Thursday, February 23, 2017

OLD AND UNWANTED




I’m getting to the age where many of the “young” people refer to me as “old”. That’s OK with me, I really don’t care, I figure that the gray hair is a mark of the many adventures we have had in this life. The problem with getting older is that your body can no longer keep up with what your mind thinks it can do!

I’m much luckier than many people in this world, because even though I am “more mature” in age, I am also loved by those important to me. Now the reason I am thinking about this is because our family status just changed. You see, about 8 months ago our little “furry kid”, (our dog), who had been with us for almost 16 years died. After struggling with the decision we went to the local Animal Shelter and found a little dog and rescued her.

Now what makes her special is that she was picked up as a stray and no one came to claim her. She was scruffy or scraggly looking with matted hair and quite a bit undernourished (you can easily feel her bones through her skin). The Shelter staff estimate her age to be about 12 year old, which makes it harder to find folks who are willing to adopt her. She was in the “OAU” category (old and unwanted). You see everyone wants a cute little puppy, but an older dog with just a few years left is another story. The bottom line was that if the Shelter didn’t find someone to adopt her they would euthanize (or kill) her.

From the first time I saw her picture (scruffiness and all) I wanted her. I saw a scared little dog who didn’t understand what was happening and was completely at the mercy of people. Being older ourselves and having had two small dogs in the past who lived to be near 16 we understand somewhat the limitations of age. We wanted to love her and give her the best (last) years that we can. We called everyday until they put her up for adoption because we surely didn’t what the alternative to happen. That morning my wife was there when the doors opened, and now she is ours.

It seems that our society has also lost some very important values and one of them is honoring older folks. Our younger generation for the most part worships youth and rejects the concept that those who are older just might have something important to contribute, something as important as love and acceptance. Our “old dog,” is already finding her way into our hearts. She was so over joyed to come home with us that she runs around like a puppy and climbs in our laps and cuddles up and exudes love. My wife said it seemed a little strange that she should adapt so quickly. I replied, “Maybe she knows the fate that awaited her before we came along,” probably not, but we knew and we acted because of that.

Now looking at the spiritual application a bunch of scripture comes to mind as it relates to this. The scriptures tell us, “While we were still sinners Christ died for us” and that “he was not willing that any of us should perish but all come to salvation”. You see, we may be older, we may be a bit scruffy looking too, but not to God. God understood the fate that awaits those, who like that little dog, lost and alone in a big world will suffer. He determined that he would go to any extreme to rescue us and he did. He died for us that we can live eternally in the arms of a loving master. Are you there yet?

Thursday, January 26, 2017

TELL US NICE THINGS





One of the Elders in our church, Bob, shared some thoughts with us the other evening. One of the scriptures he mentioned struck a cord with me. It is several thousand years old, but it speaks clearly to our society. We live in a world where far too many have dismissed the idea of moral or ethical values or constraints.

We live in a world where more and more people feel they have “A RIGHT” to do or say whatever they want, whatever feels good to them without restraint. They teach, “Have sex with whoever you want, we’ve made abortion clinics available for everyone”. “Have homosexual relations, we changed the laws and it’s legal now”. “Cheat just a little on your taxes, or anywhere you can, it won’t really matter.” “Speak your mind, as crudely and as loudly as you want, no one can stop you”. “Participate in all of the worldly things you want… drink just a little, gamble just a little, party just a little… it’s your right!”

The problem is that the world has tried this before, (more than once), and it always has the same results. Notice what God says about this through his spokesman, Isaiah.

“Now go and write down these words. Write them in a book. They will stand until the end of time as a witness that these people are stubborn rebels who refuse to pay attention to the Lord’s instructions. They tell the seers, "Stop seeing visions!" They tell God’s spokesmen: "Don't tell us what is right. Tell us nice things. Tell us lies. Forget all this gloom. Get off your narrow path. Stop telling us about your 'Holy One of Israel.'" 

Notice how God responds to this line of reasoning: This is the reply of the Holy One of Israel, Jehovah God: "Because you despise what I tell you and trust instead in oppression and lies, calamity will come upon you suddenly; like a bulging wall that bursts and falls. In an instant it will collapse and come crashing down. You will be smashed like a piece of pottery; shattered so completely that there won't be a piece big enough to carry coals from a fireplace or a little water from the well." (Isaiah 30:8-14).

I’m convinced that the reason some of the “Modern churches” are growing today is because they no longer speak for God. I visited a church awhile back and sadly I never heard the scriptures read or mentioned during the whole service. The preacher instead gave a book review of the latest motivational book. Tell us lies the people said, Tells us only nice things, Forget all this gloom. It’s surprising that so many “Church Leaders” are listening to people like that. It has become all about numbers and money, not the truth.

Let me suggest to you that just because the government approves of something doesn’t make it right. Just because something is now socially acceptable doesn’t make it right. If we don’t begin to follow God’s word, “The Holy One, Jehovah God’s” instructions for our lives we will eventually be broken into pieces just as he did to Israel. Could it be that you need to make a change, maybe take a stand for what is right in God’s sight?

Motivate Yourself





As I have become “more mature,” I have found that often I find home more inviting than something that is “not home,” especially on these cold winter days. I sometimes find it harder to motivate myself to get out of my warm comfortable space and do things, even if I know they need to be done. But of course if we don’t motivate ourselves then perhaps God will allow our motivation to come from somewhere else.

I’m reminded of an incident that happened when I was about 18 years old. I was helping build a house with my dad and others in one of the suburbs of Dayton, Ohio. There was an old stray dog that showed up on the job site. He was really skittish and afraid to get too close to us, probably he had been mistreated by someone. Anyway, I kept trying to win his confidence and even shared some of my lunch with him. He finally seemed to become a little more trusting and even took some food from my hand. He backed off and sat down and then surprisingly he yelped loudly, jumped up and took off running. I was mystified until I went over and looked at where he had sat down. There was an electrical cord with two frayed wires just where he had sat down. He received an unexpected shock and a lot motivation to vacate the premises.

What is it that you know you should be doing and are not? I’m convinced that there are a great many people who don’t begin to use their talents or God given abilities. They are comfortable and don’t want to get out of that comfort zone. Sometimes we enjoy the comfort of hearing others teach, but perhaps we should be teaching ourselves. Isn’t the church always asking (sometimes begging) for those to help teach? What about serving? Do we ever really have enough people to do the many things that need to be done within our church family? That takes a lot of forms such as cooking, cleaning, visiting, sharing, comforting, encouraging just to name a few.

There is a parable told by Jesus meant to motivate us to do what we should be doing. It is about three men who are given talents (in this case money) and told to use them for their Lord. Two did, but one buried his and gained nothing for his master, (Matthew 25:14-30). In the end Jesus said, “For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (vs 29-30)

Let’s hope that God doesn’t have to give us this kind of “shocking” motivation to get us to use our talents. Don’t think you don’t have any, God gives them to us all, it’s up to you to discover them and develop them.

DEATH IS INCONVENIENT


It seems that our lives are constantly coming into contact with death and whenever they do it is never convenient. Plans that have been made suddenly cease, trips that have been planned suddenly seem unimportant. All of those things on your “to-do” list can wait a little longer while we focus upon this seeming tragedy in our lives.

Yes, I said, “seeming tragedy”. Death is always a loss, many times it is a surprise, but it is not always a tragic thing when it happens. You know that some folks are ready to face death; they have prepared themselves spiritually and are ready to go and be embraced by their God.

I have been involved in somewhere around 100 funerals in my preaching career, (and I realize that is not a lot compared to some ministers), but it is enough to learn some things about people. The simple truth is that unless it is an immediate family member, death is more of an inconvenience than anything. It disrupts their plans. It’s not that they are not truly concerned and sorrowful, but the truth is that often the ones involved in the death are soon forgotten. Simply because in life, there are goals to meet, plans to complete, things to do… death is inconvenient.

There is actually a record in the bible of someone who felt that way. In Luke 12:16-21 Jesus tells us about it: “And he told them this parable: "The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, 'What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.'  "Then he said, 'This is what I'll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I'll say to myself, "You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry."' "But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?'  "This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God."

I believe that the man in this story found death to be very inconvenient to say the least. He had his plans made, his future planned out, his retirement prepared and death intervened. What about you? If you knew that you would be facing death soon, would your priorities suddenly change? Would your lists and your plans really matter any more? I would think that for many things would change a great deal. We don’t like to be reminded of it, but death is a reality and it is the one thing we will never escape in life. All you can do is prepare in advance for that which is coming to you at sometime whether it is convenient or not. An old hymn asks, “Are you ready, are you ready, are you ready for the judgment day?” Are you?

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.