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.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

100 Pound Chicken


Did you hear about the 100 Pound Chicken researchers have developed? They crossed it genes with a pig. Not only is it much larger, but its eggs taste like bacon.

If you believed that little story, you are probably gullible, because I just made it up. I have sometimes heard folks described as being Gullible and at other times someone described as Jaded. Just so we are "On the same page" as they say, here are the meanings of the words. Gullible is defined as: "quick to believe something, possibly something that is not true". Jaded is defined as: "made dull, apathetic, or cynical by experience".

I got to thinking about this the other day when in good nature banter I heard someone say, "She's gullible, she'll believe anything you tell her." I heard that and thought, "Wow, what a complement… though they probably don't understand it that way". My wife is that way too, she tends to believe anything thing someone tells her and I love that about her. Why, because I'm not as open to that way of thinking as is she, I may be a little "Jaded", yet, being gullible is a biblical principle.

One of the passages we often hear at weddings comes from 1 Corinthians 13:7, the apostle Paul talking about what love means in our life says, "(Love) Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things." A more modern translation of that verse reads this way, "Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance." (NLT)

Just so we can be reminded of the importance of these things, take a look at the whole context of this verse. 1 Corinthians 13:1-7:

"If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn't love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God's secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn't love others, I would be nothing.
If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn't love others, I would have gained nothing.
Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud
or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged.
It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.
Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance". (NLT)


I don't know about you, but I think I need to work on that principle in my life. I need to be a little more gullible. I need to not give up on people, not lose faith in people, always hope for the best and because of love, endure when circumstances don't work out as I would like. How about you?

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

GOD'S PROVEDENTIAL SIGHT (GPS)



Have you ever thought about God's providence and how it works in your life? A few synonymous for provenience would be: opportune, advantageous, favorable, auspicious, propitious, heaven-sent, fortunate, timely, well timed and expedient.

I personally believe that God's providence works in the lives of Christians. How, I'm really not sure, but I have seen it happen too often, what Paul declares in Romans 8:28. That is that “all things work together for good for those who love God”.

By way of example: This past week our oldest son had to go somewhere to make application for membership to a shooting club. He had been there before, but on a whim turned on his GPS and followed its directions. On a back road he saw a car in a field, so he stopped to see if he could be of assistance. It turned out that the man had gotten a phone call and didn't have bluetooth, so stopped to take the call. The man thanked him several times for stopping to check on him.

As my son proceeded he noticed the car following him, turn for turn, right up to the club building where he was going. When they got out of their cars the man asked what my son was doing there. It turned out that the man was a club officer and took care of the enrollment process himself, cutting any red tape that might have slowed things down. Could it have been God's Providential Sight (GPS)?

Perhaps it was; when God proclaimed through Paul that all things would work out to the good, he didn't specify that they had to be “spiritual” things. Could it have been “just a coincidence”? Perhaps, but I prefer to think that God watches over his people. That's what faith is about, isn't it? Believing that God is in control of our world, trusting in him to make things work out, even when we don't understand the how, when or why? I'm not a big fan of "The Message" (a paraphrase of the Bible), but I like what it says of Hebrews 11:1. It reads, "The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It's our handle on what we can't see."

I realize that not everything in our lives may feel like it is being touched or guided by God. There are a lot of bad things that happen, simply because there is evil in the world. Sometimes we choose poorly or make bad decisions, sometimes in our mind we do nothing wrong at all, but bad things happen. That doesn't change the fact that God is in control of our world.


Maybe each of us should trust a little more in the real GPS, not necessarily that little box on our dash or in our phone. Maybe we should walk with a little more trust in God, or by Faith? What do you think?