Wednesday, May 27, 2015

I’LL GIVE YOU TIME TO GO NUMB

 

I had a dental appointment this week and after the inevitable injection before a little drilling the technician said while leaving the room, "I’ll give you a little time to go numb." Of course this brought up the question, “How much time does it take to go numb?”

What comes to mind in a religious sense; is how much time does it take to harden your heart? How much time does it take before you feel no sense of guilt when you no longer look to God for guidance, let alone worship him?

I know so many people who at one time had a love for God and a love for his church; then unexpectedly it seems that they are no longer interested. They lost their joy; the joy of gathering with others; to worship the God of the universe. Sometimes I hear comments such as: "Going to church just doesn't excite me anymore,"  "I can worship as well at home," or "I find God on the lake or golf course."

How long does it take for someone to go numb? Going numb is when you have a lack of feeling. Could it be the responsibility of the people or place you have been worshiping? Possibly it is, but more than likely it is a change in your own heart that has taken place. Could you be going numb? Maybe you are already there!

The church at Ephesus was a shining light for God before the people of the world. They have a whole book of the bible devoted to the church there, most of it positive. Yet, in Revelation 2:4-5 we read a message from God for them. He says, "But I have this against you, that you left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen and repent and do the first works again; or else I come to you, and will move your candlestick out of its place, unless you repent and return to loving me and putting me first."

How did that happen? How could this God loving, Mission supporting, Evangelist church forget God? When did they go numb? The answer is, One day at a time… one thought at a time… one action at a time and before they knew it they no longer felt what they had before for God and His church.

How about you, how are you doing?


Friday, May 15, 2015

Inside



I was lying in bed saying my prayers the other night and I said something that surprised me. I was praying for many of my family, friends and acquaintances, many of who are struggling in their faith. These are the words that formed in my strange brain, "Lord, inside of them is a spiritual person struggling to get out." 

Isn't that true of so many of us? There is a struggle within us to be more than we are, to have a better and stronger relationship with our God. It is so easy for us to observe the outer person we see and forget the ongoing struggle and the potential that is there. It's like looking at the caterpillar before it turns into a butterfly. That caterpillar is not the most attractive thing I ever saw, but hidden inside is that which can be one of God's most beautiful creations.
You may be the one struggling to overcome the "caterpillar syndrome". You may be wondering if you will ever be able to be the spiritual person you desire so strongly to be. It is so easy to look at others and think, "I wish I were like them," but we don't know how they struggle or have struggled in their lives to become who they are today. The change (metamorphosis) from spiritual caterpillar to butterfly doesn't come easily for anyone, yet it is possible.

The apostle Paul used this Greek word "metamorphosis", talking about our spiritual change in 2 Corinthians 3:17-18 where he said: "Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord's glory, are being transformed (metamorphosis) into his image with ever increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit."

When you think about the change you want for your life, don't limit yourself in the area of time. Don't expect to be "transformed into his image" over night and don't expect that of anyone else either. Just remember that inside of them (and us) is a spiritual person struggling to get out. Jesus understood that also, which is part of the power behind his words when he said in Matthew 19:26 "With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible". It may seem like a silly prayer to some, but I truly believe that inside many of us is a spiritual person struggling to get out.



Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Dear God, I'm ready to listen

I had gotten a new tea mug about a year ago; you know the kind with a neat saying on it. I was more interested in the fact that it was huge and I like a "big" cup of tea, not one of those tiny ones where you can't even get your fingers through the handle.
Anyway, I was sitting and sipping my tea the other morning and took notice of the message printed on the cup. Now I know I have read it before, but if you had asked me what it said, I wouldn't have been able to tell you. It may just be that I am more in need of the message now than before. Anyway, the message touched my heart this time. A simple message that said, "Dear God… I'm ready to listen now". The other side of the mug said in part, "God never puts a call on hold…. I can ask Him about anything and he is ready to listen."
We seem to understand the part about God always being ready to listen, but what about the other part, the part where we listen?
Part of the problem may be that we often expect an immediate, clearly stated answer from God and He doesn't always answer that way. The eleventh chapter of Hebrews deals with how God answers; take time to read it sometime... Simply, God sometimes doesn't answer in anyway which is perceivable to us. We continue to serve him and do what he asks of us anyway, which is called, "walking by faith". "By faith," we read that all of the great people of the Old Testament served God, never personally seeing the end result of the promise of God.
They married, had children, dealt with the daily stresses and problems, and went to work everyday having faith that God was in control, and knew what he was doing even if they didn't. How do we do that today? By believing that God is in control, one day at a time, or one hour at a time or even a few minutes at a time, because he is either in control of this world or he is not. That's the decision we have to make and live by.
Here is how they did it: Hebrews 11:13-16, "All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth… they were longing for a better country; a heavenly one.."(NIV)

Someone else put it this way, "Each one of these people of faith died not yet having in hand what was promised, but still believing. How did they do it? They saw it way off in the distance, waved their greeting, and accepted the fact that they were transients in this world. People who live this way make it plain that they are looking for their true home."


Living in this world, looking for our true home! That’s the secret of living by faith and listening for God. As the old hymn says, "This world is not my home, I'm just a passing through…"

Thursday, April 30, 2015

"X" marks the spot


As I view our society, it seems like there are so many people who really have no direction in there lives. They may have a general idea that they are traveling through life, but with out a goal or a finial destination in mind. Many people (especially young people) seem to have a sense of "lostness" about them. You asked them what they are doing with their lives and they will tell you, "I'm going to school", or "I on a sports team". If you asked them, "Well, what are you going to do after that," some may tell you they are going for a higher education, but it seems most really don't know.

It's not much different for those who are older. If you ask many people about their3 plans, the answer is "to retire". If you ask, "Then what", they really have no answer, other that to say they want to visit some place.

The story is told about Albert Einstein, the brilliant physicist of Princeton University in the early 20th century. Einstein was traveling from Princeton on a train, and when the conductor came down the aisle to punch the passengers’ tickets, Einstein couldn’t find his. He looked in his vest pocket, he looked in his pants pocket, he looked in his briefcase, but there was no ticket. The conductor was gracious; "Not to worry, Dr. Einstein, I know who you are, we all know who you are, and I’m sure you bought a ticket."

As the conductor moved down the aisle, he looked back and noticed Einstein on his hands and knees, searching under the seat for his ticket. The conductor returned to Einstein; "Dr. Einstein, Dr. Einstein, don’t worry. I know who you are. You don’t need a ticket, I’m sure you bought one." Einstein arose and said "Young man, I too know who I am; what I don’t know is where I am going."

So where are you going? Einstein was looking for his ticket to tell him. Me, I prefer to look at the map for my life given by God. When you spend time with God's word, it is much like reading a treasure map. We try and get to the place where "X" marks the spot to find the treasure. That's where I'm trying to go! I like treasure (if it's the right kind).

I don’t know about you, but I treasure peace, happiness, kindness, love, fellowship; a relationship with God and family and friends. As I thought about this list I realized that "things" are not on my list of treasures. I guess there is a reason for that… Jesus understood this and that why he said what he did in Matthew 6:21, "Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be."

So, where are you going? Where is your treasure? I hope it is the right place and you are following the right map.


Friday, April 24, 2015

New Challenges




Many of you know that I have recently made some major changes in my life. I have retired from full time ministry and moved across country from California to Ohio. Our motor home, (in which we intended to live), sustained damage which made it unlivable for the present. We are living with family until that is corrected. If that weren’t enough I have now begun a new job in a new field in which I have no experience. I have lots of management experience, but not in this type of work. I am having to learn a whole lot quickly to succeed in this endeavor.

When I thought about the new challenge before me I thought I would check out the definition and here is what I found out about this particular challenge. The definition of the word is: "to arouse or stimulate especially by presenting with difficulties". Well, to say that I have been stimulated by being presenting with difficulties would definitely be the truth about my situation. At times I feel totally unprepared for the challenge.

I'm reminded of some bible characters, who faced similar challenges. Men such as a shepherd boy named David, who became a giant slayer, an army commander and king of the nation of Israel. I doubt that while he was in the field with the sheep that he would have imagined that he would be a king, much less kill a giant with a sling shot. He did however trust that God was in control of all things and he believed that God can do whatever he wants with whoever he wants.

Another man who changed careers was the man who became the Apostle Paul. He was someone who fought with all of his heart and soul against Christians. He never in his wildest dreams would have thought he would become one himself. Yet he became one of the most influential Christians to have ever lived. He realized why he was so changed and why he was so successful. That is what he wrote the words of  Philippians 4:13, "I can do all this through him who gives me strength."

What is your challenge? Are you up to it? You may not be, but God always is! And you can do all things through him who gives you strength.



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?