Sunday, November 27, 2011

You’ve got to be Kidding

In Luke chapter 17 we are introduced to ten lepers who desperately need a miracle. When seeing Jesus, they cry out “Master have mercy on us.” Immediately he addresses their need, gives some specific instructions and sends them on their way. As they continue their journey suddenly they realize they are healed. Although all of them make the discovery only one returns to give thanks for what has happened in his life. Quite a story isn’t it? The amazing thing is not that they were healed, but that only one took the time to stop and glorify God for the blessing. It’s at this point that Jesus shares a sense of disappointment by his statement, “were there not ten cleansed, but where are the nine?” Most likely your thoughts and feelings are not that different from the Lord’s--“You’ve got to be kidding me.” Was this statement a mere reflection of disbelief? I don’t think so. More than anything else it was one of predictability. In my opinion the point of the story seems to be that the majority of people are too absent minded, too preoccupied, or too self-serving to stop and give thanks. We get but forget to give; are loved but fail to love; blessed but refuse to bless. What a tragedy it was for the nine men of this story to react in such a foolish way. But even more so, how ridiculous is it for believers who are the recipients of such a lesson to fail when taking the same test. Knowing that there needs to be a better response what instructions should we follow? Let me offer three that will enhance our demeanor. First, when given blessings in life whether it be at the hand of God or man always remember to say, “Thank you.” Second, be careful how you use the blessing bestowed upon you. Finally, make it last. Temporary blessings should result in permanent praise. Our sense of appreciation should not be a seasonal day we focus upon but should be as eternal as our healing, our joy, our peace, our satisfaction. May our actions never merit the response, “you’ve got to be kidding?”

Sunday, November 20, 2011

A Thankful Heart

This coming week we will be enjoying Thanksgiving. Family members will gather for food, fellowship, and festivities and believe me I will be right in the middle of the celebration. My children and grandbabies will be coming in from out of town and that makes any occasion one of thankfulness. However, when I think about it I am driven to ask, “What is it that we are to be thankful for?” While we sometimes grasp for the reason it gets much simpler when we respond out of contrast. For instance, I just returned from a mission’s trip to Haiti. This is an area that stands as the epitome of poverty. They only have 600 miles of paved road in the entire nation. Most of the people live in little shanties because the average wage for the country is somewhere between $250 to $600 per year. Their weekly ration consists of rice and potatoes and on very rare occasions they may enjoy just a small piece of meat. Yet they find a reason to be thankful. In comparison we live in nice homes, drive fancy cars, and often throw out more food than we consume. In the midst of blessing we find it hard to be thankful. A sense of entitlement has polluted our thinking to the point that we feel we deserve more than what we are already getting. So, how should we celebrate Thanksgiving? It is a given that we should be thankful for our forgiveness, our family, and our friends. But added to this we could start by being thankful that God allowed us to be born in America to parents that provided well for us; that we are able to bath in pure water without the threat of contracting infection or some disease; that we live in a nation where the potential for success is unlimited and the freedom to worship is experienced without restraint. When taking all things into consideration how can we not have a thankful heart?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

What Are You Singing?

I read recently that the song of the humpback whale is one of the strangest in nature. It is a weird combination of high and low pitched groanings. Those who have studied the humpback whale say their songs are noteworthy because these giants of the deep are continually changing them. New patterns are added and old ones eliminated so that over a period of time the whale actually sings a whole new song. There is a sense in which Christians should be continually singing a new song because of what they experience daily at the hand of God. Is this not what the writer was declaring in Psalm 40:3, “He has put a new song in my mouth—praise to our God.” You see new songs are created out of new paradigms that come into our lives. As Mart De Haan wrote, “The gospel story never changes—thank God for that. But our songs of praise should be ever new.” Given that reality, I think one of the greatest indictments to be leveled at a Christian is that he or she lives a life of boredom. With all that God has to offer no one should live such a lifestyle. In the words of one poet, God’s blessings are too numerous to count them all the night; That’s why we can give praise to Him As fresh as morning’s light. Take note and look around, above, and behind you. In mere observation you will see the merciful footprints of God everywhere. In doing so there will be plenty to write about—so get a pad of paper and compose your new song, then sing it to the Lord with all of your heart.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Grace is the Place

Have you ever felt like there was more trouble in a day than you could deal with? Maybe you’re like me and have had those mornings when you felt like the person who prayed the following prayer: Dear Lord, so far today, I’m doing all right. I have not gossiped, lost my temper, been greedy, grumpy, nasty, selfish, or self-indulgent. I have not whined, complained, cursed, or eaten anything chocolate and I have charged nothing on my credit card. But I will be getting out of bed in a minute, and I think that I will really need your help then. Yes, there are those days when we are made aware of our human proclivity and the temptation to step away from spirituality in order to engage in activity that is totally ridiculous. Our potential to mess up is the reason Paul talked so much about grace and its sufficiency in his letters to the church. He understood our weakness, but also realized the power needed to deal with it. So what’s the answer to this dilemma? Most would argue that our sinful actions will result in a fall from grace. While this is a possibility, I would like to propose a different alternative; that is a fall into grace. God the Father has made provision and has directed us to fall into something greater than our failure. In times of sin we find forgiveness; in times of temptation we find strength; in times of discouragement we find hope. For every situation there is an answer that can be found and Grace is the place!