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God has ways of doing things.

His ways are different that our way of doing things.

There’s a way that makes sense to us, but the results are disastrous.

But God has different ways.

And He asks us to walk in all of them. [click to continue…]

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Gazing

Hold.

Such an ordinary, blue-collar word.

Industrial strength, geared for protection and defense, holding commands attention – not by rising to dizzying new heights of adventure or romance, but by remaining ruthlessly still…

Safe…

Steady.

Boring? Only when, in your desperation for a change, any change will do.

Oppressive? Only when you think the grass is greener somewhere else and you can’t get there.

Holding is a sign that somewhere there is someone or something that is stronger than you are – at least for the moment. You may be held back by your fears. Or held safely by that seat belt and airbag. Or held in the arms of someone who can comfort your heart.

But sooner or later fears subside. Belts are unbuckled. And people, however well-meaning, let go.

But there are everlasting arms and an all-powerful Strength that promises to hold you in love and peace long after all other sources are exhausted or used up.  [click to continue…]

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Sorrow

Rejection is one of the most brutal experiences you and I can face.  To say it hurts like hell may not be far from the literal truth.

Psychologists have learned some things about rejection…

Research tells us that rejection travels the same neural pathways in the brain that physical pain does.  In other words, otherwise-unexplained physical pain may have been triggered by the experience or memory of rejection.

Rejection isolates us from people who didn’t reject us, unless we take steps to reconnect.

Rejection causes surges of anger and aggression (gangs, anyone?).

Finally, rejection makes us temporarily stupid.  It literally lowers your IQ and makes you unresponsive to reason for a time. (Translation:  Don’t make vows or major decisions – especially with the word “never” in it – after being rejected.)

In the biblical story of Joseph, you can find the roots of rejection, as I explored in the previous post.   Joseph lived a very uncertain childhood, marked by the death of his mother and the preferential doting of his dad.  He was a dreamer and, to his brothers, something of a goody-two-shoes. All of this set him up to be the objected of their jealousy and hatred.

What no one knew at the time, however, was that rejection can serve as a trap door, straight into the arms (and plans) of God.  And that’s where Joseph learned the truth about rejection. [click to continue…]

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Leap of Faith

One of the most charming words in the English language is the word “promise.”  Do you realize that so much of what we experience, of what we know about God, of our spiritual maturity, and of our success or failure in the Christian life has something to do with how we respond to the promises of God? Check this out:

Because we have these promises, dear friends, let us cleanse ourselves from everything that can defile our body or spirit. And let us work toward complete holiness because we fear God (2 Corinthians 7:1, NLT)

We do not want any of you to grow slack, but to follow the example of those who through sheer patient faith came to possess the promises (Hebrews 6:12, Phillips).

And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires (2 Peter 1:4, NLT).

To put it simply, we are People of the Promise.  So let me get nosey a minute.  What are you trusting God to do today that only He can do?  Where is the evidence in your life that God is keeping His word to you?  What is there about your life that can only be explained by the faithfulness of a loving God?

The original card-carrier for People of the Promise was a man named Abraham.  And we can learn some things from his example.  [click to continue…]

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Somewhere not far from you, in an undisclosed location (they like to keep it that way), a group of ants is planning for winter.  Methodically, laboriously, they’re hauling whatever it is that ants eat into a safe place.  Though I’m sure they’re tempted to nibble on the profits, they resist the temptation to consume today.  Instinctively they know that they must work now for the time when either they can’t work, or there won’t be resources available.

In the Middle East there dwells a little furry critter – something like a cross between a chipmunk and a badger.  (In other words, he sings like an angel, but he’s in a really bad mood!)  Seriously, this little mammal is something like a Rocky Mountain version of a prairie dog.  He has no natural defenses, yet easily protects himself from predators.  His secret?  He makes his home in the little crags between the rocks.  There he remains safe while his enemies get a sore nose.

[click to continue…]

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As long as people have searched for direction, worshipped their Creator, and looked for language to express their passion and warmth, we have returned again and again to stand by the fire.

The fire was an agent of God’s guidance and an ongoing expression of worship in the days of the tabernacle.  And we kept returning to stand by the fire.

A refiner and cleansing agent of the hearts of men, the fire was a symbol of God’s hatred for sin and an affirmation for the prophets who spoke His truth.  And again and again, we kept returning to stand by the fire.

The fire was a weapon of God’s voice, a light in the darkness, and an expression of hospitality and welcome. And from the dark places and lonely spaces, still we kept coming to stand by the fire.

The fire revealed a passion for God’s word in our bones, the baptism of the believer, the instrument of God’s testing, and the piercing gaze of the risen Christ.  And out of desperation or terror, love or longing, still we kept coming to stand by the fire.

And even today the Spirit and Bride invite you to come.  To be warmed and convicted and cleansed and restored and pure as you stand by the fire. [click to continue…]

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When I’ve lost the fire of passion and power and feel reduced to ashes and embers, will You be the Fire that burns in my soul?

When you’ve lost the fire of passion and power and feel reduced to ashes and embers, I’ll be the Fire that burns in your soul.  I still love you.  And I’m still here.

When I’m standing alone in a crowded room and feel unnoticed… forgotten… alone… will You be the Truth that reminds me I’m not?

When you’re standing alone in a crowded room and feel unnoticed… forgotten… alone… I’ll be the Truth that reminds you you’re not.  I still love you.  And I’m still here. [click to continue…]

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Upwind of Ground Zero

by Andy Wood on May 1, 2011

in Turning Points

This is raw – straight from my journal and unedited, except for a few explanatory items in brackets.  It was written on September 11, 2001.  At the time I was traveling with Resource Services, Inc. as a church capital stewardship consultant.

This morning my phone woke me up in the Albany, NY hotel where I was staying.  It was Robin, making sure I was all right.  She said the World Trade Center had been hit by a plane in an act of terrorism.  I turned on the TV and was transfixed by the images of what I saw.  Two planes, one hitting each tower.  Then the subsequent collapse of both buildings.  Then the news that the Pentagon had suffered a similar fate from another airplane.

How do I begin to describe the horror, the fear, the fascination, and the numbness I felt?  Then my cell phone began to ring.  First, Amy Shillings from RSI.  Then Connie Smith.  Then Mother and Daddy.  Then Robin again.  Then Daddy again.  All making sure I was OK.

I finally decided at about 11:00 to get out for a while.  The beautiful, clear sky of September in upstate New York belied the scene of billowing smoke and debris that was taking place a couple of hours’ drive south of here.

I met a black man, Anthony, on the hotel elevator.  He wanted to know if I was going toward the mall.  “Come on,” I said.  I’ll take you where you need to go.”  Anthony was en route from one girlfriend to another.  No kidding.  Then later would catch the bus for a two-hour ride back home.  To his fiance.

I dropped Anthony off at the mall, and, still in the parking lot, decided to check my voice mail.  I heard the calls from [RSI CEO] Carl Hefton, [RSI President] Bill Wilson, and others – expressing care and support, encouraging us to do what we felt we needed to do, informing us that the travel office was prepared to assist in any way we needed.  I felt loved.  Cared for.  For once, not alone.  And there in the mall parking lot, I just cried like a baby. [click to continue…]

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I have a friend who doesn’t do change well.  I have another who aches for it.  Strangely enough, they both find themselves routinely responding in the same ways.

Both are fiercely loyal, probably to a fault.  They will cling to relationships, to institutions, even to ideas long past what most people would consider healthy or normal.

Both are very deliberate in the ways they go about making decisions – to the point that life sometimes barges in and makes the decision for them.

Both have dreams that seem to escape them while they wait for the circumstances to improve… which they never seem to do.

Interestingly enough, both are people of great faith.  These are not casual Christians.  They are heart-deep in a pursuit of God’s best for their lives.

They also have their differences.  One pushes himself to grow, to stretch, to improve – only to find out the ladder he was climbing was leaning against a bombed out building.  The other refuses to consider that if she keeps doing the same things, she’s likely to get the same results.

One will analyze a situation to death without ever taking action, then analyze what happened when the action took him.  The other will react to situations on the basis of emotions, but typically they’re feelings of fear or regret.

Meanwhile, the winds of change just keep on howling.  To one it feels like a blowing rain.  To the other it feels like a mocking tormentor. [click to continue…]

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This is awkward.  But I want to tell you about an experience I had a long time ago, when I was young and stupid (as opposed to middle-aged and ill-advised). 

I was in a season in my life when I had lost nearly everything.  I don’t mean that poetically.  I mean, everything.

Job… fired.

Career… lost.

Health… busted.

Friends… nearly all vacated.

Marriage… destroyed.

Kids… gone.

Integrity and credibility… a bad joke.

Finances… bankrupt.

Sanity… toast.

I was a shell of a man, crushed under the weight of stupid choices, addictive behavior, and shame.  I would sit and, without realizing it, rock back and forth. (Braves fans, remember how Leo Mazzone, the former pitching coach would rock on the bench?  Yeah, that was me and worse.) 

On this particular day, I was sitting in a hospital day room when somebody stuck his head in the door.  “Anybody here named Andy Wood?” he asked. [click to continue…]

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