Here at the FBC our desire is to delight God by developing a church full of people whose integrity is beyond question, whose faith is beyond reason, and whose compassion is beyond compare. So come on in, look around, and explore the world of Newton FBC. We sincerely hope you enjoy your visit!
Sun Sep 21 06:42:21 2014
When I was in Israel a couple of years ago, we stopped for the express purpose of taking in the view of the wilderness area through which the Jericho to Jerusalem road passed. I would imagine you are familiar with the story Christ told of the Good Samaritan. This is found in the scripture in Luke 10:29-37. A traveler was going from Jerusalem to Jericho and was set upon by a band of robbers. When one sees the area, it doesn't take much imagination to see how this story could be a reality. The lay of the land would afford a great deal of hiding places for robbers and thieves who would prey on travelers. As you recall the story Christ told, the traveler who was beaten and robbed was ignored by a priest and a Levite before finding help through the efforts of a Samaritan.
In her book "Kindness: Reaching Out to Others", Phyllis J. Le Peau describes an event at a Midwestern seminary. Students were given the assignment to preach on kindness. Then, the day of the sermon, the students were intentionally delayed by a "person in need" who was planted on the way to the class. One by one, the students made their way to the class, but not one of them stopped to assist the needy person. Apparently, they were too absorbed in preaching a message on kindness to actually be involved in an act of kindness.
Which would be the more powerful sermon on kindness: delivering a sermon extolling the need to show kindness or actually stopping to show kindness to someone who needed help? I hope I don't need to state the obvious here. Luke 10:33 says, "When he saw him, he had compassion." His compassion led to action. I hope it does for us as well.
Sat Sep 20 08:35:15 2014
An article on The Detroit Institute of Arts website dated June 30, 2006, reported that the efforts of their Conservation Lab were certainly needed on February 24, 2006, when a 12-year-old visiting with his school placed a wad of chewing gum on the painting The Bay, by Helen Frankenthaler, a work of art valued at $1.5 million dollars. Conservators in the lab have dedicated their efforts to analyzing, repairing and preserving art, and although damage from visitors is extremely rare, the DIA's conservation staff was well prepared to handle this unfortunate incident. School personnel disciplined the youngster, but a school official was quoted as saying, "I don't think he fully understood the ramifications of what he did."
A powerful prayer of Christ on the cross was, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." (Luke 23:34) Even after his mistreatment, his beatings, his flogging, and the crucifixion, he prayed for forgiveness for those responsible who didn't know what they were doing. And just who were those responsible? Well, one might say the Jewish leaders, or the Roman soldiers, or even Pilate. In reality, we are all responsible for the pain he endured. So, when he prayed for forgiveness for those that "know not what they do," this included all of us. We all played a part in the death of Christ, and God's grace extends to all. Accepting his grace allows for forgiveness. We don't need to fully understand, but we need to fully accept his gift.
The lab at the Detroit Institute of Arts is one of the finest in the United States, and they were able to repair damage caused by the gum. Christ is not only the finest but also the only one able to repair the damage caused by sin.
Fri Sep 19 08:11:45 2014
Do you enjoy flying kites? I do, but I haven't done so in a long time. Maybe I should do something about that! One time when I was a kid, the older brother of a friend of mine let a kite go over a field next to my grandparents. The kite caught some upper wind currents and it kept going and going and going. John had to keep tying more string together to keep control. Eventually, the kite was just a tiny speck in the sky and we had to use binoculars to keep track of it.
This reminds me of a story of a kite who loved to fly high. The kite loved the feel of the wind and the sights he could see when he was really high up in the air. The kite began to long to break free of the string that held it so he could soar even higher. He longed to be so high that the houses below would become little dots and he could brush against the clouds. So, he tugged and tugged until he eventually snapped the string that was attached to him. However, when he did this he suddenly began spinning wildly and tumbling down and down. His adventure came to a rude ending when he crashed to the ground.
We can be like that kite. We get crazy ideas of how we would like to be free of God's control on our lives so that we could experience new heights and see new things. We fail to realize that breaking free of God's control would mean disaster. There might be a momentary time of exhilaration, but that would come to an end quickly as we found ourselves tumbling to a ruinous crash landing.
The way to experience true freedom is IN Christ, not APART from Christ. We find the words of Christ in John 8:31-32, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." The way to experience true freedom is to let Christ control the string!
Thu Sep 18 07:47:15 2014
In 1942, with the nation embroiled in World War II, the United States was looking for a way to develop a code that would not be easily broken by the enemy and allow for accurate and safe communication. Phillip Johnston, a missionary among the Navajo, suggested using the Navajo language as a basis for such a code. Originally, 29 Navajo men were recruited for this project and a code was developed. This effort proved remarkably successful and by the end of the war, over 420 Navajo were involved in the program. The code was never broken and was kept secretive decades after the end of the war in case it was needed again. A film about this effort, "Windtalkers", was released in 2002, 60 years after its inception.
God does not speak to us in code. Hebrews 1:1-2 tells us, "In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things." Through the revelation of His Son and through the Word he has sent us, God has made plain to us what we need to know and what he expects from us. If there is any difficulty in communication, it is not a problem with the Sender, it is a problem with the receiver.
We owe a great debt to the Windtalkers, but we owe a greater debt to our Heavenly Father who has communicated to us plainly and openly. He does not speak to us in code and he does not hide his desire and intentions from us. Our obligation is to respond to what he has said.
Wed Sep 17 07:54:54 2014
Sometimes we view a setback or an adverse circumstance as some sort of failure on our part. Many teach that if we are faithful as followers of God, we won't face adversity. If we are struggling, it is because of a lack of trust in God. I don't agree with this at all and I think folks who have this point of view are ignoring Hebrews 11. This great passage outlines the lives of many great people of faith. It speaks to their commitment and their unrelenting trust in God. However, it also addresses the negative consequences many faced because of their great faith.
We read in Hebrews 11:35-37, "There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated." This description follows that of many who were much more victorious in their lives and experiences. So, does that mean that those who didn't receive deliverance were not blessed and were less faithful? Not hardly. Hebrews 11:39 tells us, "these were ALL (emphasis mine) commended for their faith." They all asked for help, all asked for victory, but not all received the same answer. This was not because of their lack of faith; it was because God had different plans for all of them. Remember Paul's request to be delivered from a "thorn in the flesh?" (II Corinthians 12:7)? He wasn't, because God gained glory through Paul's affliction.
Don't view affliction or a failure as a statement of a lack of faith. Continue to be faithful and know that God knows your heart!
Tue Sep 16 05:51:21 2014
Thousands of tourists over the centuries have visited the Acropolis in Athens, Greece. This religious citadel located on a hill in Athens was the site of many religious debates, perhaps even visited by the Apostle Paul as it is situated near the location of his debate with Epicurean and Stoic philosophers recorded in Acts 17. There are chips of marble lying around that many have taken as souvenirs over the years. There never seems to be a shortage of these pieces, even though many visitors have carried a piece with them as they left. How can this be? Vernon Grounds gives the explanation, "Every few months a truckload of marble fragments from a quarry miles away is scattered around the whole Acropolis area. So tourists go home happy with what they think are authentic pieces of ancient history."
We need to be careful to not be deceived by imitations. It is so easy to be deceived. One needs to be careful to not be deceived by groups claiming to be followers of Christ, when actually they are following a false doctrine. How can you tell when a group is false? The simplest, and most important test, is ask, "What do you believe about Jesus Christ?" If they do not believe that Christ is the perfect, eternal Son of God, fully God and fully man, who died and rose again for our justification, then what they are saying and teaching is just as false as the chips of marble trucked to the Acropolis.
Another thing we must remember when it comes to imitation is that we need to avoid offering to God "imitation" worship. We read Christ's comments about worship in John 4:23-24, "a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth."
Make sure you are not just going through the motions when it comes to your worship. Christ wants more than just idle words, prayers, songs and sermons. He wants us to worship him with all of our heart. He came down hard on the Jews for their mundane worship. Listen to God's words in Isaiah 1:12-14, "When you come to appear before me, who has asked this of you, this trampling of my courts? Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations--I cannot bear your evil assemblies. Your New Moon festivals and your appointed feasts my soul hates. They have become a burden to me." Don't offer God imitation chips - celebrate him with authentic worship!
Mon Sep 15 07:57:29 2014
Have you ever encountered an optical illusion? You know, something that appears to be one thing but actually is something else or is hiding something else? The illusion usually is created by the use of colors, patterns, and other means. Through these means, objects that are actually stationary appear to move, straight lines appear warped, items are hidden, colors appear and disappear, or some other illusion, all through the manipulation of factors in such a way as to create an illusion. Many times you can find these on the comic page of the Sunday newspaper. There are, of course, naturally occurring optical illusions created by light striking objects in just the right way, shapes that create a certain appearance, and other phenomena.
Optical illusions are usually harmless and are actually entertaining. They are fun to look at and provide a challenge as one tries to figure out just what is going on. How in the world do I see red when that box is green? Are those dots really moving? Why does that wall look crooked when it is actually straight? These are why they are illusions!
I do know someone who likes to try to make things appear different from what they really are. However, his ability to do this is not harmless, and he doesn't do it for fun. Satan likes to make the harmful appear harmless so he can injure the innocent. Paul warns of this in II Corinthians 11:13-15, "For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve."
Beware of Satan's tactics. Beware of his use of optical illusions. He is good at making things appear good when they really aren't. He is good at making harmful activities appear harmless. Don't fall for his tactics and tricks. Focus on what is real, and leave the optical illusions for the comic page!
Sun Sep 14 06:43:48 2014
"It is no longer enough that we pray that God may be with us on our side. We must learn to pray that we may be on God's side." Isn't that a great statement? Do you wonder who made it? Think it might have been some well-known theologian or a popular preacher? Well, actually it was one of the most famous scientists of the 20th century - Wernher von Braun. He developed the V-2 rocket for Germany which was used in warfare in WWII (no, he didn't design the rocket for this application). He later immigrated to the United States where he became the father of the space program. He had a profound effect on the history of a large part of the 20th century. While his intelligence is obvious from his accomplishments and contributions, equally obvious is his profound understanding of his relationship with God.
Many times we pray to try to "change God's mind" and to ask him to cause something to happen in a way we think is best. Instead, we need to be praying that we learn to come into conformity with what God desires and what he has designed. We need to let him act in the way he knows is best. Praying in this way shows that we trust him and that we understand his concern and commitment to our well-being. Matthew 7:9-11 gives a commentary on this understanding, "Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!"
Von Braun understood this. He knew we should trust God and get on the same page with God, instead of trying to convince God to get on the same page with us. This isn't "rocket science" (oh, I couldn't resist that). It is just a matter of trusting God!
Sat Sep 13 07:10:15 2014
Did you ever do a paint-by-number project? I used to love to do those. You really weren't actually painting, but if you were careful and followed the instructions the result was a pretty nice piece of art in which you did have a certain degree of ownership. When I think of paint by numbers, two things come to mind. First, I am glad there are people who have the talent and ability to produce original works of art that can be copied. Secondly, when you do paint by number, what makes it work is that you follow the directions so that you get a good representation of the original.
These observations can be made in our spiritual lives. God is an original, and what he does is truly original. Obviously, he does not need to do a "paint by numbers" thing as he is the one who creates the originals, and he is able to create masterpieces. As followers of God, we need to follow the instructions he has given us in order to replicate in our lives what God intends for us to produce. To remain true to the original, we need to follow the numbers. Our attempts at producing something original will not go well. Our only chance at producing a masterpiece is to follow the design God intends for us. He wants us "to be conformed to the image of his Son." (Romans 8:29) That only happens when we follow God's numbers.
Fri Sep 12 07:13:37 2014
I am not really fond of automated answering services. Most businesses have them now. I know many of you who have them at your business can perhaps speak long and eloquently about all the benefits. I find them very impersonal and often frustrating when you are calling for a simple bit of information (such as an appointment time) and can't seem to get a response. Well, perhaps we simply need to chalk this up to "progress" and go on. I am certain that I will need to adjust my attitude because my lack of affection for this "technology" will do little to change the way things are.
I am just glad that when I need to talk with my Heavenly Father I don't get something like "press 1 for prayer request, press 2 for praise, press 3 for request for intervention, press 4 for all other matters." God is always listening, always there, always available. His perpetual availability is hailed in many passages. One of my favorites is Psalm 121:4-5, "indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD watches over you - the LORD is your shade at your right hand."
God never sleeps - he is always available. You don't need to "press 1" to reach him - simply call on his name. There are some things that will never change!
Thu Sep 11 08:01:07 2014
Today is the 13th anniversary of the terrorist's attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center in New York City and significantly damaged the Pentagon. Thousands of people lost their lives in the Capitol Building crashed in Pennsylvania after intervention by the passengers. These diabolical acts demonstrate the evil that resides in our world.
Thirteen years later, terrorists are still making headlines. We watch in horror at the onslaught of ISIS. Thousands have died at the hands of these depraved people. President Obama addressed the nation last night and outlined the response of the United States as attempts are made to counter their aggression. When I see these activities and events, I am appalled along with everyone else. I also realize that attempts to thwart the atrocities should be made. However, I also realize that the ultimate defeat of evil rests in the hands of God, and we need to pray for his intervention. God has outlined the conflicts that will continue until his plans are complete. We need to continue to pray for those who are suffering because of the heinous acts of others, and we need to pray for God's plan to be completed.
Let us always remember that as bad as things look, God is still in control and is bringing about all things to his desired end. Our mind reels at the unspeakable evil of others, but what this demonstrates is how much we need God. Continue to trust him, and along with the Apostle John, pray "Amen. Come, Lord Jesus." (Revelation 22:20)
Wed Sep 10 07:56:50 2014
I will never forget an event that took place when I was really young. My Dad was driving home in his 1955 Chevrolet pick-up truck with me sitting beside him. As we approached our house, I began telling my Dad that I wanted to stop at Baker's store for a bottle of pop. He said, "Stevie, I really would rather not do that." I went into my typical little kid mode, crying and pleading until my Dad relented and we stopped. After I got my bottle of pop we went home. However, just as we were approaching our driveway, I saw my Aunt Chick's car leaving our house. "Dad!" I cried, "Was Randy with her?" Randy was my cousin, my Aunt Chick's son. They lived a long way from us and I didn't get to see him often. We were the about the same age and I REALLY enjoyed playing with him when they visited. Dad replied, "Yes, Steve, he was. I knew they were at the house and wanted to surprise you. That is why I wanted to get home. But you wanted to stop so badly." Oh, was I ever disappointed.
Now, I really cried because I was not a happy little boy. But nothing could be done. They had waited as long as they could and needed to leave because they wanted to see some more family before they returned home. Since I had pitched a fit and made Dad stop, I missed them. If only I had listened to my Dad, who had a bigger picture of the situation. He had a much better plan for me, if only I had listened.
We need to realize that God has a much better plan for us and we need to listen. Often our willfulness to do what we want and follow our own plans frustrates God's desire and keeps us from experiencing all that God has for us. Remember the words of Jeremiah 29:11, "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'" Follow God's plan, and you will not be disappointed!
Tue Sep 9 08:07:12 2014
Have you ever said, "I am going to bake a cake?" Well, if you have, I beg to differ with you. You have never baked a cake in your life. "Wait a minute!" you might say, "I have baked dozens of cakes!" Once again, I beg to differ. I have never baked a cake in my life and neither have you. THE OVEN bakes the cake, you simply mix the ingredients and put them in a proper pan and place them in the oven.
As I reflect on this reality, it brings to mind the division of responsibilities that exists in the church. We each have our different gifts and roles, and as we perform them together, we see the desired results. You can put together the most delicious cake ever made, but unless you put that cake in an oven, no one will ever be able to truly enjoy the tasty outcome. So it is with the church. Unless we work together, each person doing what they do best, we will not experience all that God intends for us to experience. I think of two passages that reflect this thought. I Corinthians 3:16 tells us, "I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow." I also recall the analogy of the body that Paul uses in I Corinthians 12 to describe how the church should function. He makes this conclusion, "Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it." (12:27)
Each of you have who are part of a local church have a part to play, a role to exercise, and work to do in the ministry of the church. We need to do what we should, work with others in the ministry, get out of the way of the work of the Holy Spirit, and then we can bake cakes.
Mon Sep 8 08:00:41 2014
Our study in our small groups last night focused on two passages found in Mark where Christ cast out demons. The first passage, found in Mark 5:1-20, focused on a man who seemed to be possessed by many demons (cf. vs. 9, "My name is Legion for we are many"). One question we discussed was "How had the image of God been defaced in this person?" One response to this was the person's obsession with death. The passage stated that "This man lived in the tombs." (verse 2) God created life. Death has become part of our experience because Adam followed the temptation of Satan and disobeyed God. As a result, "just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin." (Romans 5:12) Satan wants us to view death as an unconquerable enemy.
There is an emphasis on death on those who are preoccupied with the occult and occult activities. However, we are created by God to live and following God means we can live forever. This means we do not need to fear death. Death can be viewed as a temporary bump in the road on the way to life eternal when we place our trust in God and allow his power to overcome the grip Satan has on our lives. Satan wants us to focus on death and the fear of death so that we will be robbed of the joy and contentment life in Christ can bring. We need to stop "living among the tombs" and enjoy life with God! Remember Paul’s words found in I Corinthians 15:55-57, "Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."
Sun Sep 7 06:59:38 2014
People mourn in different ways. In some cultures, "professional" mourners are hired to wail and mourn at the scene of the death and the proceedings after the death. One of the most unusual circumstances of mourning involved the prophet Ezekiel. We read in Ezekiel 24, "Son of man, with one blow I am about to take away from you the delight of your eyes. Yet do not lament or weep or shed any tears. Groan quietly; do not mourn for the dead. Keep your turban fastened and your sandals on your feet; do not cover your mustache and beard or eat the customary food of mourners." (16-17)
God wanted to use the mourning period of the prophet as an object lesson for the people of Israel so he told him to mourn the death of his wife in silence. The "delight of their eyes", the temple, was going to be taken away from them because of their sin. They would mourn for this loss in an unusual way because of the traumatic circumstances that would accompany their loss. God wanted them to understand the serious consequences of sin. Ezekiel bore the brunt of this as he was called upon to suffer silently when he lost his wife. God wanted to show the people how much they would suffer because of their sin and their failure to repent.
We need to take sin seriously and know there are consequences when we fail to repent. God is a loving and caring God, but he will not change his attitude towards sin. Don't lose sight of this important reality.
Sat Sep 6 09:31:54 2014
Years ago in a race in New York, the jockey of the leading horse beat his horse to the finish line. Just before the finish, the horse stumbled and catapulted his rider over the line. The horse then regained his balance and cross the line. Since he had been 20 lengths ahead of the field, it would seem that he had easily won the race in spite of the mishap. However, the horse was disqualified as a riderless horse cannot be declared the victor. The second-place horse was awarded the race. A race official was quoted as saying, "the jockey was so far in front that only a freak accident would stop him and that is what happened."
Life has spills and mishaps that can change events and the course of our lives. This can happen at the last moment even when an outcome seems to be certain. Unexpected circumstances can make their appearance in a dramatic fashion and at a most undesirable time. Solomon writes, "As fish are caught in a cruel net, or birds are taken in a snare, so people are trapped by evil times that fall unexpectedly upon them." (Ecclesiastes 9:11) This verse reminds that unexpected things happen and a good mindset for us would be to expect the unexpected. Tragedy can strike with no notice whatsoever. We can experience a setback in our health or our finances with no warning.
Solomon's conclusion was that we need to depend on God and trust him with the outcome of our lives. We cannot trust our own strength, wisdom, or skill. We are not in control, and we should look to the one who knows the beginning from the end. There is wisdom it letting God be in control.
Fri Sep 5 08:03:10 2014
Do you recall what you had to eat three weeks ago today? Most of us probably cannot, unless it was some sort of special event that helps our memory. We don't recall many of our past meals, but the fact that we are still alive and thriving demonstrates that we derived benefit from them.
It is the same way with God's Word. We may not be able to recall all the details of the message, or of a Bible study, or our personal devotions that took place in the past, but we can be assured that we derived benefit from them. We obtain benefit from various sources when it comes to our interaction with the word - Bible studies, reading literature, personal devotions, or a memorization program. All of these are beneficial, even though we don't recall specific details.
I Peter 2:2 encourages us, "Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation." Babies certainly don't remember all of their feedings, but the feedings nonetheless keep them healthy and help them to grow. We should desire God's Word and make sure we are getting exposure to his Word regularly. The benefit is there in spite of a failure to recollect the details!
Thu Sep 4 07:37:59 2014
I have always enjoyed mysteries. When I was young I enjoyed reading "The Three Investigators" and "The Hardy Boys". These mystery series enthralled me with the "whodunnit" or the "what happens next" genre.
Following God can sometimes seem like a mystery as we do not know what is coming next. This can be frightening at times as we struggle through some of the events we encounter and some of the circumstances we face. We can't see the whole picture from our current perspective. This means we need to make a choice - continue to live in fear or live confidently as we trust God for the outcome. As I would read the mysteries, even though I did not know all the particulars along the way, I always knew the outcome would be positive. That was just the nature of the mysteries I read. We can have the same confidence with the "mystery" of our life with God.
Even though we don't know all the particulars, we know what the outcome will be. Paul writes, "Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed." (I Corinthians 15:51) We know that whatever we face, whatever the struggle, following God means that our mysteries will have a good outcome. The ending of our mystery is a life with God and a resolution of the struggles we face. The last page of the great mystery we face is a glorious ending.
Wed Sep 3 07:44:50 2014
Mitsuo Fuchida was the Japanese Kamikaze pilot who led the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, shouting "Tora! Tora! Tora!" Less than four years later, on September 2, 1945, representatives of the Japanese government signed a formal declaration of surrender on the deck of the USS Missouri that was stationed in Tokyo Bay. When this took place, Fuchida's role in the Japanese war machine was ended.
Fuchida wandered in the streets of Tokyo not knowing what he would do next. He came across some literature that was being distributed by Americans. He read the fascinating story of Jake Deshazer entitled "I Was a Prisoner of Japan." Deshazer was a pilot who had been shot down, captured, and imprisoned in a Japanese POW camp. There, he was tortured and mistreated. However, he wrote of how he had experienced the love of Christ and how he had forgiven his tormenters. He implored his readers to make the same decision as he had and receive the gift of Christ's salvation. Fuchida was deeply moved, and he trusted Christ as his Savior. He became an evangelist and for the rest of his life traveled to spread the Good News of Christ's love.
This story demonstrates the power of the Gospel to change lives. We should never take this for granted. Those of us who have experienced this transforming power need to follow the examples of Deshazer and Fuchida, two enemies who became colleagues in the work of the ministry of Christ. Many were brought to the Savior through the efforts of these men. If you have not experienced what Christ can do for you, follow the examples of Deshazer and Fuchida and give your life to Him. The war they fought, both within and without, became peace through Christ's work.
It can be the same for you. Paul writes, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes." (Romans 1:16) Let Christ's power bring change to you!
Tue Sep 2 08:11:23 2014
Dennis Fisher tells the story of John Ashcroft and prayer just before he was sworn in as U.S. Senator. As those present gathered around him for prayer, he noticed his Dad was having trouble getting up from the couch. He said, "That's all right, Dad, you don't have to stand up." His Dad replied, "I'm not struggling to stand, I'm struggling to kneel."
When was the last time that you "struggled in prayer?" Colossians 4:12 reports, "Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured." I would like for you to notice two things about this verse. First, notice the idea of wrestling in prayer. Greek wrestlers would struggle in training and struggle in their competitions to gain victory. This involved concentration and effort. When we pray we should concentrate on our prayer and put some effort into what we are doing, not just say a quick "Lord, thanks for this day and help me do my best."
Another aspect of note regarding the prayer is the purpose for the prayer. Epaphras was wrestling in prayer for others' spiritual standing and growth. When was the last time you prayed for someone's spiritual life? When was the last time you prayed for YOUR spiritual life? We usually place so much emphasis on praying for material needs and physical concerns that we forget our prayer should be for so much more.
Epahras wrestled in prayer that others would "stand firm in the will of God." Pray for the spiritual lives of others. Pray for your spiritual life!
Mon Sep 1 07:55:11 2014
Today we celebrate the conflicted holiday of Labor Day. I call it conflicted because many folks get a day off from work on a day set aside to celebrate work. Whether you are working or have the day off, I hope you are enjoying your Labor Day. I read an article recently about some of the more dangerous occupations. Jobs such as underwater welders, pilots, and loggers are very high on the list. Farming is also listed as a hazardous occupation as there are many dangers associated with this job. So, those of you who are laboring, please be safe out there!
As I think of being conflicted, I think of the life of Christ. Christ came as a peaceful man, yet there have been many who have given their lives for Christ. Christ died for us, and now many are dying for him. This is the way it has always been and will always be. Christ speaks of the division he causes. Matthew 10:34 says, "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword." Think of those who are giving their lives for him and pray for the persecuted. We must put this in his hands, and know that he is in control. Serving Christ is a hazardous occupation for many. Let us continue to offer prayer for them and know that God has their lives in his hands.
Sun Aug 31 07:10:15 2014
Today is a rather ignominious anniversary. On August 30, 1780, American General Benedict Arnold conspired with British General Clinton to turn over West Point for the sum of 20,000 pounds ($1 million in today's money). The blueprints of West Point were handed over to British Major John Andre. Through some rather unusual, some would say providential, circumstances, Andre was discovered before he could cross the British lines, and executed. Arnold escaped, living out the remainder of his life in Great Britain, unable to return to his home and never really gain acceptance in his "adopted" country. Why was he not appreciated in England? Well, what would be your opinion of a traitor?
Betrayal is hurtful, and being betrayed by a friend or family member is especially arduous. Christ himself knew the sting of betrayal because of Judas. Perhaps you have felt the sting of betrayal - someone you considered a friend said something hurtful about you, or went behind your back to do something that caused you harm, or a family member did something that betrayed your trust. Why do people do things like this? The answer to this is simple - we live in a fallen world and people can do some really nasty things.
We know that we will never be betrayed by our Lord. And if you experience betrayal, trust God to help you work through the consequences you face because of the betrayal. Ask God to help you with your feelings about the betrayal and the betrayer. Try not to harbor bitterness, as this will only bring injury to you.
In Isaiah 33:1, God warns betrayers, "Woe to you, O destroyer, you who have not been destroyed! Woe to you, O traitor, you who have not been betrayed! When you stop destroying, you will be destroyed; when you stop betraying, you will be betrayed." There are stern consequences for those who betray. God will vindicate those who have been betrayed.
Sat Aug 30 07:10:15 2014
This afternoon I am going to attend a class reunion in observance of the 40th anniversary of my high school graduation. I do not know where the time has gone, but it is obvious that time has past. My personal appearance is changed. I now have gray hair, not brown. I do not walk well when I used to be able to run. I have artificial parts in me. My relationships are different. Both of my parents are dead, I am now married, I have two married daughters, and I have a granddaughter. This reunion will certainly be an exercise in the passage of time. I am looking forward to it, but I know circumstances will be vastly different from when I was last with this group of folks. In actuality, a major feature of this reunion will be to demonstrate just how much things have changed, and not all the changes are good.
I am looking forward to a reunion that will feature changes, but all the changes will be for the good. When we are united in heaven with our Lord, it will be a time of reunion that features a restoration of all things good, a renewal of relationships, and a repair of the damage that sin did to God's creation. God makes possible this reunion through the finished work of his Son. Paul writes in I Thessalonians 4:16-17, "For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever." Now that will be a reunion.
Fri Aug 29 07:07:57 2014
Sometimes we feel overwhelmed by all the needs we see around us. There seem to be so many people hurting because of finances, health issues, personal problems and other situations. How can you be of any help with so many needs?
In "The Unexpected Universe," Loren Eisely writes about an encounter he had during a vacation. He was walking along a beach the morning after a storm. Lying all over the beach were starfish that had been washed up during the storm. Ahead of him he noticed a man throwing starfish back into the sea. "With all the starfish lying around," he asked the man, "How can you hope to make much difference?" As the man threw yet another starfish back into the swirling water he said, "I made a difference for that one."
When we are faced with overwhelming circumstances, whether it is the needs of others or some other circumstance, we must simply choose to do what we can. We must make choices as we encounter people with physical and spiritual needs, remembering that we are incapable of taking care of all the needs we encounter personally, let alone all the needs that exist. We need to be "star throwers." Have the faith to do what we can. In this way, you can make a difference. The man on the Jericho Road was grateful for the words of the Samaritan who said, "'Look after him,' he said, 'and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.'" (Luke 10:35) For the traveler, the Samaritan made a big difference.
Thu Aug 28 07:22:11 2014
Folks who don’t believe in God give a lot of reasons for their skepticism. However, when you condense all of these reasons, a common thread may be found. Folks do not believe in God because God doesn't match who they think God should be. So many times I have heard, "If there is a God, then why do bad things happen?" and similar questions. Raising the questions provides justification for denying God's reality. Woody Allen said, "If only God would give me a sign, like making a large deposit in my name at a Swiss bank." The intent of this remark may have been humorous, but it reflects a serious issue - a denial of God for who he is and our position before him.
As believers fall into a different sort of trap. We tend to put God in a box. We must realize that God is who he is - he is not what we think he should be. When we make the mistake of trying to "think for God" and making plans for him, instead of letting him make plans for us, we can get into some real trouble. When we focus on what we think God is not doing, we miss what he is doing. There were a group of people in Christ's day that did just that. Even after the Pharisees witnessed Christ's provision of food for thousands using what was intended just for one, they doubted God's presence. They asked, "What sign will You perform then, that we may see it and believe You? What work will You do? Our fathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written, 'He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’" (John 6:30-31). Isn't that ironic?
God does not exist because people believe in him, nor does he exist to fulfill believer's plans. "I am who I am" he declared to Moses (Exodus 3:14). We are so much better off when we remember who God is and that he is more than just a cosmic jeannie in a bottle excising only to supply our whims. Focus on God, not what you think God should be doing. Then you won't miss a thing.
Wed Aug 27 07:39:29 2014
A real estate agent was showing a dilapidated property to a prospective buyer. It was an old warehouse that had most of its windows broken out, doors that were hanging loosely, ceilings falling in, and a great deal of masonry in need of repair. The agent said, "The seller will repair all the windows as well as make all other updates should you decide to buy this property." "Don't bother," said the businessman, "I'm not interested in the building, I want the site. The building is to be torn down so I can build a new store."
Like the prospective buyer of this property, Jesus is not interested in what you can bring to him, he is interested in what he can do for you. Many people labor under the mistaken assumption that we need to try to be good enough, to be able to contribute enough money, to be able to offer enough in the way of service to the church, or many other efforts, to somehow appease him and gain entrance into eternal life.
I remember being with my oldest daughter on a visit to Peru and striking up a conversation with a young shop keeper about her relationship with Christ. She told me she didn't have enough money to be able to be part of Christ's church. In my broken Spanish I told her, "Jesus no desea su dinero, Jesus desea su corazon" (Jesus does not want your money, he wants your heart). Paul tells us, "If you declare with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. As Scripture says, 'Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.'" (Romans 10:9-11)
I hope you realize this - you can bring nothing to Jesus that will obtain his acceptance. You have nothing of value he wants except your heart. He wants you and wants to do something for you. If you have not allowed him access to your "site," why not do so today?
Tue Aug 26 06:52:11 2014
My great-great-grandfather was a Methodist Circuit Rider in central Kentucky in the 19th century. He had followed in a long line of circuit riders, perhaps the best known being Francis Asbury. Asbury was born on August 20, 1745, in England. He came to America in 1771. When the Revolutionary War started, he refused to return to England because he felt his ministry was in America. For 46 years, he criss-crossed the colonies, and later the states, from the Appalachians to the Atlantic and from Maine to the Gulf of Mexico. In his career, it is estimated that he traveled more than 300,000 miles on horseback. The Methodist church in America grew from a few hundred to over 200,000 in his lifetime. His tireless efforts (he would go to bed at 12 a.m. and rise at 4 a.m.) for Christ had few parallels either in his lifetime or since.
We may not be able to compare our efforts for Christ with Asbury - few can. However, we can use his life as a model of dedication and commitment. We should do what we can and what is within our capabilities and gifts. We may not travel from Maine to the Gulf, but we should be willing to go across the street to share the love of Christ with someone who needs his touch. Hebrews 13:16 tells us "And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased."
We may not be called to make the same sacrifices as did Asbury, but we should be willing to do what we can, and sacrifice is sometimes part of our ministry. Giving of ourselves is part of our service to Christ. Each of us has a "circuit" of ministry. And you don't need to ride a horse to cover your circuit - just do what you can!
Mon Aug 25 11:29:43 2014
Instead of God relating to us through what we deserve, he chooses to relate to us through mercy. David wrote in Psalm 51:1-2: "Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin." A plea to God for mercy is asking Him to withhold the judgment we deserve and instead grant to us the forgiveness we in no way have earned. This is mercy.
A mother sought the pardon of her son from the first Napoleon. The emperor said it was his second offense, and justice demanded his death. "I don't ask for justice," demanded his mother, "I plead for mercy." "But," said the emperor, "he does not deserve mercy." "Sire," cried the mother, "it would not be mercy if he deserved it, and mercy is all I ask for." "Well, then," said the emperor, "I will have mercy." And her son was saved.
We are grateful forever, literally forever, that God deals with us in mercy and not through what we deserve.
Sun Aug 24 06:32:35 2014
A man touring the Far East came across an rather unusual scene. A young boy was pulling a plow while an old man held the handles and guided it through the rice paddy. "My," the man said, "those people are so poor!" "Yes, " replied the guide, "They are poor. They sold their only ox last autumn to help build a new church."
That is quite a sacrifice, don't you think? Sometimes we are not even willing to give up a candy bar in order to be able to give something back to the Lord. What we have in the example above is the embodiment of sacrifice. God wants from us a spiritual sacrifice that resonates with his willingness to sacrifice. God delights in deeds that spring up from a desire to serve him. Galatians 5:6 says, "The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love."
With what deeds of sacrifice have you been involved? We need to look for ways to "sell our ox." We should look for ways of service, look for ways to sacrifice. These should not be done to call attention to ourselves, but to call attention to God's ministry. He is the one who deserves the attention and merits our sacrifice.
Sat Aug 23 09:26:16 2014
For every achievement of man, every step forward, every goal attained, there will always be those who will say, "I doubt that happened." In July of 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to walk on the surface of the moon. Millions around the world watched this event via television. There are film documentaries, audio recordings, still photographs, and computer file storage that provide corroboration of this event. Still, there are skeptics that this event took place and maintain that it is an elaborate fabrication intended to mislead foreign powers of the USA's prowess in space. Forty years after the first Moon landing, polls find that about 6% of Americans think the Moon landings were faked. This is, of course, there prerogative to disbelieve.
Pulitzer Prize-winner Archibald MacLeish wrote a poem to commemorate the event:
You were a wonder to us, unattainable,
a longing past the reach of longing,
a light beyond our light, our lives
perhaps a meaning to us our hands
have touched you in your depth of night.
Now, this poem does not prove the reality of the moonwalk, but it does reflect the wonder of the actual occurrence.
There are many who doubt the reality of God, Christ's intervention on our behalf, and the necessity of faith in Christ. That is their prerogative. However, they do so at their own peril and against the poetic proclamations of Paul when he wrote, "For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born." (I Corinthians 15:1-7) As with the moonwalk, you may choose to believe or disbelieve the resurrection of Christ. Unlike disbelief in the moonwalk, there are consequences to disbelief in the resurrection. You decide.
Fri Aug 22 07:46:29 2014
Even though there is speed dialing, I still try to memorize phone numbers. I don't do as good a job as I once did and I attribute this to the fact that the technological advances have given us speed dialing and contact lists in our phones. Still, when you are able to retrieve a number from your mind you save time and exercise your brain.
Oral tradition at one time was an important part of the preservation and dissemination of knowledge. We need to make sure that we still give our brain the exercise it needs to function well. And one of the best ways to work out our brain is through memorization.
As followers of Christ, we should not lose sight of the importance of scripture memorization. Sure, we have copies of the Scripture all over the place, and we have the scripture available on our electronic devices, but we should not let advantages take the place of the important exercise of placing God's Word inside of us. Psalm 119:11 tells us about the importance of internalizing God's Word: "I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you." Don't simply put God's Word on speed dial - take the time to memorize the Scripture. This should be a life-long exercise that will most assuredly enhance your life!
Thu Aug 21 07:46:25 2014
This year gardens have been tremendously productive because of the very favorable growing conditions. Our garden was not so good but not because of the weather. Deer also have a way of knowing when gardens are good. Crops are doing well because of the consistent moisture and the moderate temperatures. Gardens and crops are reaching their full potential because of the optimal growing conditions. We are seeing what plants can do when they are provided with the right ingredients.
As believers we need to provide the right environment and the right conditions in order to make sure our spiritual gardens are able to grow and thrive the way they should. Peter tells us what we need to do to have an abundant harvest. We need to "make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ." (II Peter 1:5-8)
Make sure your garden flourishes by providing the right environment. You can't control the elements that influence the growth of your vegetables, but you can provide the right environment to enhance your faith. Let the garden of your soul reach its full potential by providing what is needed for growth.
Wed Aug 20 07:46:17 2014
We live in a very self-serving world. I think this is no more evident that in driving practices. Deliberately double-parking or parking in such a way as to prevent another vehicle from taking a space; parking in passenger loading and unloading zones so that they cannot be used as intended; refusal to yield to another car to allow them into a line of traffic; and parking at a pump at a convenience mart rather than moving your car before you enter the store are all examples of how self-serving we are. A humorous story serves to illustrate this point further. A single farmer wanted a wife so he put this ad in a local paper, "Single farmer, 35, wants woman, 25, with tractor. Send picture of tractor."
In Philippians 2:3-4, Paul tells us, "in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others." We need to live counter to the prevailing attitude of the world and live for others rather than ourselves. This goes against the grain of our society as illustrated in many ways, particularly in the common practice of the use of vehicles. Don't be a "double-parker!" Think of others! The Christ-like look is the outward look!
Tue Aug 19 07:29:46 2014
Church camp has been an important part of my spiritual life and spiritual development. I went to church camp as a kid, was a counselor as a college student, and then served as camp director for several church camps when I became a pastor. I was saddened many years ago when the camp was closed that kids from our church attended closed because of financial concerns. I remember that campground with a great deal of fondness.
One feature of the rustic chapel located at the camp was a sign that hung up front that read, "The Lord is in His Holy Temple." (Habakkuk 2:20) Now, from a human perspective, the chapel was, as I said earlier, rustic. Does God inhabit such a building? Of course he does! When God's children were in that building, God was there! I can attest to his presence as I saw many responses of faith in that place. God used that place to touch lives, challenge followers, and change people. God is where his people are.
It is fine that we want to have nice places to spend time in worship, but we need to remember that it is not the building that brings about the worship, it is the people that bring about the worship. God inhabited the temple in the Old Testament, now he inhabits his followers. Wherever we gather we can worship God. That marvelous little chapel at the south end of that camp was a beautiful place - not perhaps so much in its appearance, but because of the marvelous experiences of worship that took place there. Right there, in that very spot, indeed, "The Lord is in His Holy Temple."
Mon Aug 18 06:29:09 2014
To me, one of the most amazing aeronautical achievements ever was Charles Lindbergh's 1927 solo transatlantic flight. I became fascinated with this story when, as a young boy, I watched Jimmy Stewart in "The Spirit of St. Louis." I have never flown an airplane, but I can't imagine doing what Lindbergh did - making a flight across the vast Atlantic by yourself and entirely by instruments. The cockpit of "The Spirit of St. Louis" had been modified to carry a fuel tank which meant Lindbergh would be "flying blind." He would not be able to see where he was going or where he had been - he was totally dependent upon the wall of instruments before him.
As I have said, I am not a pilot. Yet I understand that when you are flying blind, you have to trust your instruments. Trusting your instruments is important even at times when a pilot is not intentionally "flying blind" as he or she may have encountered conditions such as low clouds or something which make it necessary to "fly blind." If a pilot has no visual reference, he or she could be flying an upside down aircraft and not even know it except for instrument readings. So, as a pilot, you learn to trust your instruments.
We need to learn this same degree of trust when it comes to our relationship with the Lord. There are so many times in our lives when we encounter conditions that force us to "fly blind." The only way we can avoid disaster is to trust the One who will not fail us. Just as a pilot learns to trust the instruments, we need to learn to trust our Savior. One thing with instruments is that they can be wrong. We will never have that problem with Christ. Proverbs 3:4-5 tells us "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding. In all our ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths."
You will never be "flying blind" if you place your trust in the Savior. Let him be the pilot, and you won't end up flying upside down!
Sun Aug 17 06:39:40 2014
I have always got a kick out of the phrase, "comfort food." Most of you are familiar with this concept - food that induces a degree of "comfort" because of the nostalgic or sentimental feeling the food produces when you enjoy it. The food is usually high in carbohydrates and is simple to prepare. Things like pot roast, beef stew, hamburgers and french fries are considered "comfort food."
Can you really derive comfort from food? I suppose to a certain extent, you can. Of course, there is a problem when you try to derive comfort from food through overindulgence. This is a problem that can be extended to a number of other items - alcohol, drugs, money, pleasure, or power. When one tries to seek a level of comfort through overindulgence in anything it reflects a deep problem that requires a deep solution.
Paul tells us that that the source of true comfort is God and God working through us to help others. He writes, "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 receive from God." (II Corinthians 1:3-4) God provides the comfort we need, and wants to use us to bring comfort to others to help us live and thrive in a broken world. Enjoy comfort food for what it is, but when you face real struggles, let God be your source of comfort.
Sat Aug 16 07:53:39 2014
British statesman John Morley once traveled from England to Canada to deliver a commencement address at a university. He began his address by saying, "Ladies and Gentlemen, I have traveled more than four thousand miles simply to tell you there is a difference between right and wrong." This is indeed a basic reality yet we often need to be reminded of the "basics." Even with all of our cultural advances, we still face prejudice, dishonesty, violence and oppression in our society.
Evil is still very much with us and everywhere present. We need to guard ourselves in order to not be taken in by what we know to be wrong and we need to stand against what we know to be wrong. As followers of Christ, we are not immune to the effects of evil, but we do have the strength to avoid evil. Psalm 94:16 asks, "Who will rise up for me against the wicked? Who will take a stand for me against evildoers?" We, through the power of the Holy Spirit, are the ones who can rise up against the wicked and take a stand against evildoers.
There is indeed a difference between right and wrong. As followers of Christ, we know the difference. We need to resist what is wrong, point out evil when we see it, and stand firm in the power of the Lord. We need to tell others the difference between right and wrong, as basic as that may sound, because people need to be reminded. We need to be reminded. And we don't have to travel 4,000 miles to do it.
Fri Aug 15 07:36:17 2014
What is the greatest need in your life right now? When we focus on this question, it is easy to look at externals. Often we might answer this question by saying "My greatest need is for that person to change his or her mind" or "My greatest need is for this circumstance to change."
When Solomon was told by God to ask for whatever he wanted, he focused on himself. That is, he asked for discernment and wisdom that he might lead well instead of asking for better circumstances, more money, or better people with which to work. He asked that he would be able to see what was needed and that he would be able to change. We read in I Kings 3:5-9, "At Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, 'Ask for whatever you want me to give you.' Solomon answered, 'You have shown great kindness to your servant, my father David, because he was faithful to you and righteous and upright in heart. You have continued this great kindness to him and have given him a son to sit on his throne this very day. Now, O LORD my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?'"
Solomon didn't ask for better circumstances, better others, or better things, he asked for a better self. This would help him as he encountered problems with people, circumstances, and things. Ask God to help you with your greatest need - a wiser self!
Thu Aug 14 07:58:36 2014
Well, the cicadas are back. It is that time of the year when they come out and announce their presence and also announce the end of summer. They let us know that it is the time of the year to watch for changing weather patterns and that the long, hot, usually dry days will be giving way to shorter, cooler, and sometimes a little wetter days. Now, this year has been quite different as we have enjoyed unusually cool temperatures. Nonetheless, you can still hear the song of the cicada telling us that summer is winding down and autumn is on its way. These cicadas are related to but somewhat different from the cicadas that come around every seventeen years. These noisy critters grace our forests every summer.
Some observations I have made about these insects are they are timely, they make their presence known, and they are resilient. They appear every year and are an indicator of an impending change. They make their presence known and their identity is unmistakable as no other creature makes quite the same noise. They are resilient as they appear just for a short time so they get done what they need to get done and then they bury themselves for another time.
Now, you might think this a bit odd, but I can see how we could learn some valuable lessons from the cicada. Cicadas, or locusts, are mentioned a number of times in the Scripture, including Proverbs 30:27 where we read, "locusts have no king, yet they advance together in ranks," so maybe it isn't all that odd that we use them for an example of how we should live.
We need to be timely in our lives with our presentation of Christ and bring the message of impending change that will be taking place. We need to make our presence known and make sure that our identity as a follower of Christ is unmistakable. Finally, we need to realize we only have a short time to get done what needs to be done so we need to get busy. We are hearing now the sound of an insect that offers for us some suggestions regarding how we should live. Let's make sure we are playing the right tune!
Wed Aug 13 07:58:22 2014
School is starting tomorrow. Hard to believe it is that time again. All over our nation, millions of students are preparing to return to classes. College students are getting ready to return as well and are sorting out their schedules to make sure they get the needed classes to keep them on track in their respective course of study. What helps in these situations is having a good counselor or advisor to offer thoughts on taking the correct classes. Ultimately, the choice of the class is up to the student, but having someone who has a wider perspective is very helpful.
Having good counselors to help us in decision making is important. We need folks who will give us good advice and not just give us advice they think we want to hear. It is wise to have those who are experienced and can help us make decisions based on familiarity and practice, not just speculation or even a desire.
Reheboam found this out the hard way. After the death of Solomon, there was turmoil in the kingdom of Israel. Reheboam had a chance to alleviate the turmoil and unite the kingdom if he would do the right thing. You can read the entire story in I Kings 11 and 12, but here is a part of the events: "Then King Rehoboam consulted the elders who had served his father Solomon during his lifetime. 'How would you advise me to answer these people?' he asked. They replied, 'If today you will be a servant to these people and serve them and give them a favorable answer, they will always be your servants.' But Rehoboam rejected the advice the elders gave him and consulted the young men who had grown up with him and were serving him. He asked them, 'What is your advice? How should we answer these people who say to me, `Lighten the yoke your father put on us'?' The young men who had grown up with him replied, Tell these people who have said to you, `Your father put a heavy yoke on us, but make our yoke lighter'--tell them, `My little finger is thicker than my father's waist. My father laid on you a heavy yoke; I will make it even heavier. My father scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions.'" Reheboam rejected the advice of wise and experienced counselors, followed the advice of young men who wanted to please him and the result was a divided kingdom.
When you are faced with a decision, especially a decision that has the potential to end or continue a conflict, make sure you have good advisors and have the wisdom to listen. Not doing so can have bad consequences. The path of experience can teach us much.
Tue Aug 12 07:18:56 2014
Jesus was a people person. Jesus still is a people person. Of course, you might reply to my statement by saying, "Of course he was a people person - look at all that he did for people during his ministry, and he died for the entire world." Now, I certainly would not take exception to your reply. You are absolutely correct. However, Christ showed he was a people person in more than just his supernatural ministry for others. Remember how he responded when his disciples were holding off some children who wanted to see him? Christ said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them (Matthew 19:14)." Think about his implied comparison of himself to a shepherd in Luke 15:1-7. He, like the shepherd, is concerned about the "sheep" who is lost. We see his concern for people in his prayer for his disciples, both present and future, found in John 17.
If Christ was and is a "people person," we should be a people person as well. Often we let projects, things, tasks, deadlines, and other considerations come between us and doing what is necessary to develop relationships with others. We become "task oriented" instead of "people oriented." Use Christ's example as a model for us to follow when it comes to being a people person. Focus on others more than things or tasks - you will be doing what Christ did and what he does.
Mon Aug 11 07:51:46 2014
I do not use the fax machine in my office nearly as much as I used to. It is not that I send fewer documents to other places; I have just found that scanning the document into an email is more reliable and also allows for a transmission of an image that is much closer to the original, including the color. In addition I don't have to put up with those crazy electronic sounds and receive messages such as "Interference on line" that prevents the fax from going through.
Often our communication with God is inhibited by interference. A lack of focus can keep us from communicating with God in the way we should, and can keep us from hearing God's messages to us. We let interference from improper behavior, a lack of concern, and outright sin cloud the lines of communication and keep us from "sending" and "receiving" the way we should. We really need to upgrade to newer technology by honing our focus, improving our response, and clearing up our service. Christ proclaimed, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear." (Mark 4:9) We need to make sure that we do away with the interference on the line so we can hear clearly what God has to say.
Sun Aug 10 06:22:59 2014
As I mentioned in this column earlier this week, this year is the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War I. When the conflict ended and the armistice was signed, the map of the world was a bit different from what it was at the beginning of the war. This was the same after World War II, as well as other conflicts that have taken place over the history of the world. The maps of Europe and Asia are quite different now from what they were when I studied world geography in high school. They are different now from what they were just three decades ago.
We get accustomed to borders and how boundary lines fall, but we know in reality that they can change quickly. Civilizations appear on the world scene, then disappear. Even now from the perspective of all of time, our nation can be considered a recent addition. In contrast to the appearance and disappearance of nations and civilizations, the human soul is eternal. So, it would do us well to be more concerned about the state of the soul than the state of the state.
We should be concerned about the state of our own souls, and if we are followers of Christ and are assured of the destiny of our own soul through faith in Christ, we should be concerned about the destiny of the souls of others. II Corinthians 4:18 reminds us, "So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." That which appears to us now as unmovable, unshakeable realities are in actuality fading entities that will not last forever. The soul of a human will go on forever. We need to be making efforts now that will have eternal consequences. Remember the words of the old Gospel song, "the soul of man never dies."
Sat Aug 9 09:35:33 2014
In the former Soviet Union, a story was told that illustrated the "official" position the government had regarding the existence of God. A commissar was visiting a collective farm and asked a tenant farmer about the status of the potato crop. "Ah, sir, the crop was wonderful. It reached up to the very foot of God." "Comrade," replied the commissar, "We are atheists! There is no God!" "Yes," said the farmer, "That is what I mean - no God, no potatoes!"
Of course, denying the existence of God is no laughing matter. I still struggle with the idea of atheism. I often wonder how an individual can totally deny the reality of God. Paul writes of some folks that "being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart." (Ephesians 4:18) They ignore the reality of scripture such as Psalm 136 that describes God as the source of all things. Colossians 1 refers to the creative work of God but does not create any special feelings of appreciation within those who look the other way.
Yes, you can choose to ignore God and ignore the evidence for the presence of God that is all around us, but you do so to your own demise. God is real, and that is no small potatoes!
Fri Aug 8 07:53:07 2014
The end of the story is a happy one for Mariam Yehya Ibrahim. Ibrahim was sentenced to death in Sudan last May because of her marriage to a Christian. Although raised by a Christian mother in Sudan, the Sudanese government considered her a Muslim as her father, who left the family when Ibrahim was 6, is Muslim. She was arrested as she was preparing to join her husband in the United States. The couple have a 20-month-old son and Ibrahim was 8 months pregnant when she was incarcerated and eventually convicted and sentenced to die because of her marriage. She gave birth while in prison and awaited her fate. However, through much prayer and intervention, she was recently released and has joined her husband in the United States.
The persecution of Christians is not a new phenomenon. Christian persecution started right from the beginning. Early converts in Jerusalem faced abuse. This came to a climax with the stoning of Stephen (Acts 8) and the killing of James by Herod Agrippa - "It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword." (Acts 12:1-2) Of course, this was just the beginning of persecution. Nero, looking for a scapegoat after Rome burned in 63 B.C., went on a rampage against Christians as the cause of the devastating fire that destroyed 2/3 of the city. He put them in coliseum games, used their bodies as torches, and most likely ordered the deaths of Paul and Peter. What was the result of this persecution? The Church grew, converts were realized, and the name of God was glorified.
As dichotomous as it seems, persecution of the Church leads to growth of the Church. This took place in the early years of the Church as the persecution of the Church actually led to the growth of the Church. In our time, we have witnessed this in such places as China where the Cultural Revolution in China led by Mao Tse-Tung that was intent on eradicating Christianity was a catalyst of growth as the Church moved underground. This is what takes place - Persecution leads to Power. In the early chapters of Acts we read that the church was dispersed through persecution. Throughout history, persecution has served to strengthen the church and spread the message. Of course, we don't desire persecution, but we need to remember the effects of persecution and pray for the persecuted.
Thu Aug 7 07:21:03 2014
August of 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the "War to end all wars," known otherwise as The Great War or World War I. Interconnected hostilities between several European nations, including Russia, came to a boiling point in 1914. England declared war on Germany at 11 p.m. on August 4, 2014, and devastation followed. By the time the United States entered the war in 1917, millions had died and the European boundary lines were altered tremendously. The intervention by the United States helped bring an end to the war at a cost of over 117,000 Americans. However, England alone lost over 1 million troops. There were over 17 million deaths brought about by World War I making it one of the deadliest conflicts in world history. Of course, humankind did little with the lessons learned from this conflict and three decades later engaged in another conflict that brought about the deaths of almost 3% of the world's population. And we still have learned little from this.
The Bible states that there will always be conflict until the time of the coming of the Prince of Peace. Mark 13:7 tells us, "When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come." Wars and conflicts are the epitome of the evidence of the fallen nature of man. Only the intervention of our Glorious Savior will bring about change. This is, of course, why we call him "Savior." As we see what seems to be a head-long plunge into oblivion, remember that Christ is indeed in control and will someday step onto the world's stage to bring about his Kingdom. As we await this time, let us continue to glorify him with our lives and bring his message to as many as we can. Indeed, someday there will be a "war to end all wars." As we await that time, continue to trust God!
Wed Aug 6 09:12:09 2014
A group called Jethro Tull recorded a song in 1969 entitled "Living in the Past." Some of the lyrics are, "Let us close our eyes; outside their lives go on much faster. Oh, we won't give in, we'll keep living in the past." The lyrics really don't make a lot of sense, do they? Well, neither does actually trying to live in the past.
Living in the past is really not a thing to do, whether the past is good or bad. The good things are things to cherish, but we need to take those good things and move on. The bad things we wish hadn't happened did, and no matter what we do, they will not change. Use what we can from our mistakes, or let other's mistakes go and go forward.
Paul says in Philippians 3:13-14, "Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." So, whether we have met with success in the past or failure, we must use what we can of what we have learned and go onward. Which way are you going?
Tue Aug 5 07:10:15 2014
A farmer placed a weather vane inscribed with the words "God is love" on top of his barn. One day a traveler stopped by the farm and watched the weather vane moving with the breeze. Then, with a smirk on his face, he asked, "Do you mean to say that your God is as changeable as the wind?"
The farmer shook his head and replied, "No. What I mean to say is that no matter which way the wind blows, God is love!"
The scripture states that God is Love. This means that the essence of God's character is love. It is just not something he does, that is, love us no matter what. Love is the essence of his being. We will never be able to plumb the depths of God's love. I don't think that we can fully appreciate God's love in this lifetime. John writes, "Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. . .God is love" (I John 4:8-12; 16).
With God, no matter which way the wind blows, we know God is love. He will never be any other way because he cannot be any other way. He is love. We need to reflect God's love no matter which way the wind is blowing.
Mon Aug 4 08:25:30 2014
Yesterday was my birthday. This article would have been better-timed had it appeared in this column yesterday, but I just didn't get it done. Why? Well, I kept procrastinating about the writing of this piece and simply missed the day. So, I am putting an article about my birthday here on the webpage one day later.
In this instance, my procrastination is really not all that great of a problem. There are no dire consequences to experience because I am writing about my birthday a day after the actual date. However, there are times when procrastination about something can be problematic. Let's say you need to put your windows up in your car, but you simply put it off. Then, a sudden summer storm crops up unexpectedly and you are not where you can get to your windows. Now, you get to spend some time drying out the inside of your car. Last year the agent for Denver Broncos Elvis Dumervil procrastinated on filing his intent to stay with the Broncos with the NFL, missing the notification deadline by just minutes. As a result, Dumervil lost a lucrative contract with the Broncos and went elsewhere to play.
There are other circumstances that can be direr than simply losing out on some money. Are you putting off your decision to follow Christ? That is a bit of procrastination that is not wise. Consider the story of the rich farmer in Luke 12 who decided to enjoy life because of his large harvest and not prepare wisely for his death. Christ said of him, "You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?" (Luke 12:26) As followers of Christ, are there things you should be doing for him that you have delayed finishing? That is not a wise choice.
My putting off writing an article about my birthday so that it could appear on my birthday is not a real big issue. Delaying my decision to follow Christ is. Don't miss your "birthday" because of procrastination!
Sun Aug 3 06:09:22 2014
In our study today in our morning worship, our focus was on Pilate and the choice he had with regard to Christ. We have choices all throughout our lives. As followers of Christ, we need to learn to choose wisely. We need to make choices that reflect the character of Christ. We need to make choices that reflect our commitment to Christ. We must choose wisely. We must also choose inclusively. As we make decisions, we must realize our choices will have ramifications for others. Choices are not made in a vacuum and others are affected by how we choose. We often must choose quickly. This is especially true when we are speaking of our spiritual lives and making a decision that has to do with the eternal part of our being.
Joshua encouraged his people to "choose you this day whom you will serve" (Joshua 24:15), and we are told in Proverbs 16:16, "How much better to get wisdom than gold, to choose understanding rather than silver!"
Make good choices. Make sure your choices fall in line with Christ's example and teaching. Choose to serve Him!
Sat Aug 2 08:35:18 2014
There is a scene in Charles Dickens' 1838 novel "Oliver Twist" where Oliver tells the overseer of the workhouse where he lives at a meal, "Please, sir, I want more!" This is a really moving part of the story and is actually a very sad scene. Of course, Oliver really needed more!
Asking for more food when you are hungry is a legitimate request. However, we are often guilty of wanting "more" because we are greedy. We can get in a pattern where we want more money, more recognition, more achievement, more stuff. This can lead to frustration when we aren't able to get what we want, and many times when we do get what we want, we find out it is not all that satisfying. Actually, this is the key thought here: Having more does not lead to satisfaction. How many times have you found yourself wishing for something, and then when you get the something, you feel a little let down? The thing is, you are trying to satisfy a hunger for "meat and potatoes" by eating "cotton candy". It just doesn't work.
We do have a hunger for "more," but get the right "more" to take care of that hunger. Matthew 5:6 tells us "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled." Go ahead - stuff yourself, but make sure you are getting the right stuff!
Fri Aug 1 07:16:06 2014
When I was younger I used be called "four eyes" because of my glasses. There is a species of fish found in Central and South America called the Four Eyed Fish, Anableps anableps. It is called the Four Eyed Fish because it has two lenses in each eye - one that enables the fish to look at the world above as it swims near the surface. The other set of lens allows it to see what is going on in the water. This sounds like a useful trait.
We don't have this physical attribute, but we need to develop a "four eyed" spiritual trait. We need to be able to look above, to train our focus heavenward so as to be aware of God and his desire for us and what he has in store for us. Paul states in Colossians 3:1, "Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God." However, we should never lose our focus on our responsibility here and now. There are needs that should be met; there are things that need to be done. Christ spoke often of heaven and our place there (read John 14:1-6), but he also spoke of the need to seek justice and help meet needs now. We find Christ's words in Matthew 5:5-6, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy."
Do your best to develop four eyes. Train yourself to look above and look below. In this way we will keep ourselves encouraged as we think of what God has for us, but also keep ourselves involved in what is going on around us. Being "four eyed" is a really good thing!
Thu Jul 31 08:04:42 2014
Recently I read the following on an honesty blog: "While loading my groceries into the car one day a store employee pointed out that I had left my milk on the bottom of the cart. I immediately realized that I had forgotten to take it off of the cart during check out. I placed the children back in the cart and returned to the store in to pay for it. When I came out the employees were so impressed that they gave me $12.50 in coupons! At the time, my husband was in school and we were not well off. The free milk and cereal that I received by using the coupons was appreciated! The blessings of honesty are real. My children learned a great lesson that day too!"
Exodus 23 speaks a great deal about honesty through giving several scenarios of how honesty should be employed. The Israelites are told, "Do not spread false reports" (vs. 1); "Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong" (vs. 2); "If you come across your enemy's ox or donkey wandering off, be sure to return it" (vs. 4); "Have nothing to do with a false charge" (vs. 7); and other directives concerning honest actions.
What I find especially fascinating about these statements are that the Israelites are told to be honest with their enemies as well as their friends. Honesty should know no bounds and we need to allow the principle of honesty to drive us at all times and in all circumstances. Sir Edwin Sandys was certainly correct in saying that "Honesty is the best policy."
Wed Jul 30 07:55:26 2014
An evangelist went to a church in a rural area for a series of meetings. As he was talking with some of the people after the first night of the service, he met a lady who told him of her livestock. "How many pigs do you have?" he asked. "One hundred and ninety two," she replied without hesitation. "Are you positive?" the minister asked. "Yes!" she replied incredulously, "I know the names of all one hundred ninety two!" Sounds like she knew them pretty well, doesn't it? How in the world did she know the names of all 192? Well, knowing the names certainly demonstrates her concern.
God knows our name. Tommy Walker wrote a really nice chorus that goes:
He knows my name
He knows my every thought
He sees each tear that falls
And He hears me when I call
Isn't it marvelous to know that the God of the entire Universe knows your name? David said in Psalm 139:1-4, "O LORD, you have searched me 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. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD." Jesus said in Matthew 10:30, "And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered."
God knows how many hairs we have, and he knows our name. What a wonderful and comforting thought to realize how great his care is for us. God knows our name, and he never tires of us calling upon his name.
Tue Jul 29 07:22:36 2014
When I was a kid, I always thought the music and the grand graphic that appeared at the beginning of a Twentieth Century Fox production was so cool. The fake spotlights and the blaring trumpets just really caught my fancy. When I see this now, I wonder if it being "outdated" is really a good idea. I read somewhere recently that having a twentieth century logo in a twenty-first century world is really not such a good idea from a marketing standpoint. Obviously, that is their problem and not mine. I still think the music and the graphic are cool.
I am glad I am following a Savior whose name will never go out of date. Revelation gives us his timeless name. John writes, "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End." (Revelation 22:13) The timeless name ascribed to the Savior reflects his timeless nature. We know that our Savior and his provision will never be out of date. His provision is current, his help is never late. Jesus is not bound by time and his provision is always what we need at just the time we need it. And, by the way, he doesn't need impressive music and graphics to announce his presence in our lives. He is real and he is always there for us when we need him.
Mon Jul 28 08:20:55 2014
When I was a teenager, I once had counselor at church camp who would say, "I don't get mad, I get even." This was to ward off any attempts by us to, well, "bend the rules," especially when it came to doing something directed at him The warning of his revenge was meant to be a deterrent to bad behavior.
Do you really feel like revenge accomplishes anything? Our usual line of thought is that we need to "get back" at someone for what they have done to us. However, this usually compounds the issue, lowers us to the level of the person who perpetrated the wrong-doing to begin with, and could produce regrettable consequences. Followers of Christ need to work at following the high road when it comes to situations where one might normally might seek revenge. Benjamin Franklin said, "'Tis more noble to forgive, and more manly to despise, than to revenge an Injury." Christ, who is a somewhat higher authority than dear Mr. Franklin, tells us, "But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic (Luke 6:27-29)."
Revenge is something best left in the hands of one who knows how to deal with bad behavior - our Father. God tells us he will seek vengeance when vengeance is warranted (see Romans 12:9). He knows how to handle these situations far better than us. Don't go down a path that can lead to further injury and bitterness, follow a path that shows you want to be like Christ. Leave the vengeance up to God.
Sun Jul 27 06:47:44 2014
As he looked upon the wreckage of his demolished home, John Lokitis Jr. felt a little sick and a little bitter. He had worked hard to try to stay in his home in Centralia, Pennsylvania, where he had lived for all of his 39 years. However, circumstances had dictated otherwise. Circumstances dictated otherwise for the entire town. In 1962, a fire at the town dump had ignited an exposed vein of coal. The fire spread underground and is still roaring today, fed by millions of tons of anthracite coal. Because of this, the town has had to move as fumes from the fire were creating serious health issues, not to mention the sinkholes created when seams of coal were burnt. So, with the assistance of federal and state governments, the town relocated. Some fought the relocation because of their strong ties to the town, but relocation was inevitable. They simply could not live there. Nonetheless, for many, their ties to their town made for a difficult move.
The scripture warns us to not have too strong a tie to our present home in this world. We will not live here forever, and we need to realize that allowing our present life to have too strong a grip on us keeps us from appreciating the joys of what lies ahead, and living the way we should now. We, like Abraham, are people of faith who need to remember that we are aliens here. We read of this in Hebrews 11:13-16, "All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country--a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them."
This scripture encourages us to have the right perspective on where we live currently. It is not our home - our home is yet to come. Don't have such a strong tie with what you have now that your fail to realize this and focus too much on what your present place of residence. This hinders your relationship with God, and can hinder your ministry for him. Keeping the right perspective can actually help us enjoy more our lives now as we look forward to what God has in store for us. We read the words of Christ in Matthew 6:19-21, "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Don't be too attached to your present home - keep in mind it is already condemned.
Sat Jul 26 08:20:56 2014
We should aspire to be a "feet" kind of Christian. First of all, as the feet are the first line of support for us, we need to stand firm in our position with Christ. Paul encourages us to "stand firm in the faith" (I Corinthians 16:13) In addition, we need to be supportive of others and encourage others to stand firm in the Christian life. Paul tells us to "encourage one another and build each other up" (I Thessalonians 5:11) We need to develop an "others-centered" mindset and help to support our fellow believers.
We should aspire to be a "feet" kind of Christian by being willing to go where we need to go to bring the Good News of Christ to others. Paul writes in Romans 10:15, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!" We need to have "beautiful feet" and be involved in telling others about what Christ has done and what he will do for them when they trust him as their Savior. Do you have beautiful feet?
A final way that we should be a "feet" kind of Christian is being sensitive to sin. We should be able to see areas that could be problems and avoid them. When we do sin, we need to seek forgiveness and not allow sin to remain and grow. No matter how "tough" your feet become, your foot is always sensitive to foreign objects present that may present a problem if left where they are. A tiny pebble in our shoe drives us nuts until we take the time to remove the pebble. We need the same sensitivity to the presence of sin. God told Cain, "sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it." (Genesis 4:7) We need to develop a sensitivity to sin that helps us to avoid the thorny issues sin causes. Be a "feet" kind of Christian! Support yourself and others well, bring the news of Christ to those who need to hear, and avoid sin!
Fri Jul 25 07:57:28 2014
One of the most compelling stories in all of scripture is that of Hannah and her son, Samuel. Hannah was childless and prayed fervently not only for a child, but specifically asked for a son (I Samuel 1:9-11). She told the Lord that if he would give her a son, she would offer him to the Lord. She prayed, "O LORD Almighty, if you will only look upon your servant's misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the LORD for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head (I Samuel 1:11)." God honored her request, and Hannah kept her promise. When the child was old enough, she brought him to the house of God. She brought him there not just for consecration, but to present him to the Lord for good.
We don't need to go so far with our children today, but we do need to leave them in the hands of our Lord. We must do all we can to give them a strong spiritual and moral foundation so that when the call to follow other paths weighs heavily upon them. We need to teach them well so that the lessons that other factions try to put in their lives will fall upon deaf ears. Television, internet, peers, culture, all speak loudly. When these voices are speaking the wrong things, our children need to have the ability to make good decisions. This comes from their family and their family at church. We need to teach them well.
We "give" our children to the Lord through our prayer for them, our modeling spiritual behavior before them, and our teaching them to follow Christ. Give them to God so they will know the way of truth.
Thu Jul 24 07:34:38 2014
"The hurrieder I go the behinder I get" said the White Rabbit in Lewis Carroll's "Alice in Wonderland." At first glance, this actually sounds a bit oxymoronic. However, any of you who have lived any length of time at all know the truth in this statement. When you get in a big hurry, it often is the case that circumstances occur causing you to lose time rather than gain time in your endeavor. In most situations, a little bit of time spent in planning and forethought usually offers a much greater advantage to plunging ahead with no strategy as to how to proceed. If you don't have time to do something right the first time, when in the world are you going to have time to do it over? Take some time to lay out a procedure - you will be glad you did. Taking some time to lay out some strategy keeps us focused and helps us to be more productive.
If we want an example of someone who plans before he acts, we need look no farther than our Heavenly Father. There are examples throughout the Scripture of God setting out plans for how something is to be done. He does this for many reasons, not the least of which is the idea that when things are done with purpose, it allows for productive time for worship and service. An example of this is found in Numbers 1:50-51, "Appoint the Levites to be in charge of the tabernacle of the Testimony--over all its furnishings and everything belonging to it. They are to carry the tabernacle and all its furnishings; they are to take care of it and encamp around it. Whenever the tabernacle is to move, the Levites are to take it down, and whenever the tabernacle is to be set up, the Levites shall do it."
God laid out some plans for how things were to be moved when the Israelites would set out during their journey. Mapping out strategy ahead of time meant there would be less time spent "spinning their wheels." It caused them to focus on an activity given to them by God that would remind them of where their focus needed to be. It would keep them from random activities that could bring about frustration and cause them to focus elsewhere. Take time to plan - you will be glad you did!
Wed Jul 23 08:12:46 2014
I remember building a bookshelf several years ago. When I got it finished, I loaded it up with books. However, I noticed that the shelves sagged a little bit because of the weight of the books. I hadn't done anything out of the ordinary or unusual with the shelves. This is what bookshelves are for. But the cumbersome load produced extra stress and caused the shelves to sag. So, to take care of the problem, I reinforced the shelves and the issue was solved.
We often find ourselves sagging under the pressures and weight of life. There may not be anything unusual or out of the ordinary going on; but the day-to-day cares and typical problems are combining to weigh us down. When this happens, we need to be reinforced. That reinforcement can be found in the relationships we have with others and through the help that others can give. I want to make two observations here. First, unlike the bookshelves, we are able to ask for help, and we should when we find ourselves beginning to sag. Just don't wait too long to do this as waiting can make the resolution more difficult. Secondly, look for evidences of "sagging" in others. When you see this, do what you can to help.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 says, "Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up." This verse demonstrates the principle of reinforcement. Don't try life alone; you will start to sag under the weight.
Tue Jul 22 07:43:24 2014
In The Imitation of Christ, Thomas a Kempis wrote, "The further the soul is from the noise of the world, the closer it may be to its Creator, for God, with his holy angels, will draw close to a person who seeks solitude, and silence. It is better to remain alone and to care for your soul than to neglect yourself and work miracles."
As I read about getting away from the "noise of the world," I wondered what a Kempis would think about the noise level of our current society (he died in 1471). Yet, the words he wrote are just as true today. We need to make "alone" time with God. There is no good reason to not do this. I have written before on the example of Christ in this regard. We also have the example of Paul. In Galatians 1:15-16 we read, "But when God, who set me apart from my mother's womb and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, my immediate response was not to consult any human being. I did not go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went into Arabia."
We need time with God. We need time with God alone. Through intentional withdrawal into silence and solitude we process and assimilate what God is doing in our lives. Richard Foster writes, "Solitude is both a 'vacation with God' and a 'furnace of transformation.'" Make time for God.
Mon Jul 21 07:15:57 2014
A grandmother asked about her 5-year-old grandson's first day at kindergarten. Her daughter, the boy's mother replied, "Well it was eventful." "What happened?" said the grandmother. "Well, Billy was in line for lunch and another little boy spat at him because he wanted Billy's place. But Billy took care of the situation. He looked at the other boy and said, 'If you do that again, you can't be my friend.' I was surprised when Billy told me all of this because when I picked him up from school, he was walking arm in arm with the other little boy out of the school. You would never know there had been a problem between those two."
How do you respond when someone else treats you harshly? We usually want to retaliate when someone has done something hurtful to us. It is usually difficult to respond any other way, but Christ encourages us to control our desire to retaliate and respond much in the same way as did Billy. We read Christ's words in Matthew 5:38-40, "You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.' But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well."
Christ is encouraging a new way of thinking. He wants his followers to be less vengeful and more forgiving. The easy route when someone offends or hurts you is to do something of a similar manner in return. It takes a great deal of spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical discipline to look at someone after you have been wronged and say, "If you do that again, you can't be my friend." Let's do what we can to manifest the spirit of Christ when we really would rather do something else.
Sun Jul 20 06:19:48 2014
One of my summer jobs as I was working my way through college was clearing right of ways for the local county highway department. There were several college students on the crew, along with a permanent county highway employee who was our supervisor and took us to jobsites. One of his favorite lines was "It all pays the same." He usually responded with this when someone would complain about a job assignment, or even when questioned about his particular job.
We often feel ourselves involved in meaningless activities in our jobs. One way to respond to this, I suppose, would be to invoke the philosophy of my former supervisor. That is indeed the case with some of our activities - we feel they are meaningless and have no point. We feel that we are in a situation where our activity is actually getting us nowhere.
This is also a description of a life without God. A life without God is indeed meaningless and not going anywhere. There is no earthly solution to this - even the wisdom of my supervisor has little meaning in this case. This was the question of the Teacher when he wrote, "'Meaningless! Meaningless!' says the Teacher. 'Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.' What does man gain from all his labor at which he toils under the sun?" (Ecclesiastes 1:2-3) After pondering over all the possibilities, the Teacher concludes, "Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man." (Ecclesiastes 12:13) The Teacher realized that life had little meaning apart from God and a relationship with him. With God, you will find that it does not "all pay the same."
Sat Jul 19 08:48:47 2014
Many of us have experienced an adrenaline rush to some extent. This is when we get a shot of adrenaline in response to a situation that causes a "fight or flight" response. It may be some sort of fright, it may be some sort of emergency situation, it may be in response to a perceived threat, or some other situation.
The most extreme example of this I have ever witnessed was in my youngest brother. This incident happened when we were kids about 8, 10 and 12 years of age. My middle brother was playing on what was left of a large tree that had been felled in the front yard of my grandparents' home. As he played on top of the log, it suddenly fell off the stump on which it had been resting, rolled over, and pinned my brother beneath it. My youngest brother sprang into action and rolled the large log off his brother. Thankfully, my middle brother was scared and shaken up, but unharmed. What was strange about this incident was when we calmed down, we all tried to move the log again. We couldn't budge it one inch, let alone move it the way my youngest brother had done all by himself just a few minutes earlier.
There are times when we need a "spiritual adrenaline rush" to help us accomplish some task the Lord has given us. We need to remember that God will always provide the strength to move the logs that need to be moved. Moses proclaims in Exodus 15:2, "The LORD is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise him, my father's God, and I will exalt him." Do you have a need? God can provide the strength to help meet that need. When you need "spiritual adrenaline," God will provide it.
Fri Jul 18 07:09:30 2014
We know we should pray. We know the importance of prayer. I Thessalonians 5:17 tells us to "Pray continually." Yet we often struggle with our prayer life. Prayer is a conversation with God, not a "formula," yet there are times when having a pattern for prayer can be helpful. This is one reason why Jesus gave us "the model prayer" which we call "The Lord's prayer." It is helpful to see how Christ prayed and for what he prayed and keep this in mind as you pray.
Anne Cetas gives some good tips on our prayer. She calls it "the Five Finger Pattern for Prayer." These are here tips:
* When you fold your hands, the thumb is nearest you. So begin by praying for those closest to you - your loved ones (Philippians 1:3-5).
* The index finger is the pointer. Pray for those who teach-Bible teachers and preachers, and those who teach children (1 Thessalonians 5:25).
* The next finger is the tallest. It reminds you to pray for those in authority over you - national and local leaders, and your supervisor at work (1 Timothy 2:1-2).
* The fourth finger is usually the weakest. Pray for those who are in trouble or who are suffering (James 5:13-16).
* Then comes your little finger. It reminds you of your smallness in relation to God's greatness. Ask Him to supply your needs (Philippians 4:6,19).
Keep this in mind, use it, especially if you feel your prayer time needs a boost. It is important to pray, use these tips to keep us focused on this vital part of our Christian experience.
Thu Jul 17 07:35:38 2014
A church organist was practicing a new piece. The practice was not going very well. The piece was by Felix Mendelssohn and was a little tricky to play. After awhile, the organist became a little frustrated and decided to call it a day. He didn't notice that someone had entered the church and was sitting in the back row.
"Could I try the piece?" the man asked. "No," replied the organist, "I do not allow anyone to touch the organ." After a couple more polite requests, the organist finally gave in and allowed the stranger to play. And play he did - magnificently and flawlessly. When he finished, the organist asked the man, "Who are you?" "I am Felix Mendelssohn." said the man. The organist almost denied the composer the right to play the music.
Make sure you are not preventing the Composer from playing the music. God's plans will not be ultimately thwarted, but we can really mess things up when we try to do things on our own and don't allow him to work in our lives the way he wants. We need to remember what Paul said in Philippians, "being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." (Philippians 1:6) He also states that "we are his workmanship." (Ephesians 2:10) Let the Person who wrote the work complete the work! If you do, you will make some beautiful music!
Wed Jul 16 06:56:39 2014
In a book about business strategies, the author makes this statement, "Solving tough organizational problems may require counter-intuitive strategies." Well, yeah, that sounds just like what we need. Except, uh, what in the world is "counter-intuitive?" The word refers to things which go against the usual thinking, ideas which may even defy common sense. This is sometimes what is required. This even has a spiritual application. Paul states this fact in I Corinthians 1:18 - 25, "For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: 'I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.'. . .God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. . .we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength."
The Gospel does not make sense to a lot of people. It defies logic and goes against "conventional wisdom." But, as seen above, we even has examples from the business world where this is often necessary. It certainly was when it came to offering a solution to man's sin. This required a "counter-intuitive strategy." We need to be thankful we have a God who knows that logic needed to be defied. This led to the strategy of the cross, which leads to our deliverance, if we accept God's thinking. I think that would be a very wise thing to do.
Tue Jul 15 07:31:57 2014
One of my favorite movies is the Coen brothers' "Oh Brother Where Art Thou?" The storyline is loosely based upon Homer's epic poem "The Odyssey." In one scene of the movie, the 3 main characters are enticed by 3 young ladies who are washing clothes in a stream. This harkens to the event in the Odyssey where Odysseus knows his ship is going to pass by some coastal waters inhabited by "sirens." Sirens were mythical creatures that enticed sailors with their alluring songs, causing them to jump overboard and drown. To keep his men from being affected by the "Sirens' Song," Odysseus commands his men to tie him to the mast, and then stuff wax in their ears. The ship passes by safely as the sailors are oblivious to the song of enticement. In "Oh Brother," the characters are not so fortunate as they hear the songs of the "sirens" and find themselves in quite a predicament.
We are constantly being enticed by the "songs of sirens" meant to tempt us to follow our desires and disobey God. Temptation is always there. However, Paul assures us that "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it (I Corinthians 10:13)."
Do you feel the allure of the world? Are you facing some temptation which seems to be constantly wooing you to do something you know you shouldn't? Tie yourself to the mast! Put wax in your ears! In other words, do what you know you should to avoid this temptation. Remember the words of the scripture - God has provided a way out. Find the way out and stick to it! Follow the example of Odysseus, not the one of Ulysses S. McGill, and avoid the trap of sin.
Mon Jul 14 07:10:45 2014
According to an old legend, there was once a day when the sun didn't shine. At 6 a.m., there was no evidence of the sun. 7 a.m. came and passed by with still no sun. At noon it was as dark as if it was midnight. People began flocking to churches to pray. Fear gripped them as what should be was not. The sun always rose in the morning, didn't it? It was always there to provide light and warmth, wasn't it? Well, not this day. People prayed that God would send back the sun.
The next day, all the people gathered and faced east, hoping to see the familiar sight of the sunrise. When the sun appeared, a huge cheer rose from the massive throng. What was once taken for granted would be taken for granted no more.
We are prone to do this - take for granted things that shouldn't be taken for granted. We do that with God's benefits and blessings. They are always there, aren't they? Yes, God is always there and always wants to give us good things and provide many blessings. However, we should do all we can to make sure we don't take these things for granted.
What can we do to make sure we don't take God's benefits for granted? Do what David did in Psalm 103. He couldn't list all of God's benefits, but he listed as many as he could: "Praise the LORD, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits--who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's."
; We can't list all of God's blessings, but we should take time each day to think of some of them. In this way, we will be kept from taking what God gives us for granted. It will keep our focus on the One who never withholds the sun, who never lets us down, who never leaves us alone.
Sun Jul 13 06:10:39 2014
Haddon Robinson shares the story of an elderly lady who lived in Moorefield, West Virginia, during the War between the States. Because of its location, the occupation of the town changed almost daily. One day it was in Union hands, the next it might be controlled by the Confederate army. A knock came on her door one morning. It was some enemy troops, and they demanded to be fed. She had them come in and cooked breakfast for them. When they sat down, she said, "I always read the Bible and pray before breakfast. So I will do that now."
She opened her Bible and randomly selected Psalm 27. She read, "The LORD is my light and my salvation--whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life--of whom shall I be afraid? When evil men advance against me to devour my flesh, then my enemies and my foes attack me, they will stumble and fall. Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then will I be confident." Then she prayed. At the conclusion of the prayer, she raised her head and found that all of the soldiers had left.
What enemies are you facing? When you have foes in your home demanding breakfast, take time to read Psalm 27, pray about what you face, and trust God for the outcome.
Sat Jul 12 08:06:31 2014
"My God, what will become of me? I have no desire but to die!" wrote the 30 year-old lady in her diary. Obviously struggling with depression and grief, what was to become of this person who had come to the end of her emotional rope? Well, what became of her was being a pioneer in the use of antiseptics and chloroform which relieved much human suffering. What became of her was becoming the founder of the modern-day nursing profession. Florence Nightingale did much to improve the practice of medicine and lived to the marvelous age of 90 before leaving this life for the life to come. What changed was discovering a purpose outside of herself, outside of her suffering. What changed was channeling her suffering and grief into activity that led to the relief of the suffering and grief of others.
Do you feel like you have come to the end of your emotional rope? Look around - who can you help? Remember that in the work of helping others, our own pain can give way to healing. Like Nightingale, Job came to a place where he wish he had never been born. Job 3:1-3 tells us, "After this, Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth. He said: 'May the day of my birth perish, and the night it was said, A boy is born!'" Also like Nightingale, Job worked through his personal grief and pain. His story has become an inspiration to many others who struggle with grief and suffering.
Facing a painful time? Remember the examples of Florence Nightingale and Job. They worked through what they experienced and were blessed because of their faith. You can do the same.
Fri Jul 11 07:44:44 2014
As a student, young Leonardo da Vinci was encouraged by his elderly teacher to finish a painting that the teacher had started. Out of respect for the teacher and actually not feeling he was up to the task, da Vinci declined at first. However, his teacher would not take no for an answer and told da Vinci that he trusted his ability. So, with fear and trepidation, da Vinci began his work. At first, his strokes were timid and limited. Then, his confidence began to build. As the strokes became bolder and the colors flowed da Vinci's genius began to manifest in the work. Soon the painting was done. The teacher looked at the painting and said, "I paint no more." What an endorsement!
Many of us are like da Vinci when it comes to our service to the church. We often use the excuse that we "just don't have the talent" or "we just don't have the gift" to accomplish something. Don't use this as an excuse not to participate in the work of the church! Talent levels do vary. Certainly not all of us are "da Vincis," but we need to realize that we have talents and abilities God has given us. God does not hold us responsible for using the talents he hasn't given us - he holds us responsible for using the talents he has given us. We need to be good stewards of what God has given us. Paul tells us in I Corinthians 4:2, "It is required in stewards that one be found faithful."
Are you a good steward of what God has given you? Use what he has given you. Don't make excuses for what you can't do. Glorify God with your gifts!
Thu Jul 10 08:13:47 2014
One of Satan's greatest allies is doubt. Christ called Satan "a liar, the father of lies (John 8:44)." What he loves to do is use our doubts and fears against us. He tries to get us to think that maybe we can't trust God. This was his method when he tricked Adam and Eve in the garden (read Genesis 3). If he can get us to doubt God, then he can manipulate us for his purposes.
Don't let periods of doubt and fear allow you to fall into Satan's snare. Many whom we would consider great people of the faith talk about times in their lives when they went through a time of fear and doubt. Scottish reformer John Knox confessed that he passed through a dark time when his soul was filled with "anger, wrath, and indignation, which it conceived against God, calling all His promises in doubt." Increase Mather writes in his diary about his struggles with atheism. Martin Luther writes about a week when he struggled with his position with God. All of these men worked through these times by continuing to trust God and realizing he is true. They realized the truth of the Word and allowed this to bolster them in their times of struggle.
What should we do when we face times of doubt and fear? Psalm 56:3-4 gives us good advice: "When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid." Trust God, believe his Word, know that he is true. Let him help you deal with those doubts. Knowing God and knowing his Word helps us deal confidently with whatever Satan throws our way.
Wed Jul 9 08:15:04 2014
Stress seems to be in abundance in our lifestyles in these days. Most of us have significant levels of stress in our lives, and learning how to manage stress is certainly important. Joanie Yoder writes that this is something she is often asked to address at her speaking engagements. Her biggest advice to help deal with stress: Get Some Sleep! Stress certainly can lead to sleeplessness, but one of the biggest contributors to stress is the failure to make sure you are getting the amount of rest you require.
We may be living in a "24/7 world," but God did not make us to be 24/7 people. Why do you think he had something called the Sabbath? Genesis 2:2-3 has always fascinated me, "By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done." Wait a minute, what do you mean "he rested?" He's God, why does he need to rest? Well, it means what it says - God rested, and he expects us to rest. That is how we are made.
When Elijah fled from Jezebel, we see that God brought him to a place where he could get some sleep. Then, he gave him some food. After he ate, God let him get some more sleep (I Kings 19:1-7). This was what Elijah needed - and it is what we need. Stern tests were ahead for Elijah, and God needed to talk to him about the way he had been thinking. But before all of this, he let him rest.
So, do you feel stressed out? Start with making changes to ensure that you get the rest you need. This isn't being "lazy," it is being smart. It is taking care of things in the way God intends for us to take care of things. Psalm 4:8 says, "I will both lie down in peace, and sleep; for You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety." Sleep may not be the full answer for our stress, but when we have adequate rest, it helps us to see more clearly the answers that are there to help with our stress. Make sure you are getting your "zzzz's!"
Tue Jul 8 07:10:15 2014
I was in junior high school when I first drank Gatorade - a drink designed to restore lost electrolytes in those who had been involved in intense physical activity. It was named Gatorade because it was developed by a researcher at the University of Florida, home of the "Gators."
I recently read a story about another type of "gator aid." It seems some recruits at an armed services training facility in Florida were making a habit of slipping off a rope into a pond during a training exercise to "cool off" in the hot climate. To change this habit, a drill instructor had a large alligator put in the pond. From then on, the recruits would swing all the way across the pond without slipping. Wonder why?
God sometimes uses similar tactics to bring us in line with his plan. The use of unfavorable circumstances to mold and shape our character and encourage obedience is seen in scripture and in our personal experience. Hebrews 12:6 tells us "the Lord disciplines those he loves." Sometimes that means putting an alligator in the water as a form of "gator aid." David says in Psalm 119:71, "It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees."
Remember this the next time you feel that God is using "gator aid" with you. It shows that he loves you. It shows he wants you to be, in the words of the Armed Services, "all that you can be." A friendly reminder - don't let go of the rope!
Mon Jul 7 07:10:15 2014
Everyone likes to be complimented every now and then, providing the compliment is genuine. Being genuinely complimentary of others is a good thing. Being a "schmoozer" isn't. However, receiving a genuine compliment about one's appearance or one's activity is an uplifting thing. It makes you feel good; it makes your feel appreciated; and it can certainly help if received at a time when you have experienced someone who has been somewhat less than complimentary about something. So, don't be reticent to give deserved compliments - you probably will help to make someone's day!
We should strive to be worthy of receiving compliments from God. God does give compliments when they are due. Christ speaks of receiving compliments in the parable of the talents found in Matthew 25. He talks about the faithful servant receiving a compliment from his master in verse 23, "Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!" The parable is meant as an encouragement for those of us who serve God to live in such a way in order that we may hear these complimentary words from our Father.
Are you good at giving others deserved compliments? Don't be stingy with your compliments when those compliments are deserved. Are you living in such a way so as to be deserving of God's compliments? God is not stingy about giving credit where credit is due. Strive to live to deserve God's compliments!
Sun Jul 6 07:10:15 2014
When my girls were younger and we would be walking, sometimes they would say, "Daddy, I am tired. Would you carry me?" "Of course I will," I would tell them. Then, I would lift them up on my shoulders and carry them for as long as they wanted. I really miss those times. Now, I know my girls still love me and still need me as their father. They still depend on me to do things for them they need, but that act of dependence reflected in their request for me to carry them is something I truly miss. They have outgrown their need for this.
My girls may have outgrown the need to be carried by their father, but we should never outgrow the need to be carried by our Father. God is always willing to pick us up and carry us when we get tired and are unable to continue on our own. Unlike our children who come to a point where this is no longer necessary, we should never try to achieve a point where we lose this dependence upon our Heavenly Father. Deuteronomy 33:12 tells us, "Let the beloved of the LORD rest secure in him, for he shields him all day long, and the one the LORD loves rests between his shoulders."
Are you "resting between his shoulders?" Don't ever think that you get too big to do this. We are dependent upon God, and we never outgrow the need to rest between his shoulders. He wants us to do this, and we need his care.
Sat Jul 5 07:10:15 2014
Well, did you celebrate well yesterday? We did along with others here in Charleston, South Carolina, where we are currently visiting. I spent some time thinking about the fact of being able to celebrate in the way we did, and also spent some time giving thanks to God for the privilege of being where I was. Of course, it is great to talk about "being where you are," but what needs to be done is to show our gratitude through what we do. Many of us are glad we are where we are - good family, good job, good neighborhood, good church, but what are we doing to make sure we contribute to all of these? We should be more than "stand by observers," we should be activists!
One of the stories in the scripture that has always tickled my thinking is the account of David and Goliath in I Samuel 17. Now, most of you are familiar with this story, but I do encourage you to read it again. What captiviates me about his story is not the usual idea of the little boy slaying the big ogre, rather I am intrigued as to why a little boy was put into the position of having to face a big ogre. David was there because no one else would step up. None of the fierce, battle-hardened soldiers in Saul's army, not even Saul himself, would stand up to the challenge of the giant. Instead, they watched as a little shepherd boy marched down into the valley to face a 9-foot tall warrior. Why? Because they weren't willing to do it themselves. I am sure there were many reasons for this, but all the same reasons could have applied to David, in addition to the fact that HE HAD NEVER BEEN IN BATTLE!
This happens in our churches as well. We face challenges, but many shrink from the challenge and the responsibility. Too often what happens is someone comes along who is willing to take on the challenge, and they end up not only taking care of that particular responsibility, but anything else that comes along! We are like the characters in "The Little Red Hen" (read this at http://www.feministtheatre.org/littleredhen.html), we don't show up to grow wheat, make flour, or bake bread, but we sure want to eat it when it is done!
Be more than a stand-by observer in your church! We celebrated yesterday because a large group of people were willing to take on a Goliath. Let's not send out someone else when we should go ourselves!
Fri Jul 4 07:10:15 2014
Today is Independence Day, July 4. Just after the adoption of the Declaration of Independence by the first Continental Congress on on this day in 1776, John Adams said: "I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty." Well, it is celebrated as a "great anniversary Festival," but not with "solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty." We don't usually consider this day to be a "religious holiday," but along with our cookouts and our fireworks, it would be good to take time to thank God for all the blessings we enjoy because of living where we do. There are so many in our world today who still languish under totalitarian regimes while we enjoy freedoms that are often taken for granted. Don't do that! Be mindful of the price that was paid for us to be able to enjoy life the way we do.
We should not take our spiritual freedom for granted as well. Adams spoke of commemorating the anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence as the Day of Deliverance. We should celebrate our spiritual Day of Deliverance. On Friday, April 14, 33 A.D., our Lord died on a cross to pay the price for our spiritual deliverance. Now, I know the date I have given may not be exact, but it is close. Just as certainly as the Declaration of Independence being adopted in 1776 led to freedom for the inhabitants of the 13 colonies, Christ's death for our sins during the Passover in A.D. 33 leads to freedom for all who believe. Galatians 5:1 says, "It is for freedomthat Christ has set us free." John speaks of our freedom in Christ in chapter 8 of his gospel, "Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. . .if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed (vv. 32 and 36)." We are free in Christ if we commit our lives to Christ.
As you celebrate today, remember to give thanks. As we remember our freedom in Christ, use this as a time to give thanks as well. Happy Independence Day!
Thu Jul 3 07:10:15 2014
Several years ago we made trip to Scotland to visit our youngest daughter, Megan, who was living there at the time. Our oldest daughter, Stephanie, met us there.. What a trip it was! The landscape was beautiful and the people were fantastic. We stayed at two wonderful guest homes. What was hard was having to leave our daughters. First, we had to say goodbye to Stephanie who was flying back to the states. Then, we had to say goodbye to Megan as she was staying in Scotland, of course. Many of you who live away from family members know these can be difficult times. What helps is knowing that we will see them again.
This is comforting knowledge. It is knowledge that can help us even at times when we have to say a final goodbye to a loved one who has slipped away from us through death. Those of us who know Christ believe we will see these loved ones again. This is what Christ told his disciples when they were coming face to face with their time of separation. Christ promised them in John 14:1-6, "'Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.' Thomas said to him, 'Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?' Jesus answered, 'I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'"
Christ promised his disciples a reunion in a place he would prepare for them. This promise is for us as well. When our oldest daughter was a little girl, we were having to say goodbye to some family members who had just spent some time with us. This always made her sad. She said, "Why don't we just build a big house so we can all live together?" Good idea. And that is exactly what Christ is doing for all those who know him. As wonderful as our guest homes were in Scotland, I am sure they pale in comparison to the provision we will have with Christ. In addition, we will never have to check out! I hope you have your reservation!
Wed Jul 2 07:10:15 2014
In a number of his writings, Paul tells us to offer encouragement to each other. This is usually not a difficult thing, as we know others who need encouragement, and we know we appreciate supportive words and deeds when we are in a position of need. However, Paul also tells us to offer words of correction when necessary. This is a little bit stickier. For a great many reasons, corrective encounters can be difficult. Still, they can be helpful and can be a form of encouragement.
In I Thessalonians 5:14-15, Paul tells us, "And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else." Here we see Paul giving instructions to offer words of correction where correction is needed and words of support where support is needed. He also tells us a little about the spirit in which this should be accomplished, "Be patient with everyone." In other words, don't withhold correction, but don't rush to judgment either, and make sure you do this in the right way.
When correction is needed, three things need to be kept in mind: 1) The nature of the problem must be considered; 2) Our motive and approach for correction must be thought through, and 3) God needs to be involved from start to finish. Galatians 6:1-2 offers further comment on this, "Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ." In both of these passages, we see Paul's comments on not only what should be done, but how it is to be accomplished.
Correcting others is usually more difficult than encouraging others, but in Paul's mind they are linked. Both should be done with a view to helping someone else grow in their faith. We all have times when correction is necessary because we all are prone to mistakes. When we find ourselves on one end or the other of this scenario, remember to make room for God's involvement. In this way, correction can be corrective without causing controversy.
Tue Jul 1 07:10:15 2014
In his book, "The Pursuit of God, " A.W. Tozer wrote, "Has it ever occurred to you that one hundred pianos all tuned to the same fork are automatically tuned to each other? They are of one accord by being tuned not to each other but to another standard to which each one must individually bow. So one hundred worshipers [meeting] together, each one looking away to Christ, are in heart nearer to each other than they could possibly be were they to become unity-conscious and turn their eyes away from God to strive for closer fellowship."
Tozer's comments were designed for worship experiences, but what he said is true in all facets of our relationships with other believers. When we are in tune with Christ and walking with him, it is difficult to find ourselves at odds with other believers. Turning your focus upon Christ can help avoid much of the petty things that tend to cause friction with others. Developing a rich relationship with Christ helps us to develop our relationships with others and allows us to see the insignificance of our differences with others.
Paul reminds us in I Corinthians 12:12-13, "The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink." When we are connected to the head, then everything else works as it should. Keep in tune with Christ, and you will keep in tune with others!