Inspected by #1

business-suit-690048_1920Have you ever found an “Inspected By” tag when you bought new clothes? One day I came home with a jacket, and when I reached into the pocket to look for that little slip of paper, I was really surprised when it said, “Inspected By # 1.”

When God created the universe and everything in it, he “looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was very good!”(Genesis 1:31 NLT) Then he attached the little tag that says, “Inspected by # 1.” He did the same thing when he made you. He slipped that little tag in the pocket of your life that says, “Inspected By # 1.” The fact of the matter is this: God loves you and treasures you.

blonde-2198759_1920Most of us look at ourselves with a distorted or twisted perspective. We either see ourselves as no-good dirty rotten scoundrels with nothing good about us, or we see ourselves through rose-colored glasses, without any faults, weaknesses, or blemishes.

But when we look at Psalm 139, we begin to understand how God sees us, and his perspective is objective, fair and accurate. He sees us as we really are. He knows everything about us, both good and bad, yet he loves us. Listen to a few verses from the Psalm.

You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. . . . For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb; I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.  . . . all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. (Psalm 139: 1-5, 13-16 NIV)

paul-2If I am to have a healthy and accurate view of myself, it’s helpful to understand how God sees me. The same is true for you. Only when we see through God’s eyes do we really see ourselves honestly. Then, we discover that nobody is all bad, and nobody is all good. Each of us has some wonderful qualities and characteristics, and each of us has some attributes that are not very attractive. Some of these traits get in the way of our becoming who and what we were created to be, and hinder us from developing a relationship with the Lord and with other people.

These verses from Psalm 139 fill me with hope. When I start beating myself up because I see myself as worthless, instead, I choose to focus on God’s view of me. He knows every flaw, yet he loves me completely. I used to think God should love me less because of all my failures. Now, I realize that he pours out His love and grace on me just the way I am.

It’s notBible and Teacup always easy, but I’m getting better at seeing myself through God’s eyes. For example. When I start taking on too many projects, maybe it’s because I’m trying to prove that I’m worthy of God’s love. So, I remind myself that I don’t have to earn God’s approval. Neither do you.

God knows you and loves you unconditionally. Yes, he sees the ways you have failed. He knows your imperfections. But he also sees your beauty, your qualities, and your potential.

An expert photographer takes a picture with an aesthetic eye, then crops, adjusts, or edits in order to create the desired effect, or to highlight a particular aspect of the photo. In the same way, God wants to highlight what is good in you. He wants to fully develop what he sees in you. And when he is done, he’ll put that little slip of paper into your pocket: Inspected by #1.

photographer-2133329_1920

In a Hurry & Running Late

usps-796059_1920As a newlywed attending a Christian college in Southern California, I was a driver for a private mail and parcel service. Every day, I was in posh high-rise office buildings and run-down strip malls, machine shops and Mom-and-Pop shops. By the time I worked there for a year, I’d been in almost every post office in Orange County.

One day my boss asked me to come in early because we had a new corporate client in Newport Beach who requested an early pick-up and delivery. Before heading out, I checked my map. Traffic was heavy. I was in a hurry and running late.

do-not-enter-98935_1280

When I got to the post office, I turned into the drive, only to discover that I was in a long, narrow, one-way exit lane with a big red sign announcing DO NOT ENTER. The situation demanded a fast decision. Do I back up into traffic and go around the block, looking for the entrance? Or do I step on the gas and zip into the parking lot before anyone tries to exit? I pressed the pedal to the metal.

When I was almost out of the wrong-way lane, a car turned into the driveway. We both slammed on the brakes, barely avoiding a head-on collision. A bit shaken by the near-miss, I pulled up to the loading dock and put my mail onto a cart, but before I entered the back door of the post office, that same car sped around the building and screeched to a halt. Dressed in an expensive business suit, the driver got out and stomped towards me.

Instantly, Matthew 5:25 came to mind, “Make peace with your adversary while you’re still on your way.”

As the stranger approached, I walked up to him and said. “Sir, I owe you an apology. In a hurry, I drove into the exit. I was wrong, and would like to ask for your forgiveness.”

“Do you know who I am?” he demanded.

“No, sir. I just know that what I did was wrong. I nearly caused an accident, and I am sorry.”

“I am the postmaster,” his face a deep red by now. “I could ban you from every post office in the county. I could have the police ticket you for driving the wrong way. I could call your boss and have you fired.” When he paused, we stared nose to nose. “But tell you what. Because you admitted your wrongdoing without even knowing who I was, I will forgive you. Don’t let it happen again.”

I stood there stunned. If the Holy Spirit didn’t bring that verse to my mind at that instant, I would be in big trouble. If I let pride keep me from admitting my mistake, I might be unemployed by the end of the day.

bible-1867195_1920

It dawned on me that I really can trust the scripture when it says “don’t worry about how to defend yourself, for the Holy Spirit will tell you what to say.” I had memorized those verses long before that morning, never realizing that I’d need to use them in a tight situation. Before driving away, I took a minute to thank the Lord for his Word and his Spirit.

After completing my route, I parked the van and took the keys to the office. While I filled out the time sheet, my boss walked in and said, “Hey, just wanted to let you know that the Newport Beach postmaster called to tell me he met you this morning.”

I froze.

“He said he was really impressed with you, and that you do good work. I Just wanted to pass that compliment on. Good job.”

Embarrassed, humbled, and relieved, I drove to the college. I was in a hurry and running late, barely getting there in time for class, but careful to obey every traffic sign.

Speed Bumps Ahead

 

Speed Bump SignThere were four or five speed bumps on the road ahead, but what caught my attention was the car in front of me. As it approached each bump in the road, it veered way over to the right to go around it. Didn’t slow down. Just avoided the speed bumps.

I, on the other hand, don’t mind speed bumps. They don’t bother me or my car in the least. Unless they are particularly obnoxious, or unless my wife is in the car with me, I go right over them without worrying. Without slowing very much, either, I might add.

When the car ahead got to the last speed bump, there was a parked car on the side of the road, so the driver had no choice but to go over the bump. To accomplish this feat, he came to a complete stop. Then he crawled over the speed bump as if his car might be damaged if it went more than 2 MPH over that obstacle. It was a fairly new car, and it didn’t seem fragile. Yet he crept over that speed bump as if his very life depended on not going any faster than the snail on the sidewalk to our right. The earthworm on the other side sped past him, though. Just zipped on by!

I watched the scene play out, trying to remain patient. I had a meeting to attend, but I could wait a little longer to see what the fellow would do. See if his jalopy would survive the ordeal of climbing over that mountain. It got all the way to the top of the speed bump and eased down the other side. Then the driver looked around, breathed a heavy sigh of relief, and accelerated. He was a success. He was having a good day!

Man in StreetAfter the meeting, I thought about the speed bump episode. In everyday life, we all face bumps in the road. We might call them hiccups or obstacles. Some people refuse to use the word “problem,” preferring, instead, to call them “challenges.” But they’re real.

Jesus said plainly in John 16:33 that there’ll be trouble, sorrow, pain, and difficulty in this world. Different translations of the Bible use words like tribulation, trials, distress, and afflictions. The Greek word is thlipsis, which refers to a variety of tough circumstances.

The fact is . . . life is tough. And just when you think it’s going to ease up a bit, it gets harder. It tests your faith. It raises hard questions. It makes you want to run away. “But be of good cheer,” the Lord goes on to say. “Take heart, be brave, don’t let it defeat you.”

Jesus knew about hardship. He knew what it meant to suffer, to hurt, to wish things could turn out differently. So did James, who wrote that we can be joyful even when going through tough stuff, knowing that the Lord is at work in our lives. So did Paul, who said God was working for our good in every situation. Even when hitting those speed bumps.

Basketball HoopYears ago, in a pick-up game of basketball, the other team got a rebound and was running a 4-on-1 fast break. Trying to defend them, I turned to reach for the ball. In doing so, I twisted my knee, snapped my ACL, and landed on the ground in pain. Surgery was followed by months of physical therapy.

To this day, I have an awareness and a compassion for people who have a leg, knee, or foot injury. Whenever I see someone in a wheelchair, on crutches. or wearing a knee brace, I remember what it was like falling to the ground in agony, then being helped off the court by friends. For a moment, I relive the exercises designed to restore strength and range of motion. My painful experience helped me become more aware of other people and what they’re going through.

We can’t avoid speed bumps, can’t always drive around them like the driver in front me was trying to do. There will always be problems, challenges, and obstacles. Some will be overwhelming, others mere hiccups. What we can do is face them with courage, patience, and confidence, open to the idea that they just might lead to personal growth and maturity, and just maybe help us develop a sense of compassion and an ability to relate to other people.

Speed Bump Image