Devotionals : Part 3

Contentment Part II 

1 Timothy 6:6, “But godliness with contentment is great gain.” (NIV) 

Be Faithful with the Little:
Last week I wrote a devotion on contentment and talked about how unhealthy comparisons and “happiness dependence” can distract us from living a life of joy and contentment; happiness being dependent upon what is “happening” at the moment verses joy beyond any circumstance. Now I want to talk about another area that brings with it contentment and fulfillment, a sense of purpose.

Are you looking for a purpose? Well, you were certainly made for one! He has one for you in his divine plan for mankind. Yes, there is a plan and a blueprint. He has revealed bits and pieces of it to us throughout His Word, but by faith, we must trust Him with what is yet unseen and undone.  

There are very few big things God will ask you to do in this life, but there are so many more small things with great impact that He has purposed for us as well. It’s the everyday tasks and acts of obedience in which God delights. He desires for you to be faithful with the little before He can give you much. 

Mother Teresa didn’t become famous because she did “big” things for God. She became well-known because she was obedient each day to the specific call upon her life. She was faithful with the small acts of kindness that, once they were added up, became a monument of service to God. Her daily life was an example to so many. 

Are you being faithful with the little, what some would consider “small acts of kindness”? Are you being obedient with the day-to-day activities of life? I hope so, because it is in the day-to-day life where God prepares our foundation for our purpose and ministry. It is the everyday life where miracles occur. 

Christ was faithful to the Father and fulfilled His mission on earth. He models our ultimate example. Although the climatic purpose in His life was His death on the cross, it was the day-to-day obedience to the Father that brought Him to  the cross and ultimately His resurrection. 

Breaking bread with the disciples, washing people’s feet, taking the hand of a beaten woman accused of being a harlot, turning water to wine for a party and building tables as a carpenter were not mundane activities at all. They were the extravagant pieces of a glorious tapestry God was putting together. And so it is with you.  

The next time you begin to wonder how God could be glorified in a seemingly insignificant, boring day-to-day task, remember that God is building a foundation. He is putting together a wonderful puzzle where each piece of your life fits into the next, to create something more grand than your physical eyes are able see. 

It is your obedience that is greater to God than any big sacrifice. Keep sowing, even in drought, for the rain will come and in due season you will reap a harvest – if you do no give up. Satan wants you to compromise and give up. He doesn’t want you to keep sowing because he knows that a harvest of blessing awaits your faithfulness. 

You will learn the joyful art of contentment through tending the daily activities God has given you. Allow God to redefine for you the meaning of success and stay faithful with the little because much more is coming!

My Prayer for Today:

Father, help me to be content with the lot You have assigned me and to be faithful to the promptings of your Spirit today. I know You have a wonderful plan in place and a purpose for my life. Help me to remember to give thanks in all things and to be faithful with the little, knowing in due season I will reap a harvest of blessings if I do not give up! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Finding Saint Patrick

Saint Patrick’s Day, a day when you better wear green or you get pinched, Leprechaun’s exist and at the end of rainbows there really are riches in the form of a pot of gold. Sometimes in every day culture we don’t stop to think about why we are really celebrating a holiday. 

Have you ever wondered, “How and why in the world did we create a holiday about a Saint named Patrick?” What did he do that was so special? Why is the Shamrock a symbol many associate with this day? Why all the fake Irish and Scottish accents and green beer?

What actually began as a religious feast day for the patron saint of Ireland has now become an international festival celebrating Irish culture with parades, dancing, special foods and a whole lot of green. The first parade to celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day in America was in New York City in 1762 and by mid-19th century parades were common in the United States.

Saint Patrick’s Story

Saint Patrick was a 5th century British Christian missionary and bishop in Ireland. Known as the "Apostle of Ireland", he is the primary patron saint of the island. The third largest island in EuropeIreland sits in the Atlantic off the northwestern coast of Europe. Due to its climate Ireland has lush landscape with low lying mountains surrounding valleys of vegetation. Rolling green pastures with livestock roaming the hills is a common scene. Perhaps this is why green is a color we often think of when the holiday comes back around every year?

Saint Patrick's Day is observed on the 17th of March, the date of his death. It is celebrated inside and outside Ireland as a religious and cultural holiday. In the dioceses of Ireland, it is a holy day of obligation and a celebration of Ireland itself.

Patrick was actually born as a nobleman about 400 A.D. in Britain, not IrelandHowever, at the age of 16 it is said he was captured by pirates and taken to Ireland to be a slave. He was enslaved for six years. During this time he began to learn about Christianity. He was actually a shepherd while He was studying about the Great Shepherd, Jesus Christ. Perhaps Christ’s many analogies in scripture of a God who shepherds his people was better understood by one in the profession himself.

One of Patrick’s famous written pieces was ‘The Confession’. He describes his time in captivity as a place of spiritual development. He speaks of prayer often and of his eventual conversion to Christianity. He tells the story of fleeing his master and traveling some 200 miles to a port where he persuades the captain of a ship to allow him to board. The ship was sailing to Britain, his home. Back home, free from his former chains, Patrick began to study the scriptures even more. In his early twenties, he began to hear the call of God to return to Ireland and tell others about Christ.

Patrick recounts that he had a vision a few years after returning home:
I saw a man coming, as it were from Ireland. His name was Victorious, and he carried many letters, and he gave me one of them. I read the heading: "The Voice of the Irish". As I began the letter, I imagined in that moment that I heard the voice of those very people who were near the wood of Foclut, which is beside the western sea—and they cried out, as with one voice: "We appeal to you, holy servant boy, to come and walk among us." 
Patrick becomes a missionary to Ireland, heeding what he believed was the voice of God. During St. Patrick's mission, he writes that he "baptized thousands of people". He ordained priests to lead the new Christian communities. He converted wealthy women, some of whom became nuns in the face of family opposition. He also dealt with the sons of kings, converting them too. Using the knowledge of Irish language and culture that he gained during his first captivity, it has been said Patrick brought Christianity to Ireland in the form of more than 300 churches and over 100,000 Irish baptisms.
During his ministry, legend has it that he would use a “three-leaf clover” shamrock to illustrate the Holy Trinity - the Trinity being the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It made sense to use the three leaf shamrock, symbolizing the three persons but One God. Due to its green color and overall shape, many viewed the clover as representing rebirth and eternal life. 
Purpose in Suffering:
As I have been considering his story I can’t help but wonder what his life would have been like if he had never been sold into slavery. Would there have been a Saint Patrick or a day to commemorate his life if he had not suffered as he did? He explains that much of his spiritual development was a direct result of his bondage.
Being taken away at such a young age from his family to a strange far away place must have been a terribly painful experience. I am sure young Patrick daily cried out to God from the fields where he was forced to be a shepherd boy. As an agnostic uncommitted to a particular God, his cries must have felt so lonely and been so desperate. Yet it is in the place of misery where his ministry was birthed.
Although we don’t know how or exactly when, we do know that God Almighty did find a way to reveal himself to Patrick. Somewhere along the way he found hope from the scriptures and learned to pray and enjoy communion with God. It was in his despair where he was forged into destiny. Christ became so real to this young man that he was willing to sacrifice everything to make him known. Later in his life as a free man he chose to go back to the place of slavery so he could set others free. The trickle effect of a transformed life can be astonishing.
How often do we complain and groan about our troubles and struggles? Would we complain so much if we understood that it might be the very place where our ministry and purpose is born? Is suffering not the place where we tend to find God? I know in my own life pain has been where God has molded and shaped my character. He has always been more interested in my integrity than my comfort. I praise him for his infinite wisdom in how he allows us to suffer. He knows the resurrection that follows affliction and what it takes in our own lives to bring us to new life. 
Consider these verses:
And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” 1 Peter 5:10
We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.” Romans 5:3-4
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4
A Sympathetic Savior
It’s also in the place of hurt where we are tempted to run to other means of healing for our deep wounds. For some it is alcohol, others maybe pornography or drugs? Or perhaps that salary and career we got ourselves into at the expense of quality family time? Then there was the perfect body we had to have even though it has completely ruled our schedule and created unstable health.
Jesus never promised us a place here on earth without suffering, but he did promise he would go through that pain with us. Carrying the weight of the bloody cross and of the world’s sins must have been horrific. Nails driven into his innocent hands and feet, oh yes, he is familiar with physical pain. Being lifted up for the world to see while he hung there barely able to breathe, knowing the disciples had all forsaken him, oh yes, he is familiar with rejection. Crying out to the Father from the cross and finding for the first time no comfort, oh yes, he knows what it is to feel all alone.
Let us turn to the One who suffered and died for our sins. Let us allow Him to make something beautiful out of our broken hearts. No matter what you are enslaved to, cry out to him as Saint Patrick did and you will find your tests in this life can become a testimony. There is nothing he cannot use in your life for his glory and for your good. He is a master at raising the dead and he can raise you to life as well.
So when you get pinched for not wearing green or find yourself going to a parade and drinking green beer, maybe you’ll think about Saint Patrick and his story. Then maybe you’ll be encouraged and remember that God can take any sinner and make them a saint, and even more so through your mistakes and suffering.
“For our sake he made him {Jesus} to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:21

The Cost of Freedom's Ring...

Recently I read the book Lone Survivor. It was one of those books I just could not put down. This is saying a lot coming from me because I really don't like to read all that much. It has to be a fantastic story line to get me past chapter two! However, with this story I found myself taking the book with me wherever I went so I could pull it out and keep reading during any down time found in the day. I was captivated by it. 

In the book, Marcus Lutrell explains his experiences as a Navy Seal. It starts with his torturous "hell week" in Navy Seal training and then you are thrown into an intense and horrific battle with Al Qaeda in the dry mountainous landscape of Afghanistan. The Navy Seal training in the first few chapters to me was just almost unrealistic. Honor. Courage. Commitment. That’s the motto of the United States Navy Seal. After reading the details of their training though, I'd probably describe more as Severe Pain. Mental Torture. Intense Suffering. The five-point screen test to even see if you have an opportunity to go through training to be a Seal is... 

1. A 500 yard swim in 12 minutes and 30 seconds
2. 42 push-ups in two minutes {real push-ups people} 
3. 50 full sit-ups in 2 minutes {ain't nobody holding your feet folks}
4. 6 dead hang pull-ups 
5. A 1.5 mile run in 11 minutes 30 seconds while wearing boots and long pants {and this is after you are completely fatigued from the first 4 tests} 

There are only certain soldiers who can survive hell week and as the details of the training unfold you begin to believe that there are particular men who were just made for battle. Marcus was one of those men. He graduated a Navy Seal and soon after in March 2005 he was sent to a US Naval Base called Bagram in Afghanistan. There he joined several other men that formed Seal Team 10. 

During his stay at Bagram there were a number of missions in 
Afghanistan set on the pure motive of stopping the Taliban and their brutal attempts of conquest. U.S. platoons went out night after night into the peaks of the Hindu Kush trying to halt the insurgents creeping through mountain passes. These Taliban bearded fanatics would try to slide through the darkness from Pakistan into Afghanistan intent on nothing short of murder. They came armed with AK-47's and knives; ready to slit your throat if you created any kind of obstacle to their mission. These Muslim extremists think nothing of slaughtering thousands of people. They've stabbed and mutilated young American soldiers and won't think twice about cutting off your head in front of others; making sure you ingest a great spoonful of fear.

The insurgent Taliban warfare and attacks on innocent lives had to stop. So where do you start? At the top. Who's in command? How do you halt the locomotive driving this bloodthirsty train? Every soldier on the Bagram base knew it was their job to study the enemy and find out who was chief among the Taliban troops. Through strategic surveillance they would be able to identify the highest ranking and most dangerous of men among a list of potential targets. The teams and officers at Bagram would watch the insurgents regrouping, striving to find the top commanders of these evil outfits and arrest or kill if need be, leaders of the Taliban force. Among the chief targets was Sharmak, a mountain man responsible for several lethal attacks on the U.S. Thus Operation Redwing was formed. 

Operation Redwing, a mission led by Seal Team 10 - Lieutenant Michael Murphy, Officer Marcus Luttrell, Officer Danny Dietz, and Officer Matthew Axelson {Axe}. These four brave soldiers were to head into the mountains and spy on two Afghan villages where it was believed Sharmak and another young guy who was a high explosive expert were residing. They had great intel both through satellites and the FBI on this kid who was a master at creating IED's {improvised explosive devices}. Operation Redwing was a go.

Seal Team 10 

Dropped by a rope from the rear of a Chinook 47 helicopter, the Seal Team entered pitch black darkness and freezing rain. Apparently, to get into position above the villages there was a grueling four mile route that would take the team seven hours to hike. They all fell down the mountain at different intervals during the first half hour with little to grasp on to on a moonless cloudy night. Steep cliff faces, loose footing and sheer drops with hardly any bushes or trees to grab hold of explains the length of time it took. Not to mention the fact they had full rucksacks and rifles strapped on in over 100 degree heat once the sun came up.

Once in position they were to look for the two main targets, take photos and asses the threats of the situation. If there were no more than say four bodyguards then they swoop down, capture them so they could be taken back to base and interrogated. If the situation posed a greater threat with a surrounding Taliban garrison, the boys would call for a proper flying force back up to fly in and take care of the problem.  

However, this story takes a great unexpected turn for the four Seals lodged into the steep cliffs of this desolate dessert. While in position, a goat shepherd and two young men headed for their village come strolling along the mountainside and run right into Marcus, Axe, Mikey and Danny. The boys are forced to silence them and tie them up. Then they are faced with a very tough choice. Do they kill them or let them go, knowing they could possibly alert the Taliban of their position? Lieutenant Michael Murphy calls the shots on this one, and so they let them go and the operation is now compromised.

Heading back to the pick up spot they have faulty reception on the radio. Under a compromised operation they had to find the pick up spot and fast. Almost to the spot, their worst nightmare comes true. The goat shepherd doesn’t keep their secret and so the Seals encounter a huge army of Taliban soldiers. I won't go into detail of what happens next but as you can imagine the book is called Lone Survivor for a reason. I will say this; they fought with bravery, gumption and amazing courage. The odds against them were staggering. It was estimated that the fight was more than unfair at a ratio of 140 men against 4. 

Read the book. It's amazing. Watch the movie too. It will open your eyes as to what these guys went through and give you a new appreciation for the pillow you'll rest your head safely on tonight. 

Defeated and mourning the loss of his three best friends, Marcus finally finds some water at the base of the mountain he fell down twice. Battered, bruised and shot up in the leg with shale scrap metal; he is found by a man named Sarawa, the village doctor. In rough English he convinced Marcus he was "no Taliban, no Taliban". After lifting his shirt high and opening his arms wide to prove he had no gun or knife on him, Marcus takes his hand. Sarawa and his son safely help carry a wounded Navy Seal back to their village. 

Marcus is carried to a peaceful Pashtun village. Unsure at first why this man and village would risk so much to help a stranger, he later learns there is a Pashtunwalai tribal law called Lokhay. This word not only means providing care and shelter for the wounded, but it is an unbreakable commitment to defend the wounded - even to the death. It was not just for Sarawa, but the whole village. Lokhay means the population of that entire village will fight to the last man, honor-bound to protect the person invited to share in their hospitality.

Bottom line, they kept Marcus safe from his enemies no matter what. Even when the Taliban came searching for him they hid Marcus in a nearby cave so his life would be spared. What I found most amazing was that one of the elders of the village who knew Marcus was in no shape to make the journey, set out on foot to the US base at Asadabad to inform them of Marcus’ whereabouts. This was not a small hike; it was a thirty to forty mile trek alone in the mountains. Who does that for a complete stranger based on a law called Lokhay??

As this story unfolded before my eyes I couldn’t help but think about our God. Did Jesus not take a long walk into the desert for forty days and nights without food or water for us? Jesus knew He needed the mental strength to fight our enemy of evil; the desert was His training ground, His “hell week”. Did Jesus not travel all over that very same region to share the good news that we were finally safe? No matter what we had been through up until that point, when Jesus found us surrounded by our enemies and sinking into the mud and mire as Marcus was, He pledged his devotion to protect us at all costs. He too would hide us. It might not have been a cave but it was under the shadow of His wings. He too would be willing to lay down His life so we would be found and rescued.  

On His bare back, Jesus suffered under the lashing whip of hatred from our enemies. He wore the crown of thorns so the painful prick of death’s sting would be felt upon only His head. Jesus bled and died a horrible, gruesome death at the hand of our enemy. In doing so He overcame evil. He gave us victory over the enemies chasing us down. I can understand Lokhay a little better now when I think about the man on the cross who gave His all to rescue me.

I also realize that there are thousands of women and men who have laid down their very lives so I might live in the land of the free. It is also called the home of the brave because of the bravery of our U.S. Soldiers. Our freedom in this country is not free; it has a very high cost. On this 4th of July as we celebrate our independence and freedom, I bow my head in solemn prayer with an overwhelmingly grateful heart as I ponder the sacrifice of so many who have fought for our United States of America. To those who continue to fight for our freedoms and shelter us from our enemies, I pledge my deepest gratitude.

I find my salvation at the nail pieced hands of my Jesus....

.... and my freedom in the folded American flags of the fallen. 

There is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friends. John 15:13

God Bless our Troops and God Bless America

No comments:

Post a Comment