Look Away From It, Brother, Just Look Away

Our two boys crack me up!  Last week, we were in town running several errands as a family.  We had made a few stops already and we were working our way toward checking off our final to-do item when we passed a store that Alex really wanted to go into to look at some toys.  (Back story… He recently had a birthday and had some cash he had received for the very purpose of being spent on something he would enjoy.)

Normally, we probably would have stopped, but we had already been out long enough that we were all getting ready to be home.  We had already told Alex we would not be stopping at that store, and he had graciously accepted it… even though we could tell he still really wanted to stop there.

As we turned the corner and passed the store, I heard from behind us Austin say to Alex, “Don’t even look at it. Look away from it brother, just look away.”  We all burst into laughter at the unexpected advice from one sibling to the other. It will probably become one of those sayings which sticks with a family for the rest of their lives.

Then I began to think about what Austin said.  That was great advice.  I don’t know if “out of sight, out of mind” is true, but it sure helps when you’re being tempted by something.

I’ve been asked over the years what my favorite Scripture is.  Truth is, there are so many I love that it really is difficult to select one.  But I usually tell people who ask that one of the most useful verses in all of Scripture for me has been I Corinthians 10:13.  I was challenged to memorize  it in special course for students trying to grow closer in their relationship with God.  It has certainly come in handy on more than one occasion when I didn’t even have a Bible with me.

This is what Paul wrote to help people overcome temptation…

The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, He will show you a way out so that you can endure.

The part that has always stuck with me is that God would show me a way out of the temptation so that I would not have to give into it… so that I could stand up to it… so that I could endure it and come out of that moment victorious.  As soon as I learned that truth… that there is always a way to escape the temptation, always a way to say “no” to it… I began to look for that way of escape in every temptation that came my way.  Often, it is as simple as Austin’s advice to Alex… “Don’t even look at it.  Look away from it, brother, just look away.”

So, if you find yourself tempted today… whether by something small and simple like an extra piece of cake… or by the cashier giving you too much change… or maybe even by something more serious like taking a drink or taking someone else’s spouse, let Paul’s words echo through your heart and mind.  You don’t have to give in.  There is a way out.  Look for the escape. And then put Austin’s words into practice… Look away, brother, just look away.

What People Look At

Yesterday afternoon, we went and picked up some fireworks to do with the boys last night as part of our family’s celebration of our nation’s independence.  We don’t ever spend a lot on fireworks… just some sparklers and Roman candles, maybe several fountains and one or two things that shoot in in the sky and go “BOOM!”

So, last night, we waited till it was as close to dark as we could stand, and then we went out in the driveway to celebrate.  The moon peeked out over the treetops.  Others in our heavily wooded subdivision were already lighting up the night sky with flashes of light and color.  Even the fireflies were getting in on the celebration.

We had a blast… yes, that pun was intended… lighting up our little area of the world.  It was so much fun watching the boys, sparklers beaming, running around like Mario with a superstar power-up.  We all ooh-ed and ahh-ed at the one firework that crackled and popped little blasts of light and sound far longer than any of us expected.

And part-way through our celebration, I noticed something.  None of us were watching the darkness around us.  Not one of us.  No one said, “Wow, there sure is a lot of darkness out here tonight.”  Everyone was focused completely and entirely on the lights being displayed in front of us.

And my guess is that it was the same everywhere fireworks were shot last night.  I’ve already seen videos on social media with people lighting a fuse and stepping back quickly.  Guess what? No one capturing that video focused on the darkness. Instead they kept the camera directed at where the small sparkle of a fuse suddenly turned into a shower of sparks lighting up the entire area.

In darkness, people look to light.  They focus on it.  And as soon as they see light, they forget about how much darkness there is around them.

We were designed to be light in the darkness of the lives of those around us.  For Christians, Jesus said, “You are the light of the world- like a city on a hill that cannot be hidden.”  We have the opportunity to calm fears and warm hearts by bringing light into people’s dark life situations.

Darkness can’t stop light.  So wherever you go today, shine.  Just because the sun is shining in the physical doesn’t mean that people aren’t living in darkness. Show up and shine.  They will immediately focus on the light you bring and want more of what you have.

Payback Time!

As a young teenager, Saturday nights from 10:30pm to midnight meant professional wrestling on TV.  Midsouth Wrestling to be specific.  Think Junkyard Dog… Hacksaw Jim Duggan… The Missing Link… Andre The Giant… Jimmy “The Super Fly” Snuka… Ted Dibiase… The Von Erichs… The Midnight Express… The Rock-N-Roll Express… The Fabulous Freebirds.  Yes, I still remember.  It was almost a religious experience for me.

The rest of the family would have already gone to bed… resting up for a Sunday full of church.  And I would be laying on the shag carpet in front of the small TV with the volume turned down low so as not to wake anyone.  Sometimes my mom would stay up a little later than the others reading a book.  She would come to tell me good night before she went to sleep and find me there, completely caught up in the frenzy of a grudge match… or a cage match… or a title bout.

Mom would try to tel me that it was all fake… all a set-up, but I wouldn’t believe her because there was real sweat and real blood.  Granted, it was no UFC (which I’ve never really watched), but I knew in my junior high mind that it was real.

I can remember one of the story lines that seemed to play out time and again… It would be a match between a “good guy” and a “bad guy.”  The good guy would be winning until the bad guy cheated… like pulling brass knuckles from his tights, or jumping off the top rope, or grabbing a chair from the audience and slamming it over the head of the unsuspecting good guy. The tide would turn in that moment and now the bad guy had the advantage.

But all of the sudden, one of the good guy’s other good guy friends would come racing out of the locker room “where he had seen the whole thing unfold on the closed circuit TV,” and this friend would come sliding into the ring to rescue his friend. And it would be payback time!

The friend would take it to the bad guy using any method necessary to let the bad guy know he had messed up… that he had messed with the wrong guy… because that good guy had friends who weren’t going to stand by and let that abuse go unpunished.

Now don’t be ridiculous… I am completely aware now that it was all fake, that all the plots were written out, that those pro wrestlers knew how to make it look like they were beating the living daylights out of each other without really doing any harm.  It was all a show.

But real life is no fake. It’s no made up show.  There are times when bad people really do mistreat good people.  Truth be told, there are even times when good people slip up and mistreat other good people.

And sometimes it looks like the person who did wrong is getting away with it.  It looks like they are going to win the day.

But there are plenty of places in Scripture which point out to us that, if we will keep a right attitude… a right heart… a right spirit, then we have a Friend who is watching it all unfold.  He will rescue us. And when He does, it will be payback time.  In fact, Zechariah 9 says that God will repay His people double for each trouble which has been inflicted upon them.

Now I can’t guarantee that you’re going to get paid back during this lifetime, although you might.  But God is keeping detailed records… one of the Psalms even says He collects every tear you ever cry in a bottle… and He will make sure that eventually payback time comes.  He will restore to you more than you ever had taken away.

So, today… if you’ve been beat down, determine to keep a right attitude and know that payback time is coming if you’ll just leave it to God!

The Unknown

Christopher Columbus lived an adventurous, astounding, amazing life… but he probably didn’t realize it.  Oh, he wanted to attempt fantastic feats of exploration.  He desired to discover.  But at the end of his life, I’m not sure Columbus fully realized the significance of his life.

For example, Columbus’ life ended with him mostly a lonely and forgotten man.  Many discredited his efforts. And in the end, few wanted to be his friend.  Most people failed to recognize his significance during during his lifetime.  Yet he had inspired and emboldened countless new explorers.

At the end of his life, Columbus thought he had accomplished one amazing thing, when in reality he had accomplished something far different… far greater.  He died thinking he had found a way by sea to Asia.  But he had really discovered trade winds which led to an area of the world which was on the verge of discovery and development.  His trip inspired and informed others, making future explorations possible.

Columbus died not knowing what a significant impact he had made on this world… on those people who would sail in his wake.  He may not have been the first to sail westward… He may not have discovered America… He may not have have discovered a westward passage to India… He may not have found great riches… But he made an impact the likes of which few ever accomplish.

Or do they?

In Matthew 26, the account is recorded of a woman crashes a dinner party where Jesus is and pours expensive perfume… probably the most expensive and precious object she owned… on His head. Some people complained that it was a waste of money. Some people misunderstood her. Most did not realize her significance. But Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, wherever the Good News is preached throughout the world, this woman’s deed will be remembered and discussed.” 

I’m sure that woman Matthew wrote about didn’t realize what a big deal she was at the time… kind of like Columbus… kind of like you.

I’m guessing that, even as you read this, you truly do not comprehend the significance of your life.  You probably do not realize that you are impacting the lives of so many people in such a big way.  You most likely have no clue about what your real accomplishments are.

People may not recognize your contribution right now.  Sail on anyway!  You may not be as popular as someone else.  Be adventurous and make discoveries anyway.  You may not get everything right, but choose to live your life to the fullest for the Lord.  And there will come a day down the road… perhaps when you are old or have passed on… when people will tell the stories of your greatness and you will be remembered for all that you achieved.

And for those who have poured the perfume on the head of our Savior, there will be a day when we are rewarded as well as remembered.

Super Guide

Our boys crack me up!  Awhile back, they discovered on their Super Mario Bro’s game that there is a mode called “Super Guide” in which the computer takes over and completes a course perfectly without any mistakes. At any point, they can take back over from Super Guide and keep playing themselves.

So, they do what they can do on the game and then hand it off to the Super Guide to handle what they can’t.  In fact, those crazy guys will let the Super Guide play an entire level, get to the end, and then they take control back and claim the flag at the end to complete the course.

About the time I begin to think that isn’t really fair, I also begin to think… isn’t that what God does for us?  Didn’t Jesus say that He would ask the Father, and the Father would send us the Holy Spirit to be a “Super Guide” who would help us through all the difficulties of life?

So often, having done what I can do and facing something I cannot seem to accomplish on my own, I turn to my Super Guide and ask Him to get me through to complete that leg of my course.  And while He does all the work, He let’s me claim the victory flag.  It may look like I’ve done it, but really He did all the heavy lifting.

I’m glad I have the Holy Spirit as my Super Guide.  I couldn’t do this life on my own successfully.  Today, I just want to take this moment to give Him the credit for overcoming all my obstacles, defeating my opposition and making me a winner.

If you look at your life today and find yourself struggling to overcome, why not ask the ultimate Super Guide to help you succeed as well?  He knows how to help you win in life!

A Little Help Here, Please

When I need help knowing how to cook something, I ask PR31… because she’s an amazing cook… and I am not. I can call her and tell her that I’m trying to follow a recipe but we are out of a certain ingredient, and she knows what I can substitute or whether I even need that ingredient or not.

When I need help buying a vehicle, I ask my father-in-law… because he is a wheeler-dealer… and I am not.  When I need help knowing how take better care of our garden or yard, I ask our friend Melba Balentine… because she has the greenest thumb I know… and I do not.
So when it comes to living this life in the best way possible, I need to get help from someone who knows more than I do. I need help from someone who has more experience… more knowledge… more wisdom… more ability… more power.

So it ought to make sense to anyone reading this that I’m glad to know that the God who makes something out of nothing is the One who is helping me make it through life on this planet.  I mean, He created this planet… out of zilch. And the galaxy it hangs in… and the universe that galaxy floats in.

He existed before time as we know it began, and He will exist after time as we know it ends.  He exists outside the space-time continuum and yet intervenes in my life within it.

So when it looks like there is nothing that can be done in any given situation in my life, it seems like a good thing to me that I have a Creator-Helper who doesn’t NEED something to MAKE something.  If your life is lacking something today, He doesn’t have to have any ingredients or materials to work with… just an invitation from you for Him to be involved in the process.

I need someone.  You need someone.  We all need someone to help us. Just ask.

A Place Called Nowhere

Scholarship

We have some friends who give at least one scholarship each year to a teenager who wants to go on a missions trip but is financially challenged. Their story about how the scholarship came about is theirs to tell, or at best saves for another time.

Several years ago, I found out about the scholarship and knew of a student going on a trip I was leading who needed some assistance. I obtained the application and gave it to the student who subsequently filled it out and sent it to our friends. The student ended up receiving the scholarship and going on the missions trip with us.

Nowhere

I know, cool story.  But what our friend said to me when I thanked them for helping this student out struck me so profoundly that I am often reminded of it. She wrote that they were happy to be able to help and then added these words (paraphrased)…

People like to thank God for blessings that seem to come out of nowhere… and I’m so glad I live in a place called “Nowhere!”

I read those words and was floored. For what seemed like the first time in my life, it hit me that blessings don’t come from nowhere. God uses average, everyday, ordinary people like you and me to share His blessings with others.

That scholarship… a check in the mail… someone in the drive-thru ahead of you buying your coffee… Those blessings didn’t come from nowhere. They came from a real God… utilizing a real person to impact your life positively at a moment when you least expected it.

Who Will It Be?

Now flip it.  Just think… you and I live in a place called “Nowhere.”  Each day we have the potential to transform someone else’s day… and perhaps their entire life… by blessing them.

And it doesn’t have to be just with money. Pay a compliment.  Pay attention.  Pay respect.

Send a note. Send flowers. Send a text.

Someone within your reach tomorrow will also be within your capacity to bless.  They may think their blessing came from nowhere… and you and I will both know that you are a resident there!  “No one can help everyone, but everyone can help someone.” (Author Unknown)

So, who will it be? Who will you choose to bless “out of Nowhere” tomorrow?

%d bloggers like this: