This week's new (for this site) article, on the Tactical Living page, is by an old friend, Philip Shields. “Do We ‘Pray Without Ceasing’?” is condensed from the June 15, 2013, blog posting on his website at lightontherock.org. As for the title, when the apostle Paul spoke of praying “without ceasing” and “praying always”, he was talking about the elderly and sick and those with plenty of time on their hands, right? Surely he wasn’t talking about those who have to commute to work, mothers with young children, active duty service people, and all the rest of us? Philip’s article looks at what Paul meant by “praying always” and how that can apply to all of us.
There are so many special “days” now, it’s impossible to remember many of them. I’m not talking about national holidays such as Thanksgiving and other significant days which apply to many of us, but the burgeoning number of days which seem as though they were mainly the idea of greeting card companies. A glance at an online calendar site shows there are now literally hundreds of “special days” to supposedly celebrate (and send a card) each year. In fact, every day of the year now has some significance, and many days honor multiple things. Some of these days may be perfectly appropriate to show appreciation or concern for others, but a lot of them seem silly at best. October 4 was apparently “National Frappe Day” and I fully expect to see “Second Cousin’s Day” cards soon.
But there is one day this month to which I do subscribe as being totally worthwhile: National Forgiveness Day. There are actually several “Forgiveness Days” which originated in different areas. Global Forgiveness Day and International Forgiveness Day are both celebrated in the summer months. In the US, “National Forgiveness Day” is on the last Saturday in October: this year, Saturday, October 26.
Forgiveness Day is a day that all people of faith can honor, if we choose to do so, and one to which even many people without religious beliefs can relate. For those of us who take seriously the words “Forgive us our sins as we forgive them that sin against us” (Matthew 6:12), the day is an opportunity to reflect on the need for forgiveness and how to make it a part of our everyday lives. This week’s article, “A Day For Forgiveness”, gives some thoughts to start you on your own reflection on what it means to forgive.
We all know that in football, if we want to move the ball, we have to think offense.
Sometimes I wonder if we concentrate too much on defensive tactics and strategy in our Christian walk. Defensive thinking is necessary, of course, for any campaign or goal. You don’t climb a mountain (at least I don’t want to!) without anchors and ropes. But my point is that too often our tactical stress is only on defense. Consider just a couple of examples.
Generally speaking, how much more time and energy do we put into praying for people (ourselves and others) to be healed than we spend in praying for work being done to wipe out severe and crippling illnesses. How much time do we spend thinking about proactive things we can do to help those who suffer get back aspects of their lives they might not otherwise have (see the October 2 article on“Helping the Sick”).
The economy is bad, but do we respond only defensively, praying for friends who are out of work, or do we pray also for the national and local economic situation? (Read Jeremiah 29:7 if you don’t think that’s a topic for prayer). Focusing on the broader issues as well as the specifics of which we are aware is focusing on offense as well as defense, and the principle can be applied in dozens of areas of our lives if we think it through.
The main thing is to start to train ourselves to think offensively, or at least to constantly keep that half of the equation in mind. I was reminded of this as I read Psalm 144 recently. Look carefully at the duality of what the psalmist is saying: “Praise be to the LORD my Rock, who trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle. He is my loving God and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield, in whom I take refuge, who subdues peoples under me” (Psalm 144:1-2). God is likened to a Rock, Shield, Fortress and Stronghold of Refuge (all defensive). He is also said to be a God who figuratively trains us for war, for battle, to subdue enemies. The active aspect is just as present in these verses as the static aspect. The Offense is as real as the Defense. We need both, but to win we need to think offense.
I saw a very inspiring item the other day in a newsletter of one of the cleft-palette repair charities. It told the story of Natsir, a poor farmer from Indonesia. Two of his sons, Alwi and Winner, were born with cleft lips, but Natsir’s meager income meant that getting surgery for his children was impossible. An American tourist passing through his area told Natsir of the cleft charity that could help him, and as a result of this information he was able to arrange for both of his sons to have free cleft repairs.
After experiencing what must indeed have seemed like unbelievable good fortune, Natsir was immensely grateful and his thankfulness led him to begin to look for other children suffering with clefts who could be helped in the same way his own children had. Although unable to help them financially, the grateful father began volunteering as much time as he was able to find these children and to bring them to the cleft charity doctors. The newsletter tells how In less than two years, Natsir’s passion and commitment has helped over 70 children with clefts receive 100% free surgery – and thus rescued them from the same plight his own children had been in – a sad disfigurement with strong social stigma and one which impacted even such basic aspects of life as speaking and eating. You can find the whole story here: http://www.smiletrain.org/stories/natsir-story-movie.html.
Thankfulness is always good, in its own right, but this story underscores the truth that deep thankfulness also has immense potential to “grow” good where there was none before. It’s a point worth pondering – the more we focus on appreciation for the good we have been given, the more good we can grow in the lives of those affected by our gratitude.
This week’s new articles follow the same path. The first, “What Do You Hear?” (at the Strategic Understanding page), is a brief look at one aspect of the question of how we face future uncertainties. It was written a little while back, but I thought I would upload it today as it ties in well to the second article. “Facing the Future Without Fear”(on the Tactical Living page), by Sherri Langton, associate editor of the Bible Advocate magazine, reprints one of her essays which gives a great look at this question - with answers from several angles. By all means read them both, but don’t miss Sherri’s article. I often think the old saying that “death and taxes” are the only certainties in life really deserves a third element: uncertainty; but “Facing the Future Without Fear” puts that third inevitable in perspective.
“Is patience a gene?” I ask in the article “In a Hurry to Be Patient: A Personal Confession” just uploaded to the Tactical Living page. I ask facetiously, of course, but sometimes you might wonder. Why does it seem easy for some people to be patient while others are waiting for this blog post to be over already!
The Bible has some things to say about patience, and no one says more about it than the apostle Paul, perhaps because he had to develop patience himself. Paul certainly shows the quality is as important as many other aspects of God’s nature. It’s not just a biblical principle, of course. Doubtless a patient type himself, Shakespeare wrote “How poor are they that have not patience!” Though Mark Twain wrote on behalf of those of us who are not so blessed, “All good things arrive unto them that wait – and don't die in the meantime.”
But patience really is an important quality of the Christian calling, and so in the article I share a simple personal experience that may be helpful to some who, like me, need patience - quickly.
Lenny Cacchio is one of my favorite Christian writers. His Morning Companion Blog is a constant source of great postings. Lenny kindly gave permission to use one of his articles from several years ago which I feel is a Christian classic. It’s called “I Am Barabbas” and it’s now uploaded to the Strategic Understanding page on our site. Don’t miss it!
I was able to write up my notes on the Christian climb and the article is now at the Tactical Living page. Also, I uploaded another article on "The Great Commission" which is on the Strategic Understanding page. This latter essay is one I wrote a couple of months ago for another site and I will plan to include a few more of my recent articles which have appeared in different places as we go along.
Another way I'd like to add variety to this site is to occasionally carry (with proper permission, of course), articles that others have written that I feel fit well with the site's theme. Good material deserves to be widely distributed, and this is one way we can all profit from partnership in the Faith.
We call it "the Christian walk", but I often think it's more like a climb than a walk - both in terms of when it gets tough, and the rewards of accomplishment. The header image I chose for this page inspired me to begin this blog with this subject. I used to enjoy mountain climbing, and although I don't do it anymore, I can't really think about climbing without thinking of some of the analogies between it and the Christian life. The parallels may be basic, but I know some of climbing's strategic and tactical lessons have helped me, so I'll plan to write a short essay on that for the Tactical Living page and upload it in the next few days.
Meanwhile, why do we climb mountains? You can get almost as many answers to that question as you can find climbers to ask. Some will say because the mountains are there, others because of the challenge, and others just because. But deeper down I think there really is something about climbing that mirrors a deep human urge to overcome and surmount obstacles. I think that urge is something we tap into with things that are important to us, as in the Christian goals of growing and overcoming. And I don't think I'm the only one who sees the parallels between climbing and some of our higher goals. As Edmund Hillary, celebrated “conqueror” of Everest, wrote, “It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.”