Thursday, July 2, 2015

The Fourth



The Fourth of July is one of my favorite of all of the American holidays! It always has been! Even when I was a young boy I understood, at least somewhat, the sacrifices it took to make our country what it is. I have always loved to read and in my younger days I came into contact with lots of patriotic writings. I actually dreamed of the day when I could fly a flag outside of my own home and let everyone know how proud I was of our country.

My father was a WWII Navy veteran and I followed his example and joined the Navy also. I never had to go to distant shores as he did or walk patrols on deserted beaches of South Pacific islands as he did, but I wanted to keep our country great if my participation would help, I chose to do that.

With the Fourth of July celebrations we keep alive the memory of all that it took to make our country both free and great. We remember those who were willing to give whatever it took to make sure that their descendants were able to live free. To have freedom of religion, freedom from persecution, freedom from unreasonable government control, freedom to live where they wanted and pursue career and raise their families without intervention by the government.

In the 1942 movie, "Holiday Inn" there is a "Song of Freedom" that has some tremendously powerful words. Notice just a few:

"I'm singing a song of freedom; For all people who cry out to be free;
Free to sail the seven seas, Free to worship as we please;
If the birds up in the trees can be free, Why can't we?
Free to speak and free to hear; Free from want and free from fear
Sons of freedom far and near who agree, Sing with me, That all God's children shall be free."
(If you have never watched the movie I highly recommend it).

Notice what the apostle Paul had to say about true freedom: Romans 8:16-21, "The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs, heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God."


Enjoy your Fourth of July celebration, but don't forget that our freedom, both physical and spiritual was bought by the sacrifice of another. Of course our true freedom is only through our love of and obedience to Jesus Christ.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Who is my neighbor?



"Who is my neighbor," is an age old question and probably has many answers, but basically it is anyone you come into contact with. 


We have been living in our Motorhome full time for the past few weeks and for the most part enjoying it. The spot we have been in has been surrounded by two families with a combination of 6 or 7 smaller children. Melody and our little dog, Chewy, have made a great impression on them (I guess it's the grandmother coming out). Yesterday we moved from that spot to another location in the RV park. As we were packing up and getting ready to move one of the little boys came up to me and ask, "Hey Neighbor, what are  you doing?" After we finished up packing all of them gathered around and hugged Melody, petted the dog and posed for pictures and two of the little boys picked flowers (budding weeds) and gave them to Melody. Definitely the grandmother coming out!

As I thought about that incident I thought about the few words from that little boy, "Hey Neighbor…" We both had talked with them and their parents, (nice folks struggling with different problems). What did we do to earn the title, "Neighbor"? Is it as simple as being nice, listening to small boys tell you about the birds they saw? Could it be as simple as spending time talking with a mother with several small children and giving her some "adult" time? Is it as simple as letting the father tell you a little about his day and his work? Perhaps it is….

Jesus was asked in Luke 10 "who is my neighbor" and he told a story about a Samaritan, ever heard it. It is a story of a man who went to extremes to assure the needs of another were met; it was all about giving what was needed at the time. I would say that it is not always about money or things. Sometimes people just need other people to care enough to stop and listen for a few minutes and show that you care.

Who is your neighbor?

Russ Lawson


Thursday, June 18, 2015

Father's Day



Father's day is here once again. How do I know? It's the commercials! Everything you see or hear is telling you what is the best gift to buy for your father and frankly I'm a little tired of it. How is it that a day established to honor fathers has become a marketing ploy?

I don't golf, don't need a new car, I have all the after shave I can use and I don't need another tie. Whatever happened to the simple things? The days when the kids made you breakfast in bed or gave you a handmade card? What about the simple hug around the neck and the best words in the world, "I love you dad". It is the time spent together sharing a meal and talking about our lives, sharing what makes us happy or is breaking our hearts. I don't know about you, but I've been given "things" through the years, but have very few of them now. The things that I have held on to are the cards and the hugs, those special words and special times together.

How did our society go from intimate relationships with the father to trying to imitate love through the giving of money or things? Back in the 1970's there was a song by Harry Chapin that came out called, "Cat's in the cradle". The song dealt with the life of a father and son. The father was so busy making a living that he never had time for the son and when the son became an adult he never had time for the father… life got in the way of living.

Perhaps that's what has happened with our relationship to our Heavenly Father. Most of the surveys I have seen show that church attendance in our nation has declined in the past 50 years. The same surveys show that many, many more mothers attend a church than do fathers (the example to young men). It seems that we are so busy trying to survive, trying to make a living, trying to enjoy life to the fullest, that we just don't have time for our Heavenly Father anymore. We try to compensate for it by giving larger contributions so that someone else might be hired to fill our place.

The greatest commandment, according to Jesus is to love the Lord with all your heart, soul and mind (Matthew 22:37). If you don't, how will your children learn to do it and how will they return it to you?

Another favorite passage of mine is found in Deuteronomy 11:18-22 where God gives some special instructions to fathers. He says: "Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land the LORD swore to give your ancestors, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth. If you carefully observe all these commands I am giving you to follow, to love the LORD your God, to walk in obedience to him and to hold fast to him…" It seems it is about relationships and actually TALKING about what is most important…

Can you say "priorities"? Perhaps that is the key! Oh and Happy Father's Day!


Friday, June 5, 2015

Doing the Dance





I was talking with a coworker Daryl the other day about the flow of the work we do behind the counter. It's a small space and we often have to dodge one another or reach around one another to get to a particular piece of equipment, computer or stack of papers. As the "trainee" I watched him one day and told him that he "had the dance steps all down". In other words, he had a pattern of movement, he knows how to move efficiently and reach each machine or paper as it was needed.

When we serve our God we do the same thing according to a pattern shown us in the New Testament. Paul encouraged Timothy regarding the pattern he followed in
2 Timothy 1:12a-13 where he wrote: "Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day. What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus."

I remember seeing an advertisement many years ago for a program to teach you how to dance. You took paper cutouts that looked like shoe soles and placed them on the floor in a particular pattern. Then you practiced following that pattern with your own feet as you taught yourself to dance. If it worked everyone was happy.

God's Word gives us the pattern, the steps to follow for us to make God happy and to be happy ourselves. If you want to know how to serve God, then follow the pattern. Many today are telling you that the pattern of God's word is outdated or no longer relevant, but that's not true. God has given us His Word and he intends for it to last forever with no additions or subtractions. Now you can argue with me about that, but how are you at arguing with God.

Jesus himself said, "I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll.  And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll." (Revelation 22:18-19)

So could it be that as you dance through this life you need to pay a little closer attention to the pattern which God has laid down for us?








Wednesday, May 27, 2015

I’LL GIVE YOU TIME TO GO NUMB

 

I had a dental appointment this week and after the inevitable injection before a little drilling the technician said while leaving the room, "I’ll give you a little time to go numb." Of course this brought up the question, “How much time does it take to go numb?”

What comes to mind in a religious sense; is how much time does it take to harden your heart? How much time does it take before you feel no sense of guilt when you no longer look to God for guidance, let alone worship him?

I know so many people who at one time had a love for God and a love for his church; then unexpectedly it seems that they are no longer interested. They lost their joy; the joy of gathering with others; to worship the God of the universe. Sometimes I hear comments such as: "Going to church just doesn't excite me anymore,"  "I can worship as well at home," or "I find God on the lake or golf course."

How long does it take for someone to go numb? Going numb is when you have a lack of feeling. Could it be the responsibility of the people or place you have been worshiping? Possibly it is, but more than likely it is a change in your own heart that has taken place. Could you be going numb? Maybe you are already there!

The church at Ephesus was a shining light for God before the people of the world. They have a whole book of the bible devoted to the church there, most of it positive. Yet, in Revelation 2:4-5 we read a message from God for them. He says, "But I have this against you, that you left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen and repent and do the first works again; or else I come to you, and will move your candlestick out of its place, unless you repent and return to loving me and putting me first."

How did that happen? How could this God loving, Mission supporting, Evangelist church forget God? When did they go numb? The answer is, One day at a time… one thought at a time… one action at a time and before they knew it they no longer felt what they had before for God and His church.

How about you, how are you doing?


Friday, May 15, 2015

Inside



I was lying in bed saying my prayers the other night and I said something that surprised me. I was praying for many of my family, friends and acquaintances, many of who are struggling in their faith. These are the words that formed in my strange brain, "Lord, inside of them is a spiritual person struggling to get out." 

Isn't that true of so many of us? There is a struggle within us to be more than we are, to have a better and stronger relationship with our God. It is so easy for us to observe the outer person we see and forget the ongoing struggle and the potential that is there. It's like looking at the caterpillar before it turns into a butterfly. That caterpillar is not the most attractive thing I ever saw, but hidden inside is that which can be one of God's most beautiful creations.
You may be the one struggling to overcome the "caterpillar syndrome". You may be wondering if you will ever be able to be the spiritual person you desire so strongly to be. It is so easy to look at others and think, "I wish I were like them," but we don't know how they struggle or have struggled in their lives to become who they are today. The change (metamorphosis) from spiritual caterpillar to butterfly doesn't come easily for anyone, yet it is possible.

The apostle Paul used this Greek word "metamorphosis", talking about our spiritual change in 2 Corinthians 3:17-18 where he said: "Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord's glory, are being transformed (metamorphosis) into his image with ever increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit."

When you think about the change you want for your life, don't limit yourself in the area of time. Don't expect to be "transformed into his image" over night and don't expect that of anyone else either. Just remember that inside of them (and us) is a spiritual person struggling to get out. Jesus understood that also, which is part of the power behind his words when he said in Matthew 19:26 "With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible". It may seem like a silly prayer to some, but I truly believe that inside many of us is a spiritual person struggling to get out.



Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Dear God, I'm ready to listen

I had gotten a new tea mug about a year ago; you know the kind with a neat saying on it. I was more interested in the fact that it was huge and I like a "big" cup of tea, not one of those tiny ones where you can't even get your fingers through the handle.
Anyway, I was sitting and sipping my tea the other morning and took notice of the message printed on the cup. Now I know I have read it before, but if you had asked me what it said, I wouldn't have been able to tell you. It may just be that I am more in need of the message now than before. Anyway, the message touched my heart this time. A simple message that said, "Dear God… I'm ready to listen now". The other side of the mug said in part, "God never puts a call on hold…. I can ask Him about anything and he is ready to listen."
We seem to understand the part about God always being ready to listen, but what about the other part, the part where we listen?
Part of the problem may be that we often expect an immediate, clearly stated answer from God and He doesn't always answer that way. The eleventh chapter of Hebrews deals with how God answers; take time to read it sometime... Simply, God sometimes doesn't answer in anyway which is perceivable to us. We continue to serve him and do what he asks of us anyway, which is called, "walking by faith". "By faith," we read that all of the great people of the Old Testament served God, never personally seeing the end result of the promise of God.
They married, had children, dealt with the daily stresses and problems, and went to work everyday having faith that God was in control, and knew what he was doing even if they didn't. How do we do that today? By believing that God is in control, one day at a time, or one hour at a time or even a few minutes at a time, because he is either in control of this world or he is not. That's the decision we have to make and live by.
Here is how they did it: 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, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth… they were longing for a better country; a heavenly one.."(NIV)

Someone else put it this way, "Each one of these people of faith died not yet having in hand what was promised, but still believing. How did they do it? They saw it way off in the distance, waved their greeting, and accepted the fact that they were transients in this world. People who live this way make it plain that they are looking for their true home."


Living in this world, looking for our true home! That’s the secret of living by faith and listening for God. As the old hymn says, "This world is not my home, I'm just a passing through…"