Friday, July 24, 2015

Reunions



I just noticed on my calendar that we have a family reunion coming up very soon. It will be the first one we will be able to attend in about 10 years, so I'm looking forward to being reunited with many of my (extended) family. Yes, we exchange the occasional email and share pictures and family events on Facebook, but there is nothing that is better than being face to face with folks.

That's not something new! We still have around us something which has picked up the name "Snail Mail" or actually writing a letter with pen and paper and mailing it to someone. But again that's not the way that touches us in our hearts the most. The apostle John wrote about doing this. In 2 John_1:12 he wrote: "I have much to write to you, but I do not want to use paper and ink. Instead, I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete.

I believe that contained within those sentences is the key to what reunions give us. John wrote: "I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete". Our joy is made complete, we share our love of one another and our spirits are renewed and refreshed, in the presence of those we love, our joy is made complete.

We have many family members in our lives who are not blood relatives, but who are made brothers and sisters through the blood of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Many of those we have not seen for many years and may never see in this life, but they are no less missed and loved.

Of course there is the great reunion yet to come for Christ and His children. Several hymns come to mind with phrases such as: "Face to face with Christ my Savior," or "What a happy day it will be when my Savior's face I see." I'm sure you could list many, many more, but these express the basis of our faith don’t they? It's all about reunions. Reunions with loved ones, reunions with other Saints we have never met, and the great reunion with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ and His Father.

I don't know about you, but I'm looking forward to that reunion. 1 Thessalonians 4:13f gives us some insight into the reunion with those who have gone on before us. But we will only attend the reunion if we first accept the invitation to come. Jesus said in Revelation 22:17, "The Spirit and the bride say, "Come!" And let the one who hears say, "Come!" Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life." And in verse 14 Jesus said, "Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city."

Do you want to attend the reunion? It's all about being a blood relative in Christ. Another old hymn reminds us, "There is power in the blood," and asks, have you been cleansed by the life giving blood, washed and made part of a new eternal family? I'm planning on going to my family reunion, the one at the local pizza parlor and the one in heaven that provides for all of my needs for eternity. What about you?


Monday, July 13, 2015

IF THE CREEK DON'T RISE


I had a conversation with my oldest son this past week about the meaning of the phrase, "The good Lord willing and if the creek don't rise." I've heard that phrase all of my life and never really thought about it. For us it always meant that if the water in the creek (crick or stream) got high it would prevent you from traveling.

I did quite a bit of searching and found there is no agreement as to the source of the phrase, nor what is the true meaning of the phrase. One of the more colorful claims is that Colonel Benjamin Hawkins (1754-1816) first penned these words. It is said that he wrote in response to a request from President Washington to travel to the capital. It is supposed to have been written in reference to The Creek Indian Nation; so if The Creek rose up, he would be unable to leave his post. I like this explanation, but there doesn't seem to be enough evidence to prove it conclusively.

To tell you the truth I think I still prefer the local concept of the saying referring to the local streams (creeks) raising and preventing travel, especially in the times of storms. Living in the Mid-West we have seen many of those this year and many, many creeks overflowing their banks.  

Of course it is the first part of the saying which is really important isn't it. It follows the concept found in James 4:13-15 of God being in control of our world. Notice what James writes:
"Now listen, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.' Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, 'If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that.'"

There is no questioning of the fact that storms often come into our lives. The thing about storms is that you can never completely plan for them in advance. Their intensity varies greatly with each occurrence; they are simply never the same. The truth of the matter is that the only way you can survive is truly trusting in The Lord. We live in an uncertain world and as James says, you ought to say, 'If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that.'"

I don't know about you, but I still have a problem in putting that into practice. So often I plan my plans in infinite detail and then pray that The Lord will allow things to work out as I have planned. We (and I) need to learn to involve God in our plans from the very start, before we put the first line on our to do list or our itinerary.

I pray that things go as you plan in your life, "The Good Lord willing and if the creek don't rise!"



Wednesday, July 8, 2015

YOU ONLY LIVE....


I was talking with a man today about some of his life goals. I told him many of those sounded good and someday, perhaps I would get to do some of the things he mentioned. He replied with the well know American cliché "Do it now, after all you only live once!"

Later in the day I reviewed that conversation and thought, "that's really not a true statement." The truth is that you only get one life here on this earth, but if you live a life obedient to God you get a much better second life!

Maybe that is what we have so many miserable and depressed people in our world today. They honestly believe that if they don't get to experience everything they want before they die, their life will be a failure. They believe that they have missed the experience of "living fully." The advertisers of this world make that claim everyday don't they? If you don't drive their car, drink their beer, travel on their mode of transportation or have not ended up at their destination, then you have not fully lived. They make their living trying to make you believe that you are missing out on something essential to your happiness.

It seems to me that most people in this world are miserable and depressed because they have lost hope of things ever getting better in their lives. They know they are not in the position to do or have all of the things the advertisers say they need to make them happy; therefore they are convinced that they are unhappy. They have forgotten the most important thing about hope! Hope that is true hope is about something entirely different. The Psalmist wrote in Psalm 62:5, "Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him."

If you are hoping against hope for something better, perhaps you need some direction as to what to hope for that really matters. The apostle Paul wrote to some folks who were having a "hope" problem. Listen to his word of encouragement: "Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord's word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep", (1 Thessalonians 4:13-15).

Jesus said that he is the resurrection and life and for those who believe in him, for those who obey his word, you can have a second life. You can have a life that goes on forever with the son of God.

So what are you hoping for? What are you planning for? What is on your list of things to do before you die? If it's not serving God, then you will "only live once." Why? Because the second life is one you live with God. Oh, and just in case you are wondering, there is a "second death," take a moment and ready Revelation 21:8 to find out more.


Russ Lawson

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?