Enthusiasm…

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Harry Houdini (born Erik Weisz in Budapest, later Ehrich Weiss or Harry Weiss; March 24, 1874 – October 31, 1926) was a Hungarian-American stunt performer, noted for his sensational escape acts. He first attracted notice as “Harry Handcuff Houdini” on a tour of Europe, where he challenged different police forces to try to keep him locked up. This revealed a talent for gimmickry and for audience involvement that characterised all his work. Soon he extended his repertoire to include chains, ropes slung from skyscrapers, straitjackets under water, and to holding his breath inside a sealed milk can.

(Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_Houdini)

There were two things that set Houdini apart, firstly KNOWLEDGE of what he knew to be true and secondly, ENTHUSIASM, the capacity to persevere in the face of great odds and to overcome the temptation to quit.

Enthusiasm is a passionate eagerness in any pursuit. Enthusiasm is a sign of responsible living, the sign that you are able to commit yourself fully to your actions.

Consider, if you were to commit yourself to living more enthusiastically, what would life look like, what would be different about your attitudes, what would be different in your relationships at home, at work, at church, with God?

Dale Carnegie once said,
“Today is life – the only life you are sure of, make the most of today. Get interested in something. Shake yourself awake. Develop a hobby. Let the winds of enthusiasm sweep through you. Live today with gusto.”

Dictionary.com describes Enthusiasm as,
1. Absorbing or controlling possession of the mind by any interest or pursuit; lively interest.
2. An occupation, activity, or pursuit in which such interest is shown.
3. Any various forms of extreme religious devotion, usually associated with intense emotionalism and a break with orthodoxy.
The Latin and Greek origins of enthusiasm suggest possession by a god or having a god within.
Synonyms – eagerness, warmth, fervour, zeal, ardour, passion, devotion
Antonyms – indifference

But what of enthusiasm for the follower of Jesus? Let me put to you that enthusiasm is characteristic of the Holy Spirit, the indwelling presence of God, the Father and Jesus, the Son.

The Apostle Paul writes in Colossians 1:26-27, “The mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people. To them God has chosen to make known…the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”

In John 4:13-14 Jesus responds to the question of a Samaritan woman, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

Again in John 7:37-38 Jesus said, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”

And again in John 10:10 Jesus states, “I have come that they may have may have life and have it to the full.”

The life that God has given through his Spirit is not static or indifferent rather it is dynamic, it seeks to well up and find expression through eagerness, warmth, fervour, zeal, ardour, passion and devotion.

Enthusiasm for the work of the Gospel is not of ourselves rather it is intrinsic to and arises from our relationship with the Living God. It expresses itself in a deep yearning for others to discover the fullness of a personal relationship with God.
This type of enthusiasm perseveres in the face of difficulty, overcomes the temptation to quit and is patiently purposeful in pursuing its goal.

The Apostle Peter writes in 2 Peter 2:9, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

Short of something to do, then read the words of Jesus in Matthew 28:18-20, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

The Turning Point…

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[For my determined purpose is] that I may know Him – that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognising and understanding [the wonders of His person] more strongly and more clearly. And that I may in that same way come to know the power out-flowing from His resurrection [which it exerts over believers]: and that I may so share His suffering as to be continually transformed [in spirit into His likeness even] to His death.

That’s it, everything in one grand statement… This passage, which takes a bit to get your head around, is taken from the Amplified Version of Philippians 3:10.

Charles Swindoll personalises it this way, “I want to know Him. I also want to model the power out-flowing from His resurrection. And I certainly want to be continually transformed into His likeness…which requires accepting my share of suffering.”

This gives us a whole new perspective on life and its difficulties, its crises. All sorts of circumstances arise in the course of a lifetime where we need to be asking the question, “Because I’m a follower of Jesus, how then shall I live?”

Swindoll suggests three reasons or principles to guide us as we seek the answers to that question.

Firstly, God never wastes times of testing. The pain and struggles and confusion connected with our circumstances only seem futile and unfair.

Secondly, God’s Word holds out hope when all seems hopeless. There are many truths and promises in God’s Word awaiting our discovery.

Thirdly, we will face turning points in all aspects of our lives, at home, at work, in our community and in our churches.

All this brings us back to THE TURNING POINT. Do you want to know Him? Do you want to model the power out-flowing from His resurrection? Do you want to be continually transformed into His likeness…which will require your acceptance of your share of suffering?

Listen to the words of a man at a unique turning point in the midst of dire circumstances.

From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God. He said:

“In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me.

From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help,

and you listened to my cry.

You hurled me into the depths, into the very heart of the seas,

and the currents swirled about me;

all the waves and breakers swept over me.

I said, ‘I have been banished from your sight;

yet I will look again toward your holy temple.’

The engulfing waters threatened me, the deep surrounded me;

seaweed was wrapped around my head.

To the roots of the mountains I sank down;

the earth beneath barred me forever.

But you, Lord my God, brought my life up from the pit.

“When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, Lord

and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple.

“Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God’s love for them.

But I, with shouts of grateful praise, will sacrifice to you.

What I have vowed I will make good.

I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord.’ “

Jonah 2:1-9

Do Jonah’s words raise your awareness of the work of God in your circumstances?

Not Knowing but Compelled…

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In Acts 20:22 Luke records the words of the Apostle Paul,

 And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, NOT KNOWING what will happen to me there.

Again, the author of Hebrews in 11:8 writes,

By faith Abraham when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance obeyed and went,

even though he did NOT KNOW where he was going.

The responses of Paul and Abraham can be seen as contrary to the common human response which says I want to know what is ahead before I commit myself.

The follower of Jesus however, knows that the bottom line, when called by God or compelled by the Spirit, is to trust and obey even though we may not know what or where.

Here’s a brief checklist to confirm that it is of the Lord.

Is the action consistent with the Scriptures?

Is my motive unselfish and pure?

Will my action injure others or my testimony?

Seek wise counsel

We are strangers and pilgrims in a foreign land, people on the move, unencumbered, ready to respond to the compelling of the Spirit or the call of God.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses,

let us throw off everything that hinders

and the sin that so easily entangles.

And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,

fixing our eyes on Jesus,

the pioneer and perfecter of faith.

For the joy set before him he endured the cross,

scorning its shame,

and sat down at the right hand of God.

Considering him who endured such opposition from sinners,

so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Hebrews 12:1-3

Read more about Paul’s decision to go to Jerusalem, Acts 20:17 – 21:15.

Making the Most of Your Time

I wrote this Word of Encouragement on Friday 21 June 2013, the shortest day, shortest in terms of daylight hours. I’m not making a case for finding more time to rush around doing more. Rather I’m calling for the wise use of time. Each of us has the same amount of time as the next person.

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Last year I noticed a newspaper article announcing that Stephen Covey had died as a result of complications arising from a bicycle accident. Stephen was considered the pioneer of the self-help genre that aims at helping people live more productively. His most notable publication, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, was published in 38 languages and sold over 20 million copies.

Covey proposed a fourth generation of time management that recognised the challenge wasn’t to manage time, which we cannot do, but to manage ourselves. And one key to effectiveness is to give attention to our relationships.

In the light of Covey it’s interesting to note the response of Jesus, in Matthew 22:36-40, to the question from the expert in the law, “Teacher, ‘Which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’ Jesus replied, ‘Love the Lord you 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 neighbour as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Jesus emphasised these two relationships, God and our neighbour, as critical for his followers. Does God feature in our diary? Does our neighbour – family, friends, colleagues, people we meet – feature in our diary?

The Apostle Paul has a timely reminder in Ephesians 5:15-17, “Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.”

Recently I was chatting to a person, from the USA, currently living in Australia. During our conversation I mentioned that a priority for me is to help people become followers of Jesus and when they do so to give them every encouragement along the way. I demonstrated how this priority is translated into action by recalling a recent period of three days, Sunday lunch with Lenin, a Filipino friend, Monday afternoon tutoring Glenn, who is completing a Certificate IV in Christian Ministry and Theology, Tuesday morning tea with Gilbert, another Filipino friend, who is now an Aussie, Tuesday afternoon Bible Study with Neill, Shaun, Junette, Glenn and Colin, and last but not least an evening meal with Ace, another Filipino friend.

I am privileged to give encouragement to each and every one as fellow followers of Jesus.

My family is a key priority and after spending time with Glenn on the Monday afternoon I collected my lovely granddaughter, Abigail, from school then stayed with her and her big brother, Micah, for a time before heading home for the evening meal with my darling wife, Tricia.

The King James Version renders Ephesians 5:16 as “redeeming the time,” and Charles Swindoll in his book, Come Before Winter And… states, “Time must be purchased. We pay for it through selected activities and occupations, important or otherwise. And when it comes right down to it, the great difference, between one person and another, lies largely in his or her use of time. God’s timing for Christ’s return may very well occur before you tear one more sheet off the..calendar…and then again it may not. Ephesians 5:15-17 applies either way. Look at it this way: God’s part…the time of my Redeemer. My part…the redeeming of my time.”

2 Peter 3:9 states, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promises, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

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And again, Hosea 10:12,“Sow righteousness for yourselves, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unploughed ground; for it is time to seek the LORD, until he comes and showers his righteousness on you.”

Supremacy

I stood there for a few moments, it was cold and the ground damp, however, I noticed the last of the autumn leaves clinging to the branches of two of the four ornamental pear trees in our backyard. I had just finished putting the green waste in the compost bin as I do each day. There was still a colourful display of green, gold, bronze and burgundy leaves. The other two pears had already shed their leaves. The Manchurian Pear in the back corner, the first to lose its leaves, always has an amazing display of colourful leaves each autumn.

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The pause as I mentioned was brief however, I was acutely conscious of this cycle of life in the face of winter’s cold blast, but more than that I had a deep sense of the presence of God. He was gently whispering to me about His creation. It was a privilege to be assured by God, the Creator, of His presence in all and through all. I looked around and the bulbs in the bulb garden had begun sprouting healthy green shoots, daffodils, jonquils and hyacinth getting ready to display their colourful flowers. I turned to look at the Manchurian Pear again. It too was getting ready for spring, multitudes of buds all along its branches preparing to burst into a mass of white blossoms.

I let myself into the house through the back door pondering this brief outdoor experience of God. My pondering took me to Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase, in The Message, of Colossians 1:15-20,

We look at this Son (Jesus) and see God who cannot be seen. We look at this Son and see God’s original purpose in everything created. For everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible, rank after rank after rank of angels – everything got started in him and finds its purpose in him. He was there before any of it came into existence and holds it all together, like a head does a body.

He was supreme in the beginning and – leading the resurrection parade – he is supreme in the end. From beginning to end he’s there, towering far above everything, everyone. So spacious is he, so roomy, that everything of God finds its proper place in him without crowding. Not only that, but all the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe – people and things, animals and atoms – get properly fixed and fit together in vibrant harmonies, all because of his death, his blood poured down from the cross.

 

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And then Psalm 8 from the King James Version,

O LORD our Lord, how majestic is thy name in all the earth! Who hast set thy glory above the heavens…..When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained…

What is man, that thou art mindful of him? And the son of man, that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him 

a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet: All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field; the fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas.

O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!