“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”(II Cor.1:3-4) It seems as of late that there has been much need for comfort. From tragedies in our community to losses in the congregation, there have been so many in need of comfort. After each session of Grief Share I’m challenged with the harsh reality that there are a lot of hurting people. Hurting people need comfort. We’re awkwardly uncomfortable when it comes to providing comfort because we just don’t know what to say. Trust me, there are no words you can say that will immediately provide the comfort that’s needed. The good news is that the God we worship and serve is “the God of all comfort.” Paul explains in the above cited verses that God “comforts us in all our troubles.” When we’re hurting so badly and no one seems to understand, God does and is there to offer comfort. Whatever the hardship is God can comfort us through the situation. God comforts us so that we can comfort others who are hurting. God comforts and heals us so that He can use us, and possibly our story of pain, to comfort others. As you receive comfort from God in your time of pain, think of how you might offer comfort to others from the comfort you received from God.
Let me be clear right from the start, I don’t hate anyone. There’s too much people hating going on today. People hate one another because of skin color, difference in beliefs and even something as simple as differing opinions. I hate, but I do not hate people. “Let those who love the Lord hate evil, for he guards the lives of his faithful ones and delivers them from the hand of the wicked.”(Psalm 97:10) I hate evil! The Psalmist writes that we who love the Lord should hate evil. We should never, no matter what, hate another human being but hating evil is expected of Christians. Surely you’ve heard the phrase, “Hate the sin but love the sinner”. That should be the practice of every Christian. We all know people who have been involved with things that we didn’t agree with at all. You didn’t stop loving that person, even though it broke your heart to see them involved in such an activity. You continue to love that person and hate the evil they’ve yielded to. I hate evil because evil hinders man’s relationship with God. I also hate evil because our Father in heaven hates evil. “There are six things the Lord hates; seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devices wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.”(Prov.6:16-19)
“Blessed is the man who finds wisdom, the man who gains understanding, for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold. She is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her.”(Prov.3:13-15) These few verses from Proverbs describe the benefits of wisdom and completely contradict the popular belief of our modern culture. This day and time the emphasis is clearly placed on monetary wealth without much regard for wisdom. According to the above text, wisdom is far more important than worldly wealth. In fact, one who has wisdom has true wealth. Wisdom is very interesting as it can come as a result of education and experience but it also comes from God. Very early in Solomon’s reign as the king of Israel he realized the importance of wisdom and his need for it and he prayed to God for wisdom. (I Kings 3:9) Solomon needed wisdom to lead God’s people. In the same way, you and I need wisdom as we go about our daily activities. Wisdom is supreme to worldly wealth because wisdom is having the discernment to make right life decisions. “Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you. Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.”(Prov.4:6-7) “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.”(Jas.1:5)
Recently I made the agreement with my family that I’d take them out to dinner only if they all agreed to turn their phones off or leave them in the car. All agreed and we had a nice dinner complete with much family conversation. We reconnected with one another, told stories and laughed a lot together. I’m persuaded that we today are so plugged into so many different electronics that we’re not plugged into the things that we should be. As good as the phone, the internet and social media are, they can be just as negative as they serve as distractions that take our attention from what’s most important. If you are plugged into your phone more than your family then you need to unplug. If you are plugged into social media more than you are to God, then you need to unplug. I truly believe that sometimes we all need to unplug to plug in. I don’t mean unplug from your electronics only to plug back into those things. We need to unplug from the world for a while regularly so that we can plug into God and our family. It’s not family time when the whole family is in the same room but everyone is plugged into a different device and no one plugged into one another. When your tweeting on twitter you’re not tweeting God. When you’re texting, you’re not texting God. The same is true with Facebook and Instagram. You won’t find quality quiet time with God on social media. I’m in no way saying these things are bad, but I do believe they can take over our time and keep us from spending quality time with our family and God. I challenge you each day to make a conscious decision to unplug from the phone and social media and plug into some time with God and your family. Jesus didn’t have to be concerned with catching up on emails. Nor did He have to return texts to the apostles. Sending out a tweet to His disciples wasn’t an option, nor was updating His Facebook status or posting His most recent selfie on Instagram. It’s true that Jesus dealt with none of those things but He still unplugged from everything for a while so that He could plug into His Father in heaven. “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.”(Mk.1:35)
Since training camp began, several months ago, Peyton Manning has been living with his eyes fixed on the end zone. The end zone is that area at both ends of the football field that every football player wants to enter so he can score a touchdown and hopefully help his team to a victory. Since today is known as Super Bowl Sunday and millions will be watching one of the most highly anticipated sporting events of the year, I thought I’d write about “End Zone Living”. For Manning and I’m sure all football players, end zone living is about daily preparation. From studying film and defenses to the many hours they put in on the practice field. This is end zone living because all of the time and effort is ultimately about getting into the end zone as many times as possible. Obviously the team that gets into the end zone the most wins the game. The apostle Paul practiced end zone living. Paul’s end zone living had nothing to do with football or scoring a touchdown. Paul simply lived every day with the end in mind. He knew this life is temporary and brief so he made sure he was spiritually prepared for the “end zone”, or death. “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”(Phil.1:21) No matter if you’re a football fan or not, we all need to practice “end zone” living. We need to live every single day with the awareness that this could be our last day. We need to do the things every day that will draw us nearer to God. Just as Peyton Manning spends countless hours every day preparing to somehow get the football into the end zone. We Christians should spend time preparing for the end of this life by spending time with God reading His Word and in prayer with Him. Proper preparation for “end zone” living for the Christian should also include time worshipping God and time with our brothers and sisters in Christ. As you enjoy the game, let’s keep our focus on our eternal “end zone” and live every day to reach that goal.