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!
Sat Dec 20 08:21:32 2014
I just finished watching "Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol" for about the, oh, I have no idea how many -times I have watched this show. It is a rather interesting take on Charles Dickens' classic "A Christmas Carol." This version is how I was introduced to Dickens. I wrote recently about the nostalgia factor I have with "White Christmas". There is a nostalgia factor here as well. When I watched as a child, Magoo's "Carol" was usually the lead-in for the broadcast of "White Christmas".
As an adult, I find it fascinating that the production team came up with an animated version that carries out the Magoo staples (bad vision which causes some rather hilarious situations) while preserving the charm and nuances of 18th century England one finds portrayed in Dickens' work. I am sure you are familiar with Dickens' story of an overbearing, miserly, Christmas-loathing man named Ebenezer Scrooge who is transformed into a person fitting this description: "it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge."
At one point, Scrooge asks the Ghost of Christmas Future, a rather ominous specter, "are these the images of things that will be or things that might be?" This is a very good question and one that has been the topic of many discussions over the years. Is everything pre-ordained, or do we have the ability to shape our future? The Scripture is replete with accounts and teachings that show that our choices do have consequences. Since this is true, then, yes, we do have the ability to shape our future. Decisions made now will have results, so we need to make good decisions.
An illustration of how our decisions affect our future is found in Christ's teaching: "Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash." (Matthew 7:24-27)
Magoo, or rather Scrooge, was given the great gift of a "do over". If you are making unwise decisions, you now have the same gift; however, as with Scrooge, your time is limited. Make sure you build your house on the rock!
Fri Dec 19 08:19:28 2014
I was thinking the other day of the Christmas song, "Sweet Little Jesus Boy." When I was young, our choir director would pick out a young boy from the church and have them sing this song during the Christmas musical. I was never selected, but my brother was. I always enjoyed the song, even back then:
Sweet little Jesus boy
They made you be born in a manger.
Sweet little holy Child
Didn't know who you was.
Didn't know you come to save us Lord
To take our sins away.
The song is in the style of a spiritual, and I had always assumed it was a spiritual until I read recently the story behind the song. In 1932 Robert MacGimsey, a resident of New York City, was on his way to a Christmas Eve service. On his way to the church, he walked by a number of bars where he heard raucous music and the loud voices of those inside "celebrating" Christmas. He thought, "What a strange way to celebrate the birth of Christ."
His thoughts led to the writing of "Sweet Little Jesus Boy", a song that has become a popular part of Christmas celebrations in our churches. His song is an apology to Christ for those who did not recognize him. Many don't, even the Scripture tells us, "The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him." (John 1:9-10) Let's make sure we show that we recognize Christ and that our celebrations are true reflections of our knowledge that Jesus is the Savior of the world who came to die for our sins.
Thu Dec 18 08:42:29 2014
One of my all-time favorite Christmas movies is "White Christmas". It was my all-time favorite until "A Christmas Story" came around 31 years ago and started messing with my head. "White Christmas" is still way ahead if I figure in the nostalgia factor, because it was a movie my entire family would watch when I was a kid. Of course, it was in black and white, and sometimes the snow was not really intended to be there; it was created because of the poor reception of our TV set.
I imagine you may know the premise of the movie - During WWII, Captain Bing Crosby is saved from death by Private Danny Kaye who is hurt during the rescue. Bing visits Danny in the field hospital and is "roped" into going into show business with him after the war when Danny plays the "injured when I saved you" card. They are successful, and wind up at a Vermont Inn at Christmas time where their entertainment talents save the day for their formal general who owns the inn but is about to go under. One big problem is that it is December in Vermont but there is no snow, so no customers. A recurring event during the movie is that any idea brought up that Bing doesn't like but Danny does is met with a rub on the arm by Danny reminding Bing what he owes Danny for saving his life. If you can't follow my synopsis, then you need to watch the movie. I am sure you will enjoy it!
I wonder if at times Christ feels like he needs to "rub his arm" in our presence to remind us of how much we owe him. He shouldn't have to do that. We should never forget all that he gave up and all that he gave so that we might be able to live.
As you celebrate Christmas this year, whether it is a white Christmas or not, don't forget to give thanks to the One we are celebrating. Remember the words of Mark, "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Mark 10:45) We sing this chorus upon occasion:
He paid a debt he did not owe
I owed a debt I could not pay
I needed someone to wash my sins away.
And now I sing a brand new song - Amazing Grace!
Christ Jesus paid a debt that I could never pay!
Now that is a Christmas song!
Wed Dec 17 08:22:19 2014
I would imagine you are familiar with the story behind the composition of "Silent Night". Forgive me for being repetitious, but I would like to share the tale with you again. I appreciate the carol for many reasons, and one is the situation which brought about the song.
As you may know, it was written rather hastily because of a circumstance involving a faulty church organ. In 1818 in Oberndorff, Austria, Pastor Josef Mohr needed a song for services at his church on Christmas Day. The problem was the organ at the church was not working, so on Christmas Day in 1818, he brought a poem he had just written on Christmas Eve to the church organist, Franz Gruber, to see if he could write some music for guitar. Mohr had been inspired to write the lyrics out of necessity, but also because of the impressions he took away from his attendance at a Christmas presentation by a traveling group of actors held in a nearby home on Christmas Eve. Gruber came up with a tune that day, taught the song to the congregation that gathered for Christmas worship, and the rest is history. "Silent Night" is one of our most beloved songs sung at Christmas.
This story of a last minute effort to put something together because of extenuating circumstances reminds me of the many times I have found myself scrambling at the last minute to put something together because a change was necessary. That is part of life experience. I do prefer to be able to plan things ahead of time and watch things unfold according to plan but sometimes this isn't possible. The only One who can guarantee that things will indeed take place according to plans that have been made is God.
Many mistakenly think that the Christmas Story is about God's last minute changes that were necessitated because his original plans didn't work out. This is not the case. What took place in Bethlehem, and all that took place with regard to the life of Christ, was part of God's plan all along. Ephesians 1:9-10 says, "He made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment-to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ." The event we are celebrating did not come about because God had to make a last-minute switch from the organ to the guitar. He intended to play the guitar all along.
Tue Dec 16 07:35:41 2014
I remember in the first grade that we made silhouettes of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln in February to commemorate their birthdays. You may be wondering why I am bringing up these February presidential birthdays in December when we are preparing to celebrate the birth of Christ. Follow my thinking a bit.
The silhouettes I made of the presidents were of their adult likenesses. As we think about the birthday of Christ, what do you think of? We think of him as a baby. This is something unique to Christmas (among many other things). Rather than picturing Christ as an adult when we celebrate his birthday as we do for others, we focus on the actual birth and picture him as an infant. It is altogether right that we do this, given the scriptural accounts regarding his birth. For the most part, we don't have birth details about others whose birthdays we acknowledge. With Christ, we have details given in Scripture regarding his birth - where he was born, the conditions in which he was born, the angelic announcements of his birth, and the visitors who came just after he was born and those later on. Don't you find it fascinating that all of these details are given about his birth? They were given because we need to marvel at his birth. This was God coming into the world as a human. The baby would grow into an adult and die for us; however, we still need to honor the baby - God in flesh, Immanuel.
Isaiah 9:6 captures the magnificence of this, "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." What a wonderful birthday - celebrate the Baby who is our Savior!
Mon Dec 15 07:48:54 2014
Russell Nagy wrote a song entitled "The Promise." Part of the lyrics are:Silently by night,
in mortal flesh enshrouded,
He who framed the mountains
draws first breath.
Far from human sight,
the Promise ne'er forgotten
Is in love begotten
to conquer death.
What a beautiful expression of the provision of God through the birth of his Son. This was a Promise first given to Adam and Eve just after the Fall. The Promise was actually contained in a statement that God made to Satan: "And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel." (Genesis 1:15)
Knowing that man would fall, already God had a plan in place to provide for man's sin. With the creation of man came a Promise to provide for man. I sometimes wonder why God created us when he knew full well how needy his creation would be, but then there are a lot of things I don't know about with God. I know he decided to create us and decided to provide for us. Celebrate his Promise, made for us before we were even created.
Sun Dec 14 07:48:53 2014
On the hills just outside Bethlehem, angels proclaimed to a group of astonished shepherds, "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests." (Luke 2:14) This was the promise given over 2,000 years ago, yet we have not experienced that promise. Perhaps current conflicts cannot compare to the scale of the ones that marked the 20th century, but there are still wars and there are still people dying in combat. In addition, domestic violence is on the rise, marriages fail at an alarming rate, lawsuits proliferate court dockets, and violent crime of all sorts is on the rise. Even churches are not immune to conflict - I read recently of a megachurch in California that closed its doors because of conflict. So, where is the peace?
Peace will come. Regardless of how much a lack of peace prevails, our future holds peace. Isaiah 2:4, "They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore." God made this promise almost 3,000 years ago, and it will happen. In his time, according to his will, this will take place.
As we wait, we have two choices, we can either despair because of the lack of peace, or we can do our best to make certain that peace prevails in our immediate experience. Do your best to live at peace and model the peace that Christ promises in your life every day. We know that the larger stage of world peace is in the hands of God, and he will accomplish it in his time.
Sat Dec 13 07:24:38 2014
A little boy was bothered a bit on Christmas morning. "Mommy," he said, "I like all my gifts, but this is Jesus' birthday. When are we going to give Jesus his present?" What a marvelous question; a question that we should be asking during our celebration.
What are we going to give Jesus? The little drummer boy said he would play for him on his drum. Perhaps he had a good idea - playing the drum was what he did best, so he was going to present Jesus with a gift of his best. This should be our desire as we consider our gift to him. Whatever it is, it should be our best.
Proverbs 3:9 reflects this ideal, "Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops." I would imagine you have taken some time choosing just the right gifts for those on your list. Make sure that Christ is at the head of your list, and make sure you give him your best gift!
Fri Dec 12 07:56:08 2014
Have you heard of a mondegreen? A mondegreen is a word or phrase that makes sense in your head, but is different from the actual word or phrase that was spoken or sung. This occurs frequently with song lyrics. We think we hear one phrase, but what we hear is not correct. The term "mondegreen" itself is a mondegreen. It was coined in 1954 by Sylvia Wright in an article she wrote for Harper's about mishearing lyrics. She interpreted the phrase from an old English poem which in reality was "and laid him on the green" as "and Lady Mondegreen." This phenomenon is not all that uncommon, and has even led to the establishment of some careers (think Weird Al Yankovic).
Hearing is a two-step process. There is the act of making sounds, which is rooted in physics. Then, the second step involves interpretation which is an act carried out in the brain of the recipient. It is this second step when interpretations go awry and create mondegreens.
We need to remember this when it comes to hearing God's Word. Often we "hear what we want to hear," and interpret what we hear on our terms rather than letting God's Word speak for itself. The problem is not in the creation of the sound, the problem is that we often skew the interpretation.
Let God's Word speak to us in accurate terms. Don't try to make what has been said fit into your mold. Remember Peter's words, "knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit." (II Peter 1:20) Don't try to make God's Word say what you want it to say; let God's Word say what it intends to say. There are enough occurrences of mondegreens already.
Thu Dec 11 08:46:09 2014
When I was very young, one of my greatest quandaries at Christmas was how in the world Santa was going to get down our chimney. We did not have a fireplace; what we had was a pipe that ran up one side of our house and served as the exhaust for our furnace. The pipe was about six inches in diameter. I remember asking my parents about this and they assured me that Santa had the ability to fit in the pipe. One Christmas, they bought a cardboard decorative fireplace, and unwittingly solved the dilemma once and for all for my young mind.
A little girl asked her father, "Daddy, do angels sleep?" The father, sensing he had a budding theologian on his hands, answered quite seriously, "Dear, I don't know for sure, but I would imagine they do." The little girl replied, "Then how can they get their pajamas over their wings?"
We often become a little confused with issues that are hard to answer when it comes to matters of our faith. How can a virgin bear a child? How could Christ be both fully man and fully God? How can God exist as a triune being? These are all questions for which there are no logical answers, and that is why they are matters of faith. Now, these issues are good issues, but we often get sidetracked by trying to solve questions that really have now relevancy. It is healthy to be inquisitive, but it isn't healthy to obsess over matters that really are unimportant. We need to realize there are issues that are important for which there are no clear-cut answers, and we need to realize there are issues that are irrelevant and need no time. We should learn to distinguish between the two and handle them appropriately.
Follow Paul's advice when he says, "command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer or to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. Such things promote controversial speculations rather than advancing God's work - which is by faith." (I Timothy 1:3-4) There are times that if the pajamas don't fit, there is no need to worry.
Wed Dec 10 08:21:48 2014
This morning I read that a Russian astrophysicist has discovered an asteroid the size of a mountain is heading our way. I don't blame the Russians for being a little jumpy - an asteroid exploded in the atmosphere above Chelyabinsk in 2013 shattering windows and distributing debris everywhere. This conjures up scenes from "Armageddon", a movie in which Bruce Willis leads a group of people in an effort to break up and asteroid that is heading towards earth and threatens to destroy all life as we know it. The concern the Russians have is that life may imitate art.
Well, not to worry, the earth is not going to be destroyed by an oncoming asteroid. How can I say this with certainty? Read the Bible! The Bible tells us that indeed something, or rather Someone, is coming that will have an impact on life as we know it, and we are not talking about an asteroid.
At this time of year, we celebrate the coming of Christ. He came to the world to bring hope to those who dwell on earth. And we know he is coming again. We know he will come to take his Church out of the world, and then after at least seven years, will come again to change the world and set up his Kingdom. That is why I know the earth will not be destroyed by an asteroid - God has other plans for earth. The One who came as a little child will come as the Conquering King, and no asteroid is going to alter his plans. Jesus told John, "Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done." (Revelation 22:12) Don't worry about an asteroid - prepare for the coming of Christ!
Tue Dec 9 08:57:41 2014
"When I arrive in heaven, I will be surprised by three things. First, I will be surprised by who is there. Secondly, I will be surprised by who I do not find there. Finally, I will be surprised that I am there at all." The professor was not saying we cannot have the assurance of being in heaven, he was saying we should be humbled continually by the idea that we have the opportunity to live there. We should be humbled when we consider the price God paid to give us this opportunity. This month we are celebrating God's plan of humility that was enacted so people may have the chance to live forever with Him.
As we think of this, I want to draw your attention to that great Christmas text that describes what Christ did for us in order that we might be in heaven. Philippians 2:6-8 tells us, "Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death--even death on a cross! You probably thought I was going to use Luke 2, didn't you? Well, Luke 2 may tell us the details of what took place when Christ was born, which is important, but Philippians 2 tells us what really happened. Christ humbled himself to become one of us. In light of this, those of us who have received His gift need to humble ourselves so we can become like Christ. Now, I didn't say so that we can be Christ, that won't happen. But we should strive to live Christ-like lives because of what his great sacrifice on our behalf. Keeping in mind what he did for us so that we can have the hope of life in heaven will help us to keep the right perspective on who we are and what we have.
As you celebrate Christmas this year, keep in mind what you have because of what Christ gave up. This should keep us humble, which is exactly the point.
Mon Dec 8 08:22:07 2014
The experience of Mary and Joseph is, among many other things, a study in why we should not put God in a box. We are prone to think we know how God will react or how he will work in given circumstances but we should never presume to know what God will do. Reading the stories of how Mary and Joseph were informed of the impending birth of Christ shows us that God can work differently with different people even in the same circumstance. Mary was informed ahead of time of the plan of God that would profoundly affect her life. Gabriel came to her and outlined God's plan for her future (Luke 1:26-38). Joseph, however, did not learn of God's involvement until after his discovery that his fiance was pregnant which led to plans of terminating his relationship with her without exposing her apparent misconduct (Matthew 1:18-25). Only then did an agent of God come to Joseph to reveal to him the plan of God. Why the difference?
This is where our faith plays such an important role in our relationship with God. We must allow God to be God and realize any effort to try to work out his plans in our mind will not bring about results. We cannot predict how God will lead in our lives, but we should be confident that he will lead us the right way and whatever he does is in our best interests.
Another lesson we learn from the experience of Mary and Joseph is how to respond in circumstances that create questions. Mary and Joseph both responded in faith and showed their confidence in God in what they did. Mary said, "I am the Lord's servant. May your word to me be fulfilled." (Luke 1:38) We read about Joseph, "When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife." (Matthew 1:24) Like Mary and Joseph, be ready to follow the leading of God.
Sun Dec 7 07:50:36 2014
Much is said about keeping "Christ in Christmas" which is as it should be. As followers of Christ, we certainly know why we are celebrating at this time of year. We should indeed celebrate the name of Christ and "Keep Christ in Christmas." Something I am even more concerned about is keeping the name of Christ out of where it should not be. Some time ago, a network television program focused on the increase in the use of foul language in our society. Something I see that seems to be on an increase is the use of the name of Jesus as a curse. This should not be, especially by those who know the Lord.
Exodus 20:7 tells us, "You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name." We should not misuse the name of our Savior, yet that is what seems to be the case during this season. The sense of Christmas as being a time for economic advancement and material well being is very strong in our culture. This makes up so much of what is looked upon as Christmas in our day. This seems to be nothing more than misusing the name of Christ!
Don't abuse the name of Christ at any time by using it as an idle curse when things don't go like you want. The name of Christ should be held in honor and reverence. Remember that as you consider your speech. Remember that as you participate in the celebration. Remember that "at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth." (Philippians 2:10) We should hold the name of Christ in highest regard at all times and especially as we celebrate His birth.
Sat Dec 6 08:17:07 2014
It was the night before Christmas during the height of the Franco-Prussian War in 1870. The French and German soldiers were entrenched against each other on the field of battle. No shots were being fired. Suddenly, a French soldier laid down his rifle and started walking towards the enemy line. His comrades, afraid to try to stop him lest they endanger their own lives, watched breathlessly as he approached the enemy troops, fully expecting to hear the crack of a rifle at any moment ending their fellow combatant's life. After advancing several steps, the soldier stopped and started singing, "Noel, noel, noel, noel - born is the King of Israel" then walked back towards his original position.
After he returned, a soldier from the German army began walking towards the French line. He did as the French soldier had done, singing "The First Noel" in German. For that night, peace reigned on that battlefield.
Christ is indeed the preeminent Peacemaker. He came to make peace between God and man, an ultimately in all of creation. "For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross." (Colossians 1:19-20) God took the first step towards peace and has made a way through his Son for us to be at peace with him. Peace initiatives may be rejected, even those of the Father, but we know that at some point in time, peace will reign supreme because of the gift of Christ. "Peace on earth and mercy mild; God and sinners reconciled." This is made possible because God took the first step.
Fri Dec 5 08:37:32 2014
|Can you imagine a child sitting by a Christmas tree and not opening his or her gifts? I can't see that scene actually playing out in reality very often. Wait, actually, it does. |
As followers of Christ, we do it too frequently. We have been indwelt by the Holy Spirit who has gifted us for the purpose of service, yet we often fail to unwrap those gifts. We fail to allow the Holy Spirit to work in our lives the way he wants, so we underutilize the gift we have been given to help us reach our full potential of service for Christ. In I Corinthians 12:7 we read, "Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good."
Gifts of the Spirit are given not only for the benefit of the person to whom they are given, but "for the common good." Spiritual gifts are given to each believer so that, when exercised, others may find themselves strengthened from what is derived. When we fail to open our gifts and use them, we not only deprive ourselves, we deprive others. Gifts are given to individuals, but they are intended for the good of the entire church. Don't hold back the joy and fulfillment others can receive when you open your gift!
Thu Dec 4 09:02:21 2014
This past Sunday I spoke about the similarities between the cradle and the tomb. We associate the cradle with the beginning of Christ's earthly existence and the tomb with the end of his earthly existence (plus a few days after his resurrection).
The cradle and the tomb were both man-made. To me, this symbolizes Christ's willingness to condescend and become human. The Creator of all that is was willing to be laid in structures that were made by the hands of those whom he had created. This gives us a word picture of Philippians 2:7-8, "he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death--even death on a cross!"
The cradle and the tomb were both borrowed. Mary and Joseph had to borrow space to have their baby, and Jesus was laid in a tomb that was borrowed from Joseph, the member of the Sanhedrin who buried him. As far as we know, Christ never owned anything in this world except his own clothes. What does this say about our attitude toward earthly possessions?
Finally, the cradle and the tomb are both empty (I used the word "temporary" in my sermon but I like this picture better). The cradle emptied in the natural way; Christ would outgrow his "baby bed," as all children do. The grave, however, was a different thing. Christ "outgrew" the tomb in a supernatural way. In so doing, he provided the means for us to outgrow our graves as well through the promise of the resurrection.
As you celebrate Christmas this year, take time to consider the lessons we glean from thinking about his cradle and his tomb!
Wed Dec 3 08:27:51 2014
"We cannot despair of humanity, since we ourselves are human beings," said Albert Einstein. I heard this quote on a television show recently. On the surface, it sounds profound and hopeful. The problems of mankind should not obscure our vision of the potential of mankind. In spite of the evil present among mankind, we should not negate the possibility of man achieving goodness. Well, this does sound enlightening and optimistic, but it really isn't realistic. As much as we wish this to be true, the fact is that man is inherently sinful.
Man is a sinner and cannot redeem himself. Romans 3:23 tells us that "all have sinned and come short of the glory of God." We should never be too surprised by the actions of man because of our intrinsic nature. We are celebrating the visit of God himself, a visit that would not have been necessary if we could have found a way to be good on our own. I would like to alter Einstein's quote a bit to more adequately reflect the actual state of mankind: "We cannot despair of humanity, since Christ came to help human beings." Through Christ's ministry on behalf of man, there is hope for man. Through the finished work of Christ, we can become what we should be. Romans 5:12 & 19 tells us, "Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned—For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous." Celebrate this reality this Christmas and be glad that Christ came to do something about out sinful state!
Tue Dec 2 08:52:44 2014
H.P. Lovecraft wrote, "The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown." If this is true can you imagine the fear that Mary must have felt as she learned about what she had been chosen to do? I have never had a child, obviously, but I hold in high regard my wife and all those who bear children. With any normal birth comes some anxiety fostered by concerns that one simply cannot know. And with Mary's circumstance, there were many other "unknowns". How could she explain a pregnancy when she wasn't married and had never had relations with a man? What would it mean when the angel said, "Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob's descendants forever; his kingdom will never end." (Luke 1:30-33)
I cannot help but think that Mary indeed experienced a fear of the unknown. Yet, in spite of this fear, her response came strongly and certainly, "I am the Lord's servant. May your word to me be fulfilled." (vs. 38)
Often it is the fear of the unknown that keeps us from fulfilling God's desire for us. We make excuses and statements and defer his calling to others when he wants us to be involved in his work. The fear of the unknown may be a strong force, but it is not unconquerable. Mary gives us an example of conquest. Keep this in mind the next time you face a fear that is hindering you from doing what you should be doing. God's power can conquer all fear, including that of the unknown.
Mon Dec 1 09:19:27 2014
As I was researching today's article, I came across several folks who alluded to the following address by Harry Reasoner, a deceased TV newsperson who was respected highly by peers and listeners. In 1971 he gave the following commentary:
"Christmas is such a unique idea that most non-Christians accept it, and I think sometimes envy it. Christmas is such a unique story that, in reality, it leaves you only three ways of accepting it. One is cynically--as a time to make money or endorse the making of it. Another is graciously--the appropriate attitude for non-Christians who wish their fellow citizens all the joys to which their beliefs entitle them. The third is reverently. If this is the anniversary of the appearance of the Lord of the universe in the form of a helpless babe, it is a very important day. It's a startling idea of course. My guess is that the whole story --that a virgin was selected by God to bear His Son as a way of showing his love and concern for man--in spite of all the lip service given to it, is not an idea that has been popular with theologians. It's a somewhat illogical idea, and theologians like logic almost as much as they like God. It's so revolutionary a thought that it probably could only come from a God that is beyond logic and beyond theology.
It has a magnificent appeal. Almost nobody has seen God, and almost nobody has any real idea of what He is like. The truth is that among men the idea of seeing God suddenly and standing in a very bright light is not necessarily a completely comforting and appealing idea. But everyone has seen babies and most people like them. If God wanted to be loved as well as feared, He moved correctly. If He wanted to know His people as well as rule them, He moved correctly, for a baby growing up learns all about people. And if God wanted to be intimately a part of man He moved correctly here, too, for the experience of birth and family-hood is our most intimate and precious experience.
So it comes beyond logic. It is either all falsehood or it is the truest thing in the world. It is the story of the great innocence of God, the baby. God in the person of man has such a dramatic shock toward the heart, that if it is not true, for Christians nothing is true.
So even if you have not got your shopping all done and you are swamped with the commercialism and the frenzy, be at peace. The story stands."
Indeed the story stands regardless of anything else. We would do well to remember this as we celebrate Jesus this Christmas season. "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." (John 1:14)
Sun Nov 30 07:48:24 2014
What's the longest you've had to wait for something? I imagine almost everyone has a memory of Christmas Eve as a child; squeezing your eyes shut, trying with all your might to go to sleep on Christmas Eve. You wanted the day to come so quickly, but you just had to wait. The day would be here when it was time to be here, and you just had to wait.
Waiting is hard. I would imagine anyone reading this article today can think of a time when you were had to wait for something you really wanted. Maybe it was waiting for your first child (or grandchild). Perhaps it was wishing your phone would ring bringing you news about a job you for which you had applied. It could be that you are waiting for a relative or a friend to change his or her mind and accept your apology so that a damaged relationship can move along the road to a resolution. It might be that you are waiting for some spiritual breakthrough. Or you might just simply be waiting for an answer to come to a question you have that is begging to be resolved. Whatever the case, waiting is a part of our life.
Waiting is part of the experience of Christ coming into the world. An anxious nation had waited for years for a Messiah to appear to bring about their salvation. This period of waiting was meant to build up their faith, as waiting usually is. Advent is about faith and waiting. Psalm 27:14 tells us, "Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord." We are reminded of how we are waiting now for the return of our Salvation. Use this time to build your faith and focus on God's promise to us of his provision that will come in his time. This is what God wants us to do.
Hebrews 11:6 says, "Now without faith it is impossible to please God, for the one who draws near to Him must believe that He exists and rewards those who seek Him." Our waiting builds our faith, and when we develop stronger faith, we are able to please God.
Sat Nov 29 08:20:51 2014
The story of the prodigal son is a story about two sons with some issues. One had a desire to go on his own and live the way he wanted. He wanted to pursue a riotous lifestyle free from the oversight of his father. The other had a problem with forgiveness and had not experienced the wonder of grace. He was not pleased with his life of his brother and showed anger at the decision of his father to accept his brother back into the good graces of the family.
We are capable of either response to our Father. We can demonstrate open rebellion and show that we wish to be "in control of our own destiny," or we can act as if we are in agreement with the Father but inwardly are angry because we do not see him doing what we think is the right path. We need to avoid either extreme in our relationship with our Father. We need to realize we cannot go it on our own and so we need to avoid this mentality. We also need to avoid becoming angry at God because we do not agree with the path we see before us. Both attitudes are conquered by acknowledging God's grace and by demonstrating faith and trust in him through living obedient lives.
God pursues us and deals with us, and for this we should be glad. As the father demonstrated love for both of his sons in spite of their shortcomings, God demonstrates love towards his wayward children. The father ran out to meet the son who was returning, and pleaded with the son who acted in anger. God's love for us is mirrored in the statements of the father, "'My son,' the father said, 'you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.'" (Luke 15:31) Be thankful for God's patience and for God's grace. Without these, we would not have hope.
Fri Nov 28 10:06:57 2014
Got your boxing gloves on? Well, those may not be the best thing - you need to be able to grab things, and you can't do so with boxing gloves. And, if you waited until today to get in on those early specials, you may be too late, as Black Thursday has been moved back into Thanksgiving Thursday. Anyway, the madness has begun. The 2014 Christmas shopping season has officially begun and maybe you were part of it.
Wikipedia reports, "In 2013, approximately 141 million U.S. consumers shopped during Black Friday, spending a total of $57.4 billion, with online sales reaching $1.2 billion. The day's name originated in Philadelphia, where it originally was used to describe the heavy and disruptive pedestrian and vehicle traffic which would occur on the day after Thanksgiving. Use of the term started before 1961 and began to see broader use outside Philadelphia around 1975. Later an alternative explanation was made: that retailers traditionally operated at a financial loss ('in the red') from January through November, and 'Black Friday' indicates the point at which retailers begin to turn a profit, or 'in the black'."
Whatever your perspective on Black Friday, as followers of Christ, we certainly need to keep perspective on buying and acquiring stuff in general. We need to make sure we are worshipping the God who brings us the Gift, not the gods who bring us gifts. There is nothing inherently wrong in buying and giving gifts; what is wrong is buying into all the hype of buying and giving gifts. I hope you don't lose your head today in all the hype; and that could have a literal meaning. Keep the day of pursuing gifts in perspective as we draw close to the day we have set to give praise to God for his Greatest Gift.
Thu Nov 27 09:03:29 2014
Thankfulness is a powerful force that should motivate us at all times. We have many reasons for which to be thankful and the greatest among these are the blessings and the goodness we receive from the hand of God. One of the things for which we should be thankful is the restoration we have received from God through his grace.
Ezra records a time of restoration when the Jews returned to the land after the Babylonian captivity. This return didn't happen all at once, of course, but in waves of returnees led by people such as Ezra. Ezra writes about the work done to begin the restoration of the temple of God. When the foundation was laid, the people paused to rejoice and worship because of the finished work. "When the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, the priests in their vestments and with trumpets, and the Levites (the sons of Asaph) with cymbals, took their places to praise the Lord, as prescribed by David king of Israel. With praise and thanksgiving they sang to the Lord." (Ezra 3:10-11)
What I find interesting here is that the people were thanking God for the work they had actually done themselves. Why would they do that? Why thank God for something they had actually done? They realized that it was only through God's grace and kindness that they were in a position to do the work.
We need to be grateful when we are in a position to do God's work. We need to understand how much of a privilege it is when we are able to do things to please God, and we need to be thankful for these opportunities. Thankfulness is indeed a powerful force that should motivate us at all times, and especially when it comes to the wonderful privilege of serving our Lord. It is only because of his restorative work in our lives that we have the right to work for him. Happy Thanksgiving!
Wed Nov 26 08:38:58 2014
The Minisode Network was launched in 2007 by Sony Entertainment. The network plays condensed versions of previously broadcast shows so that folks may watch to see salient details of episodes. This makes it more convenient to follow series as less time is required.
Many people are trying to follow a "minisode" version of Christianity. They search for the church with the shortest services, they give as little and as infrequently as they can, they help out only when it is absolutely necessary, and they are nice to others but do not want to get involved in others' lives. This way, they can live the rest of their lives the way they choose. The problem is this is not real Christianity.
Christianity begins with a commitment made to the Savior who gave his life for us. Evidence of true commitment is a life that is devoted to Christ holistically, not just conveniently. If you are trying to live a minisode Christian life, you need to examine your heart to determine the reality of your commitment. Being a true disciple is a lifestyle, not a hobby. This involves service, not token offerings or acts.
Jesus said, "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it." (Matthew 16:24-25) There is no such thing and "Minisode Christianity!"
Tue Nov 25 08:49:32 2014
Albert Einstein was an intelligent man. He was also a wise man. His wisdom is reflected in this advice he gave his son Eduard: "Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving."
Whether you face times of success or failure, you must keep moving. We should not be willing to rest on our laurels when we experience success of some type in our lives, we should be willing to move forward to attain other success. When we fail in some way, we should not let that failure be an excuse to not move forward to try other ideas. If our failure is a matter of morality, we should not retreat in shame or fear, but we should repent of our error and make positive steps to correct our ways. Move forward!
Paul writes in Philippians 3:13-14, "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." I can think of many biblical examples of people who experienced personal failure yet continued to move forward in their trust in God: Abraham, Jacob, Moses, and David are all examples of people God used in spite of their failure because then continued to move forward in their relationship with God. We should do the same. Don't let failure cause you to fall off your bike. Don't let personal struggle be a reason to quit peddling. To keep your balance you must keep moving.
Mon Nov 24 08:11:46 2014
I have read on more than one occasion that William Shakespeare helped translate the King James Bible. Many cite evidence from Psalm 46. In the King James translation, the forty-sixth word from the beginning of the psalm is shake, and the forty-sixth word from the end of the psalm is spear. Dr. Dennis Hensley of Taylor University wrote, "It just seems too coincidental to think that it was by fluke circumstances that the 46th Psalm would be translated around the time of Shakespeare's 46th birthday and that the 46th word from the start and the 46th word from the end would be 'shake' and 'spear.' My professional opinion is, Shakespeare translated that section of the King James Bible and he slipped in a secret byline to prove it was his work."
I do find this fascinating, but obviously it has no bearing at all when it comes to validating the Scripture. Scripture is validated because it came from God. II Timothy 3:16 tells us, "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness." Scripture is from God and was written by men moved by the Holy Spirit of God. We can do nothing to validate the Scripture anymore than it has been validated. Shakespeare added nothing more to the Scripture than was already there. Any attempt to add something or to change something in Scripture is dangerous and should be rejected. As Peter says, " Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit." (I Peter 1:21)
Shakespeare wrote, "to thine own self be true." The Bible stands as true all on its own and doesn't need our help. What we need is the help the Scripture gives.
Sun Nov 23 07:51:09 2014
God's timing is always perfect. When we say this, we are usually referring to an incident or a situation where we have experienced God moving in our lives in a unique way for our benefit. However, it could also describe a circumstance where you are the benefactor rather than the beneficiary. Perhaps you are placed in a situation where you learn of someone's financial need "by chance." Maybe you have received this information for a reason. Sometimes a phone call to a colleague, friend, or family member can turn out to be God's sovereign timing when you learn through the call about a problem they are facing. As you hear about the circumstance, you may learn you have the means to help with the problem, or maybe they just need a willing listener. Maybe the situation asks for a reminder of a biblical principle or examples that can allow them gain some insight that would be helpful.
These ministry opportunities are often the work of a wonderful Heavenly Father who places you in the right place at the right time. Look for these opportunities and seize them in order to be a willing instrument in the hands of God in someone else's life. You will reap a blessing as well. Indeed, you may be on the receiving end of one of these "chance" ministry opportunities at some point. Paul tells Timothy to "be prepared in season and out of season." (II Timothy 4:2) We need to be prepared for these times of ministry when we can be used as God's hands, or God's ears, or God's eyes, or God's feet. Let your love for God extend to others when others need His touch.
Sat Nov 22 10:16:15 2014
I read an article recently that talked about the divided opinions regarding coyotes. Coyotes have made a comeback in recent years. Their increasing numbers are viewed as a threat by many because of dangers posed to domestic animals and small livestock. However, others view them as a positive addition because of the role they play in rodent control. So is their presence to be viewed as positive or negative? It would seem that one's perspective plays a role in the determination of opinion.
The same can be said about those problem situations or those dear folks with their biting criticism we often encounter. Are these good additions to our lives or are these negatives? It would seem that one's perspective can play a role in the determination of their status. If we decide to do what we can to learn from adversity or from negative criticism, then it seems we can turn what is a negative into a positive. Now, I am not saying this is an easy thing to do, but if you have lived any time at all, you know that you will not be able to avoid these situations, so what can help is to do your best to make them useful experiences. We recognize the danger they pose, but do we see the benefits that can be derived from their presence?
Paul learned to benefit from negative experiences in his life. He said, "That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." (II Corinthians 12:10) There is no secret formula to how to develop this attitude; it comes from developing spiritual discipline and letting the Holy Spirit work within us to motivate our response. Ask God to help you see the positive where others only see the negative.
Fri Nov 21 08:15:43 2014
New airline restrictions that have appeared in recent years regarding how much one can carry without being charged for excess weight has caused travelers to be more circumspect with regard to packing bags. I have found this quite interesting in my recent trips. It is amazing how much we can do without stuff when forced to think about what we really need. I used to be one of those folks who severely over packed. I cannot say I am an expert "packer," but I have found living on less is not a real problem.
Why is it that we think we need stuff? Why do we tend to be "packrats" and accumulate so many things we don't need? There are so many things out there that are advertised as items we "cannot do without." In reality, these items are probably the first things we should avoid, or the first things we need to eliminate if we already have them.
We need to avoid this tendency in our spiritual lives. Jesus warned against this tendency in Luke 12. He warns, "This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God." (Luke 12:21) Be rich toward God and don't accumulate extra stuff that won't do you any good. Focus on what you really need.
Thu Nov 20 08:51:14 2014
A number of Christians serving in Japan in the 17th century was confronted by a shogun who demanded that they step on a picture of Jesus and renounce their faith or face death. He felt threatened by their presence and thought the message they brought would be a detriment to his regime. When the ordeal was concluded, 26 Christians who refused to recant were crucified in order to serve as an example of what would happen to those who followed the teachings of Christianity.
How would we respond if we were faced with such a predicament? That is a difficult question to answer. Peter did not stand up for his identity when he was faced with a challenge regarding his discipleship. He denied Christ three times; however, he later stood in front of the same people who called for Christ's crucifixion and challenged them with a powerful and plain message on Christ. Tradition holds that he was crucified upside down as he did not want to be crucified in the same way as the Savior.
What have you done when faced with a challenge to your faith? I would imagine the challenge you faced was far short of death or torture or any other physical consequence.. Every day we are faced with situations or decisions that tempt us to betray our Lord by hiding our faith or choosing the world or not standing up for our convictions. We need to stand firm. As Paul says, "Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand." (Ephesians 6:13) Don't tread on the picture of Jesus, stand firm for the person of Jesus.
Wed Nov 19 08:37:16 2014
C.I. Scofield, editor of the Scofield Reference Bible, told of a time he visited a psychiatric hospital in London. He noticed a patient who was rather muscular. Scofield asked the doctor who was accompanying him, "If that man got violent, wouldn't he be rather difficult to control?" "Yes," replied the doctor, "but that has little chance of taking place. His delusion is that he is weak and powerless."
That sounds like believers at times. We suffer from the delusion that we are weak and powerless. We should remember that we have the power of the Holy Spirit with us at all times. God indwells us in the person of the Holy Spirit and that should help us live victorious lives that glorify God and show his person to others. We so often make lame excuses for not serving him and not doing what we know we should. We need to consecrate our lives to him and allow his power to move us to do acts of service, faith, and love. What have you attempted for Christ recently? William Carey said, "Attempt great things for God; expect great things from God." As we live for him and allow him to move our lives we will experience the power of his presence and the strength of his might.
Paul reminds us, " Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life." (II Corinthians 3:5-6) Live in the power of the Spirit!
Tue Nov 18 07:11:11 2014
The only time you read about any interaction from the Apostle Judas, the one who was not Iscariot, he asks a question at the last Passover that is not answered. He asks Christ, "But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?" (John 14:23) Christ continues his teaching, but does not answer his question. There is never any clear reason as to why Christ doesn't respond directly to Judas.
Judas is not alone in this experience. Many times the question why comes up in our lives for which there is never any clear answer. Why do some people have to suffer? Why am I going though this experience? Why does God allow evil? Why doesn't God communicate with us the way he did with the saints in the Scriptures? We often have a hard time understanding "why."
Asking "why" is a natural human response to many situations. However, a more productive response would be willingness. We would do well to develop a willingness to not want to know reasons for things. This is not an easy thing. We want certainties and assurances. We can be so bold as to think we are entitled to explanations. But God sometimes chooses not to give us answers. Why? He wants us to be willing to use a faculty more important than reason. He wants us to use faith.
Mon Nov 17 07:00:15 2014
Over the years I have been in the ministry I've spoken with many people who say they feel as if God is far from them when they pray or that their prayers "don't seem to go above the ceiling." Well, God does not change and promises to always be with us. Why, then, does this happen? Sometimes, if we are honest, there is an obvious reason for this experience. There may be unconfused sin that is a hindrance to communication with God. Other reasons are a vengeful spirit, pride, or even addictions. If these and other possibilities are eliminated, what then?
Start with recognizing and accepting the reality I mentioned above - God does not change and promised to always be with us. Spend some time reading scripture that assures you of this reality. One thing that you realize as you read scripture is that others had this struggle. Jeremiah cried out, "Even when I call out or cry for help, he shuts out my prayer." (Lamentations 3:8) So what did Jeremiah do when he had this feeling? He reflected on God's character and presence. Listen to what he says in 3:22-24: "Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, 'The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.'" He reminded himself that it is good to wait on the Lord (vs. 25-26). Finally, he remembered that God has promised not to forget his children (vs. 31).
God is there. He has not left. Continue to be faithful and persevere in doing what you are doing. You will experience a breakthrough.
Sun Nov 16 07:20:15 2014
The holiday season is closing in on us, and we are preparing for celebrations for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year. This is as it should be, and our contemporary celebrations mirror the holidays of the people of Israel in that they are "Feast Days." We always enjoy special meals during our celebrations, and that is a good thing. However, we need to make sure and be good to ourselves.
Proverbs 23:2 tells us to "put a knife to your throat if you are given to gluttony." Now, I am not advocating this action at all, but we should mind our manners as we sit down to our feasts. We need to enjoy our meals, but we also need to remember Paul's admonition to remember that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit. We should be good to our bodies, not just at this time of year, but all the year through. We need to avoid what is sometimes a problem of 21st century Christians, a subtle form of neo-Platonism, where we separate the body and the spirit. That is not correct thinking.
God wants us to enjoy ourselves and enjoy our celebrations. He also wants us to take care of what he has created. Let's do that!
Sat Nov 15 07:10:15 2014
Envy is a powerful force, and it can be a destructive force. We look at what others have, what others can do, what others are, and wish we could be them. That is not a good thing. "A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones" we read in Proverbs 14:30. James 3:16 warns, "For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice."
When we are envious, we have a warped perspective of ourselves, and we don't look at others in a good light. This is why God warns us against "The Green Giant." We need to be content with who we are, with our talents, with our abilities, and be happy for others and what they can contribute to the body of Christ. This will result in a more peaceful life, and put us in a place where God wants us. Don't envy!
Fri Nov 14 07:30:15 2014
The early disciples lived life with the awareness that they could change the world through their message of the purpose of God. They realized the message they had could make a real difference in the lives of people. As a result, Paul and his friends received a criticism that was actually a compliment from the people in Ephesus. They said, "These men who have caused trouble all over the world have now come here (Acts 17:6)." The King James Version translates this, "they have turned the world upside down."
What could happen if we lived with this same kind of purpose and passion? What would happen if we lived life with the awareness that we could change the world? We need to live with the awareness that every person with whom we come in contact is valuable to God. We need to live with the awareness that our interaction with others has the potential of revealing God to them as we live for Him.
Let's "turn the world upside down." Let's live with the awareness that the message we have can bring about real change.
Thu Nov 13 07:00:15 2014
One of my greatest struggles is popping off before I put thought into my words. "Cooler heads prevail" is a good piece of advice for me and for many of us. We become frustrated with situations, we become angry during arguments, or we don't like what we see as a perceived injustice and we confront the alleged perpetrator of the injustice in a less than diplomatic way - these are all situations that we should work to control.
Proverbs 17:27 says, "He who has knowledge spares his words." We need to work to know our "danger signals," and when we see them arise, develop a plan of action to thwart what would be our usual way of reacting. Let God take over your brain for awhile and allow him to intervene. This is certainly a more productive means of handling times when the temperature rises. As ESPN commentator Stan Verrett would say, "Cool is the Rule."
Wed Nov 12 07:10:15 2014
Did you every play "Follow the Leader" when you were a kid? What would the world look like if everyone followed your example? What if they used your tone of voice and the words you use? What if their responses echoed your responses? What if they acted in the way that you do? What if they adopted your values and attitudes? Would they look more like Jesus? Would they exhibit the same compassion, care, and willingness to forgive? Would they work through problems and deal with others with patience and a desire to understand?
we honestly ask these questions, we will want to make some changes. In John 13:15, we find these words of Christ to his disciples, "I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you." So, are we doing for others what Christ has done for us? How well are we following his example? What would the world look like if everyone followed your example? Ask this question often and at various times. You may not like the answer in some circumstances, but the reason for the asking is that you might make an honest evaluation leading to meaningful changes. Live so that others can follow your lead!
Tue Nov 11 07:10:15 2014
Today is Veteran's Day. On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, fighting finally stopped in the "War to end all Wars," the war that came to be known as World War I. The armistice had been signed at 5 a.m. that morning, but battles raged until 11 a.m. Today was originally a commemoration of that day and in 1954 became Veteran's Day.
Remains of an unknown soldier from World War I were interred in a tomb at Arlington National Cemetery by President Harding on this day in 1921. The inscription on the tomb read "Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God." Remains were added to the tomb from each war since. The remains of the soldier from the Vietnam War interred by President Ronald Reagan in 1984 were later identified as American pilot Michael Blassie.
American Minute reports the following regarding Blassie: "A graduate of St. Louis University High school, 1966, and the U.S. Air Force Academy, 1970, Blassie died when his A-37B Dragonfly was shot down near An Loc, South Vietnam. In 1998, he was reburied at Jefferson Memorial Cemetery, St. Louis, Missouri."
Truer words have never been spoken than "Known but by God." God has knowledge of anyone who has ever lived and died. At some point, all the righteous dead will be raised to live forever with God. "Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them (Revelation 20:6)." However, all those who die without God will be raised to face judgment. "Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. . . Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire." God knows who belongs in each resurrection. You determine in which resurrection you fit. So, which one is it?
A final note - many thanks to all who have served.
Veteran's Day is for you.
Mon Nov 10 07:10:15 2014
It is possible to be one place physically and another place mentally. It happens every Sunday morning in church. Bodies warm the pews while minds roam the kitchens and golf courses of the nation. In a graver example, prisoners of war survive by taking themselves mentally into another world away from the prison and there find meaning and solace. We, as Christians, are to do the same. We are to take ourselves out of the physical world, into the spiritual world, and operate according to its values, truths, and realities. Colossians 3:1-3 tells us: "Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God."
Doing this doesn't mean to remove ourselves totally from the world - that is not what Paul meant when he wrote those words. What he was encouraging us to do was to make sure we do not allow worldly values, thoughts, mores, and ideals to become ours. We need to have values, thoughts, mores, and ideals that are heavenly while we live in this world. In so doing, we give the Holy Spirit room to operate in our lives, and we can be an influence on others for the sake of Christ.
Sun Nov 9 08:06:18 2014
One of the important aspects about developing good relationships is learning about other's idiosyncrasies and differences and working to accept the differences. We need to learn the beauty of not wanting to control how things get done. This is really important in marriage, in any relationship. Sometimes we have a tendency to try to do things for others, to "correct" other's attempts, or to exact our methods and tendencies upon others.
We are all alike in many ways, but we are also different in many ways. We may go about performing the same task by following a different path. We need to learn to not impose our will and our way on others in a non-constructive manner. Remember that others do tasks in different ways. Remember that others have different likes and different preferences. Remember that others have different outlooks and expectations. Taking into consideration these differences is vitally important in developing good relationships.
God is the one who had created and sustains our diversity. Romans 12:6 tells us, "We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us." Remember this as you work to foster your relationships.
Sat Nov 8 08:06:18 2014
I have heard they may be making a sequel to the 1942 classic "Casablanca". Apparently there is a screenplay available for a sequel that was written by Howard Koch, the author of the script for the original "Casablanca". This sounds intriguing, and a sequel has been bandied about for years. There are many pros and cons to this. The ending of "Casablanca" begged so many questions that it almost screamed for a sequel. I am sure there are many folks who would love to see a sequel, but I am not one of them. In my opinion, "Casablanca" is the greatest movie ever made. How can you improve on perfection?
This applies to the spiritual realm as well. There are those who seem to think that they can improve on the ministry of Christ and what has been recorded in the Scripture about his life. There are many have wanted to add to the teaching of the Bible about what Christ did, who he was, and how he fits in our lives. Why do folks want to try to improve on perfection? Now, what I said above about "Casablanca" being perfect is obviously an overstatement. However, speaking about the perfection of Christ is not an overstatement. Hebrews 5:8-9 says: "Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him." Thinking you can add something to his perfection is a dangerous misstatement.
; When someone says claims something about Christ that is not in the Scripture, reject it quickly. Christ is perfect, and the Scripture is perfect as well. You cannot improve upon perfection. "Here's looking at you, kid."
Fri Nov 7 06:56:58 2014
I get a kick out of Nielsen ratings. There are ratings based on overall popularity of a show, but what is emphasized is how well a show does among the "18 - 49 demographic." This is the coveted slot. Shows want to attract the younger viewers, and the shows that attract the younger viewers are the ones considered to be the most successful. Advertisers want to appeal to the young adult age group. So, what is the deal? What are older viewers? Sliced cheese? The aging of society means there are more older TV viewers now than in the past. In addition, older folks have as much, maybe more, money to spend on products being advertised. Yet, the appeal is to the younger TV watchers.
We need to avoid this trend in the church. Age does not diminish worth, it actually enhances it. Leviticus 19:32 says, "Stand up in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God. I am the Lord." Job 12:12 tells us, "Is not wisdom found among the aged? Does not long life bring understanding?" We should not be too quick to put folks out to pasture. These verses remind us of the importance of wisdom and discernment - characteristics that are to be found among those who have experienced much of life. Look to these folks and ask "What can be learned?" rather than saying, "Get out of the way!"
Thu Nov 6 08:53:03 2014
Many years ago the Hayden Planetarium made a mock offer for moon trips. Over 18,000 people responded to the fake advertisement for the 240,000 mile trip. One lady wrote, "It would be heaven to get away from this busy earth . . . and just go somewhere that’s nice and peaceful, good, safe, and secure." A psychologist who studied many of the letters said they were from people who were looking for an escape from the struggles of the life they were now living. Many critics of Christianity have contended that Christians are emotionally weak people seeking escape from the struggles of their current existence. Karl Marx infamously wrote, "Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of the soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people."
When you study the lives of many of the followers of Christ who have endured great persecution on account of their beliefs and their convictions, you find that Marx's quote is brainless. Far from being an "opium", Christianity is the essence of their existence because they knew the reality that life here and now is not a final destination. Christians know we are "strangers in a strange land" and our allegiance is elsewhere. You can read about many of the struggles of saints in Hebrews 11. Chet Bitterman, Jim Elliot, and John Knox are all men who died because of their Christian testimony. If you were to ask them if they were looking for as escape when they embraced the message of Christ, I am sure you would get a resounding, "No!"
The Christian view that our current existence in only temporary and that we are moving towards a new life is firmly rooted in reality, not escapism. We are following the lead of Abraham as he "made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God." (Hebrews 11:9-10) Frank Sinatra may have been dreaming when he sang, "Fly me to the moon," but we certainly aren't when we say "This world is not our home."
Wed Nov 5 08:14:34 2014
On January 21, 1930, King George V of England delivered the opening address at the London Arms Conference. The address was to be delivered worldwide by way of radio. Just before the king was to give his speech, a CBS worker tripped on an electrical line and broke the wire. The address would not be heard in America unless a repair could take place immediately, but there was not enough time. Without hesitation, Chief Control Officer Harold Vidian grabbed both ends of the cable allowing the current to pass though him and complete the connection. He withstood the pain long enough for the words of the king to be heard in the United States.
We need to allow ourselves to be conduits of God's power to others. We should look at our lives as a channel of God's message to others who need to hear what God has for them. Sometimes this may involve sacrifice and endurance, but the stakes are high and the results can be glorious. The question is: Are we willing to grab both ends of the cable in order for the message to be successfully transmitted?
Paul said to the Thessalonians, "The Lord's message rang out from you." (I Thessalonians 1:8) Can this be said about you?
Tue Nov 4 08:30:12 2014
A pastor was asking for prayer requests at a service of the church. After a request was made, the pastor would say, "Lord, in your mercy", to which the congregation would respond "Lord, hear our prayer." A 4-year-old boy became more intense in his response with each request until he shouted out, "Lord, hear our prayer!"
The little boy probably expressed what many in the church were feeling, and what many of us feel at times. We want to shout out at God, "Lord, hear our prayer." But, we know we don't need to shout at God for him to hear us. We believe that God hears our prayers not because we are loud or that we deserve to be heard, but because Christ has opened up our way to be heard by God by offering his life on our behalf. We offer our prayers in confidence knowing God hears us and will respond. Our prayers are statements of praise and expressions of hope, and often pleas for intervention at times when we experience circumstances that bring anguish and duress.
David called out to God at a time of great stress and pain, and he expressed his faith in God's answer, "The Lord has heard my cry for mercy; the Lord accepts my prayer." (Psalm 6:9) We know this to be true, so we can pray with great confidence. We know that God hears our prayers, and we don't have to raise our voice!
Mon Nov 3 08:08:05 2014
Recently I heard there is an organization named "Procrastinator's Club of America." I did some research and found out that this is for real. The club was founded in 1956 and boasts a membership of about 6,000. Monthly they produce a publication entitled "Last Month's Newsletter" that presents articles about past events as if they are about to transpire. One writer said that communications to the club for information elicited no response. The group's motto is "to promote the philosophy of relaxation through putting off until later those things that needn't be done today." Some of the group's activities include celebrating Christmas in June, Fourth of July in January and National Procrastination Week (the first week in March) late.
While we can laugh at this as funny, there are times when procrastination is not a laughing matter. Consider the actions of Lot found in Genesis 19. When confronted with the news of the impending doom of Sodom, he said to his family, "Hurry and get out of this place, because the Lord is about to destroy the city!" (vs. 14) However, when the time came to leave, he dragged his feet and almost had to be dragged away from the city before God leveled it, "When he hesitated, the men grasped his hand and the hands of his wife and of his two daughters and led them safely out of the city, for the Lord was merciful to them." (vs. 16) And most of us know what happened to his wife.
Yes, there are times when procrastination is the stuff of jokes, but there are times when action is demanded. When it comes to our service to God, don't hesitate. Don't put off until tomorrow what needs to be done today!
Sun Nov 2 07:02:38 2014
Today is the 44th running of the New York City Marathon. Founded by Fred Lebow in 1970, it has grown to a race that features almost 45,000 runners each year. My youngest daughter's sister-in-law is running the race this year. For many, including Megan's sister-in-law, this will be their first New York City Marathon; however, it will not be the first time they have run. The runners have spent a great deal of time getting in shape and training for this event. Now, all the runners realize that there will only be two winners - one male and one female - but that doesn't deter them in their preparation and in the actual race. And when they run, they run as competively as they can. They run competively because that is what they want to do.
Paul speaks of this motivation in I Corinthians 9:24-27, "Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize." Run the race for Christ competitively. Train well, prepare yourself, and most importantly, run! Participate in the race - do what you should to run well. This will bring glory to Christ and put you where you need to be so you may serve him!
Sat Nov 1 08:39:33 2014
Today is All Saints Day in the Western Church. This day is observed differently in churches, some do not observe the day at all. There is a difference as to how saints are viewed, and even in the definition of a saint, among those in the church, but one aspect of agreement is that we should observe the lives of those who have gone before and learn lessons from their lives regarding faithfulness and service.
This is the reason for such passages of scripture as Hebrews 11. After the writer of Hebrews gives us a definition of faith, "Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see" (11:1), he proceeds to give examples of faith by citing the faithful, "This is what the ancients were commended for" (11:2). One example follows another and he lists one person after another who demonstrated how faithfulness should appear.
You may or may not observe All Saints Day in your worship, but you should not forget the examples of the saints. We can learn so many valuable lessons about the spiritual life by studying the lives of those described in Hebrews 11. We know we should live by faith; studying the lives of the faithful can give us insight as to how we can do this.
Fri Oct 31 08:29:48 2014
Two years ago today the onslaught of Hurricane Sandy finally ended. From October 22 to October 31, 2012, the storm battered the east coast of the United States. When the winds finally died down, the damage left behind made Sandy the second-most costly storm in U.S. history. Yet today, the effects are still evident and changes are still being made in how buildings, roads, and other infrastructure are put together. The end of the storm did not mean the end of the consequences.
This is the way it is with sin in our lives. When we let sin enter, the consequences can linger even after the actions are terminated and forgiveness is sought. Sins may be forgiven by others and by God but we sometimes still must cope with the effects. The experience of David is a good example of this. Even after he had sought forgiveness for his actions with Bathsheba, the consequences were experienced. He endured the loss of the child, and even later felt the sting of his pursuit through the actions of his family. Even though he sought and received the forgiveness of God, he still endured the consequences of his decisions. God said, "Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own." (II Samuel 12:10) You can read about some effects of this "sword" in the next chapter, chapter 13, of II Samuel.
Indeed, when we sin, we can seek forgiveness (see Psalm 51), and God will forgive. However, in many cases, the effects we set in motion by our actions are felt long afterwards. This is why we need to exercise great caution in how we live and let God control our lives.
Thu Oct 30 07:59:54 2014
Dennis Fisher wrote, "In his book "Long for This World", Jonathan Weiner writes about science’s promise to radically extend how long we live. At the center of the book is English scientist Aubrey de Grey, who predicts that science will one day offer us 1,000-year lifespans. Aubrey claims that molecular biology has finally placed a cure for aging within our reach." The problem is, no matter how long we extend life on earth, we are just postponing the evitable. What we need is a healthy, biblical perspective on life and death.
Paul writes in Philippians 1:21, "For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." As long as he was alive, he sought to glorify Christ and work for others (read 1:19-26). For Paul, death was a step up, not a step down. We cannot postpone forever our own demise. God has prepared for us a new reality if we choose to accept that. For those of us who claim to have accepted the gift of eternal life, our lives here and now should reflect that reality. Paul wrote earlier in II Corinthians 4:16-17, "Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day." We can do nothing to prevent the outward wasting away.
All of our efforts only prolong that inevitability. Therefore we should focus on our inward renewal and look forward to the time when we will be made new.
Wed Oct 29 07:31:07 2014
Jeremiah is called the "weeping prophet" because of his melancholic nature brought on by his mourning over the state of his homeland. He proclaimed, "Oh, that my head were a spring of water and my eyes a fountain of tears! I would weep day and night for the slain of my people." (Jeremiah 9:1) What was taking place was breaking his heart and, in addition, he faced persecution for his stand against the evil of his generation. At one point, he was lowered into a cistern where he became mired in muck up to his waist (Jeremiah 38). In the midst of his sorrow and persecution, he continued to focus on the Lord and the task of proclaiming the message of the Lord.
We can become mired down in sorrow and painful circumstances in our service for the Lord. If this happens, we have an example in Jeremiah that can help focus our response - remain faithful and continue to pursue God's path. Jeremiah said, "his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot." (Jeremiah 20:9) Jeremiah continued in his work for the Lord in spite of what he faced. In the midst of setbacks and struggles, maintain your faith in God knowing that "weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning." (Psalm 30:5)
Tue Oct 28 07:47:41 2014
In a strip of "Peanuts" a number of years ago, Lucy belittles Charlie Brown for his attempt at a building project. Charlie Brown tells her, "It's a birdhouse for sparrows." "For sparrows?" Lucy replied. "No one builds a birdhouse for sparrows." "I do," says Charlie Brown, "I build birdhouses for the underbird."
Sparrows may be considered "underbirds" of little worth, but God considers them important enough to watch their movements. "Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows." (Luke 12:6-7) Christ spoke of the degree of care God has for his children by using the example of sparrows. Apparently, even at the time of Christ, sparrows were not considered very valuable or desirable birds. Yet, even these "underbirds" were kept under the watch care of God himself.
God builds houses for underbirds. God is concerned about the details of your life. He is aware of all that happens and is always concerned about your welfare. He has nothing but your best interests at heart. Therefore, you need to trust him with the details of your life. With God, you are never an underbird!
Mon Oct 27 07:41:33 2014
|Identity theft is a really big problem in our world today. When one has his or her identity taken by another, there are a number of major issues that can take place. Recently I read of a waitress who was presented with her driver's license when she asked for proof of age in order to serve a patron. The waitress had lost her wallet some months prior to this incident. The young lady who found the wallet used what she found to gain access to amenities she couldn't have acquired otherwise. |
In the scripture, we read of someone assuming another's identity for personal gain. Jacob masqueraded as his brother Esau in order to obtain the blessing meant for Esau. "Jacob said to his father, 'I am Esau your firstborn. I have done as you told me. Please sit up and eat some of my game, so that you may give me your blessing.'" (Genesis 27:14)
Don't be guilty of "identity theft." Don't do it in reality and don't do it in your spiritual life. Don't pretend that you are a person who is confident in your faith while you have underlying issues that need to be resolved. If you are presenting yourself as a person who is following Christ completely yet in reality are hiding sinful behavior, guilt, doubt, an addiction, or other struggle, seek out the counsel of a mature brother or sister who can help your resolve the conflict and develop your true identity. Be what God intends for you to be - don't pretend to be something you are not.
Sun Oct 26 06:46:22 2014
In 1996, Bobby Unser and a friend Robert Gayton almost lost their lives after their snowmobiles broke down in a blizzard in Colorado. The incident became infamous because Unser and Gayton were later charged with improper usage of a motor vehicle on wilderness land, a federal charge. This led to a protracted effort to reform the rules enforcement of such laws.
Their experience in the blizzard was harrowing, to say the least, as they had to spend one night in a snow cave and finally found a barn where they could call for help. Commenting later on the experience, Unser said, "We had to do everything right" in their struggle to survive against the elements. One wrong decision could have led to their deaths.
We face a struggle against hostile elements in our spiritual lives. Some come from within - our impure thoughts, selfish desires, and sinful motives bring problems if we don't get control of those issues through the power of the Spirit. There are forces from without - media influences, acquaintances who don't support our lifestyle, and problems in life are all examples of the elements that can cause bad times for us.
We need to depend on Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit each step of the way to prevent us from getting trapped in a blizzard. Colossians 3:17 tells us, "And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." This is the information we need to help us make good decisions amidst the struggles of life.
Sat Oct 25 09:08:59 2014
Light can do two things. Light can expose problems by illuminating areas that need attention. A flashlight is an invaluable tool to workers in a variety of jobs. Cracks in housing walls that may remain undetected, frayed cables, worn insulators, there are a myriad of examples where light is beneficial to bringing attention to things that need repaired or replaced.
Light also can be used to enhance appearances to make things look better. The magic of the right lighting can make something that is not so attractive rather appealing. In other words, light can also be used to cover up problems.
For many of us, this is what we actually want in our relationship with Christ. We want Christ to act as a light to cover up our problems rather than allow him to be the Light that exposes our problem and restores us. We want just enough Christ to make us feel fine, but we don't really want him to be in charge of our lives.
A relationship with Christ does not work that way. Christ came as the Light of the World to expose the problem and offer a solution; he did not come to provide special effects to make us look good and feel better. John writes, "The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God." (1:9-12) Let Christ be the true Light in your life, not just light up your life. He won't do that.
Fri Oct 24 08:22:40 2014
Often we mistreat others because we have been mistreated by someone else. We turn our anger on someone as a means of venting the anger we feel as a result of being the object of another person's wrath. One writer, using the analogy from the film "Pay It Forward", calls this paying pain forward. This is not a good behavior, and we need to learn to deal with these issues in more profitable ways.
Jonathan did. On more than one occasion, he found himself at the object of his father's anger. His father would often ignore him and not be aware of what was taking place in his life (read I Samuel 14:2-4). On another occasion, Saul was ready to put Jonathan to death for tasting some honey. "Saul said, 'May God deal with me, be it ever so severely, if you do not die, Jonathan.'" (I Samuel 14:44) Even though he was the object of his father's misguided wrath and mistreatment at times, Jonathan chose not to pay this forward to others. We see this evident in his friendship with his father's self-chosen enemy, David. Jonathan chose instead to rely on God and trust him for the outcome of a very difficult circumstance. He declared, "Nothing can hinder the Lord." (I Samuel 14:8)
Let's follow this example and choose to not take out on others what we have experienced ourselves. Avoid the "kick the cat" syndrome, and put into God's hands our feelings and our future. Paying pain forward does nothing for anybody, including you. Put your pain in the hands of God.
Wed Oct 22 07:10:15 2014
Peter, Paul, and Mary released a song in 1962 called "Lemon Tree." Folks my age and older remember this song. The words to the chorus are, "Lemon tree, very pretty, and the lemon flower is sweet. But the fruit of the lemon of the poor lemon is impossible to eat." When she was a little girl, my youngest daughter loved to eat lemons. We did not let her eat a lot, but she would stick the lemon in her mouth and bite down then make the most awful face.
Revelation 3:15-16 talks of a time when God "makes a face" because he tasted something rather unpleasant. We read there, "I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm-neither hot nor cold-I am about to spit you out of my mouth." To whom is God speaking? A church! The church apparently had followed a path of mediocrity and failed to follow God's leadership. As a result, they were doing a great injustice to the cause of God. God referred to their aberrations as an emetic. Don't make God sick - live in a way to bring him pleasure, not pain!
Tue Oct 21 07:36:08 2014
I remember a story about a man and his wife who booked passage on an ocean liner bound for America. He brought with him some bread and cheese in order to have something to eat on the voyage. By the time the ship neared America, the couple decided they would swear off bread and cheese forever. When they disembarked, they were speaking with other passengers who were bragging about the trip and the good food they ate. The man said, "Oh, that sounds so nice. All we had was bread and cheese. We couldn't afford the food." Another passenger replied, "Bread and cheese? Didn't you know that the food was included in the price of the ticket?"
Many of us are walking around hungry because we fail to take advantage of all that God has for us. Many Christians fail to realize the royal heritage that is theirs in Christ. They live as spiritual peasants when they should be living royally. According to the apostle Paul, believers "are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:26). He also said, "Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, 'Abba, Father!' Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ" (4:6-7). God has given us everything we need to live victorious, fulfilling lives. Let's not live on bread and cheese - feast on the good things God has for you!
Mon Oct 20 08:21:08 2014
The effects of time and repetition have a way of doing away with the awe and the marvel that we should have for many tasks that, when first completed, were hailed and acknowledged as magnificent. I was thinking of this as I was reading an article about the first space walk ever performed. This was by Russian cosmonaut Alexei Leonov on March 18, 1965. When this event happened, he was hailed as a hero in his home country and provided further impetus to the United States space program to push forward with their accomplishments. What was not revealed at the time was how close he came to death during this endeavor. Now, space walks are routine and gather little attention. Of course, this was the same for many events in the space program, including moon walks, until Apollo 13 took place and reminded us of just how dangerous space exploration is. Other events have gone further to remind us of this fact. We should not need dramatic and often deadly reminders of just how dangerous and significant these events are in spite of the fact that what was once groundbreaking has now become routine.
The same goes in our spiritual lives. We look at accomplishments of faith and lives that are the result of courage and trust in God's hand as mundane. We should never lose our wonder for the accomplishments and the examples we see in passages such as Hebrews 11 that remind us of the need for consistent faithfulness. We should always look at the lives of these people with special consideration and attention so that we may learn from them what is important so that we may live faithfully. We should appreciate their "pioneer" efforts and realize that lives of faith don't just happen; they are the result of unyielding trust often in the face of grave consequences.
Consider Rahab and the risk she took in helping the spies. (11:31) About others is written: "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." (Hebrews 11:35-37)
Don't take these lives for granted, and don't take for granted what is needed to live a faithful life. We need to repeat their example of trust by maintaining spiritual diligence.
Sun Oct 19 07:00:27 2014
I have always enjoyed watching The Andy Griffith Show. I enjoyed it as a boy, and I love watching reruns now. I was at a Gospel concert last night and the group even mentioned the show, citing one of its episodes as the inspiration for the next song they were going to sing.
I remember a particular episode that featured a Hollywood producer visiting Mayberry and expressing a desire to make a movie there. At first, the mayor and the town council were reluctant; but Andy stepped in and showed them the movie could be a good thing. What happened next was rather interesting. The town caught "movie fever." Store owners began to modify their store fronts. Residents started dressing a little fancier. Plans were made for a big welcome for the Hollywood crew that included cutting down a big oak tree in the middle of town that was deemed "unsightly."
When the crew arrived and saw the changes, they were aghast. The producer made it plain that it was the charm of the people that attracted his attention, and he wished for them to return to how they were. The fancy clothes, the sparkling store fronts, the removal of the oak tree, were not their genuine state. What the producer wanted was the town as it was, not "gussied up."
We too need to avoid the temptation of putting on airs just to impress others. We should strive to be genuine and honest. We need to realize God sees us as we are anyway, and we can't impress him by being something we are not. We need to be honest with others and not try to be what we are not in an attempt to impress them. Our lives should model the principle found in Proverbs 12:7, "A truthful witness gives honest testimony, but a false witness tells lies." Don't be something that you aren't. Be honest and genuine before God and others. This makes the best impression.
Sat Oct 18 08:15:25 2014
I have always been skeptical of ads where it sounds as if you can receive something for nothing. There is usually some sort of strings attached to the offer. Many times those "strings" are spelled out in the fine print, or stated sort of rapidly in an oral advertisement. If one isn't careful, instead of getting something for nothing, you will end up with nothing for something.
There are many religions that fall into the category of offering "nothing for something." Dave Branon writes of one Eastern mystic religion where the adherents are asked to eat nothing but left-overs, denounce all preferences of colors, sounds, smells and people, and never injure a living thing. In return for this, there is the possibility of being reincarnated as a superior being in another life. In other words, you indeed end up with nothing for something.
We shouldn't follow Christ just because he has the "best offer," but we should follow Christ. Actually, we should follow him because he has the only offer. In exchange for our faith in him, he will give us eternal life. Now, this is not something for nothing - Christ gave his life so that we might have the hope of life. He asks of us our belief that he indeed is the hope of our resurrection. He said to Martha at the tomb of her brother Lazarus, "Jesus said to her, 'I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?'" Paul talks about this even further in Romans 4:4-5, "Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness."
Only God's plans offers us real hope. Any other plan is truly nothing for something.
Fri Oct 17 08:13:07 2014
Have you ever had super glue or oil-based paint on your fingers? Substances like these just don't come off easily. Washing with soap and water has little effect - the stuff just keeps right on sticking. It won’t come off, unless you use the right material to remove it. What you need is some sort of solvent. Use of the correct solvent will remove the super glue or the paint, and that will take care of that!
Sometimes we seem to run into burdens that we just can't seem to remove. I don't know why we often have this tendency, but we seem to hang on to things that we need to turn over to God. We seem to hang on to sins, cares, and concerns that need to be placed in God's hands for removal. The joy and reality of the Christian life is that we have a Heavenly Father who loves us so much that he wants to remove the things from our lives that tend to bog us down, keep us depressed, and interfere in our relationship with Him and with others. Persistent, consistent, and intentional prayer can help us place these burdens in God's capable hands. Doing a little exercise such as writing about the burden or problem, then burning, shredding, or simply throwing away the paper, can be helpful as it allows us visualize the action of turning the issue over to God.
We sing a little chorus at church that says, "I cast all my cares upon you; I lay all of my burdens down at your feet. And anytime I don't know what to do, I just cast all my cares upon you." This is something we can do; something we need to do. Those burdens that seem to want to "stick around" can be removed if we do the right thing by giving them to God. Psalm 55:22 tells us to "Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you." Give God your burden - and that will take care of that!
Thu Oct 16 08:09:39 2014
When I was a kid, I learned the word "antidisestablishmentarianism." I had no idea what it meant, I just thought it sounded cool and also labored under the assumption that it was the longest word in the English language (which it isn't). I would walk around and throw it into a conversation with other kids. They would look at me as if I had two heads, and sometimes they would ask me what it meant. They had me on that one. I had no idea what it meant. I learned later in life that the word was coined in the 19th century in England and referred to the political position of those who opposed the disestablishment of the Church of England as the state church. Now, isn't that just information you can't do without?
When Paul wrote his first letter to the Corinthians, he told them, "When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. . .My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power." (I Corinthians 2:1-4)
Our focus in our lives needs to be on the cross of Christ. Our focus on our communication with others should be the cross of Christ. We don't need to impress others with our philosophical understanding; we just need to share the Good News of Christ. Keep it simple, and your meaning will be clear - the message of Jesus is something people cannot do without.
Wed Oct 15 07:44:05 2014
I read that a reality talent show on television will be welcoming back a former judge during the next season. This means that a judge on the show during the current season will be "booted" from the show. So, a show that excludes contestants until there is only one left now will once again exclude a judge that has been involved in the process of excluding others.
Aren't you glad that God's kingdom is not mutually exclusive? Aren't you glad that when one person becomes part of God's kingdom that it doesn't mean someone needs to drop out? We need to make sure our churches reflect God's openness. James refers to this when he writes, "My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, 'Here's a good seat for you,' but say to the poor man, 'You stand there' or 'Sit on the floor by my feet,' have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?'"
God accepts all of those who come to him through faith in his Son without respect of person based on "social acceptability." The church is not a social club with arbitrary criteria used to determine inclusion. Reflect God's attitude towards others and don't give them the boot!
Tue Oct 14 07:50:50 2014
I have been to the top of the Willis Tower in Chicago once. The building was known as the Sears Tower and was, at the time, the tallest building in the United States. We went to the observation floor in anticipation of a beautiful view of the city of Chicago and Lake Michigan. Well, what we saw didn't quite meet up with our expectations. Because of fog, our view was very short-sighted. In spite of the fact of our elevated position, we were unable to see more than a few feet.
Sometimes we have this problem in our spiritual lives. God has raised us up to an elevated position, but we often allow things to fog up our vision to the point where we are limited in what we see. We put our own agendas ahead of God's, we let sin creep into our lives that brings barriers to seeing God's path, we fail to follow the leadership of the Holy Spirit in our lives, or we simply disregard what we know to be true. We need to eliminate what keeps us from seeing God's plan for our lives. We need to develop our vision by concentrating on his leadership. We need to focus on the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives so that our vision is clear.
Our prayer should be that of the psalmist, "Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law." (Psalm 119:18) Clara H. Scott wrote, "Open my eyes that I may see; glimpses of truth thou hast for me." This should be our greatest desire.
Mon Oct 13 07:56:00 2014
Something that fruit growers used to do to promote fruit production on their trees was to whack the trunk of the tree a few times with a board or a bat. Supposedly, the trauma caused the tree to produce hormones that stimulated growth and an increase in fruit. This practice has been discontinued the benefits are questionable. Pruning is something that is done in order to maximize the tree's potential to provide fruit. The benefits of this procedure are without question. Both of these operations cause "pain," but the product justifies the practice, especially with the pruning.
Sometimes we feel like we have been "hit by a bat." We find ourselves dealing with painful circumstances and struggle to find meaning in the experience. One of the reasons is that God often subjects us to painful circumstances in order to produce fruit in our lives. Hebrews 12:1 tells us "Now all discipline seems painful at the time, not joyful. But later it produces the fruit of peace and righteousness for those trained by it." God sometimes uses painful circumstances to get our attention and teach us valuable lessons. Psalm 119:71 says, "It was good for me to suffer, so that I might learn your statutes." Facing times of struggle is not easy, but if we let God take care of the circumstances, we will see growth as a result of the pain.
Sun Oct 12 06:57:19 2014
We are in the midst of the celebration of Sukkot, or the Feast of Tabernacles. This Jewish festival is described in Leviticus 23:33-36, "The Lord said to Moses, 'Say to the Israelites: ‘On the fifteenth day of the seventh month the Lord's Festival of Tabernacles begins, and it lasts for seven days. The first day is a sacred assembly; do no regular work. For seven days present food offerings to the Lord, and on the eighth day hold a sacred assembly and present a food offering to the Lord. It is the closing special assembly; do no regular work.'" The people would build temporary structures called sukkah to commemorate this celebration. Observant Jewish families yet today do this. The purpose is to remind them of the time spent in the desert during the Exodus. The structures remind them of the huts the people lived in during their sojourn. After the Israelites settled in the land this celebration became associated with the fall harvest and other practices were incorporated in the observance.
Believing Jews and Christians know that the observance has another significance. This celebration portrays the dwelling of God with his people, and the future time when this will be a reality. This celebration looks forward to the time of the Messiah's reign on earth during the Millennial Kingdom (see Isaiah 24:23 and Revelation 20:2-5). It foreshadows the time when God's people will dwell with him in the home he has prepared for them. Revelation 21:3 says, "Look! God's dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God." We don't need to have Sukkot to celebrate this event, but it is good to be reminded of the reality to come and how we should live now as we anticipate that time.
Sat Oct 11 10:07:17 2014
"A rose by any other name would smell as sweet" is a frequently referenced part of William Shakespeare's play Romeo and Juliet, in which Juliet seems to argue that it does not matter that Romeo is from her rival's house of Montague, that is, that he is named "Montague." The reference is often used to imply that the names of things do not affect what they really are. This may be true in a number of circumstances, but names can still be important and influential. For example, "Sylvester and the Family Stone" just does not seem to have the same impact as "Sly and the Family Stone."
God's names are really a fascinating and informative study. The names of God found in the scripture gives us insight into his character. There are several, and we don't have the time or space to mention them all here, so I encourage you to take some time and engage in a little research on God's names.
The first name for God found in the Scripture is "Elohim" used in Genesis 1:1. This name can be translated "Creator, mighty and strong." The form is plural, and lends support to the plural nature of God, that he exists as a Trinity. "El Shaddai" (Genesis 49:24) is translated "God Almighty" and refers to his supreme position over all. "Yahweh Jireh" (Genesis 22:14) is memorialized by Abraham when God provided a ram for a sacrifice in the place of his son Isaac. "El Roi" is found in Genesis 16:13 and is translated "The God who sees". This is what Haggar said of God after he provided for her and Ishmael following their banishment from the tents of Abraham: "So she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, 'You are a God of seeing,'"
The names used of God do matter and give us a picture of the God we serve. "What's in a name?" is certainly a valid question when it comes to the names of God.
Fri Oct 10 07:36:10 2014
A very valuable practice that is followed in many high schools across the nation is that of job shadowing. This is where a young person spends some time with an individual as they are on the job so that the young person might have an opportunity to see if this is something they would like to pursue. It truly is a worthwhile endeavor. Both of my girls were involved in job shadowing in high school and both were happy to have these experiences so they might make a more informed choice about job choices.
The apostle Paul refers to something like job shadowing in I Corinthians 11:1 where he says, "Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ." In job shadowing, the person is looking for an example of someone to follow. We should realize that we should be good examples for others to follow in order for them to see the benefits of following Christ. What kind of an example are we as we participate in the process of "job shadowing." We should show others what a life dedicated to God can be like. You may never know who is watching, so do your best to follow the example of Christ that others may see what following Christ is like.
Thu Oct 9 08:07:18 2014
Are you familiar with the names of Charles and Frank Duryea? They were the ones who designed the first gasoline engine powered vehicle to be driven in the United States. Charles did the designing while Frank put it together and eventually drove one a distance of 600 feet in 1893. Yet, while the name of the Wright brothers still has great recognition in aviation circles, the name of the Duryea brothers usually elicits a "who?" What gives? Well, it seems the brothers couldn't agree on the direction they needed to head after their prototype, so they parted ways and left the design and production of the automobile in the hands of others. This is what can happen when conflict goes unresolved.
We need to be aware of this in our lives in general and certainly in our churches. Psalm 133:1 says, "How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!" Working together creates strength, promotes creativity, and brings lasting results. Ecclesiastes reminds us of the benefits of working together rather than being a "lone wolf." Ecclesiastes 12:1 tells us, "Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor." This certainly would have been the case for the Duryea brothers, and is the case for us. Strive to work together and walk in harmony! More good will come from this than trying to walk by yourself.
Wed Oct 8 07:35:18 2014
On the eastern end of River Street in Savannah, Georgia, on a bluff overlooking the Savannah River stands the statue of Florence Martus. Florence Martus was born in 1868. When she was older she moved with her brother to a cottage on Elba Island, a small piece of land in the Savannah River near the entrance to Savannah Harbor. They were quite isolated there and to pass the time, Florence began waving a handkerchief at the ships as they would enter the harbor. At night, she would use a lantern to wave greetings to ships. Sailors on the ships would wave back. Over the course of time, returning ships would look forward to her presence as they entered Savannah harbor. Florence never married, and she continued this practice for 44 years. It is estimated she greeted over 50,000 ships during her life. Why she continued this for so long is a mystery. She died in 1943 at the age of 75. A ship was christened in her honor, and the aforementioned statue was placed to commemorate her life.
Florence Martus simple greeting made sailors feel welcome at Savannah for years. Simple acts of hospitality, a simple friendly greeting, can do much to help us reach out to others. You might be surprised at the effect that small acts of kindness, a simple wave, a friendly smile, can have on others. They help to communicate the spirit of Christ. They help to communicate good feelings in a world where sometimes rudeness seems to be the norm rather than the exception. Buck the trend and bring a friendly spirit to others. Fourteen times in Romans 16, Paul encourages the people at Rome to "Greet" someone. He was encouraging the people in the church at Rome to be a "greeting" people. He writes, "Greet also the church that meets at their house. . .Greet those who belong to the household of Aristobulus." (Romans 16:5 & 10)
Are you a greeting person? We may not have the perseverance of Florence Martus, but we should do what we can to develop the same spirit. They may not erect statues to our friendliness, but that isn't why we should be friendly to begin with. It really doesn't take a lot of effort to wave!
Tue Oct 7 07:59:48 2014
I just read this morning that archeologists have uncovered a plate in Spain with an image of Jesus on it. Jesus is depicted as beardless and with short hair. Here is an excerpt from the article, "Archaeologists have uncovered one of the earliest-known images of Jesus in the town of Castulo in Andalusia, Spain. The image, engraved on a glass plate known as a paten, shows a beardless, short-haired Jesus. The archaeologists estimate the 8.6-inch paten is from the fourth century C.E., and they suspect it was used to hold Eucharistic bread. The image shows Jesus in a philosopher's toga, along with two other - also beardless - male figures, whom researchers suspect are Peter and Paul, two of Jesus' apostles. All three of the men are depicted with halos. 'The scene takes place in the celestial orb, framed between two palm trees, which in Christian iconography represent immortality, the afterlife, and heaven, among other things,' the archaeologists said in a statement."
Now, I find this to be interesting, but my favorite portrayal of Jesus is not found in any artist's rendition in any known medium. My favorite portrayal of Jesus is found in Philippians 2. There we read, "Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death - even death on a cross." (2:6-8)
This image reflects his humility, his obedience, and, perhaps most importantly, his willingness to do what was needed to secure redemption for sinful humanity. II Corinthians 5:21 tells us about the image he became in order to make us righteous, "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."
I find the archeological discovery of a plate depicting Christ's image interesting, but what I find important is the image of Christ given in Scripture. This is the image on which we should focus.
Mon Oct 6 07:57:29 2014
I was with my family this weekend as we had a wedding celebration for my daughter Megan and her husband Casey. Casey and Megan were actually married last February in a small ceremony. This weekend, we had a chance to celebrate their wedding with our larger family circle including an exchange of vows. We had a beautiful time, even though the weather didn't cooperate fully and we had to move some of the festivities inside after the vow renewal. As we finished up and had to say our goodbyes, my little 18-month-old granddaughter would cry in protest as people would leave. Now, this was just reserved for the immediate family, but I found it interesting that even though she was with her father and mother, the departure of others still upset her.
I shouldn't have been surprised by this. Her mother was the same way when she was her age and a little older. She just didn't want to see anyone leave. She liked being together and having people around her. The operative phrase I would like to comment upon here is "her mother was the same way."
How much has been written, spoken, and conveyed in other ways regarding the transmission of traits from one generation to the next? I know I have put in my "two cents worth" on a number of occasions on how much of an affect we have upon our children. There are some things we pass along over which we have little control - eye color, hair color, and even some behaviors. However, there are a great many ways in which we do have control as to how we will influence our children. Children learn behaviors in a number of ways including mimicry of actions. Now, in the case of my granddaughter and what I described earlier, this seems to be an inherited personality trait. However, there will be a great many items passed along to her as she watches her parents and see their reactions and actions in various situations.
How many times have we said, "like father, like son" or "like mother, like daughter?" This may be a trite phrase, but it is certainly grounded in reality. That is why the Bible tells us, "These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates." (Deuteronomy 6:6-9) We can "write them on the doorframes" by modeling their teaching in front of our children. Teach your children well!
Sun Oct 5 07:10:15 2014
When was the last time you were involved in a silly argument? Aw, come on now, admit it. At one time or another, we have all been involved in an argument that was silly. I think one of the silliest I have ever been involved in was arguing over the right way to put paper towels on a holder. Should they unroll over the top or unroll from the bottom? What difference does it make? Well, it really doesn't! This is true about many of our conflicts. We argue over something that really doesn't matter.
In II Timothy 2:23, Paul tells Timothy, "Don't have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels." We often have silly quarrels in the church. We argue over things that really don't matter. We need to do everything we should to preserve sound doctrine, biblical standards, and fundamentals of our faith. However, there are times we need to let inconsequential matters go in order to preserve unity and avoid meaningless conflict.
Don't worry about which way the paper towels come off the roll! Either way, they will be available. Focus on the important and leave the silliness somewhere else.
Sat Oct 4 07:10:15 2014
This article was written by my daughter, Megan. We are with her today celebrating her marriage. I know you will enjoy it. Pastor Steve
One of the most fascinating books in the whole of Scripture is the Gospel of John. This writer, having written later than the other Gospel writers, really took time to reflect on whom Jesus was - Son of God, Son of Man. This Gospel is particular, as right from the start, we see a clear statement about the identity of Christ as eternally with the Father, present with Him at the beginning of our world's history. 'In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.' In the next breath the author says, 'And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.' Because we are Christians living in the hindsight of the time when the author's were writing all of this stuff down, these words no longer scandalize us. At the time, they would have been the most scandalous words ever written! God has come to earth! He has made His home among us and while he was here, very few recognized him for who he truly was because God coming into our humanity was a crazy idea! Now, centuries later, we accept the idea that Christ was fully God and fully human.
We have the privilege of being Christians without a lot of scandal, compared to that of the early Christians who were the first to embrace Christ for who he really was. However, we should never read the beginning of the Gospel of John without being shaken to the core of our being. This incredible gift, this beautiful and awe-inspiring fact of history is also the dynamic Fact of our lives today. Because Christ came here, because Christ 'dwelt among us' and because we have the Spirit of God devoted to our lives now, we never cease to experience 'Immanuel' or 'God-with-us' everyday. Christ is present to us just as a mother is present to her child in every moment. In a world where we all have a tendency to remain in a state of stress and fatigue, which is a concept that is even exalted in our culture, we need to remind ourselves again of the God who has come into this world to make His home inside of us. I think if we could really grasp this notion, to return again to the fundamental fact of Christianity, to regain a sense of wonder about the Almighty God dwelling with us and in us, it would be a transforming experience.
As Christians today, it is easy to become apathetic to the implications of a God who is so incredibly devoted to humanity. We have Christ, but we are waiting on Christ. It is easy to fall into a pattern of fatigue and stress, where one has a tendency to just 'get through' the day. Instead, let us return to a point of fascination when we face our day. God is with us! God is a Presence here with us, even now. What does this mean for our lives? The energy for life can only be sustained in the Presence of Christ with us now. As people who have an intimate knowledge of Christ, let us return to our lives with a sense of wonder and awe that we are a people in whom God is present.
Fri Oct 3 07:10:15 2014
One of the saddest stories I have ever heard in my life is the story of Humpty Dumpty. I think you remember it - "Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. All the king's horses and all the king's men couldn't put Humpty together again." This story always bugged me when I was a kid. I would think of other ways for the story to end - having the men fix him, having the king fix him, even somehow changing the story so Humpty didn't fall. Just think of it: to be broken in such a way that repair is impossible. How sad that would be.
We often feel as if our life is in pieces. Circumstances occur that cause us to feel as if we are falling apart. Sometimes decisions are made that leaves lives in pieces. It may seem as if the pieces will never go back together again. However, this isn't Humpty Dumpty, and the king's men aren't the ones responsible for putting the pieces together. They couldn't do it anyway. There is someone who can, though. He has the ability, he has the desire, and he knows what to do. Christ can take your brokenness and restore you completely. He gave his life to mend broken lives.
Do you feel as if your life is in pieces? Do you know someone who is shattered or broken and needs Christ's love? Joanie Yoder writes "What the king's men couldn't do, the king can!" Psalm 31:12-16 talks of God's restoration, "I am forgotten by them as though I were dead; I have become like broken pottery. . .But I trust in you, O LORD; I say, 'You are my God.' My times are in your hand. . .Let your face shine on your servant; save me in your unfailing love." Let Christ put things back together again.
Thu Oct 2 07:54:07 2014
I am thrilled when either of my two daughters call and say they are in need of help with something. I am thrilled because this doesn't happen all that often as both of my daughters live away from where they were raised and have proven to be quite capable of taking care of themselves. I often bemoan the fact that we trained our girls to be independent and be able to take care of themselves, and it looks like our efforts were successful. The days of helping them with tying their shoes, fixing their breakfast, taking them to school, teaching them to ride a bike and even to drive a car are over. Those days went by fast. So, when they call and need some advice or ask us to help them with something on our next visit, I am thrilled. They are independent and capable of taking care of themselves, but our relationship is such that they feel totally comfortable asking for help when needed.
As followers of Christ, we too should learn to "stand on our own two feet" by growing in him. However, we should never lose sight of our dependence on him. We need to remember that we will never be totally independent of God and his resources for our lives. When we try to live in this way, we get into trouble. And unlike the relationship we enjoy with our daughters, our acknowledgment of our dependence needs to occur daily. Christ reminded his disciples, "Without me you can do nothing." (John 15:5) God wants us to grow in our faith and become mature. Paul chastised the Corinthian believers for not progressing in their faith, "Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready." (I Corinthians 3:1-2) However, growing in faith and dependence on God are not mutually exclusive. We are to gain maturity in the Lord, but always recognize our dependence on the Lord to help us mature.
My girls have grown into resourceful, capable, intelligent young ladies, but they still recognize the resource they have in their parents. This is what we should do as followers of Christ - grow in faith and knowledge in Christ but never forget our need for the resources only Christ can provide.
Wed Oct 1 07:20:54 2014
Neil Armstrong found it very hard to live a normal life after his trip to the moon. He had to move a number of times to try to establish a place to live where he and his family were not hounded by those seeking to obtain some sort of gain through Armstrong's fame. After he settled in one particular town for a little while, he was amazed to discover that his barber had collected his hair and sold a quantity of it for three thousand dollars. The opportunity to make money was more than the barber could handle. Greed got the best of him.
Proverbs 28:25 tells us about the power of greed, "The greedy stir up conflict, but those who trust in the Lord will prosper." Armstrong couldn't believe that a person whom he had trusted could be so motivated by greed. We should not be surprised by the power of greed, and we need to watch ourselves lest greed get the best of us. Greed can cause us to be disloyal to God and to others and to drive us to pursue actions that are not in our best interests. The key to overcoming greed is to focus on God and his provision so that the lure of money and things are not so strong. We should exhibit a heart that is focused on God and others. This helps us to avoid the effects of greed and be motivated to pursue activities that are good and not harmful. Allowing the power of God to be in control of our lives will keep us from the temptation to sell hair.
Tue Sep 30 07:55:29 2014
One of my favorite hymns is "Great Is Thy Faithfulness." The hymn was written by Thomas Chisholm and William Runyan in 1923. The first verse and chorus follow: "Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father, There is no shadow of turning with Thee; Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be. Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness! Morning by morning new mercies I see; All I have needed Thy hand hath provided—Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!"
Do you know where the scripture is found that was the inspiration for this hymn? That would be Lamentations 3:22-23, "Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." In the midst of a book that addresses the great unfaithfulness of the people and the resultant judgment, Jeremiah declares the faithfulness of the Lord. The general tone of Lamentations gives Jeremiah the nickname, "The Weeping Prophet" because of the tears shed for the condition of Judah and God's impending actions towards his wayward children. In the midst of this, Jeremiah reflects on the faithfulness of God. He makes this comment to contrast God's character with the character of the people, but he also makes this comment as a means of encouragement in the wake of discipline. God would indeed judge, but the people could know that God's judgment would be fair and restorative, not destructive. Yes, they would suffer great loss because of their sin. Sin always brings that consequence, but they could rely upon God's person and know he would bring them back.
In the times of our darkest despair, we can always rely upon the light of God's presence. He is always there in those times bringing about his will whether the circumstances are punitive or whether they are formative. Whatever you may be facing, concentrate on what God will do and know that he will intervene because "great is (His) faithfulness."
Mon Sep 29 07:52:43 2014
Most of us do not enjoy waiting. We do not like traffic jams, delays at construction sites, checkout lines, being placed on hold on the telephone, or any other scenarios that keep us from out intended destinations or activities. There are times when we seem to have been "put in a checkout line" by God as we wait for situations to resolve and answers to our questions about how a particular life event is going to conclude.
Spiritually speaking, we learn a lot of life lessons through delayed gratification. It is often that God can do his best work in our lives through times when we face uncertain circumstances. Waiting is not wasted time. God uses these times to define our character, develop our faith, and determine what is best for us for the future. Often it is difficult for us, but God can use our times of delay to help us develop discernment and wisdom. A seed planted in the ground needs time to grow. If our impatience gets to us and we dig it up before it has time to germinate, we spoil the process and eliminate the potential.
Paul reminds that "we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope." (Romans 5:3-4) Jeremiah wrote, "The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, To the person who seeks Him." (Lamentations 3:25 NASB) If you are in a "waiting period" in your life, focus on God's work in you. Remember that he has your best interests at heart and will lead you through to a glorious conclusion. His purpose is to keep us on pace with him so that we may glorify him in our lives and receive his blessings for our endurance.
Sun Sep 28 06:40:29 2014
Tim Gustafson cited an Abigail Van Buren column he found some time back: "Dear Abby" wrote: "There are two kinds of people in the world: Those who walk into a room and say, 'There you are!' and those who walk into a room and declare 'I am here.'" Which one are you?
The only person who ever lived who truly had the right to declare "I am here" seemed more committed to the "there you are" mentality. So many times Christ declared "There you are!" He said this with his response to the lady who knew she only needed to touch his garments and she would be healed (Matthew 9:20). He said this with his approach to a sinful Samaritan woman who came to draw water from a well (John 4). He said this when he invited himself to the home of a person who had climbed a tree to get a better look at someone he had heard so much about (Luke 19). Christ always seemed more interested in someone else's life than he was his own.
This is one area where we should strive to be more Christ-like. We should determine to be more interested in someone else's life than we are our own. It is so easy to get wrapped up with our own activities, concerns, and problems that we don't look out for others. This is not a good thing, and does not mirror either the teaching or the example of Christ. Christ tells us, "So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets." (Matthew 7:12)
Work on being a "there you are" type of person rather than an "I am here." Our world has enough "I am here's."
Sat Sep 27 08:22:30 2014
For many years, Nike has used the slogan "Just Do It" in their ad campaigns. The desire is that people be active as being active is a positive thing. Being active is a good thing, but sometimes we can find ourselves so busy with activities that we feel like we are being swallowed alive. Being busy does lead to productivity, but we need to be careful that we do not allow our desire to be productive rob us of our time to think.
We need to think. If we allow our busyness to take away from our times of meditation, reflection, and study we undermine the channel of resources that helps us to grow, solve problems creatively, develop perspective on spiritual issues, and discover new avenues of service. Paul tells us, "Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." (Philippians 4:8)
Set aside time from your activity to spend some time in creative thinking. Paul's advice is not a singular injunction; there are many places in the Scripture where followers of God are reminded of the importance of spending time in meditation and reflection (see Joshua 1:8 and Psalm 1:2). Christ took time out from activity to pray and meditate - "But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed." (Luke 5:16) Don't forget to think! "Just Do It" can refer to something other than being busy!
Fri Sep 26 07:40:43 2014
Bill Rasmussen is the co-founder and first CEO of ESPN. He tells of a flight to Seattle when he sat in an airport unrecognized while observing a vast number of people in the bars and restaurants of the airport watching TV monitors tuned to his creation. The irony of this occurrence was not lost on Rasmussen. In an interview in Sports Illustrated, he had this to say, "Now I know how Thomas Edison felt when he stood in a brightly illuminated Times Square totally unnoticed by any of the passers-by."
I imagine that God could relate to how these two men felt. God as Creator has to endure going unnoticed as the Creator all the time. And what is worse, God, as opposed to Rasmussen or Edison, has to endure the hundreds of opposing theories that have been posited as to why we exist. No one argues about Edison's invention of the light bulb, or Rasmussen's role in the inception of ESPN, but since day one ideas have been put forth about origins and the existence of the universe that do not include God. Opposing ideas have proliferated in the last two centuries, and the advancement of science has brought contrary views into mainstream acceptance. Stephen Hawking's popular presentation of his complex theories of the origin of the universe, "A Brief History of Time", has sold 10 million copies, People are interested in how we got here, but eyes are blinded to the truth by the father of lies.
Paul states in Romans 1:21, "For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened." Ignoring God has become mainstream in our society. Those of us who know him know better. Make sure you recognize the Creator!
Thu Sep 25 07:06:02 2014
Many of us have had "I was only trying to help" moments. One of mine was when I was helping some friends move and I dropped a box containing one of their favorite glass bowls. Oh yes, it broke - into about a millions pieces. Well, what could they say? What could I say? "I was only trying to help!" I had nothing but good intentions, but made a mistake.
We read about a fellow with good intentions in Judges 8. Gideon had helped rid the Israelites of the threat of the Midianites. They even wanted to make him king, which he refused. However, he asked for a golden earring from each of the victorious soldiers which he used to fashion into a golden ephod. This golden ephod became an object of worship and eventually led the people away from worship of God. We read in Judges 8:26-27, "Gideon made the gold into an ephod, which he placed in Ophrah, his town. All Israel prostituted themselves by worshiping it there, and it became a snare to Gideon and his family." Not only his family, but the next generation of Israelites turned away from the true worship of God, all because of his actions done with good intentions. He may have had good intentions but his decision proved to be very wrong.
Dropping a box and unintentionally breaking a friend's bowl is one thing, but taking our eyes from the true worship of God is another. Watch your lives so that you don't turn away from following God. Your decision may also affect others - and that certainly is not trying to help!
Wed Sep 24 07:51:35 2014
I just read another article lambasting the series' finale for "How I Met Your Mother" that aired last March. Now, I would imagine a good many of you are not familiar with the show, so I will try to sum it up as quickly as I can so that my article will make sense. The premise of the show is of a father telling his two teenaged kids how he met their mother. The series lasted for nine years, so a lot of stories were told along the way, which made for the respective episodes for the show. In the finale (spoiler alert), it is revealed to the audience through the story to the kids that after the dad met, married their mother, and they were born, the mother became ill and died, which is why he eventually married their "Aunt Robin" (actually no relation, but a close friend who has been involved in their father's life for many years). This ending created a great deal of angst among those who followed the series, but was an attempt to end the show on a "feel good" basis, as many viewers actually wanted the dad to marry Robin.
Confused? Well, I would imagine you are, and my point is not to explain the series or the ending but to simply create a scenario where I say this: What does it matter and why are there so many people obsessing over the ending of the show? Months later, you can still find blogs and websites containing articles debating the ending of the show. This reveals one of the dangers of our world: we can become involved in pointless issues because we are missing the real issue of life. This example is just one of countless issues that could be cited with regard to emphases on the unimportant or irrelevant. We can get caught up in what is unimportant or irrelevant so easily. Put these issues in their place, and focus of what truly is important.
Ecclesiastes 2 gives us a conclusion reached by Solomon over prioritizing our lives: "Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun. Then I turned my thoughts to consider wisdom, and also madness and folly. What more can the king's successor do than what has already been done? I saw that wisdom is better than folly, just as light is better than darkness." (vss. 11-13) True wisdom is found in seeking after God. Time spend here is time not wasted. Avoid the irrelevant and focus on the important!
Tue Sep 23 07:14:23 2014
One of the secrets of peace is believing the promises of God. There are many things that we think we believe, but our anxiety level reveals that we do not. The Lord promises to meet all our needs, but our labor and worry reveal that we are not so sure. Peace comes from developing a quiet confidence in God and his provision for us at all times. In Acts 27:25, we read about Paul receiving a word from God that he will not perish. In relating this to the sailors, Paul says: "Therefore take heart, men, for I believe God that it will be just as it was told me" (v. 25). Paul told the sailors and others not to worry as God had their lives in his hands. Peace could come to them in the midst of the storm they were facing if they accepted the promise of God.
If we believe, we can be at peace; if we do not believe, we will fret. God may not speak to us directly as he did with Paul, but he has spoken to us through his Word and through our experiences with him. He provides for us what we need so that we may serve him. What can help keep our hearts peaceful? Spend time reviewing the promises of Scripture when you are troubled. Remind yourself that contentment relies upon God's presence in our lives, not the circumstances of your life. Know that God has your best interests in mind and is working with you, not against you.
Christ wants us to have peace - "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives." (John 14:27) Experience true peace by placing your life in his hands and believing his promises.
Mon Sep 22 07:33:22 2014
I have had some surgeries over the past few years. Any time I have had a surgery on one of my limbs, they ask me more than once about the limb that is the subject of the procedure. Usually, the medical folks have me mark the limb with a marker in some way. Why all this concern? Well, some years ago, a person in Florida woke up from a surgery and found that the wrong foot had been amputated. There have been other instances where a wrong knee was "scoped", or the wrong hand was repaired. So, measures have been taken to prevent this from taking place again.
Our past mistakes help to remind us of our weaknesses and our tendencies and the need to take steps to avoid future missteps. It is a tragedy not to learn from mistakes, yet we often compound our error by blindly going on in evil deeds and wrong paths because we fail to acknowledge our weaknesses. We need to gain strength by doing what we should, and acknowledging our need for God's intervention to keep us from repeating mistakes. We should never lose sight of our ability to repeat errors because of the sin nature that is present and is constantly working against us.
Romans 7:18-19 tells us our problem: "For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing." Make sure you take measures to avoid repeating your mistakes. Let God bring power to your life, and let him make his mark so you won't "cut off the wrong foot."
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 Paulâ€™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 donâ€™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.â€™" (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 bodyâ€”whether Jews or Greeks, slave or freeâ€”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!