Friday, December 9, 2016

Letting Go



They tell us that the Christmas season is one of the most stressful times of the year. We like to think of it as one big party, but for many it is not. It is a time that puts more emphasis upon relationships and we remember more deeply lost loved ones, children and family separated by miles or sometimes hurt or anger. For far too may rather than being a time of celebration it is a time of regret.

I love the story a preacher told about his grandfather. It seems that there was a terrible thunderstorm that swept through Southern Kentucky at the farm where his family had lived for six generations. In the orchard the wind blew over an old pear tree that had been there as long as anyone could remember. His grandfather was saddened to lose the tree in which he had climbed and played as a boy. He had eaten it’s fruit all of his life and enjoyed its beauty.

A neighbor came by and said, “I’m really sorry to see your pear tree blown down.” “I’m sorry too,” said the old man. “It was a real part of my past.” “Well what are you going to do now,” the neighbor asked? The old man paused for a moment and then said, “I’m going to pick the fruit and burn what is left.”

Don’t you wish you could handing difficult times with that determination? There are so many things in our past that we cling to which maybe should be letting go. We need to learn the lesson that old man knew. We need to enjoy the pleasures of those memories then go on with the present as well as the future. If you can’t, you will always be handicapped in dealing with both the present and the future.

Jesus put it this way in Luke 9:57-62, “As they were walking along, someone said to Jesus, "I will follow You wherever You go." But Jesus replied, "Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place even to lay His head." He said to another person, "Come, follow Me." The man agreed, but he said, "Lord, first let me return home and bury my father." But Jesus told him, "Let the spiritually dead bury their own dead! Your duty is to go and preach about the Kingdom of God." Another said, "Yes, Lord, I will follow You, but first let me say good-bye to my family." But Jesus told him, "Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God."


Could it be that you need to let go? I’m not saying to forget, but to enjoy the memories and then move on to enjoy the present and the future.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Seven Kernels of Corn


We are celebrating Thanksgiving this week, a wonderful time of sharing with family and friends. Hopefully you will have that opportunity to spend time with some of your favorite people, share good food, laugh and enjoy the day. But I also hope that you will take time to count your blessings also.

Most of us are aware of some of the reasoning for the holiday, the celebration of the Pilgrims who traveled from another land far away who had survived. They didn’t have it easy as you know, sickness, starvation, death were a very real part of their existence. It was recorded that they averaged 3 deaths per day and less than 50% of their original group lasted through the winter. At one point they were near starvation and each person had to exist on only seven kernels of corn a day.

I have trouble imagining living that kind of existence, though I have seen some of it personally in other countries. Even there I never had to endure what the people around me had to endure. It was at times overwhelming to say the least. Perhaps you have experienced those conditions, perhaps you have seen it up close and personal. If so, then you have some idea of how those first colonist suffered, yet they stopped to count their blessings.

I have been told that some families make a real effort to remember their blessings as they celebrate Thanksgiving by using Seven Kernels of Corn. They place seven kernels of corn beside each plate and ask each person to tell seven things they are thankful for. Not a bad idea is it?

I’m sure that each of us will have far more than seven kernels of corn to eat this Thanksgiving holiday. But because of that many will not really stop and think about how blessed we are. For many, the day has become about food, football and parades, not about counting your blessings. If that’s true in your family, maybe it’s time you help them refocus of what the day is supposed to be about, “Giving Thanks.” We sing a short hymn that has these words, perhaps we need to sing them more often. “Praise God from whom all blessings flow; Praise him, all creatures here below; Praise him above, ye heavenly host: Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,” (Doxology, Thomas Ken).

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

What Good Is Christianity?


Christianity is really under attack at this time in our world, it is seems especially in our country. I guess we shouldn’t be surprised. If you set back and be nothing, or do nothing, have no opinions or thoughts that differ from those which are deemed “politically correct,” then you will be left alone. If however you have strong beliefs and either act upon them or express them, you can expect to be attacked. That’s the nature of Satan and those who have been persuaded to believe as he teaches.

It is interesting to see and hear those who are on the side of evil, those who proclaim that God is dead, or that the Bible is no longer relevant or is outdated, screaming out their hateful criticism of Christians. However let me remind you that being a Christian is more than just wearing a name, it is a life style, it is woven through our belief in what is morally right or wrong. It effects our relationship to our world and those who share this world with us.

The following story makes a good point: A preacher and the president of a soap manufacturing company went for a walk together. The president said, "What good is Christianity? Look at all the trouble and misery of the world! Look at the anger, at the division among people. It’s still there, even after years, thousands of years, of teaching about goodness and truth and love and peace. Still there, after all the sermons and teachings. If Christianity is good and true, why should this be?" The preacher said nothing.

They continued walking until he noticed a child playing in the gutter. Then the preacher said, "Look at that child. You say that soap makes people clean, but see the dirt on that youngster. Of what good is soap? With all the soap in the world, over all these years, the child is still filthy. I wonder how effective soap is, after all!"

The president of the soap company protested, "But preacher, soap cannot do any good unless it is used!" "Exactly," replied the preacher. "Exactly."

You may not be able to change much of the world, you may not be able to stop all of the hate that is being directed towards those of us who claim to be Christians, but just like with dirt, you have to start washing somewhere. Little by little the whole body becomes clean if we don’t stop washing….

Of course the washing starts with ourselves. Peter wrote long ago, “to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also, not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.” (1 Peter 3:20-21).

What good is Christianity? It gives us a moral compass that points to God! It makes us clean and it saves those eternally who are washed clean, (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).


Tuesday, November 15, 2016

GOD WILL PROVIDE


We live in trying, unsettled, unsure times but for those of us who are Christians it is good to know that God is there for us. We trust in God, we rely upon God, we believe that God will provide what is necessary. After all Paul writes in Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 
But, is there more to living by faith than just believing and trusting? I believe there is!

A friend shared this story with me that speaks to this problem. “A girl brought home her fiance, a theology student, to meet her parents for the first time. Her father was keen to learn what prospects the boy had.

"How do you plan to make a living?" asked the father. "I don't know," said the student, "but God will provide." The father raised his eyebrows. "Do you own a car?" "No," said the student, "but God will provide." "I see. And where are you thinking of living once you're married? "No idea, but I'm sure God will provide."
Later the mother asked the father what he thought of their prospective son-in-law. "Not a lot, really," sighed the father. "He's got no money and seems to have given precious little thought to the future. But on the positive side, he must think I'm God!"

You see it is a act of faith to trust in God and trust that he will provide, but God also instructs us that our faith requires some actions to have God work in our lives. James 2:14-16 tells us, “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”

The attitude of the young man in the story above is not a new concept. It is my understanding that when the Gospel was first preached that people really, really believed that Christ was coming back very soon. They gave up there jobs and set with others in their places of worship and prayed and sang waiting for the Lord to come back, believing that God would provide for them. In response to to that problem, Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 3:10-11, “While we were with you, we used to tell you, “Whoever refuses to work is not allowed to eat.”

I honestly believe that God will provide, but I am also very committed to the fact that He requires us to do something to make that happen.

If you want your life to be blessed, then work at it, if you want your church to be blessed, then work at it and God will provide the increase.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

A Light...


You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16)
I was thinking about this scripture after our bible class the other night and thought how we often limit the scope of this instruction. As near as I can remember I believe that I have always heard this scripture applied to those of the world. That’s good, that’s how it should be, but I think we forget how much our light effects those around us in God’s family also.
Shinning on the world is good, John says the world is filled with darkness and loves the darkness… it doesn’t really know any better. It doesn’t know or has forgotten the blessings that come from being in the light. But what about those in God’s family who are struggling, who are barely holding on, who’s spirits are near the edge of breaking. Do we ever think about how important it is to shine the light in their direction also?
I was remembering a scene from the movie, “The Mummy”. In this scene at one point they enter a dark cavern like room below a pyramid. There is a shaft of light shining into the room from above. They move a ancient mirror in front of the shaft of light and direct it into the room where it shines upon other mirrors arranged around the room. Suddenly the whole room is bathed in light, you can see everything, treasures beyond imagination, more gold than you could spend in a lifetime.
I wonder how much treasure could be revealed if you took the time to shine your light on others the way you are supposed to? One of my favorite passages is Hebrews 3:12-13 where we are told, see to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.”
So, how about making a special effort this week to shine your light, it may make a difference in whether or not they turn away from God or not.


Monday, October 17, 2016

HALLOWEEN, MASKS AND THE ELECTION



Here we are at the Halloween season once again and I don’t aim to promote or condemn it as such just to make some observations. It’s a time for what we call “trick or treat,” which used to mean you pass out treats to those who visited because you wanted to do something nice for the children in you neighborhood. The visitors dress up in strange costumes, wear masks, wigs, face paint, etc. You passed out some treat or you might have your widows smeared with soap or something else as relatively mild as a consequence. It really was (and sometime still is) a community activity meant to be enjoyed.

Times have changed through the years though, for some, what had been a fun time has become a dark and dangerous time. Kids can’t go out unattended any longer, it’s not safe, there are human predators stalking our streets seeking to do harm to folks and property. That doesn’t speak well for our society does it? Many of the “Trick or Treaters,” have changed also. For some It’s no longer about just having fun it’s about “what you can get for yourself,” and what kind of destruction you can cause and the masks and costumes are just a way to hide your identity.

Of course as I was thinking about this, the current elections came to mind and how much they mirror the “Halloween Mentality”. It seems that all of those running for some office wear mask and costumes, trying to hide who they truly are and it seems also more interested in how holding some office can benefit them and not others. Now, I imagine that there are some politicians somewhere (I know one personally), who truly does seek only to help folks and not benefit themselves, but seems a rare thing. What comforts me in these troubled times is that if God can use ungodly men like king Nebuchadnezzar, and the Pharaoh of Egypt to serve his purposes he can still do it today.

Now here is the difficult thing; we don’t know God’s purpose or his reason for doing things in a certain way. What we do know is that God is in control and no matter who wins the earthly election, we have already won the eternal election if we are Christians. 2 Peter 1:5-8, For this very reason, 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.” Then in verse 10 & 11 he adds, “Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.


The bottom line is that if we serve God faithfully, out Election to the eternal kingdom is assured. It’s an office for life, with no term limits. No masks, no costumes, only the real us revealed before God. I’m tired already of the earth elections, but excited about the eternal one, how about you?

Monday, October 3, 2016

I WANT A NEW ONE



I was doing some work at our house the other day and I kind of over did it. I worked on different projects for probably about 5 hours and I was so tired that I really didn’t feel like doing anything else the rest of the day. You probably know how that feels, just worn out.

The other day I saw an “older gentleman,” with a tee shirt that had a caption with which I could identify. It said, “This Body… One owner, High Mileage, Needs work!” Simple, straight forward, to the point! That describes me at times… and perhaps you also.

Folks often say that it would be great to “turn back the clock,” to a time when we were younger, with the addition of keeping the knowledge we have now. Yes, that is very appealing; a younger body, no aches, no pains, smooth skin, strong muscles, but at this point even with all of our medical technology it is just not possible; at least not possible here on earth.

I heard a story about a little boy who came running to his father and said, “Dad, I just figured what the Bible is about.” His days, said, “Really, what is it about?” The son answered, “It’s on the front, “B.I.B.L.E. and it means, Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth.” I guess he got it right didn’t he, that just about sums it up. That is what the Bible is all about, because we for sure are not going to stay here on earth forever.

At times I’m ready for that change, the older I get the more I understand the power of the promise. That’s the promise the Apostle Paul was trying to help us understand in 1 Corinthians 15:51-53 where he said: “But let me reveal to you a wonderful secret. We will not all die, but we will all be transformed!  It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed.  For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies.”(NLT)


Yes, I’m ready for a new one, a new body, one like Jesus, no more pain, no more weariness; no more parts that sometimes refuse to cooperate. There is a time coming when my ‘High mileage” body will be traded in for a new one. That’s what I planning for, that what I’m looking forward to! How about you?