|Rain Brings Out the Fragrance
|Thursday, December 08, 2016|
It was just a small pine bough there on the sidewalk. But I was obliged to pick it up and take it to my office.
I have always loved the smell, the look—even the feel of pine trees. It must go back to my childhood at Christmastime. To this day, the smell of a pine tree brings back so many happy memories, and whenever I pass by a Christmas tree lot, I like to stand there and just sniff the air.
My favorite restaurant in the entire world is called White Pines and at home you’ll find a soap bar my wife gave me, whose fragrance is pine.
Every December, I walk by Chicago office buildings festooned with pine branches. Often, I stop and inhale the beauty. But a recent walk in the rain confirmed a theory I have long held. It was drizzling and the smell of cut pine boughs wired to a fence was scrumptious. Somehow, rain brings out the pine smell. I don't know why. I don't know how. I only know that it does.
Rain on Your Party
This Christmas, our hopes are high for family gatherings without strain, shopping without stress (and other highly unrealistic wishes). The truth is it's probably going to rain on your party. Not pretty fluffy snow. Ugly rain. Cold and yucky wetness.
Fragrance in You?
And it may all seem a bit disappointing. But if you know Jesus, the unwanted rain can actually bring out His fragrance in you. As 2 Corinthians 2:15 puts it, “For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.”
When others see the real Jesus lived out in real problems, it makes for a remarkable fragrance in an otherwise stinky world. I don't know exactly why. Or how. I only know that it does.
|Why I Can't Hit the Delete Key
|Thursday, December 01, 2016|
Confession. I keep some contact names in my Outlook address book even after they have passed away. A former boss. A friend. I just can’t bring myself to delete their names. For example, there’s this guy I met in the pulpit of a church in Romania.
It was one of the first times I ever preached in Ploiesti, the oil producing town an hour north of Bucharest. Stefan (not his real name) stood next to me and translated the message with remarkable ease—despite my rookie ways.
He Never Complained
Stefan was not a large man, but he had a huge heart. His intelligence extended beyond linguistics into technology. He had a responsible job, a beautiful wife, a baby boy, and it was a pleasure to get to know him. Every year when I visited Ploesti, Stefan would faithfully translate my sermon, never complaining when my sentences were too long.
You can understand how I began to look forward to being with him—if only for a short time in his church. We emailed some throughout the year between visits.
Then came the Sunday we headed off to church and I was informed Stefan would not be translating for me—ever. A car accident. You can imagine my shock.
This past November—more than ten years after the accident—I spoke in that same church. There in the front row was this man’s widow, and seated next to her, the little boy that was now a young teenager.
We met afterwards and I could not resist reminding the boy of what a great father he had. Of how intelligent he was and—better than that—how humble he was. The boy seemed to nod his head without much emotion. Too young to remember.
Their Deeds Follow Them
But not me. I remember him. And his wife remembers him. And many others whose lives he touched remember him, too. That’s the way it is with those in die in Christ, for as John writes in Revelation 14:13, “their deeds follow them!”
I cannot bring myself to hit the delete key on this man’s contact page.
Now you know why.
|Thursday, November 24, 2016|
They came from entirely dissimilar cultures.
They gathered from opposite sides of the ocean.
They spoke languages different from each other.
Yet they sat down and enjoyed each other’s company, getting to know each other over a Thanksgiving dinner together.
Something More Current
You are perhaps envisioning the Massachusetts meal we know today as the first Thanksgiving. Yet I have in mind something much more current.
I'm thinking of a series of “Thanksgiving meals” we shared days ago in Sofia, Bulgaria at Moody Radio’s Global Partners Training. More than a hundred Christian media professionals gathered from nearly a dozen nations: Romania, Albania, Kosovo, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Moldova, Austria, Kenya, Germany, India--and Bulgaria.
All Those Languages, But...
Imagine the diverse mix of languages and cultures. Yet we shared one profound common bond—a love for Jesus the Christ. Consider the difference that made on a practical level.
Without knowing a thing about the people we ate with, we knew enough that we could relax and enjoy them. Without knowing a word of their language, we communicated powerfully around the person of Jesus. Without any understanding of cultural nuances, we connected deeply.
And it didn’t happen just once. Or twice. It happened all week long! In that sense, every meal was a Thanksgiving meal.
Still Another Proof
For me, this is an unexpected apologetic for the Christian faith. I have been privileged to travel to some 35 countries. Wherever there are Christ followers, they always take care of you. You’re family—even if you’ve never met. This sense of family is not mere sentiment or projected religiosity. It is a bond I have witnessed in some intense situations.
So if you know Jesus, it means two things at this unusual holiday:
|Thursday, November 17, 2016|
They say that the eyes are the window to the soul. If that’s true, there are some mighty interesting windows out there in God's animal kingdom. Take, for example, the giant squid.
Most animals’ eyes are smaller than oranges. But—try to picture this--a giant squid's eye is larger than your head!
Goat’s eyes are not nearly as large, of course. But they do have a unique feature. Their pupils are rectangular shaped. This means they can see a panoramic view of 320-340 degrees—and can almost see behind themselves.
Seeing Behind You
Seeing a lot is one thing. But seeing it well is another. Consider the Mantis shrimp. At one foot long, it is said to have better eyesight than any other animal. Quite a claim!
But for something that comes close to a death stare, check out the Stargazer. This interesting fish slyly buries itself in the ocean sand. When a fish of prey swims by, the Stargazer fish shoots 50 volts of electricity from its eyes to stun the prey.
A bit less dramatic is the common reindeer. With the coming of winter’s longer days, the reindeer's eyes—typically a shade of gold—change to blue. Next time you see Rudolph on the TV special, see if the animation artists were accurate.
For sheer creepiness, it's tough to be beat the vision of a scallop. It has—get this—100 eyes around its shell.
No slouch in the creep-me-out department is the Ogre-faced spider. It has not one pair of eyes...but four. That's right...eight individual spider eyeballs! That makes it the best seeing spider in the world.
God seems to place a premium on eyesight—literal and spiritual. Check out 2 Chronicles 16:9, “For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him....”
What does God see when He sees you?
|What READERS are saying...
|Thursday, November 10, 2016|
If you could live your life over again, what would you do less of?
Here's what Thursday Thought readers have told me:
Ron wrote, “I think I would invest less in people and spend more time in relationship with the Lord of the universe. Not that there is anything at all wrong investing in people. Just that looking back, I haven't been too successful at it.”
Russ told me, “I would work less...be less concerned about work...and spend more time with my wife and kids! Work will always be there. Kids grow up and leave. Age brings potential limitations. Enjoy family life to the fullest while you have the opportunity..”
Less Work Time
Buddy's looking-back-list is just like Russ's: “Less work time and more time in general with my family.”
Carolyn said, “If I could do it all over again I would spend less time in worry and more time praying, especially for my son and his family.”
Marion agrees. She would do less worrying adding, “I definitely wasn't trusting that God had me just where He wanted me.”
"I Wanted My Family to Have Stuff"
Larry expressed himself with an eloquence that is raw—and painful: “I worked second shift for years because I had a job running a melt furnace in a foundry. It paid well and I wanted my family to have STUFF. I now realize that the time I spent at work was time I missed with my kids and wife. My wife helped my son with his Eagle project, not me. She raised our kids, but they had STUFF. I would spend less time working and more time 'Dadding.'”
Our One and Only Opportunity
Christians love to comfort themselves with the reality that heaven is our true destiny. And it is! That's where our focus ought to be. But let's not forget that this life we have now is our one and only opportunity to shape that eternity.
Which means...there are some things we must do less of. Which things? Wish I could tell you. But that's a matter for prayer.
Psalms 90:12, “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.”
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