Thursday, December 18, 2014

Joy To The World

With the advent of the internet, it's absolutely amazing how easy it is to do research on any topic.  I remember as a boy being blessed with some World Book Encyclopedias that my parents had purchased.  As a result, I had easy access to a wealth of information about practically any person, place or thing.

Yet now, finding information is right at my fingertips on any computer, thus allowing me to learn more about general topics in life within mere moments as I make the effort.

For example, with Christmas rapidly approaching, I did some research on perhaps the most popular Christmas carol, "Joy To The World".  This beloved song was penned by Isaac Watts, although the tune is supposed to have originated by George Friedrich Handel. However, I discovered that "Joy To The World" is really not a "Christmas" carol.  Consider how the lyrics do not mention anything associated with the nativity, e.g. the manger, Mary and Joseph, shepherds, wise men, etc. Of course, it does mention "the Lord is come" and "let earth receive her king".  Nevertheless, this song is written more to describe the millennial reign of Christ which will occur after the Great Tribulation.  The Bible describes this future time as a wonderful time of peace and prosperity.  I believe there will be no sin at that time.  This will be a phenomenal, joyful, peaceful time of unprecedented happiness.

Does this mean that "Joy To The World" should be abandoned as a Christmas carol?  Of course not. I think it is certain applicable at Christmastime.  Yet, it has a deeper meaning, a wonderful time of peace on earth with Jesus reigning for one thousand years.  That will be the ultimate Christmas celebration, far beyond the simple annual festivities around December 25th.

Cancer or sickness can also have a deeper meaning, not just a depressive time of debilitating treatments and suffering.  As Joseph said after being reunited with his brothers who had sold him into slavery, " meant it for evil, but God meant it for good..." (Genesis 50:20).  As I continue to discover, there are deeper and glorious meanings in life, even beyond beloved Christmas carols.


Saturday, December 6, 2014

Resting In The Outcome

Well, college football season is coming to a close soon with end of the year bowl games, championship games, etc.   I enjoy watching games, especially seeing my favorite team on the field. 

Thankfully, with the advent of cable TV and satellite dishes, there are multiple sports channels that I can view at all times of the day.  Some of these channels show replays of my team, giving me a chance to watch games again, to refresh my memory of key plays and to hear the roar of the crowd.

Basically, I only watch replays of games that my team won.   This is advantageous in one simple way.  For example, if my team fumbles, throws an interception, gives up a big play, or even falls behind at times, I don't have to worry.  I know the final outcome.  Even when victory seems almost impossible, I know which team will ultimately prevail.

Sometimes in life I feel like I'm losing.  My health is not as chipper as I want it to be.  My finances are struggling.  My house is falling apart.  And, of course, there is always the mental and emotional concerns regarding cancer.  Although I've been cancer free for years, there is a perpetual cloud hanging over me.  Will it come back?  Will my next CT scan be okay?

Yet, I am not to worry.  Psalms 139:16 says, " Thy book they were all written, the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them."  In other words, I am not going to die one second before I am supposed to die.  God knows all of my days, every one of them.  Even though life may be rough at times, with God's sovereign will, I'll be around as long as I'm supposed to be.

It's similar to watching a replay of a football game.  Just as I know the outcome or final score, God knows the outcome of my life.  In the meantime, I should just enjoy the game.  Rah! Rah!


Sunday, November 16, 2014

Following The Experts

Amongst the many things I have learned in life (and continue to learn) is that it helps to follow the examples of successful people.  You know, those people who seem to be extraordinarily gifted in dealing with the rigors of living and overcoming in a remarkable way.

For example, I recently purchased a book about George Muller, a wonderful man of faith who operated orphanages in England in the 1800's.  I have heard in a sermon how Mr. Muller had some incredible prayers answered in times of challenging circumstances.  Now I'm compelled to read for myself.  How did he do it?  What was his secret?  Seeing that life continues to pummel me with challenges, perhaps it is an opportune time to learn from one of the masters. 

Hebrews 12:1-2 says,  "Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." 

Obviously, I need to focus on Jesus in dealing with trials and tribulations.  But, in like manner, there is a vast army of witnesses who have gone before, cheering on believers and showing them how to survive adversity based on their experiences.  The "cloud of witnesses" mentioned in Hebrews is an Olympic term, a stadium full of overcomers propelling me forward in the race of life.

I still have got a lot to learn.  But I'm extremely grateful for those who have successfully gone on before. One day, because of their knowledge, I'll also assume my seat in the stands as I cheer on others in the race.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Prepare Ye The Way

I enjoy running on Deerfoot Parkway, a somewhat busy road which is close to my house. Although the basic physics of running involves perpetual pounding on the pavement (amazing how much stress the ankles can endure), the run is not too difficult as long as I run on the road and am mindful of the approaching traffic. 

However, when a car approaches, I must veer to the shoulder of the road, causing the run to be not quite as pleasant.  The shoulder is the typical gravel noticed along most roads.  I can run on it when necessary but frequently I land on a sharp piece of rock, causing brief discomfort.  I also have to dodge some of the debris which has been thrown along the road.

Yet, if possible, I try to run on the road, the smoothest and least obstructed path.

Year ago, I understand how this applied to kings and other royalty.  If a king was going to visit a region, every effort was attempted to clear the road, to remove all debris, to allow the king to enter the area unimpeded.

In like manner, Isaiah 40:3 proclaims that we are to "...clear the way for the Lord in the wilderness; Make smooth in the desert a highway for our God."  These words were later echoed by John the Baptist is announcing the beginning of Jesus' earthly ministry.

Sometimes in life we have to deal with the rocks and debris in life in order for God to work.  Once the rocks are removed, the journey, although tiring like a long run, can be a little bit easier.  As John the Baptist proclaimed, "Prepare ye the way of the Lord."

Friday, October 24, 2014

Let Your Light Shine

I'm excited about a coming change to my work commute.  Although I'll still be driving the same route to the workplace, the journey will be a little different because of the addition of streetlights along the highway close to Deerfoot Parkway where I merge onto interstate traffic.

Why the excitement?  For years, the Deerfoot Exit has been a trouble spot with numerous accidents.  Several years ago some traffic lights were installed to lessen the danger of mishaps.  However, the exit still was tortuous due to its darkness.  Hence, one can understand my giddiness with something as simple as streetlights.

Yet, even though the lights were installed several months ago, there is still one major problem...they haven't been turned on.  Although the lights add an attractiveness to the interstate and the Deerfoot Exit, they simply aren't doing their job.  They aren't shining, a basic function of a light I guess you would say.  In addition, I read where some additional lights will be installed further down on the interstate on my way into work.  Yet, according to the newspaper source, the contractor has up to six months to complete this installment.  So, if I understand correctly, even though streetlights are being installed, the official lighting may not occur until many months away.

Jesus said, "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 5:16).  Just as the anemic streetlight along the interstate, if the light is not turned on, it doesn't do anyone a bit of good.  By providing some light to others in good times and bad, their life journeys may be a little easier along the way.

Both of my books, "A Place I Didn't Want To Go: My Victory Over Cancer" and "Glorified Sickness: Honoring God Through Illness" provide ample light for anyone going through cancer or major illness.  I feel confident you'll be illumined by them if you check them out on Amazon and Kindle.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Raising The Bar

I've seen a few scattered bumper stickers around town on several vehicles.  One is a round sticker with the number "13.1" in the center.  Another is a similar sticker with "26.2" in the middle.  Although some people may not have the foggiest idea what these numbers mean, since I am a runner, I know exactly what these stickers are saying.

First of all, "26.2" is the length of a typical running marathon or 26.2 miles.  On the other hand, "13.1" is the length of a half marathon (which I ran twice in my pre-cancer days).   Those who put these stickers on their cars are obviously runners such as I and are proud to have completed a marathon or a half-marathon.

However, I saw another sticker the other day which looked very similar on a car in the parking lot at work.  Yet, in the center of this sticker was "0.0".  I looked a little closer to the sticker and noticed in small letters below the numbers "0.0" were the words "I do not run".

I guess this person, while making fun of runners, is proud to be an underachiever.  Although I don't really know this person, it could be just an example of how they have lowered the bar of success in their life.  You know, don't really strive for anything, don't really shoot for anything extraordinary in life, being content to just be mediocre.  As I heard someone say, "If you aim for nothing, you'll hit it every time."

Hence, I believe in raising the bar, not lowering it.  I may aim for the moon and not get there.  Yet, it may be amazing actually how far I might can get off the ground if I set my goals high.


Monday, October 6, 2014

To God Alone The Glory

I know it is only October, but our church choir has already begun practicing music for our Christmas performance in December.  This is not too unusual, seeing that some of our songs require weeks (perhaps months) of preparation.

One song in particular has really captured my attention.  It is a compilation of "Joy To The World" and the "Hallelujah Chorus".  I can already sense what a wonderful worshipful song this will be at the conclusion of the program.  Joyful singing accompanied by an orchestra will be a tremendous finale.

This led me to do some research on George Friedrich Handel, the composer of "The Messiah" and perhaps its most popular song, "The Hallelujah Chorus".  Born in Germany, Handel had written several operas before receiving the text for "The Messiah" from a man named Charles Jennens.  Handel subsequently wrote "The Messiah" in twenty four days, hard to believe that a work of such beauty could be developed in such a short period of time.  When he was writing "The Hallelujah Chorus", it was reported that Handel saw all of heaven before him.  I can certainly understand this, seeing that "The Hallelujah Chorus" propels its listeners into the very presence of God.

Finally, after completing "The Messiah", Handel signed his marvelous work with the letters, "SDG" or Soli Deo Gloria  (To God Alone The Glory).  Handel's signature alone would not have sufficed for this divinely inspired work.

By the time he died at age 74, Handel had composed 42 operas, 29 oratorios, more than 120 cantatas, trios and duets, numerous arias, chamber music, a large number of ecumenical pieces, odes and serenatas, and 16 organ works.

I hope I reach the finish line in life like Handel, one whose music continues to inspire.