Saturday, April 29, 2017

The Silver Lining



For the past two years we have hung a Boston Fern on our back patio, both years we have had birds silver, furry, lining. She showed me the nest and I told her, “I know why it has a silver lining…. You cut my hair on the back patio the other day and they must have pick up the hair left on the ground to line their nest.”


Yes, my hair is a kind of silver white, that’s not unusual in our day and age is it. They tell us that we as a nation are living longer and longer. The current average life expectancy is 78.7 years which is an improvement over the 68.7 years of 1960. In other words, there are more “gray heads” around than there used to be. Some have referred to this as “the graying of America”.

I’ve been increasingly bothered by the shift in our nation over the past 20 or 30 years. There seems to be a lack of respect for the “older generation”. You can see it almost everywhere you go and throughout all aspects of our society. Yet, this is exactly the opposite of how God’s word tells us it should be.

Proverbs 16:31 tells us, “Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained in the way of righteousness.” In Leviticus 19:32 we read:Stand up in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God.’

It seems significant to me that God links showing respect for the elderly with revering our God? Now I’m not writing this to beg for sympathy for me as I age, like many of my age group on the inside I feel a lot younger than I look on the outside. For me personally I don’t necessarily want or need special treatment, but God’s word says we who have gray hair deserve it. When is the last time you saw a young person give their seat to someone who was older than them. When was the last time you saw the “gray heads” being allowed to go first through a line or even through a door simply because it was the respectful thing to do? Our county and our schools will not teach this lesson, but then it is not their job to teach it, it is the job of us who are parents or leaders in our churches.

The gray in our hair is more than just something put there by nature. It is part of the silver lining God is lining our personal nests with…. It may not often appear that it is near us or that we have access to it, but if we stop and think about it is always there if we are near our God. In Isaiah 46:4, God says: “Even to your old age I will be the same, And even to your graying years I will bear you! I have done it, and I will carry you; And I will bear you and I will deliver you.

Our God “Has done it” and will continue. Even when we don’t feel very appreciated or respected the one who truly counts in our life appreciates, loves and respects us.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Do You Want To Live?




There is an old movie from the 1980's, Conan the Barbarian. At one point in the movie Conan and his group of warriors are fighting and as they face battle with overwhelming odds one asks the other, "What's the matter, do you want to live forever". The thought expressed, being that there in no better way to die than in battle or that life is not worth living without facing a challenge. A great inspiring thought, but how close to reality?

While I was in the hospital for tests a while back and I was asked a question I had never been asked

before. The doctor came in and talked about the procedure I was going to have and asked, "Do you have a living will?" I told him, "Yes, I do." He said, well I have to ask this, "If something happens and your heart stops during this procedure, do you want us to try and bring you back?" Now that will make you sit up and take notice! I had to stop and think and ask a couple of questions to make sure I understood. I then told him, "Yes, bring me back."

What is it you want, what is really important to you? I'm reminded of a incident in the life of Jesus as he left the city of Jericho recorded in Mark 10:46 and following. Notice what happened: "And so they reached Jericho. Later, as Jesus and his disciples left town, a great crowd was following. A blind beggar named Bartimaeus (son of Timaeus) was sitting beside the road as Jesus was going by. When Bartimaeus heard that Jesus from Nazareth was nearby, he began to shout out, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" "Be quiet!" some of the people yelled at him. But he only shouted louder, "Son of David, have mercy on me!" When Jesus heard him, he stopped and said, "Tell him to come here." So they called the blind man. "Cheer up," they said. "Come on, he’s calling you!" Bartimaeus threw aside his coat, jumped up, and came to Jesus.  "What do you want me to do for you?" Jesus asked. "Teacher," the blind man said, "I want to see!"

The man, Bartimaeus, didn't have to ask questions for clarification, he didn't have to stop and think about it, he knew exactly what he wanted and Jesus granted his request.

What is it YOU want more than anything? Most folks, when given time to think about it would like to avoid death, they would say, "I want to live and if possible, to live forever". Paul wrote in Romans 6:23. "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."

I want to live and I know I have eternal life because of God's promises! John wrote fabulous words of encouragement in 1 John 5:13. Notice what he says: "I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life."

There's an old gospel song that says, "I know, I know, there's no doubt about it, he's real in my heart and I'm going to shout it". That's the feeling you have when you understand that you have life with Christ! Do you want to live? Yes! Then go to the book and see what he tells you that you must do! In fact read the whole chapter of Romans 6 for a starter.

May our God bless you with success in your attempt to live forever!

Monday, March 27, 2017

GRACIE'S HAIR




My wife helps teach in our church’s preschool in the class for 4 year old children. She loves it and is
always being surprised by the observations the children make. Little Gracie is in the class, and Gracie is always easy to spot because she has a beautiful head of red hair.

This last week the children were sitting in a row watching an activity going on. My wife was sitting behind the children and over heard when a little 4 year old boy leaned over to Gracie and ask, “Do you dye your hair?” Gracie turned to him and said, “No, it’s all my own.”
 
The question is; what prompted the little guy to ask the question? Obviously, Gracie’s hair is different from most of the other kids. It would seem likely though that he knows someone who dyes their hair.

Often in our world today it’s hard to know what is real and what is not real. People do a great job of disguising things as well as themselves. Most of the time only the outside is changed, which only disguises what lies underneath. Obviously many people do this, that’s why “plastic” surgeons make a good living. That’s why cosmetic companies thrive and clothing companies work hard to design the latest trendy clothing. We want to look good and feel good about ourselves.

Sometimes we wonder what is real and what is not in the religious world, don’t we? There are hundreds and hundreds of different kinds of churches, (religious belief’s) in our world. How can we know what is real and what is not. Most everybody in our county knows about Jim Jones and his “church”. They know the meaning of the phrase, “drinking the cool aid” also. Jim Jones was the church leader who convinced 918 of his followers to drink cool aid with cyanide in it and kill themselves. We think about that and wonder, “How could they not realize this was not God’s message for His church today?” “How could they not know this was not real?”

If you look at the person next to you, can you tell if they dye their hair? It’s a silly question I know, but unless it is a really bad dye job, you may not be able to tell. However if you worked with hair on a daily basis you most probably could tell immediately what is real or what was not.

There is a way to discover the truth though isn’t there… by study, by exposure, but being instructed. In John 8:32 Jesus said, “and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” In John 17:17 we read, “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth,” (NIV) “Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth”. (NLT) You see, if you spend enough time with God’s Word, you will be able to recognize what is real and what is not.

As you look at your life, is it real or is it fake? Do you dye your spiritual life (change it on the outside) to make it look good to others, or is it really you? Are you drinking the cool aid, just because someone gives it too you, or are you able to tell what is real?

The Gift



I’ve written a couple of times about our new rescued dog, Cassie, but something I don’t think I have mentioned is that she was a gift to my wife. Our little dog Chewy died this past summer and my wife has been grieving every since. Actually, until we got our new furry kid I didn’t realize how much I missed her too. Anyway, the search for a new dog began as a search for a special dog for my wife for Valentines day. We got her a few days late, but the name which was chosen for her is “Cassie Valentine”.
 
You probably have heard the saying which goes, “it’s the gift that keeps on giving,” well that’s Cassie. She has bonded with both of us, but especially my wife as she is with her so much more. My wife can’t leave the room without a little black shadow following her. She gets so excited when we give her canned dog food that she prances around, rolls on her back and wags all over, (the dog, not my wife). She returns the blessing of love, maybe because she understands the gift she has been given and remembers what it was like not to have those who loved her and cared for her.

Our grandaughter has also received a gift through this little fur ball. She has “suggested” for the past six months that “you guys REALLY need a new dog”. What she was really saying is that she wanted us to get a dog that she could play with. However, blessings sometimes bless us in unexpected ways. Our 9 year old grandaughter has begun hand sewing cloths for the dog. She has made her a coat and Shaw and a neckerchief. They really look cute and she is proud of her ability to make these little gifts for the dog. Gifts can be blessings which fill our needs, gives us something we can’t give ourselves, or even that which causes us to share with others.

From another aspect though which we understand is that this gift comes with responsibility. Dog’s take care; they take time, and there is some expense with having a dog. That’s not unlike the gift of being a Christian is it? Someone reminded me again, that Dog spelled backwards is GOD, maybe that’s not an accident that it’s that way.

I like this modern translation of Ephesians 2:8 that tells us, “God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can't take credit for this; it is a gift from God.” Often in the New Testament we read of the reaction of those who come into contact with Jesus. They rejoiced, gave thanks and went and told others what Jesus has done for them, because the gift he has given them.

How are you doing with that? In Matthew 28:119-20 we read of Jesus saying,Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” You see, this is our response to the gift! It is the gift that keeps on giving and one for which we must keep on rejoicing.

SECOND HAND DOGS



You may or may not have read the article I wrote about our family rescuing an older dog from the local animal shelter. Some might call her a “Second Hand Dog,” but that’s OK, we love things that have seen a little wear and tear, maybe has some of the ‘new’ rubbed off. We did adopt her and she is fitting in just fine with just minor adjustments as she figures out this new home and strange people in her life.

We had to take her to the Veterinarian this week as she had developed a cough. They warned us at the shelter this might happen; I guess kennel cough is a common problem where there are large groups of dogs. She is on antibiotics and has almost stopped coughing completely now.

The Vet said something that made an impression on me during the exam. As many of us do when we go to the doctor we experience what they call “White coat” anxiety. Our heart rate goes up; our blood pressure goes up, etc. After examining her, the vet said, “I can see that she has chosen you for her family?” I was confused by that statement, but the Vet continued: “When I began the exam her, heart rate was high, she was afraid. You came over and began to pet her and talk to her and as I listened her heart rate dropped. I knew she had chosen to trust you and accept you.”

I don’t know about you, but I think that is such a cool thing to be trusted and accepted as someone’s protector (even if it is a dog). It’s great to be chosen as a protector, but what about the ones who choose to protect and love us. We have come to love that little furry one, protect her and provide for her. She gives us back something which is without price, her love.

Isn’t that just like our God and our relationship? He chooses us doesn’t he? Paul writes in Colossians 3:12, “Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” How do we respond to our God who has chosen us? The apostle Peter adds in 1 Peter 1:5, “But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy.

I pray that you may be granted the peace, comfort and trust that our little dog finds in us in your relationship with our God.

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?