time, playing at assisted living and nursing homes. She said to me, “I can’t wait to play for these dear, often lonely elderly and to see how music brings big smiles.”

An elderly Christian woman ministers to thousands of children yearly through the Agape Puppets. Often in other countries by herself, she packs and unpacks the crates of the puppet items. She also distributes food to hungry orphans. “My desire,” she says, “is to reach as many children as I can in my lifetime for Jesus.” When Linda shows up to receive her payback on her loans, Jesus will probably run out of crowns.

A biblical lender Job, having a heart to help the less fortunate, personifies lending to the Lord when he says ,“If I have not shared bread with the fatherless and warm clothing to the naked, pull my arm out of its socket” 31:17. A hyperbole that drives home the point–Lend to your God!

Have we considered what loans we’ve acquired in our lifetime as we have loaned willingly and generously of our time, abilities, and resources to the homeless, hungry, and abandoned to meet their needs? The irony of all of this is that the “good” we do for others we give out of God’s resources he’s already given us.

If you don’t see yourself as a lender to your generous heavenly Father, then mediate on Proverb 19:17 until you can pray, “Dear Lord, accept my feeble efforts to help others, knowing full well you keep accurate accounts Malachi 3:16, and you can’t wait to pay back your loans to your servants.”

And these loans will all be paid in full at the bema seat of Christ at his return for the church 1 Corinthians 4:5.

What a payday that will be!

When Jesus Was Called a Coward

Sometimes we will do anything to avoid confrontations and keep peace at any cost. We’ll run, hide, or take any abuse just to avoid trouble.

I was that way growing up.

I recall an incident when I was about eleven years old. Outside a country store there was an old fashioned coke machine with a bottle opener on the side. One day we were hanging around after school before we all walked home. Well, a couple of the boys scooped up handfuls of caps and started flipping them at me one at a time. I just dodged them, backing away. They started calling me names, like sissy, and coward, and scaredy-cat. I didn’t do anything to change their opinions. I simply walked away and headed home as the caps bounced off my back with the guys’ laughter and giggles whizzing around my ears. Martin Luther King would have been proud of me.

When the Pharisees threw their “coke bottle caps” at Jesus, he rarely answered their accusations. He just “slipped through their midst” in some miraculous way. At times, they’d get so furious with him that their anger blinded them, and he’d slip away from them unnoticed. The incident in John 8:59, “At this they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds” clarifies that he sometimes played hide and seek with his accusers. Possibly they even called him a coward, for a coward is one who’s afraid to fight and runs from trouble. But his accusers didn’t have a clue about his power or his motivation. He hid because it was not “yet his time” to die.

I’ve learned that when bullied for sharing my faith, I meekly slip away with a heart cry that those offended by the truth: “No one comes to the Father but by me” will also someday “slip away” with Jesus.

 

Check out John 8:48-59 to see if you think Jesus was a coward.

The Virgin Says Yes

Perplexing questions from Scriptur4412161_se often challenge me to look for the answers. Since we are celebrating the birth of God, let’s start there. What prepared the teenage virgin Mary to submit so willingly to Gabriel’s annunciation? She accepts the messenger from God, according to Luke 1:34: “How can this be, Mary asked the angel, since I am a virgin?” Why such an innocent response? She was not frightened, only startled. She accepts the message from God, according to Luke 1:31, 35: “You will be with child and give birth to a son . . . And the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.” Why such a willing spirit? She doesn’t say, “Give me time to discuss this with my mother.” She accepts the mission from God, according to Luke 1:38: “Let it be to me according to your word.” Why such submissiveness? She said, “I am the handmaid of the Lord.” She said Yes. When we examine Mary’s hymn of praise, we discover she has the answer for us. “My soul magnifies the Lord.” “And my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” “He has regarded the lowly estate of his servant.” “The Mighty One has done great things for me.” Mary’s praise in Luke 1:46-55 consists of more than fourteen Old Testament references from the Law, the Psalms, and the prophets. So how did Mary prepare herself for the annunciation? She filled her heart and mind with the Scriptures. Remember, she had no scrolls to read or memorize. Only her time spent standing in the Court of the Women, straining to listen to the Pharisees and teachers. Since she knew those holy words, Mary was ready to be the Mother of God. We can learn a powerful truth from this young mother. “Get into the Word and the Word will get into you.”

The Enduring Saint

13871101_sI often ask, what prepared Job for Satan’s permitted attacks on him. Answering that question can help us to be ready for those inevitable attacks on our souls.

What do we as modern Christians consider worthwhile? First, we value our position in a company or organization as very important. We also defend our reputation or influence as worth protecting at all cost. Third, we hold relationships of spouse and family worth fighting for. And things we treasure consume our thinking, determine what’s important to us, and shape our lifestyle.

What is applicable to us was equally applicable to our suffering patriarch and what mattered the most to Job can give us some insights.“I have kept to his way without turning aside,” Is that my resolve? “I have not departed from the commands of his lips.” Do I know them well enough not to ignore any one of his commands? and “I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my necessary food.” I’m sorry to admit, I’m not there yet. So to review, he considered three things more necessary than his daily food. First, his knowledge of God’s words, second, his commitment to God’s Word, and third, his value of God’s words.

I hear Job’s words, “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him” Job 13:15. And that’s a dogmatic commitment! When the words of God took up permanent residence in Job’s will, Satan could not get him to curse God or blame God for the lack of understanding of his suffering.

As we align our values up with Job, rather than with our culture, any intruding destructive words from advisers or from Satan will lose their grip because that same affirmation,“Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him,” delivers us.

When our hearts and minds are filled with God’s words, we will identify with Job, and then each of us will be privileged to be called “an enduring Saint.”

Under Construction

under constructionWhen the second semester of my freshman year in college began, I had two roommates. Then we were assigned another roommate, Bob, an aspiring violinist. I assumed we’d have an accomplished musician serenading us to sleep at night. However, the second afternoon I came to the dorm from my last class, I knew I was a little more than optimistic.

Now, I was raised on a farm and had heard lots of barnyard sounds, but Bob was in competition with a choir of squealing pigs, running for their morning mud bath. Listening to his bow being dragged across the violin strings was enough to make me want to jump out the 2nd story dorm window to escape the torture.

One day I asked him what he was practicing, and he said, “Antonio Vivaldi’s Concerto for Violin.” I hoped that Vivaldi was deaf, for if not, he probably turned over in his grave several times when Bob practiced. We convinced him to practice the same time each day and, during that time, we studied in the library or hung out with friends.

I wish I had known this Scripture then: “Each of you should look not only to your interests but also to the interests of others.” I was not much of a conversationalist, but I could have asked him why he started playing the violin, if any of his family were musicians, or what his music goals were.

God was being good to this uncultured farm boy, for he was teaching me, not only to accept others with diverse personalities, but also to learn that others accepted me for who I was. My roommates were not critical or condemning of me for being different from them. I hoped both Bob and I would be fast learners.

Since I was learning that all things happen by divine appointment, not by coincidence, the “Father of Lights” was opening my eyes to practicing Philippians 2:4. Together we roommates started building a fellowship of believers, all under construction, learning, sometimes painfully, that we need each other.

To my delight I got a postcard from Bob a few years later, letting me know he was playing violin in the church orchestra. He didn’t play in Carnegie Hall, but more important, he was playing for the Lord and not for himself.

So when someone annoying works in the cubicle next to you or you have a neighbor that seems disagreeable, get to know his interests and his ideas, and then share some of your life with him. Remember Bob, the squeaking violinist, whose perseverance and determination enabled him to serve the Lord with his music. And remember, we’re all under construction.
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Excerpted from my soon-to-be published memoir, Naked With Clothes On.

Photo used with permission from 1234rf.com