Monday, November 13, 2017

I'm Blessed, Not Guilty

The “thankful” posts I’m seeing on social media started me thinking. I have, without question, many things to be thankful for. Unfortunately, there is a sport swelling in our culture where contestants redefine some of those gifts as “privileges” and I refuse to play that game.

All the blessings in my life are gifts from God. They were not handed down to me by some imaginary elite class of ancestors. Everything good and perfect in my life is only there because God ordained and orchestrated it.

“Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” - James 1:16-17 NIV

Every good and perfect gift — each one was a gift from the Giver. I was entitled to none of the gifts. We’ve all been given gifts, but none of us were gifted identically.

“We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.” - Romans 12:6a NIV

Many of us have common gifts. We all have received the gift of life and breath. Most of us have received the gifts of sight and hearing. Each individual has been offered the gift of eternal life, but not everyone has received that gift. In this we see that we can reject, or ignore a gift. And sometimes we can be ignorant that the gift has even been offered.

We have not all been given the same gifts. Only a little over 4% of the world population was born in the United States. Only six of every ten U.S. citizens are non-Hispanic, non-Latino, whites. On average, out of 2048 individual U.S. citizens, 1048 will be male. Counting these three gifts alone, I belong to the 1.2% subset of white male U.S. citizens in the world.

When you add to this the various facts that: I was born in Ohio, raised in Michigan, live in Indiana, and had a father who was a tool and die maker for GM - I belong to a fraction of a percent of the global population. And I’ve not counted the gifts of education, income level, family structure, religion, denomination, congregation, and blood type.

A person with all of the same gifts that I’ve been given falls into a very, very small micro-fraction of the world population. And if I believe scripture, every one of those gifts were given to me by God.

Because these are gifts from God, I shouldn’t feel guilty for my male-ness or my white-ness. I can’t apologize for being a U.S. citizen, because if I did I would be saying - in effect - God was wrong. Each of these “good gifts” were given by Him and for His glory. And each one has special value.

I will never know the joy of giving birth to another life. Only women, and not even all women, have been given this gift. No matter how deeply I desire this gift, I have not been wronged if I haven’t been blessed with it.

I have not received the gift of being born into a large Italian family. I will never experience the food, and fun, and heritage that would come with a gift like that. But I have not been deprived of those things. Those are gifts that belong to another and, if I have a problem with that, I have a problem with the Giver of those gifts not the one receiving them.

Yes, I have been blessed with many gifts that are valued very highly in our society. But I will not disown or disrespect those gifts simply because others think it’s unfair.

The modern pastime of renaming gifts as privileges overlooks a significant truth. Gifts come with responsibilities.

God has given me good gifts and it is my responsibility to steward those gifts, and to leverage those gifts for His purposes. I will be held accountable for how I use the gifts I’ve been given.

“Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.” - Luke 12:48b ESV

Some have squandered their gifts, and others have misused their gifts resulting in horrible, sometimes unthinkable, consequences. But that doesn’t mean the gifts were bad, or inappropriate. Every good and perfect gift comes from God, but what we do with them can turn them very dark, or simply ineffective.

Each person reading these words, and every person you meet today, has been given gifts. Some of your gifts are identical to the gifts I’ve received. Many of your gifts are different from mine, and some are unique only to you.

I am thankful to the Giver of every good and perfect gift, and I will not apologize or feel guilty for what He has given me. I choose to be grateful and the depth of my gratitude reinforces my desire to steward those gifts well.

During this season of thankfulness, do not discard, disown, or distance yourself from the good gifts you’ve been given. Do not feel guilty, or apologize, for the many ways you’ve been blessed. And do not neglect your responsibility to steward those gifts and blessings well. God gave you those gifts and blessings. Celebrate each one and do nothing to insult, or break the heart of, the One who gave them to you.

Yes, I have been blessed! I will forever be grateful – guilt-free and unapologetically. What will you do with your blessings? Will you gratefully embrace them without apology? Or will you play the game, feel the guilt, and insult the Giver?

The choice is yours. Choose well.



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Monday, August 14, 2017

I Wonder ...

We live in a society where life is cheap and easily discarded, yet the common worth of an individual is valued in dollars, power, pleasure, and fame. 


A society where compassion has not been cultivated, reason has not been taught, anger has been unleashed, and hope has been lost. 


We live in a culture where communication is no longer on our lips, but is spread 24/7 through a few finger taps on a touchscreen. Where our ears are no longer open, yet expressing ones self has become the highest virtue. Where free speech is only tolerated when it is politically correct, and then only if no one takes offense. 


Where most despair that they have no voice, yet the ability to self-publish in multiple media formats is greater now than at any point in history.


We live in a society where we are no longer guided and grounded by principles, but enslaved by party, policies, and platforms. 


Where we are afraid of living and dying alone, and yet spend most of our waking hours interacting with a handheld liquid crystal display.


We live in a world that desperately wants to feel alive, and to know real unchanging truth. A world that desires a purpose to pursue, a path to follow, a cause that will unite.


If only there were such a purpose, a path, a cause. If only there were a truth that generated true life. If only there were a cause to unite us.


If someone were to stumble on such a solution to what makes this society so sick, I wonder if he or she would actually, intentionally live it out? Share it?


Or would that person only bring it out one day a week to play with it, then pack it away and guard it; so that they could play with it again in seven days?

Thursday, August 3, 2017

In Its Time

"... in its time I will do this swiftly." This passage below emphasizes that there is a time and place in history when God acts. He is rarely early, but never late. He's an on-time God. 


But when it becomes time for God to act, He acts swiftly and decisively. His purposes will not be thwarted.


Remember the other "timing" verses? “... And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” - Esther 4:14; “My time is not yet here; for you any time will do.” - John 7:6; “My hour has not yet come.”- John 2:4; “But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, ...” - Galatians 4:4; “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:” - Ecclesiastes 3:1 ESV


God will act in his time, but when He acts it will be swiftly. 


“Then all your people will be righteous and they will possess the land forever. They are the shoot I have planted, the work of my hands, for the display of my splendor. The least of you will become a thousand, the smallest a mighty nation. I am the LORD; in its time I will do this swiftly.”


Isaiah 60:21-22 NIV

Sunday, January 29, 2017

God's Got This Too

Exactly 22 months ago today, after an interview with George Stephanopoulos, many of the "talking heads" and political elites pronounced then Gov. Mike Pence's career dead. A few days later I joined his staff.
 
It amazes me, as I reflect on this part of my journey, how God had a plan all along. The pundits and the politicians (friend & foe) didn't have a clue. Then again, neither did any of the rest of us. But God knew.
 
It's just another reminder for me, and maybe for you too, that no matter the prognosis, no matter the "disaster" that just occurred, no matter how unlikely it might seem, no matter how dire the future looks right now ... God's got this too.
 
There is only One who knows what your tomorrow looks like. He loves you. You can trust him.

You can find me on FACEBOOK at my Facebook Page (http://www.new.facebook.com/profile.php?id=504321719). Here's a link to my Flickr.com Page (http://www.flickr.com/photos/curtisferrell/) Thanks for reading!

Saturday, January 28, 2017

I am tired … more than that, I am weary

I am tired … more than that, I am weary.
 
I am weary of brothers and sisters in Christ (people who should know better – who do know better) who easily abandon bedrock principles of Christianity to attack or defend someone they have never met, simply because they are on one side (or the other) of an artificially drawn line that defines an imaginary isle.
 
We celebrate and share articles with leading sentences like, “Many Americans appear ready to give [insert name of current or former President here] a pass when it comes to his lack of religious knowledge, sensibilities or behavior, but I think that’s a mistake.” Would we use that same language to describe the visitor on the back pew, or the neighbor we’ve been praying for down the street?
 
Many believers eagerly embraced the idea this past fall that half of a particular candidate’s followers were irredeemable. And that was a gracious description compared to what they reserved for the candidate. Do we really believe that anyone is irredeemable?
 
Why do many of my Christian friends champion a march that deliberately excluded people who cherish and value the right to life? Can these positions really be held by people who claim that “Jesus is the subject” and “Our banner is love”?
 
I’ve heard some defend their views with the excuse, “I’ve heard with my own ears, and seen with my own eyes.” (Forgetting that they saw and heard through news sources that were skewed both right and left and none coming from a spiritual perspective). Did first hand testimony matter (testimony NOT filtered through electronic media and shaped by editors, and producers) when our Redeemer stooped down and started writing in the dust at the feet of those accusers? Was He only the Redeemer of the accusers?
 
I’m weary. And I long for the church to mature, understand its identity, and reclaim its mission to advance the Kingdom of God. For now, we live in an age of faith “tribes”, nation-state citizenship, regional pride, sports team allegiance, and personal preference. We should celebrate our strengths and appreciate our differences.
 
I long for the day when political ideology no longer trumps foundational principles of the faith. Unfortunately, I believe we are as stiff-necked as our Old Testament forbearers. In the meantime, if you wish to pass judgment on me please use the one found in Matthew 22:34-40:

“Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
 

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”


You can find me on FACEBOOK at my Facebook Page (http://www.new.facebook.com/profile.php?id=504321719). Here's a link to my Flickr.com Page (http://www.flickr.com/photos/curtisferrell/) Thanks for reading!

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Long-awaited, Unexpected

Long-awaited, unexpected.

They had waited so long for the Messiah, but they did not expect a child. Mary and Joseph did not expect a pregnancy. The shepherds did not expect a sky full of angels. Herod did not expect the Magi.

The wedding guests did not expect the best wine at the end of the reception. The fishermen did not expect their nets to break. The blind did not expect to see, the lame did not expect to dance.

The woman caught in adultery did not expect forgiveness. Zacchaeus did not expect a dinner guest. The five thousand did not expect a meal. 

Peter, James, & John did not expect to see Moses & Elijah. The mourners did not expect to see Lazarus. Pilate did not expect the Truth. The disciples did not expect the cross. 

The thief did not expect Paradise. The soldiers did not expect the earthquake. Peter & John did not expect an empty tomb. Mary did not expect to hear her name. Thomas did not expect to see the scars. Peter did not expect restoration. 

They did not expect the way that He left. 

He is the God of unexpected surprises. 

We await His return, but we are unable to even imagine the unexpected ways he will appear in our daily lives. 

Expect the unexpected - that's who He is. 

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Fifteen years and counting ...

Fifteen years ago I was in a Coordinating Council meeting at church. It was a Monday night. I can't remember what we were discussing, but at the time it seemed very important. Little did we know that tomorrow morning our part of the world would change forever. 

Tuesday morning four planes altered their original course for new destinations. Three found their targets, one fell short in a field in Pennsylvania. 

Within minutes all of the contrails disappeared from the sky. Questions erupted like spring dandelions. Who did it? Why did they do it? Were there more to come? 

On that Monday there was no TSA. There was no national police force called Homeland Security. There was no Patriot Act. We are more secure now, but we've bought that security by selling some of our freedom.

On Monday we were mostly focused on our own lives and our own interests. After Tuesday we looked at strangers on the street or in the grocery store more closely - not in suspicion but to give an encouraging smile or nod. We held the door for others more frequently. The pews in churches were more full, as were the military recruiting centers.

A lot has happened in 15 years. A lot happened between Monday night and Tuesday morning. What does our tomorrow hold? We won't know till we get there. The world could look very different. 

So say what you need to say to the people you love. Look strangers in the eye and give them an encouraging nod and a smile. Hold the door for others. Look at the sky and enjoy creation. Look at your life and enjoy your freedom. Pray for your nation and those protecting it. Pray for first responders - those who run toward danger, those who open the doors without knowing what's behind them. Hug your family and friends. 

Life is unpredictable. Live intentionally. 
God is good. Love unconditionally.
The choice is yours ... choose well.