Saturday, December 24, 2016

The most wonderful time of the year

There is a song which is heard repeatedly throughout the month of December which proclaims Christmas as “the most wonderful day of the year.” I was thinking about the implications of that message for our world today.

I know it not just the words of the song that is the motivating factor, but I know several families who seem to pick up that message. They are basically “religiously neutral” throughout the year, but make a point to always “go to the Christmas service” at their church. I’m not saying it is a bad thing that they attend their church, but what makes this one time special? Why suddenly do they slip out of neutral and into drive, get a little traction and suddenly feel the need to “go to church”?

I do understand that in many churches there is a bit of pageantry that surrounds Christmas. They make it special with choral programs, plays, special decorations and special services directed towards the celebration of Christmas. I’m reminded of a story about a man complaining about the church service they had been to. His young son piped up, “I thought it was a pretty good show for a dollar!”

What occurs to me is that to many people it is more about the show, the pageantry if you will, than it is about the one they are supposed to be remembering. I understand the implications of the virgin birth of our Savior. I understand that without the story about that miraculous birth recorded in the scripture; we would miss out of something wonderful. What I don’t understand is why much of the world chooses to just remember the Savior only this one time per year. Why are so many people “religiously neutral” for the rest of the year?

I have to believe that it is because God and religion are really not that important to them. For many it’s like putting on a cross as a piece of jewelry, they think of it as a talisman. They think that it will somehow protect them from bad things happening in their lives. Some reason that if they “go to church,” it will let God know they think of him “this most wonderful day of the year,” yet for some it’s just a good show.

Personally, I love the holiday season. I love the music, I love the decorations, I love the way that many people become more loving and giving, I love that many become more aware of Christ and his miraculous birth. The question is why only in December? Why only one day of the year and then slip back into neutral?

Do you remember what the greatest commandment is? Jesus tells us in Matthew 22:36-38. He is asked, “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?" Jesus replied, "'You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment.

If you only showed love to your wife, your husband or you children one time a year, do you think they would really believe you loved them? Ask yourself what your relationship to God is telling him.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Life without an eraser



Have you ever messed up and then wished there were some way to make the mistake go away. You
just can’t, can you. Some wise person once said, “Life is like drawing without an eraser,” once the line is down, there is nothing you can do to make it go away. It’s like drawing with a permanent marker. You can paint over it to cover it up, but often it bleeds through the paint to be seen by all.

At times life can be difficult or perhaps challenging to say the least. Lately I have often repeated the old saying, “We live in interesting times,” referring to all of the changes our country is going through. How do we deal with “interesting times,” or challenging times? I like the saying I read recently that said, “sometimes the most difficult lesson in life to learn is: Which branch to climb and which one to break off.” That is tough isn’t it? That’s life without an eraser.

What happens to our lives, how do they change so drastically or go in a direction we had not planned? Not everyone starts out in the best household, the best home situation, but some do and something happens and their lives are turned upside down. Mary LoVerde wrote a book that addresses this titled, “I used to have a handle on life, but it broke.” I’ve had that handle break a few times myself, so I can relate to this, and maybe you have too, so how do we deal with this?

First of all we can’t plan long range and expect it to always go smoothly or the way we had envisioned.
James reminds us in James 4:13-14, “Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit,” yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.”

Let me say though that this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t plan for the future. A life without visions for our future, without plans is no life at all. I honestly believe that God expects us to think or plan, there is just too much in the scripture about thinking about our future, about how we can serve God, about our eternal future to miss this point. However anyone who thinks it is going to be smooth sailing or that our plans will always come into fruition doesn’t have a true grip on reality.

Well, what should we do then? Well, James adds another verse to the thought above that is important to our plans. He adds in James 4:15,Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.

So, when we are planning, we are praying! We need to factor into our plans God and his will. We plan and say, “This is what I intend to do if it is God’s will”. In my life I generally practice the “open door plan”. I try something, stretch towards some plan and if it works out and God opens that door, great, if not, if the door stays shut, that’s great too. You see; then you just change directions and try something else. You see the truth is that we can live our life with out an eraser, because we don’t have to stay between any man made lines. The only lines that are important are the ones that God tells us to stay in side of in his Book. So, how are you doing?


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.