Friday, May 13, 2016

When Life gives you lemons… it has a Silver lining





OK, I know it is a mixed metaphor, but it gets your attention and sets up the idea I want to convey.

The past couple of weeks have been difficult for me in some ways. I injured my Sciatic nerve and have been in quite a bit of pain. I have seen a doctor and am taking therapy, but the results are somewhat slow in reliving the pain to say the least. Quite a surprise as I have never had this type of problem before.

Next I had a filling come out of a tooth and went to the dentist yesterday for a simple repair. A few hours later I left the office after having two Wisdom Teeth pulled, a tooth prepared for a crown and three small fillings. This was a surprise as it is the first of my teeth I have had to have pulled in almost 68 years and seldom have problems with my teeth.

So, those are some of the lemons (the sour things that make you scrunch up your mouth and shake your head and say I don't like that). OK, I know you can make lemonade, but I don't much like that either. Now I can choose to dwell on those things and say, "Oh, poor me! Why do all of these things happen to me? I have to admit that I don't like the pain and am praying for quick relief, however I tend to look for the Silver Lining when I can.

A few weeks ago the church where I had previously preached in California sent us a house warming gift of a beautiful Boston fern. Now that the weather has warmed here in Ohio my wife hung it on the back porch and waters and cares for it regularly. Quite unexpectedly one day she found a Robin's nest in the fern. Now, day by day we watch it and as of yesterday it has 4 eggs in it. We also noticed one day, one the Robin's eggs lay broken on the ground and in the place of the Robin's egg was a smaller brown speckled egg. We suspect a sneaky Sparrow did this, taking advantage of the Robin's care for the egg and baby soon to be born. We are looking forward to this with great expectations.

OK, here's the point. You can choose to dwell on the Lemon's in your life, or you can look for the Silver Linings around you. I choose to try and look for the good, the beautiful, possibly the unexpected; for that which will make me smile and think good thoughts in spite of the pain life brings. 

Paul wrote these words to us on how to deal with life in Philippians 4:8 (I hope you find them helpful): "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honorable, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things". (ASV) Another paraphrase of this verse says, "fill your minds with those things that are good".


So how are you dealing with you "Life Lemons"? Stop and look around you for that Silver Lining," and think on these things. 

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Mother's Day Thoughts


This week my 8 year old grand daughter said, "Grandpa, come here," and she pulled me into the living room. She then whispered, "What are you going to do for grandma for Mother's day?" To which I replied, "Nothing"…. She had a shocked look on her face and I said, "Allyson, she's not my mother, she is your dads mother. My mother was great grandma Lawson." She thought for a moment and say, "Yes, but couldn't you fix her breakfast in bed or something?" I assured her that I would be doing something special for her grandmother.

Mother's day is not a religious holiday or a government recognized holiday, but it is one of the most important days we celebrate. We pause to recognize the one who is the center of most homes. Yes fathers are important, but mother's many times do most of the nurturing and spend the most time with the children. You may feel (but I hope not), like one young man recently who said, “My mother never did anything for me”. Our response was, “Yes she did,” “She cared enough to carry you for 9 months and give birth to you”. She cared for you, bathed you; fed you, changed you when you need it and did it because she loves you”. I mean, really, without your mother you wouldn't be here.

Many women choose abortion in our world and the life God has given them as a gift is ended. If you are a woman in that situation, I'm sorry if these words hurt or offend, but none the less I believe them to be true.

Mother's we who are your children are sometimes unappreciative, sometimes hurtful, sometimes difficult to deal with, but underneath it all, we really do love you. Thank you for loving us back! But mother's the most important thing you can give your children is an understanding of and love for God and His Word.

In 2 Timothy 1:5 & 3:14 Paul encourages Timothy by saying, "You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them [that is, your mother Eunice and through her from your grandmother Lois]; and that from childhood you have known the holy scriptures [because your mother taught them to you] which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus."

Thank you mother's and Happy Mother's Day.


Thursday, April 21, 2016

THE PROBLEM


We had a man come into my place of work the other day and he immediately said, “I want to talk with the store manager”. The store manager wasn't available for awhile, so he told me his problem. It seems he had bought a lawnmower a little over a year ago and it just blew the engine. He wanted the store to give him a new one or credit towards a more expensive mower. In other words, to redeem the broken one and make it new in some way...that was a problem…
When the manager arrived he explained that the store policy is that we will refund or replace up to 60 days on mowers, but the manufacturer has a one year warranty (which was also past). I thought the manager did a good job of explaining all of this very patiently, but it was a problem with no cheap answer to make it right. I mean, that which regulates the transaction and responsibilities was clearly spelled out in the papers they were given…so what do you do?
This is similar to the problem each of us have today isn't it? We as humans are broken and unfixable by human standards. Each of us has the problem of sin in our lives. It may not be a BIG easily recognizable sin, but to God, sin is sin. If you don't obey his rules, then you can't be fixed. God's word tells us that all of us sin and fall short of God's Glory, (Romans 3:23). While we are told in 1John 1:7-10 that anyone who says they don't sin is calling God a liar and that His Word is really not part of their lives. That is a problem isn't it, because sin separates us form the source of life (eternally) God himself. When we sin, we are responsible for the cost for the damage to our lives, which is impossible for us to pay.
Fortunately, when God wrote his rules, he wrote in a redemption clause, an escape clause if you will. It's spelled out clearly in his rule book (the Bible) in more than one place. Places like Mark 16:15-16 and Romans 6:1-10. We are told that the redemption we can experience is not dependent upon our own ability, but upon the willingness of Christ to pay what was necessary for us. What was required was a payment in blood; a payment of sacrifice; a payment of suffering to fix what you broke and for which you were responsible. He paid the debt he did not own, because he loves you that much! In return he asks the you obey him and commit to living by His rules to the best of your ability.
Now the man who came into our store was helped with his problem. We actually gave him a loner mower until he could check with the manufacturer. Redeemed or fixed no; we were just kind of able to put a bandage on the sore spot in hopes he can get it fixed properly some place else.
I see a lot of people who are putting band aids on their lives, they cover up the sore spot, but something is missing, something is hurting, something is lacking in their lives. It is the healing that comes from God when we finally decide to follow the rules in His Book the Bible. To embrace the need to sacrifice some things in our own lives, to gain eternal life.


Friday, April 1, 2016

ONE IS THE LONELIEST NUMBER



Way back in 1969 a group known as "Three Dog Night," recorded a song called "One is the loneliest number." The basic concept is that being alone is no fun and not something most of us want. I was reminded of that song this week in an unexpected way.

This week I got to re-experience a young children's bible class. My wife's helper was out of town and I wasn't teaching, so I "assisted" with the 2nd grade bible class. You might think that you couldn't learn much from a class presented for children that young, but then, you would be wrong.

The class was about a man in the bible with no friends. No one wanted to be around him; he wasn't nice and didn't treat others very nice either. In fact that was the main thing he was known for, cheating and mistreating people. Besides that he looked weird, he was really short and people probably found it easy to make fun of him because of that, but maybe that is why he turned out to be such a mean person.

Jesus saw in this man the potential for greater things. He turned his life around and took the pain of loneliness out of his life. And just in case you haven't figured it out, the man's name was Zacchaeus and you can find his story in Luke 19. He was a Tax Collector working for the Romans collecting taxes and cheating people to line his own pockets. He was so alone that he was looking for someone to make a difference in his life and so anxious to find one, he even climbed a tree just to get a glimpse of Jesus.

The bible class centered on how difficult it is to feel all alone and how you would feel in different situations. There are times we all feel alone, we feel unloved, and unliked. On the outside we may look to others like we have it all together. We may dress nice, we may have a good job, and we may have things that the world says means success, but we can still be alone. You may have none of those things and be alone and miserable because of that. Maybe that causes you, just like Zacchaeus, to treat others in unkind ways, but Jesus still is the answer to the loneliness and pain we sometimes feel.

Once Zacchaeus understood how much Jesus cared, that he could really understand his pain and loneliness. When Zacchaeus understood that Jesus really wanted to be his friend, his life was changed as no one else could change it. He literally became a "new man." In Luke 19:8-10 we read: "Meanwhile, Zacchaeus stood before the Lord and said, "I will give half my wealth to the poor, Lord, and if I have cheated people on their taxes, I will give them back four times as much!" Jesus responded, "Salvation has come to this home today, for this man has shown himself to be a true son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost." "


Some of the most powerful and wonderful words in the bible are found here, "For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost." How about you? Are you all alone… are you lost? Perhaps it's time to start looking for Jesus, even if you have to put some effort into finding him, like Zacchaeus? 

Monday, March 21, 2016

Celebrating Easter on the green side of the grass


The other morning I asked a co-worker how he was doing. His response was, "Great, I woke up on the green side of the grass." To which I replied, "Yes, but it could have been a lot better."

I think my response confused him and perhaps to you also, because I was thinking it would be better to go to sleep here and wake up in Heaven!

Do you remember what the apostle Paul said in Philippians 1:21-25? Let me remind you here: "For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don't know which is better.  I'm torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me.  But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live.  Knowing this, I am convinced that I will remain alive so I can continue to help all of you grow and experience the joy of your faith."

Here we are at the time our world celebrates Easter. In general what is this all about? It is about a renewal, it is about hope; it is about the promise of life after death, proven by a resurrected savior.

For many people this is the only time of the year they think about this great message that demonstrates the power of God even over death. Death is not the end for those who have chosen to be called Christians, Children of God, it is only the beginning.

Paul also gives us these wonderful words on hope in 1 Corinthians 15:20-23: "But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died.  So you see, just as death came into the world through a man, now the resurrection from the dead has begun through another Man. Just as everyone dies because we all belong to Adam, everyone who belongs to Christ will be given new life.  But there is an order to this resurrection: Christ was raised as the first of the harvest; then all who belong to Christ will be raised when He comes back. "

I would suggest to you that this once a year holiday of Easter, brought about by the imagination of man, is not a just something to be remembered once a year. We are told in the scripture to remember the death, burial and resurrection of Christ each and every first day of the week when we assemble as God's children.

Celebrating Easter on the green side of the grass may be a good thing to do, but how much better when we celebrate continually in the presence of our God in Heaven!



Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Promises



Our Sunday morning Bible class is studying the topic of Promises to us as Christians. We are looking at the positive side of what our Christian life is all about. I don't know about you, but I need that reinforcement. Far too often I seem to concentrate on the "thou shalt not's" and not nearly enough on the positive aspect of our relationship to God. What is it that you concentrate upon? Where are your prayers centered? Do we pray that the bumps in the road be smoothed, or that we can endure the bumps as they come? Truth be told, a lot of what we are willing to endure depends upon what the rewards at the end of the journey. Often it is all about the promise....

We have a member of our family a little 7 pound dog named Chewy. She listens to our promises and remembers. We tell her, "Go potty and we'll give you a treat". She remembers... We tell her, "We're going to church and when we get back we'll give you a treat". She remembers (and if you forget she reminds you). At times, just the mention of the treat has her wagging from the tip of her tail to the tip of her nose.

What promises from God are special to you? What is it that you remember no matter what happens in your life? Which ones make you tingle with excitement? There are so many verses that deal with promises. One of my favorites is Romans 8:28, where Paul reminds us that no matter what is going on in our lives, in the end it will work out to good if we love and trust God. Or perhaps in 1 John 1:7-10, where John reminds us, that if we are God's child, his blood continually cleanses us from all sin. Also, no matter how we mess up, if we will truly repent and ask for forgiveness, he will forgive us. And of course his promise that someday we will be with him in heaven, no more vision problems, no more hearing problems, no more body aches or failure of body parts to respond (1 Corinthians 15:51-53). Everything is going to be brand new and as Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 4:17, "and so shall we ever be with the Lord."

How about spending some time thinking about the promises, it will do you an eternity of good!


Tuesday, March 1, 2016

INGNORING WARNING GATES



This past week at my work place they were doing some work with a forklift, loading material about 16 feet high on racks. Company policy is that you block the aisles on both sides of the place you are working. This way if there is an accident and something is knocked down, no one is in danger. I was a spotter (someone assigned to watch and make sure no customers came into those areas). I had just put up the aisle blocking gates when two men walked up, pushed the gate aside (with large yellow warning signs on them, which said: "Warning! Do not enter!" and walked down the aisle. I called them back and they were somewhat indignant as I tried to explain, but they protested that they could not see anyone working in the aisle and didn't see any danger.

It seems we are compelled to test limits, but not necessarily by "human nature". In the book of Genesis we read of Adam and Eve being given one "Don't" by God: "Don't eat of that particular fruit!" With what appears to be only a small whispered suggestion by Satan they chose to eat the fruit anyway.

In the New Testament we are given moral and ethical directives, yet people proclaim, "You can't tell me what to do!"; "I'll live however I want;" "I can choose my life style".  Listen to what the Apostle Paul proclaims: "Don't you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don't fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people; none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God. Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)

I know that there are some who will read this and say that I am "Homophobic", "A hater", that my beliefs are not "Politically Correct". But please notice; it's not what I believe that is important, but what God's Word says. When you remove the warning gates put up by God, you "exchange the truth about God for a lie, and worship and serve created things rather than the Creator", (Romans 1:25).You may not be able to see the danger, but that doesn't mean it isn't there. You might be tempted to believe those who say, "The bible is old and outdated and doesn't apply to us anymore." But ask yourself, "Does God's word have an expiration date"? James tells us in James 1:17-18, "Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow. He chose to give birth to us by giving us His true word. And we, out of all creation, became His prized possession."


Maybe you don’t see the danger, but could it be that we or our world is listening to the whispers of Satan to just ignore the warning gates put in place by God for our care and safety? I would suggest that perhaps we and it does.