Wednesday, April 15, 2015

What about this "rejoicing" stuff?


I know that many Christians have trouble with Paul's instructions to "rejoice in the Lord always" (Philippians 4:4). Honestly, how can we be expected to "rejoice" when there are so many bad things happening in our lives and in our world? Paul can't have been serious could he? Think about this, the word "rejoice" could be translated just as easily as "to be full of cheer," or simply, "be happy," and in our world, it seems this is a much desired, but little accomplished state of life.



Recently I asked in a sermon, "When is the last time you have been happy as a Christian?" "When is the last time you trusted God that much, to enjoy just being one of his children?"

The problem as I perceive it for many of us, is that we are more in interested in solving problems (real or perceived) than in trusting God to handle them for us. We worry that there are or will be things that we cannot handle or straighten out on our own. We worry about our families, our jobs, our health, and our churches. I don't imagine you are much different that me and in my mind I ask questions like these: "What if we don't get it right?" "What if we make the wrong decisions?" "What if I'm not able to defend "the truth" of God's Word?" "What if I don't know the right words to say?" "What if I am not in the right place in this world?" "Could there be another job I could be or should be in?" "Am I the right example of a husband, father, brother, friend?"

You see, most of those questions are about "me", with little reliance upon God. And, when we worry about all of those things, try to answer all of the questions ourselves, we really won't feel very happy or being "rejoicing" Christians.

It comes down to the question of how much we really trust God or how much we really believe he cares for us. I believe that God is able to put us where we need to be, when we need to be there and will guide us to deal with the questions of life, if we trust him enough. Until we learn to do that we can't truly be happy or "rejoice in the Lord".

If you can, open your bible and read the whole passage of Matthew 6:25-34. In this passage Jesus talks to his followers about worry and the care of God for each of us. In verses 33-34 he sums up what he is trying to say with these words, "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."

Someone paraphrased these verses like this, "Learn to trust in God. Don't worry about things you can do anything about. When you do that, you'll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don't get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes".

There was a silly little song which was popular a few years ago that simply repeated the words, "Don't worry, be happy" to a catchy little tune. Again I ask the questions, "When is the last time you have been happy as a Christian?" "When is the last time you trusted God that much, to enjoy just being one of his children?"


The only way you can do that is to REALLY believe that God is in control of your life and this world. To believe (whether you like it or not) that you are where you need to be to serve God's purpose, not your own. You don't have to understand it, just belief it and live your life trusting that God knows what he is doing whether you do or not. In other words, "Don't worry… Be happy" (rejoice in the Lord). 

Monday, April 6, 2015

Location, Location, Location...

Recently I wrote an article about our travels and not knowing where we were and really not caring that I didn’t know. On the other side of this thought I would suggest that it does matter to me where we are.

On this journey of ours we had a goal; it was to arrive back to the place of our birth and where our family is at; Ohio. We had carefully mapped out the route we had to take to get where we wanted to go and followed that route faithfully. Granted, we had a few unscheduled stops along the way, but the goal never changed.

Now we are located where we wanted to be, near our family and grandkids. It’s all about desires of the heart and the choices we make. Is location important? Yes it is! The problem is that the desires we have don’t always work out in real life as our final destination. In our travel through life, we want family, friends and special jobs. Sometimes we continue this journey (or adventure) through life, because want to reclaim memories and make new memories, see new sights, experience new things.

The question for each of  us, is what is your ultimate goal? Where are you going on your journey? You just can’t say it any better than the apostle Paul did in Philippians 3:11-14, “I want to know Christ; yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”


Paul’s goal was to some day be raised to live with God in Heaven. What could be a better goal than that? Nothing that I can think of! Does that mean I will enjoy my present location any less? Not at all, I will enjoy it all the more knowing that my ultimate goal is even so much better! How about you?

Monday, March 30, 2015

I DIDN'T KNOW WHERE I WAS AND I DIDN'T CARE!



We have been traveling across this great nation of ours for 8 days now. We are not making a mad dash across the county this time as we have always done before. Just a few more days and we will be to our goal, home with our family.

Yesterday was an especially long day of driving and driving an almost 40 foot long motor home and towing a car behind it, making it closer to 60 foot takes lots of concentration. Yesterday we drove through several areas of "road construction" (very narrow lanes to negotiate) and I was very tired. 

We were in Missouri (stretching our driving day to try and stay ahead of some storm fronts) and had planned on stopping at a RV park at a particular exit, but when we got there the RV park was not, apparently it had closed. I kept driving for another 30 miles or so down the highway and I was getting tired. We finally spotted a small RV park off the side of the road, made a quick exit and stopped.

Once we got set up and settled the stress of the day started to set in and I was really tired. We made a couple of calls to family and we were asked the inevitable question, "Where are you guys?" My reply was, "I don’t know and don't really care, I'm just glad to be off of the road for the night". I still don't know because I haven't cared enough to check it out. I do know we are somewhere East of Springfield, MO, but that's it. I'll get out the road maps and check it out later this morning to find out more accurately because I do have a destination in mind, a goal of where to be tomorrow night. I want to be on the right highway going in the right direction.

Of course as I thought about my response, I thought about how this is like the response of so many people regarding their relationship to God. Someone might ask, "Are you a Christian?" or "Are you right with God?" to which the response often is, "I hope so," or "I think so". So basically like me they are saying, "I don't really know and I don't care enough to check it out and see where I am".  

God has given us a "road map for life," His book, the bible. You may not know where you are in your relationship to Him and may not really care, but I can guarantee that someday you will care. Jesus had these words to share on the subject in Matthew 7:13-14.  "You can enter God's Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it." (NLT)

I don't know about you, but I check the road map for life often daily. Why, because I want to be on God's road going his way. How about you?




Wednesday, March 25, 2015

ROUGHING IT SMOOTHLY



Last week I had a change in my "life situation," of which most of you are probably not aware. After 44 years in ministry I have "semi" retired. My wife and I are "roughing it", by camping our way across this great country of ours. But we are "roughing it" rather smoothly as we are currently traveling back to Ohio in our motor home. I set here at my computer, in my comfortable living room chair and am writing this from Holbrook, AZ. We are "roughing it" with about 450 square feet of living space, a queen size bed, microwave oven, full refrigerator, satellite television and with a furnace and air conditioning.  So as the title says, we are "roughing it," but rather smoothly.

We plan on living full time in our motor home when we get back to Ohio, so that is a change also. We have had some questions as to our sanity in making this choice, such as, "How can we give up living in a conventional house?" But as you can see, we have a house, it just has wheels. Where that house is and what it consists of is really secondary as we consider what is really important in life.

I know that some folks don't like change. I've met some folks that fight "tooth and nail" to keep things from changing in their lives. But life is about changes isn't it? You can fight against it, try to prevent change in your life, but from the minute we are born we begin to experience change and changes continue even after our life on earth ends. What needs to be our focus in life is not preventing change, but preparing for the ultimate change. 

In 1Corinthians 15:50-57 the Apostle Paul tells us about the ultimate change when he writes: "I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: "Death has been swallowed up in victory." "Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?" The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." (NIV)


Change is inevitable, you can't stop it, so it really is best to prepare for it the best that you can. You can make it though life (and death), roughly, or smoothly, the choice is up to you.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Bark Less – Wag More

 


For those of you who are dog lovers like us in our household, you understand the meaning of the title above. We have a little 13 year old dog (Chewy), that understands what that is about. I honestly don't think she has ever met any person she doesn't like. She gets so excited when anyone comes to the house that not just her tail wags, but her whole backend wags. She can bark, but rarely does and never at people, cats and squirrels however, are a different matter, at those she will bark most excitedly.

I wish I could have a personality more like hers, to bark less and wag more. But, I also understand that sometime you have to identify the evil and speak out against it (or them), to bark a little, or a lot.

Our example in all things, Jesus Christ did that. He was loving and compassionate to most, but when evil raised its head, he didn't hesitate to speak out and call it, (or them), what it was; evil, sin, rebellion against God's clearly stated commandants. He even took violent action at one time against those who ignored the righteous instructions of God and brought sinful activities right into the temple, where worship was suppose to take place.

Bark less; wag more, what a difficult thing to do sometimes, yet that is part of the concept of having the mind of Christ in us. Christ gave up his own right to demand people bow down and worship him and gave mankind the option to refuse and reject him. If we had been in his place we probably would have been barking more and wagging less, but he didn't. If we had been in his place, we might have called down fire and brimstone upon most of the known world who rejected him, but he didn't. If we had been in his place, most likely we would have rejected even ourselves and those like us, who try to serve God, but still have secret sin and rebellion in our lives.

Jesus had one purpose in his life, Luke 19:10 tells us: "For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost."  That was his purpose and he did that with more wag and less bark.

Why didn't he bark more, or just destroy the sinful world that rejected him? 2 Peter 3:9 explains it to us: "The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance."

Maybe we should think a little more about God's desire for the world and the purpose he has for us, which is to carry his message of love to the whole world. A little more wagging and a little less barking may be what is needed.

Russ Lawson


Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Adventure

I have had a small note, (which I read often), stuck to the front of my computer for a good while. It is a quote from Helen Keller that says, "Life is an adventure, or it is nothing". One definition of the word "adventure" is: "an undertaking involving unknown risks," another is: "and exciting or remarkable experience," and if Helen Keller didn't understand what that meant, no one could. Both blind and deaf, she overcame this challenge and with the help of others, turned her life into "a remarkable experience," which has been an inspiration to so many in our world.

My wife and I often talk about "the adventure" our life has been. Granted our life decisions are not for everyone, what we choose to do would not fit your life. However, having said that, it doesn't mean that your life has not been or cannot be an adventure also. We may be different physically and emotionally, but we each have the God given Spirit of Life and as long as there is breath and life in us, our own personal adventure continues.

God's Word is filled with the records of people who have chosen to live a life of adventure, undertaking the unknown risks, having (sometimes) remarkable experiences. Isn't that what draws us to God, isn't that what causes us to read with excitement the stories recorded in his word. How many of you remember the stories first taught to you by your Bible School teachers of Adam and Eve, of Abraham and Sarah, of Isaac and Esau or of Noah and his family in the Ark? What about the early disciples of Jesus as they left their homes and followed him, then they spread out through the whole world sharing his message.

But, that is not the role he has given to most of us and it may seem like your life lacks adventure. To some God has given the role of husband or wife, or teacher or factory worker, or Elder or Deacon, or encourager or contributor. Your life may not seem particularly exciting or adventurous, but our greatest adventure is the one in which we all share, we who follow Jesus. It is the adventure that comes when this life is over, the great transition of our physical death or our eternal life with our God in Heaven.

For the time being, "The Adventure Continues," our life never lacks purpose (or being a remarkable experience), if we just focus on being the best wherever God places us. The apostle Paul writes these words to encourage some who may have felt cheated because they couldn't do what others could. "There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work". (1 Corinthians 12:4-6) I pray that you will see the adventure in your life and find fulfillment in it, whatever it may be!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Singing to the Creation

Have you ever thought about how large a roll singing plays in the world? We sing when we mourn, and we sing when we worship but most of all we sing when we are happy. God intended it to be that way and shows us by example how to rejoice and share our happiness.

Can you imagine the first morning Adam awoke in the Garden of Eden and heard the birds singing? Can you imagine God walking through the garden and humming to himself as he enjoys his creation? I must admit that it is somewhat of a stretch of even my active imagination, but do you think HE just might have?

God tells us through Isaiah 49:13: "Sing, O heavens; and be joyful, O earth; and break forth into singing, O mountains: for the Lord has comforted his people, and will have mercy upon his afflicted."

Our son Kirk shared this little incident that happened with our granddaughter Allison last week: "So I have picked up my 7 year old daughter Allison and we are driving home. She is singing happily to herself when she suddenly decides to talk about her future employment and career options. She says to me, "I do like singing. But I also really like science! I guess I could sing to the creatures I create." Apparently I am the proud father of a budding mad scientist! "

If the mind of a child can imagine that, why not the mind of God? There is a scripture we primarily read at Christmas time, but I want you to think of it in a different way. What's the scripture? Luke 2:1-14: "And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; You shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.  And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men."

I believe God was happy and rejoicing as the heavenly host sang to His creation sharing his Joy. That's why the angels sang. 

So how often do you sing, maybe not to "your creation," but sing because you rejoice or are just happy? James counsels us: "Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise." (James 5:13) Maybe a better question might be, are you happy in your life or with your relationship to your creator? If you are, then sing, it's what God intended.