Sunday, December 29, 2013

Staying On Course

One of the greatest inventions known to man is that of the satellite and GPS system.  How awesome it is to drive and have someone tell you every turn to make.  “Take a right in one half mile. Stay on Highway 66 until you reach interstate 75.”  I still don’t know how the thing works but I enjoy using mine. However, one does not have to use their gadget very long to find out it is not infallible. While most of the time they are great at giving directions, occasionally I find myself asking, “Where in the world is this thing taking me?  Although periodically deceptive, the convenience of having one far exceeds the alternative because they do help keep us on course, which I’m finding can be a challenge. This is especially true in the spiritual realm. If we are relying on the wrong instrument for guidance we can so easily be led astray. This is why we do not yield to public opinion or faulty emotional pressure. So where does one get the proper compass that will lead to the right course?  I read recently that during World War II American planes flew from British airbases to missions over Germany. Finding their way home to base was often difficult because of horrible weather conditions. Churches with tall, stately spires dotted the English landscape. On overcast days the American pilots used the churches to guide them home. As planes descended through a gray sky the churches told the pilots if they were on the right course.  When Jesus laid the foundation for the church He included those relics that would assure ongoing spiritual equilibrium; the Word of life, the power of the Holy Spirit, and the fellowship of the saints. These elements when given priority will serve as stabilizers that keep us on tract.  As we close out 2013 we are reminded of governmental disappointment, economic instability and spiritual diversion.  It is my prayer that 2014 will be a year of the return—a return to God, to the church, and to a morally strong nation.  Success will only be achieved as each individual joins in the search for Divine leadership and the quest of staying on course.    

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Braking For Christmas

Have you ever been in a hurry to get somewhere?  You broke the speed limit passed the slow poke in front of you, most likely said a thing or two that you should not have and then you arrive at your destination.  You look in your rear view mirror and guess who is right behind you?  Oh slow poke.  He didn’t speed, wasn’t in a hurry, didn’t embarrass himself with unnecessary language but yet arrived at the same time you did.  Who do you think enjoyed the journey to most?  We often get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the Christmas Season while missing out on the joy of the journey. During this time of year we should ease up on the accelerator release our frowns and idle our inner motors with questions like, “Why the hurry? What is the rush? Why rush in and out of the season?”   Could our fast paced lives be the reason we are unable to enjoy the spirit of the season?  Several years ago my daughter, her husband and our only granddaughter came to our house for Christmas. We were overjoyed to see them.  As a matter of fact, we were so caught up in the visit that we completely failed to read the message on the shirt Kaylin was wearing. It said “I’m going to be a big sister.”  We bragged on the shirt but missed the message. Amidst all the packages purchased and boxes bundled, we cannot overlook the gift and His glory. It’s not about neckties, toys, and technology, but about God’s incredible gift. But again we can get caught up in the gusto.  For example my wife decided that she wanted a bigger tree a couple of years ago.  So after Christmas she found one at Sam’s, bargained and got a good price.  It was so big we had to bring it home in the church van. It stands 13 feet tall. It was a pain to carry. So the next Christmas arrived and we brought it out of the basement.  It was heavy just to carry.  It went up in sections. The first one or two wasn’t so bad, but the last two were another story. I had to stand on a ladder to put the final two sections up.  They were extremely heavy.   I strained and complained a bit and needless to say before it was over I was unhappy and so was she.  I told her I thought the tree was too big. I was going out of town so she said, I will have the guys to come and take it down while you are gone.  I said “the tree is staying; if they take that tree down they won’t have a job when I get back.”  Well the end of the story is that she repented, Ha Ha, and the tree stayed and it was so beautiful.  I like it but almost got divorced and almost missed the beauty of it by getting frustrated. The same was the case when Christ was born. It’s so easy to become mesmerized by food, banquets, and programs. However, the memories of Christmas are most enjoyable when we slow down, put on the brakes, and savor the reason for the season.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Is it About Us?

This past week as a part of my sermon I delivered a monologue on the biblical character, Simeon.  Preparation required hours of getting costume material and working out the final details for the presentation. In doing so, I found myself calling upon my wife often.  The last call came Saturday evening after she had retired for the night.  I walked into the bedroom woke her up and proceeded to ask, “Where did you place the gray hairspray for the wig?” Needless to say she was not at all thrilled that I had interrupted her sleep.” However, she graciously crawled out of bed and helped me find the misplaced item. It was underneath the driver’s seat in the car. How it got there only God knows. Heading to church Sunday morning we discussed the subject of my disturbing her sleep. She has never been one to mince with words, so I braced myself for the lecture. “When you do something special like this at church it becomes all about you.  It doesn’t matter that you inconvenience others in the process.” I laughed while all the time knowing she had nailed me. There was no use arguing with the truth; the only thing that seemed appropriate was my apology.  As I thought about the situation it caused me to ask, “Is Christmas, the birthday of Christ about us?”  I read about one little boy celebrating his birthday. Among his presents was the gift of a dollar bill. He immediately began to make plans to invest in an ice cream sundae with all the trimmings. The party guests were a somewhat pious group, and someone suggested that he give part of the dollar to the poor. “I thought of that,” admitted the birthday boy, “but I think I’ll give it to the ice cream man instead and let him give it to the poor.” I read of another who wrote, “Dear Santa, I’m not going to ask for a lot.  Here’s my list: The Etch-A-Sketch animator, 2 packs of #2 pencils, Crayola fat markers and the big gift…my own color TV! Well, maybe you could drop the pencils; I don’t want to be really selfish.”  While many tend to focus inwardly upon themselves, it could be said that Christmas by definition is an oxymoron.  In one sense of the word this highly celebrated event is and should be all about Christ—His coming to earth in human flesh. On the other hand when we read the writings of Isaiah we learn Christmas is also about us.  “Unto you a child is born, a son is given… Behold a virgin shall conceive and shall bring forth a newborn son and shall call His name Immanuel—(meaning God with us).  In essence we are to worship the Messiah who has come to give us abundant life. Yet in doing so we cannot forget that had it not been for sinful needy humanity, He would never have come.  I guess that means Christmas is really about us!  

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Living Beyond Our Fears

Ann Landers, the newspaper columnist who received over 10,000 pieces of mail a month was asked, “What do people write about the most?”  Her answer was fear. “The thing people ask about the most is fear.” They are afraid of the past and afraid of the future.  They’re afraid of losing their health, wealth and relationships. Bruce Larson in his book “Living Beyond our Fears”  remarks, fear is universal and all of us experience it, from the tribesman in the remote jungle to the sophisticated urbanite—people who are afraid of God and each other. It has been described as our oldest and deadliest enemy.  Thousands of years ago, the philosopher Seneca said, “If we let things terrify us; life will not be worth living.” In 1840 Thomas Carlyle wrote, “The first duty of man is still that of subduing fear.”   The humorist, Mark Twain said, “The human race is a race of cowards, and I am not only marching in that procession, but I am carrying a banner.”   Indeed all of humanity at some point has been gripped by this captivating emotion.  As a result the word fear, fearful or its root usage is mentioned 529 times in the bible.  In those occasions when mentioned we find that it disrupts families, stifles creativity, and prevents love.  Larson continues by adding, “Even greater is the fact that our fears are a psychological and spiritual barometer of who we are and our personalities are shaped by how we deal with them.”  This emotional culprit is powerful and often irrational. It shows itself in a healthy way, such as our fear of poisonous snakes.  On the other hand it shows up in the form of the neurotic producing the hypochondriac. There is fear based on truth, such as the fear that poor eating habits and the lack of exercise can be hazardous to your health. However there is fear based on lies, taught by misinformation, gossip, or tradition.  Our fears can be internal or external, natural or unnatural, focused or unfocused. But yet they remain a powerful emotion to be reckoned with, so much so that medical science now recognizes that between sixty and ninety per cent of our sicknesses are caused by such an emotion as fear.  Because of this it comes as no great surprise the dominate message during the birth of Christ was “Fear not.” Zacharias, Mary, Joseph, and the Shepherds all heard the same repose. God was sending a special “Gift” to help dispel fear and establish hope within the human heart.  It was not a “Gift” promising the absence of fear but one giving assurance that we can live beyond our fears. That’s why we need the Savior and we celebrate the season!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Getting Our Attention

During my teenage years I lived in Jellico, a small town next to the Kentucky line. In that town they had a special way of alerting people to a crisis.  It was a loud siren blast that could be heard throughout the city.  As a matter of fact I checked and they still use it today. If I remember correctly the long blast rallied the fire department and the shorter one was for the rescue squad. That shorter blast was something that especially got my attention because at that time I served as a volunteer. There were many nights when I would hear that familiar sound and would crawl out of bed get dressed and head to the Squad building to see what crisis we were responding to.  The point is, that sound got my attention. This leads me to ask, “If you were trying to get someone’s focus, how would you do it?” More importantly, “How does God get our attention?”  When we walk in the Spirit it’s easy to detect his voice.  However, the problem is, we do not always walk accordingly. Sometimes we lean to the flesh and when that happens it is much more difficult.  The good thing is God has ways of gaining our undivided attention. At times He uses a restless spirit or unusual circumstances. During other seasons of life He may use people, financial struggles or unanswered prayer.  Regardless of the way He does it, He never gives up until He has accomplished His purpose. Is it possible that you have encountered strange events in your life that sound similar to that of a siren’s blast? If so you may want to stop, stand still and listen.  Ironically there were those occasions in my younger years when we experienced false alarms meaning we were not needed. However, with God this is not the case. Whenever, He sounds the alarm everyone is to stand in preparation to receive orders. The sound of the siren definitely means He wants our attention. 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

A Million Thanks

It is reported that only one book sent to the U.S. Library of Congress for registration has ever been turned down. It was produced by a wealthy and whimsical Texas businessman, who intended to hand out copies to his customers and friends. Its title was “A Million Thanks,” and the book consisted of the word "thanks" repeated one million times. No thanks, replied the Library as they declined to register the book. They stated that a single word is not copyrightable. Although that one word was not considered acceptable for copyright it certainly holds importance. The Holy Spirit thought it important enough to include in the Bible several hundred times. And it seems to be the point of contention in Luke 17. Ten lepers are healed but only one returns to give thanks which prompts Jesus to ask, “Were there not ten cleansed, but where are the nine?” It is here that the Messiah faces one of humanities' greatest ills--ingratitude. Indeed it is a sad commentary when we who receive so much give thanks so little. Such a malady implies that there is an illness that lies within the soul of man that is far greater than the physical. This seems to be the case with the nine lepers referenced by Luke.  Notice how Jesus responds to the one who returns. “Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner? And he said to him, Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well.” The terminology used in the last part of that statement is interesting. Bruce Larson comments about it and says, "Ten were healed, but only one was made well, and that's far more important than being healed. The point made here is, that unless gratitude is a part of our nature, we can't be whole people." No doubt this is the reason the Psalmist as well as Paul calls upon us to live a life of unbridled gratitude. “Be thankful to him; in everything give thanks.” We may not have all we want, and our lives may not be void of challenging circumstances but we are admonished to exemplify a lifestyle of thanksgiving. The great commentator, Matthew Henry epitomizes the spirit after being encountered by thieves and robbed. He wrote later in his diary: “Let me be thankful. First, because I was never robbed before. Second because although they took my purse, they did not take my life. Third, because although they took my all, it was not much. And fourth, because it was I that was robbed, not I who robbed.” The truth is, on any given day and any given moment, each of us has multiple blessings for which we can give “A Million Thanks!”

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Beauty of Brokenness

Brokenness is never easy and seldom perceived as a positive experience. Most often it is mistaken as weakness, but Scripture reveals just the opposite. In essence it is a testimony of strength and something that God delights in. One only needs to look at Psalm 34:18 to determine its real value. “The LORD is near to those who have a broken heart, And saves such as have a contrite spirit.” John Bevere in his book “Under Cover” illustrates brokenness by saying,
“A warhorse is not fit for service until his will is broken.  Though he may be stronger, swifter, and more gifted than all the other horses in the stables, he cannot serve until he’s broken.  He will stay in the stables while less gifted horses go to war.  To be broken does not mean to be weakened.  It has to do with submission to authority.  In the horse’s case, his master is the rider.  If the horse is successfully broken and trained, he can be trusted in any and all circumstances.  In the heat of the battle as the bullets or arrows fly, he will not flinch.  While swords and axes are wielded, he will not retreat.  While guns are raised and cannons shot, he will not deviate from his master’s desires.  He will stay in firm submission to his master, no matter who he is.  He will bypass any attempt to protect or benefit himself in order to fulfill the commands of his rider. This breaking process is uniquely accomplished in each individual in accordance with the prescription of the Lord Himself.
Again in the face of the independently strong, brokenness displays weakness and vulnerability. However to those who put their trust in God it demonstrates incredible reliability. God looks for those who are willing to be stripped of all self-efficacy; those who are able to see the beauty of brokenness.   


Sunday, November 10, 2013

Getting on the Same Time-frame

The Bewley family had a reunion a few days ago.  Initially when I was called we were to meet on a Sunday.  Some few days later the date was changed to Saturday at 11:30 a.m. My wife and I anxiously showed up at Golden Corral on the designated day, but strangely enough no one was there.  I called my father and asked where they were. He said “we are on our way to the restaurant. We are meeting at 12:00.” He eventually showed up but the organizer of the family luncheon was still missing. We waited and waited and he finally appeared at 12:30. Others came at 1:00 and a few at 1:30. Each group explained their reason for being late; they had been given different starting times. How that happened only God knows. In the natural, mishaps like this are a common experience and nothing to be alarmed about.  However, when it comes to the spiritual it’s much more serious. One doesn’t have to listen very long to discover there is vast confusion as to the time Jesus will return for our family reunion. There are those who believe He will return before, in middle of or at the end of the tribulation. In addition there are multitudes who believe Jesus could appear at any moment so they live their lives accordingly being ever-ready. Others see no need for alarm,   living as if He is never going to return. However, in 1st John 2:18 we are told “Little children it is the last time” and because there are so many Antichrists “we know that it is the last time.” According to this writer, it appears that the reunion has been scheduled but the time is still pending. That being the case how should we conduct ourselves? Paul encouraged us to “Redeem the time,” meaning we are to make the best of it. Jesus said we are to “be ready for the Son of man will come at a time when you least expect Him.” We cannot predict the exact moment Jesus will appear but we can R.V.S.P our acceptance of the invitation while remaining alert to the call. Our behavior as such will definitely inform the Father that we are all on the same time-frame.   

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Seeing Him Face to Face

Billy Graham in his autobiography “Just as I am” tells the touching story of going to Korea in December, 1952 to visit the American troops.   He was accompanied by the General assigned to the area at that time. He writes, “In a field hospital about a mile behind the front lines on Christmas Eve, we went from bed to bed, bringing greetings and trying to encourage the wounded. One young man was so mangled that he lay face down on a canvas-and-steel contraption.  A doctor whispered to me, “I doubt he’ll ever walk again.” “Mr. Graham, could I see your face:” asked the young man. “We’ve all been praying for you and looking forward to your coming.  I won’t be able to be at the service.” So I lay on the floor beneath him and looked up into his hollow eyes, still stunned with his fate.  I prayed with him. “Sir,” said the young man to General Jenkins, who was escorting me, “I fought for you, but I’ve never seen you.  Could I see your face?” The general got down on all fours, slid under that bed as best he could, and talked with the young man. I saw a tear fall from the soldier onto the general’s face.” This soldier’s desire is that of millions of Christians around the world past and present. To all those who have fought the fight and kept the faith there is the longing to see their Master’s face and one day we will. Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:12 put it like this, “for now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.” The promise given here implies intimacy as well as integration. The shift from the natural—temporal to the spiritual—eternal makes this all possible. Presently each of us has a relationship with Christ which allows us to sense His presence and to experience Him by faith. However, faith according to Hebrews 11:1 is the “Substance of things hoped for the evidence of things not seen.”  This means the wait will soon be over; faith will become a reality. Our long awaited hope of seeing the one we fight for will reach its apex as Jesus steps amidst the clouds. And in the words of a King we will hear him proclaim, “Come faithful ones! Come look upon me!” Then at that very moment “every eye shall see Him.” And for the first time we will come face to face.    

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Prayer is Dialogue Not a Monologue

Have you ever wondered why prayer is so difficult and why so few people spend any time engaging the practice? Also have you ever thought of the fact that most religious schools do not offer a course in prayer?  Yet it was the only thing the disciples asked Jesus to teach them, and he did—by example and instruction. However, it seems that we miss an important aspect in the instruction given.  While it is not included in what we call the “Lord’s Prayer” it is given to us in Revelation 3:20. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” The implication of a dialogue cannot be dismissed here. Jesus is clearly proposing the possibility of an intimate relationship developed by two entities talking as well as listening to each other. Just think, do you talk very long on the telephone when you are not sure there is somebody on the other end? Of course not, you need to hear the other person’s voice to have a meaningful conversation. So it is with prayer. Peter Lord remarks, “This dynamic process is transformed when it moves from a monologue to a dialogue—when you listen to God speak after you have spoken or when you listen to him speak before you utter a word.”  It has been stated that God has given us two ears and one mouth so we could listen twice as much as we talk. When we learn to pray and then listen prayer becomes a valuable asset in our lives and the renewed practice speaks volumes to God.  It says, “I realize you are on the other end of the phone, and I’m ready for dialogue.” It is only then our moments together become the most meaningful and we conclude knowing it was time well spent.    

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Thinking Outside the Box

You are driving along in your car on a wild, stormy night. You pass by a bus stop, and you see three people waiting for the bus: 1. An old lady who looks as if she is about to die. 2. An old friend who once saved your life. 3. The perfect man (or) woman you have been dreaming about. Which one would you choose to offer a ride to, knowing that there could only be one passenger in your car? Think before you continue. This is a moral/ethical dilemma that was once actually used as part of a job application. You could pick up the old lady, because she is going to die, and thus you should save her first; or you could take the old friend because he once saved your life, and this would be the perfect chance to pay him back. However, you may never be able to find your perfect dream lover again. The candidate who was hired (out of 200 applicants) had no trouble coming up with his solution. He simply answered: "I would give the car keys to my old friend, and let him take the lady to the hospital. I would stay behind and wait for the bus with the woman of my dreams." The moral of this scenario is never forget to "Think Outside of the Box." When you think about it in relation to our spiritual lives we are called upon to do the same.  For productive ministry we must always be open to new ways of doing things. That’s where the Holy Spirit comes in. Jesus said “He will show you things to come.”  Most often we relegate this promise to the interpretation of Scripture. I believe it far exceeds that. When given the opportunity the Spirit will lead us into new ways of capitalizing upon the lost. This might come in the form of a different strategy for witnessing, a deeper approach to worship, or a greater understanding of one’s giftedness. The end result will be greater effectiveness. However, one weakness that tends to cripple the church is the belief that a different method of ministry excludes all others preceding it. When one begins to think out of the box it does not mean that all other forms of ministry sharing semblance with the new idea suddenly becomes null and void. Rather the opposite is true. Embracing change means that we utilize some of the old along with the new and when mixed together productivity is realized. As with the questionnaire mentioned earlier, the job applicant did not discard any part of the equation. His philosophy embraced a spirit of inclusion which allowed every prospect to become a part of the solution. Be assured the Holy Spirit wants us to use the theological, the philosophical, and the practical to have the most impact upon the kingdom.  Yielding to His expertise means that we will work out of the box often. It also means that we will never find ourselves unemployed. Our ability to “think out of the box” will always qualify us for the next assignment.    

Sunday, October 13, 2013

A Compelling Lawyer

“The Devil and Daniel Webster” is a short story by Stephen Vincent Benet.  In it, Jabez Stone, a New England farmer, has such “bad luck” that he sells his soul to the devil to become prosperous. Eventually, the devil comes to collect Jabez’s debt.  But the eminent lawyer Daniel Webster is called in to defend him. Through a skillful series of arguments, Webster wins the case against the devil, and Jabez is saved from perdition. Although fictional this story reminds us of one told in Zechariah chapter three. Here the high priest, Joshua, stands before the angel of the Lord in filthy garments and is being accused by the Devil. However a lawyer called “Lord” steps forth and declares, “The Lord rebuke you, O Satan… Is not this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?" Then He turns to Joshua and says, "See, I have removed your iniquity from you, and I will clothe you with rich robes." In essence heaven’s attorney, appointed by the presiding Judge was declaring total vindication of all charges. The bad news for us is that we stand accused by the same culprit. He serves as an aggressive prosecutor pleading for our demise. But the good news is this we have the same representation as Joshua, the high priest. 1 John 2:1 gives the proof. “If anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”  Webster defines advocate as “one that pleads the cause of another; specifically: one who pleads the cause of another before a tribunal or judicial court.” This means, we always have a representative that is ready and willing to stand with us in the face accusation. And as you well know, as long as we are alive, and the devil is allowed to exist charges will constantly be filed against us. Knowing this, we should be thankful because regardless of the charge God has provided for us a compelling Lawyer.   

Sunday, October 6, 2013

A Great Homecoming

Today our church celebrated ninety-two years of ministry. As a part of the celebration we had an old-fashioned homecoming which is something we had not done in years.  Letters were sent out to former pastors and members requesting their presence in the service. Several graciously responded and were in attendance to help us commemorate this milestone. Needless to say, it was quite a day.  Our members were able to visit with old friends they had not seen in years.  Whether by letter or in person it was wonderful to sit and listen to the pastors reminisce about the time they spent serving the church.  They spoke of financial difficulties, miracles, salvations and other memorable ministry moments.  Although, many had not been back to the church since their departure it was evident that the bond of fellowship and friendship had not been broken. And when you begin to think about it the multiple years of church affiliation produces many unforgettable relationships.  Yet the sad thing is this, the day ended with everyone going their separate ways.  Admittedly, many will return next week because they are still a vital part of the church. However, others will not.  They presently live in other cities, states, or attend another church in town.  Because of this, I ask the questions that loom in the mind of many. “Will it always be like this? Will we continue to experience fragmentation? Will acquaintances continue to be renewed by occasional visits or sporadic reunions?” The answer is no! The Bible gives us the assurance that one day we will experience the greatest homecoming of all. Distance, relocation, alternative worship venues or sickness will not be an issue. Death will not even interfere. The host for the occasion will be God; the place--heaven; the time frame—eternity; those invited—“whosoever will.” Without doubt, it will be the greatest reunion of all time.  And the latest news is this, according to the signs of the time and the witness of the Holy Spirit preparations are already in the making. Just any day now the invitation will come with the blast of the trumpet. See you there!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Keep It Simple

A few days ago I received the following email from my granddaughter:
“Hey nana and papaw. It's Addison here. I was just thinking about you and wanted to send you a letter. I hope your having a great time. I really miss you and cant wait to see you at Christmas or Thanksgiving. Well, I hope you enjoyed my letter and call me when you get this. See You Soon. Love, Addi.” The way in which the email was written totally impressed me, especially coming from an eleven year old. Was it perfect? No! Was it innocent and simplistic? Yes! Did it convey the appropriate message? Without doubt! When you think of it, this is the way God communicates to us. He always keeps it simple. We should do the same, which was a motto often mentioned by a parishioner our church lost recently to cancer. William Davenport more than once told his family, “You don’t need to pray an elaborate prayer you just need to be sincere.” He believed if you prayed simple prayers and exercised simple faith, God would hear and take action. As a result he left a treasure chest of testimonies proving that this kind of praying worked.  When told he had cancer and only six months to live, he simply prayed for healing and received a miracle. He was eighty-three at the time. He then asked God to let him live until age eighty-six. Again he received his wish. One of his favorite statements was, “It will be alright.” How could he say this with such confidence? It was not because of being profound or perfect in any sense of the word. Rather, he had found the power of simple prayer. We lose emphasis and impetus so often when we try to impress God. Was this not the point Jesus was making when He addressed the Pharisees? “You think you will be heard by your long prayers and vain repetitions. Not so!” In essence He was saying, “Just keep it simple.”  The email referenced earlier was one of simplicity and it got my attention. Its nature merited an immediate reply. So as soon as I read it, I made contact with my granddaughter. Our Father does the same. Neither the throne nor its doors is disturbed by eloquence but are moved by those who stand before them in a childlike fashion. That’s why we need to pray and in doing so keep it simple.  

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Recognizing Real Worth

Over the weekend my wife and I went to visit our grandchildren. While there Phyllis decided to make a deal with them. She would pay each child if they would agree to help her carry boxes upstairs and clean the house.  They agreed and immediately went to work.  It was amusing to see the little darlings putting their all into getting the job done. When finished they eagerly awaited compensation.  Cade, the six year old was asked if he would rather have 100 pennies or a five dollar bill. Anxiously he replied, “I will take the pennies.”  However, during the negotiation my son intervened telling his son that five dollars equaled 500 pennies. Immediately he had a change of mind, paper was a lot better than copper.  Initially, because of immaturity he had failed to recognize the real worth of the five dollar bill.  This malady is found in the spiritual realm as well.  Shortly before Jesus was crucified, a woman named Mary poured a bottle of expensive perfume on His feet. Then in what may have been a more daring act, she wiped His feet with her hair. Not only did Mary sacrifice what may have been her life’s savings, she also sacrificed her reputation. This action drew sharp criticism from Judas. He asked, “Why was this ointment not sold and the proceeds given to the poor?” Upon hearing these words, Jesus responded with a stern rebuke. “Leave her alone.  She has done this for my burial and the act of worship  you have interpreted as being wasteful and insignificant will be remembered as a memorial for centuries to come.”  In essence, this greedy disciple was grasping for pennies while a treasure was at his disposal. He simply failed to recognize the worth of anointed worship. God continually offers us His unlimited resources. However, more often than not we find ourselves focusing on the meager when we can have the magnanimous. With the help of the Holy Spirit as negotiator we will always find ourselves getting the best deal possible. He will guide us into the actions and acceptance of those things recognized as having the most worth.        

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Whose Problem is it?

I read the story about a man who was having difficulty communicating with his wife and concluded that she was becoming hard of hearing. So he decided to conduct a test without her knowing about it. One evening he sat in a chair on the far side of the room. Her back was to him, positioned where she could not see. Very quietly he whispered, "Can you hear me?" There was no response. Moving a little closer, he asked again, "Can you hear me now?" Still no reply; quietly he edged closer and whispered the same words, but still no answer. Finally, he moved right in behind her chair and said, "Can you hear me now?" To his surprise and chagrin, she responded with irritation in her voice, "For the fourth time, yes!" As with this story, when we have difficulty hearing the problem is not with God but with us! More often than not we find ourselves crying out, “God do you not care; do you not hear; are you not listening?” While we are bombarding God with questions, He is asking the same of us. “Do you not care?  Why do you not hear? I am speaking why are you not listening?” In essence God is always speaking but we do not always have the ability to hear.  What is it that dulls our spiritual ears to the point that we cannot hear the voice of the Master? With King Saul it was a spirit of rebellion. With Peter it was pride. With the Pharisees it was stubbornness. Added to these are a host of things that deafen the contemporary believer such as: busyness, distractions, presumption, and doubt just to name a few. However, the remedy for presumed silence is that of focus.  When we turn our attention to the creator of communication we suddenly begin to hear.  It is as if God fits each ear with a hearing aide which allows his voice to come through with the greatest clarity. So, if you are having problems hearing, nudge in real close to the Father and listen. Then and only then will you be able to detect whose problem it is.    

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Hearing without Listening

Jesus in speaking about sheep said, “My sheep hear my voice and another they will not follow.” Within the context of that word “hear” is the aspect of focused listening.  One of the major problems of humanity is we “hear” but do not really listen. We find ourselves saying “yes” or “shaking our head in the affirmative without having any idea what we have just agreed with because of the failure to focus. There is a story that has been passed down concerning President Franklin D. Roosevelt that illustrates my point. Apparently Roosevelt was so tired of smiling the expected presidential smile  and saying the usual expected words at the myriad of White House receptions  that, one evening he decided to find out whether anybody was really listening to what he was saying or not. As each person came up to him with an extended hand, he flashed that big smile and said, "I murdered my grandmother this morning." People would automatically respond with comments like "How lovely!" or "It is nice to meet you mister President!" Nobody listened to what he was actually saying.... except for one foreign diplomat. When the president said, "I murdered my grandmother this morning," the diplomat responded softly, "I’m sure she had it coming." Although humored, if you are like me, you have had the same experience. I’m embarrassed to count the number of times I have lost focus as someone was telling me something.  I have found myself being drawn back into the conversation not having a clue what the person has said. Even more embarrassing are the moments when they have asked a question and are waiting for me to answer. While humiliating, to be guilty in the natural is not a big deal, but when it comes to the spiritual it’s much more serious.  God is always speaking.  Because of this we must be focused in our listening. Why is it so important? Its value can be summed up in the experience of a friend of mine.  While fasting, the Lord spoke to him and said, “You have missed most of the significant things I wanted to do through you this year because of your inability to listen.”  We can only launch out as we listen--learn as we listen--love as we listen. God wants to move us from survival to significance. He can only do that as we hear—listen—and then obey.  

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Keeping It Simple

Swiss theologian Karl Barth has been called “the most outstanding and consistently evangelical theologian that the world has seen in modern times.” In 1962, Barth visited the USA, lecturing at Princeton Theological Seminary and the University of Chicago. According to church lore, during his trip he was asked to summarize the theological meaning of the millions of words in his Church Dogmatics. Barth thought for a moment and said: “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” How profound but yet so simple. While this simplicity surprises multitudes, he was not the first or the most foremost to describe theology in such terms. Centuries earlier with pen in hand and the Holy Spirit at the helm the apostle John wrote “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” With my imagination I can vividly see the Trinity conferring on this and the Holy Spirit eventually saying, “I suggest we make it practical, relational, and as simple as possible.” And so we read about God’s gift on elementary terms. Given such simplicity, it amazes me that humans still want to make it difficult. Our approach to eternal life reminds me of a story I read recently. A man from out east had always dreamed of owning a cattle ranch and had finally saved enough money to buy his dream spread in Wyoming. His best friend flew out to visit and asked, “So, what’s the name of your ranch?” His buddy told him that he had a really hard time coming up with a name that he liked. He and his wife couldn’t agree on what to call it so they settled on, “The Double R Lazy L Triple Horseshoe Bar-7 Lucky Diamond Ranch.” His friend was really impressed and then asked, “So where are all the cows?” To which the new rancher replied, “We had quite a few…but none of them survived the branding!” The same holds true for the church at times. We find ourselves loosing good prospects because of the restrictions and labels we attach to them.  However, God is constantly reminding us that people find life by “keeping it simple.” His overwhelming love--plus our limited faith--equals eternal life. It doesn’t get any simpler than that!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Clutter that Complicates

Do you have a problem with clutter? The kind I’m talking about is what Webster defines as “A confused mass of disorder.” Many people suffer from it and it’s the one thing that keeps us from experiencing God’s best--which is hearing Him. One only needs to look at the words of Jesus where He stated “My sheep hear my voice” to know that God wants to talk to us. However our hearing can be greatly hindered by clutter. Peter Lord states, “The road to effective communication with God is pitted and pebbled with obstacles and mined with dangerous deceptions that can cause you to stumble and fall.”  That’s why it is so important that we hear and failing to do so presents great vulnerability.  Because of this, what is the clutter that we wrestle with? To some it is unbelief. Many doubt that God would ever have a desire to talk to them. That being the case He could scream and they would never hear. Others are caught up in the state of busyness. They find themselves constantly overcommitted and on the run.  Their subconscious motto is “If God has anything to say He had better hurry because there are things to do and places to go.” This problem seemed to be the one that Martha wrestled with while entertaining Jesus in her home. It was a struggle that eventually taught her God’s greatest desire is to be heard--not served.  Even more so many suffer from the clutter of distraction. It may be the external sound of noise or the internal burden of guilt, the tantalizing grip of fear, the chalice of anger or the cesspool of sorrow. Multitudes fail to hear God because these distractions constantly stand in the way. Remember, it was fear and sorrow that caused the beloved sisters, Mary and Martha, not to hear the Lord regarding the death of their brother, Lazarus. In order to deal with the culprit of clutter we must consistently remain focused. To use the words of Peter Lord again, “There is never a time in this pilgrimage when focusing on him is not necessary.” The more we engage in this exercise the more sensitive we become to God’s voice. The clutter will turn to clarity and we will be able to say as did the young Samuel, “Speak Lord for your servant is listening.”


Sunday, August 18, 2013

Check the Rock

In a park in California there is a rock hanging on a rope with a large sign next to it. Weather Station report "Check the rock if it’s wet it’s raining, if the rock is swinging it’s windy, if it’s dry it’s not raining, if you cannot see the rock it’s foggy, if the rock has been blown away it’s a tornado." This is a rather humorous story but presents to us a tremendous truth.  There are times in our Christian faith when things look rather dismal, foggy and downright unpredictable. During those occasions it’s important for us to check the Rock.  Before departing Jesus looked at His disciples and said, “Upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” The church spoken of here is not one of steel, bricks and mortar but that of body, soul, and spirit—that fleshy composition which according to Paul stands as the temple of the Spirit of God. And the surface referenced is not that of bedrock used for earthy foundations. Being so, it does not matter what storms come or the weapons raised against us, we have the rock.   That assurance is a much greater consolation than that of the advertisement of a certain insurance company that boasts about giving people only a piece of the rock.   Jesus has given us all of himself and in no uncertain terms promised our continual victory. Because he has overcome so shall we. You may feel the circumstances are stacked against you; however reassurance will come as we look back to the resurrection.  The tomb was sealed and guards stood watch over the silent Son of God.  Yet on the third day neither earthly stones, fleshy soldiers, the power of the devil or death could hold him.  He came forth in rambunctious power. The rock appeared unshakeable and un-shattered. So if you have any questions about your spiritual weather report just check the rock. In doing so you will find He still stands as a solid platform for all who put their trust in him.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Words to Hold Onto

The young and immature Samuel lay sound asleep when he was suddenly awakened by a voice calling his name.  Thinking it was Eli, he responded immediately in order to get direction. However, the sleepy priest had no words to relay—no orders to give. Thus, he instructed him to return to his bed. After the same actions were repeated, it was determined that the voice heard in the darkness was that God. Samuel was then given further instruction.  “The next time you hear the voice, perk up and say, speak Lord your servant is listening.”  This experience led to his being one of the best listeners in the Bible. As a matter of fact it is said of him that “he let no word of the Lord fall to the ground.”  This meant he took the words of the Lord seriously grasping hold of each one. I would like to say that my words are treated with the same respect, however experience has proven otherwise. There have been those occasions when the response has been less than favorable. It kind of reminds me of a lawyer, a doctor, and a preacher who went hunting together. When a prize buck ran past they all fired at the exact same time and the buck dropped. The problem was that there was only one bullet hole and they didn't know which of them shot it. They decided to take it to the registration center, hoping the agent could figure out who could claim the trophy. The agent said, “Let me look at the deer. Sometimes I can figure it out.” He asked a few questions, examined the deer carefully, and declared, “The preacher shot this buck!” Amazed, the other two asked how he knew it was the preacher. Stooping down he pointed out the wound, “See here. It went in one ear and out the other.” There are those Sunday’s when I fire away but feel like the bullet passes through the congregation without finding a lodging place. Yet hearing the word of the Lord is so important. That’s why Jesus repeatedly said, “Whoever has ears to hear let him hear.”  Our best chance at victory, liberty, hope and happiness comes when we realize the Holy Spirit positions us to hear the words of the Lord and when we do that those words are words to hold onto.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Holy Spirit Our Guide

I read recently that there are blind people that ski. They wear vests with the words BLIND SKIER on them and are assisted by a guide who skis beside or behind them giving specific instructions. The guide is never out of range where the skier cannot hear his voice and there are two forms of communication used to give assistance. One is the tapping together of two ski poles to assure the blind person that the guide is there. The other is the guide’s voice speaking simple instructions what to do next. Commands such as: “Go right. Turn left. Stop. Slow. Skier coming up on your right.” The only responsibility of the blind person is to have complete trust and immediate obedience to the commands. Peter Lord says, “Life is much like skiing downhill blind. We cannot see five seconds into the future. We cannot see the struggles and tears to come or all the other “skiers” who might run into us or we into them. But God has given us the Holy Spirit to be our Guide. Our only responsibility is to listen and obey. Before we can obey we must listen. To listen we need to know the voice of our guide.” No doubt this was the reason for Jesus’ most repeated statement, “He that has ears to hear, let him hear.” He used it 15 times. By doing so He stressed the importance of our hearing the one person who can assist us in our daily walk as well as in times of desperation--the Holy Spirit. During those occasions when you find yourself going down life’s ski slope with no sense of direction tune out everything and everyone else around you and listen to your Guide. His voice will give you every command needed to make a safe landing.       


Sunday, July 28, 2013

Watching Replays

The other night I came home from church and decided to watch the replay of the Open Championship. When leaving earlier several players were in contention but none were ahead enough to potentially declare a winner. As I was watching, a friend called and told me Phil Mickelson had won. Several emotions stirred within me when hearing the news. The first was disappointment. Each golfer was on the last half of the match and no one likes to hear the results prematurely. The second was surprise. I never thought Phil had a chance. To me he appeared to be a long shot if one were betting on who would take home the trophy.  The third was elation. Mickelson is one of those professionals with a bag full of class.  He is a fan favorite and someone I love to see win. Although, hearing the news I continued to watch to see the genius strokes that brought the victory. The next morning at breakfast I told Marsha, a house guest of ours, what I had done.  I said to her, “I watched the replay of the golf game last night and guess what, Phil Mickelson won again.”  Then it dawned on me, it doesn’t matter how many times that replay is shown, Phil will always be declared the winner. It doesn’t matter if others dislike the results, despise him, if they want their favorite golfer to be declared the champion, the results remain unchanged.  However, the best news for you and me is this. The same holds true in our spiritual lives.  We as children of God have been declared winners. Regardless of how much the enemy tries to hold us in contempt, condemn us, or cries for a change of venue, it does not change the verdict. We are “more than conquerors through him that loves us and gave his life for us.” So if you are ever in question go back and watch the replay. Phil still has the title and the trophy. As a believer you do to. Replays are the past that enable us to see the results in the present. Jesus said “It is finished.” That replay declaring your victory is always available for review and holds the timeless truth that our championship remains—past, present, and future.       

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Light is Always Left On

Motel 6 has a great commercial slogan, “We’ll leave the light on for you.” The inference is that whatever time you find yourself traveling, whether it be the daytime or three in the morning you know there is a place ready to take you in. While some hotels advertise their amenities that include all sorts of bells and whistles; state of the art gyms, big indoor pools and executive centers, this is not the thrust of the campaign phrase for Motel 6. The point of their advertisement is that they are always available for the customer. Their chain may not compare in price to the Hilton or Hyatt, but they are always open with the light on. The same can be said of God. In the Old Testament we learn that strict orders were given for a fire to be left burning on the altar and a light on the lamp stand. These flames were to remind the people that the altar was always open and that God was always available. Even today the Jews have a light that stays lit above the ark twenty four hours a day, even when the rest of the lights are off. It is their Motel 6 sign. This light signifies that God is still open for business, and is available when people need to talk. And when one comes to the altar it is a moment that offers multiple opportunities. For example if I go to Motel 6 and pay the usually modest rent for the night, the motel room is mine. I can sleep, eat, exercise, work all night, or watch TV but it is mine. What happens there depends on what I bring to the experience. When Isaiah checked in it was for reassurance; Elijah needed rest; the prodigal son reconciliation. Contemporaries find the same options when they turn towards the light in the worship experience.  Many need encouragement, spiritual nourishment, and some intense introspection. However, whatever the reason people find what they are looking for. The message for Motel 6 while coined over the last decade has always been the slogan for God. Both say come on by “We’ll leave the light on for you.” And both say “When you do you’ll be glad you did.”  

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Forgiveness: Moving Beyond Our Mistakes

In 1985, Coca-Cola introduced “New Coke,” abandoning the formula that had made it one of the world’s leading brands.  When the public reacted with outrage, the company rethought its decision and 77 days later reintroduced Classic Coke. Sergio Zyman, Coke’s chief marketing officer, was the man responsible for what is considered one of the greatest mistakes in business history.  Forbes Magazine commented, “If ever there were a failure destined to kill a career, New Coke was it.”  Soon after this debacle, Zyman left the company, but instead of giving up he persevered, became a consultant, and eventually was rehired by Coke in 1993.  Later he started his own company and became so successful that he was named by Time magazine as one of the three greatest pitchmen of the 20th Century. Zyman has written that the New Coke failure “turned out to be a roaring success,” in part because “we were willing to learn from the experience and to change our minds.”  The executives at Coca-Cola put aside “company pride” and admitted their mistakes. It would be wonderful if humans, especially Christians would learn this lesson.  Many times when a mistake is made, people assume their life is over. This results in feelings of failure and guilt.  But the Bible says that if we make a mistake or sin that God is ready to forgive us. As a result the issue is not God’s forgiveness that stands in question but people’s ability to forgive themselves.  Many respond by saying, “I can’t get through this.” Others say “I won’t move beyond it.”  But God says we can and should. “Your offense as horrible as it might seem is not beyond the scope of my mercy and grace.” So if you are being hindered by past mistakes let me encourage you not to give up or to hold onto them.  Rather confess your sins and receive God’s forgiveness.  His will is that you get a fresh start by moving beyond your mistakes. There’s no better time to make the decision than now; by doing so you can move beyond the past into a sinless, guiltless life enjoying the beauty of forgiveness.


Sunday, July 7, 2013

A Plea for Mercy

Humor is the venue that has a way of bringing us to a place of reality. For example, a woman who had her picture taken was totally disgusted with how it looked. Storming mad, she walked into the photographer's office, slammed the picture down on his desk and said, "That picture doesn't do me justice." He responded, "Madam, with a face like yours, you don't need justice, you need mercy." While you are laughing let me ask, “Have you ever thought about how much we, too, need mercy?” You see one of the things we find difficult at times is to admit where we are spiritually.  Although filled with good intentions we find ourselves walking at a distance from God singing the all familiar tune “It’s me Oh Lord Standing in the Need of Prayer.” And more often than not that prayer is one for mercy. We pray it knowing that if God gave us what we deserve, we wouldn't stand a chance. We deserve justice, but we receive His mercy.  Why is that? It’s all because the Father knew we had need of it. When created, man received the capacity to fail but also to receive. The Creator refused to provide one without the other. That being the case the writer of Lamentations tells us how the Father provides for His children during those days when his eyes see an ugly snapshot. “Through the LORD'S mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning.” He concludes by saying, God--“Great is your faithfulness.”  That being said, just remember on those occasions when you are having a bad day and feel less than spiritually photogenic, you might want to make a plea for mercy.


Sunday, June 30, 2013

It's all in the Application

I read the story recently of a rabbi and soap maker who went for a walk together. The soap maker had some negative things to say about religion: "What good is religion? Just look around you. What do you see? Trouble, misery, wars - even after all these years and years of preaching and teaching about goodness, truth, peace. What good is religion with all its prayers and sermons if all this evil still exists?” The rabbi kept quiet as they continued their walk. Then they noticed a child playing in the gutter. The child was just filthy with dirt and mud. The rabbi said to the soap maker: "Look at this child! Now you say that soap makes people clean, but what good is it? With all the soap in the world this child is still dirty. What good is soap after all?" The soap maker immediately answered him: "But rabbi, soap can’t do its job if it isn’t used!" The rabbi said, "The same is true with religion." What an incredible truth! While religion is looked upon as being suspect and inefficient by many, God offers so much to us through it.  However, our ability to receive depends upon its application.  Medicines can be prescribed, encouragement offered, advice given, but if not applied these do no good. This is the case with our spiritual lives. Faith, prayer, praise, and submission hold the key to making the facets of religion work. When taken seriously and used effectively they bring peace, victory, joy, and perpetual satisfaction. Dirt requires soap and sin a spiritual remedy, but just not in name only. The benefits are offered but success comes only when the principles are applied. So if you have found yourself being skeptical, doubtful, or disappointed why not try religion. Just remember success is not a given but comes as we participate with God which means it’s all in the application.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Everyone Is Needed

Right now the NFL is working to put together their teams for the 2013/14 season. Although talented and performance driven several players will be cut.  Why? Teams can have only so many on their roster. Selections are made based upon who owners, managers, and coaches feel will give them the best chance at winning. While this is how the sports world handles giftedness, the same is not true of the church. Paul emphasized this in 1 Corinthians 12:14-16. “Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body.” All are a part and all are equally and vitally needed. Dr. Gary Smalley in his book “The DNA of Relationships” remarks “Suppose your heart and your kidneys got into a heated debate about which one most needed a steady blood supply, winner take all. “Hey, I pump blood through the whole body,” declares the heart.  “Without me, every organ dies-including you!” “That may be,” retorts the kidneys, “but if the blood doesn’t go through me, all you accomplish with your incessant pumping is to poison the entire system.  And then guess who dies?” The truth of the matter is, the heart cannot “win” at the expense of the kidneys any more than the kidneys can “win” at the expense of the heart. When we look at this in relation to the kingdom the game is not won with twenty-two carefully selected players while grandstands filled with thousands look on. No, everyone is a player because there’s no one we can do without. Selections are not made during a yearly draft nor games played by a seasonal schedule.  There are no “most valuable player” awards granted because all are gifted and empowered to do their best. So, put on your gear, get off the bench and get onto the field. The Coach of the ages has just called a play and says “for this one everyone is needed.”

Sunday, June 16, 2013

An Amazing Father

This is that time of year when we honor fathers. I am reminded of the story of the three boys who are in the schoolyard bragging about their fathers. The first boy says, "My Dad scribbles a few words on a piece of paper, he calls it a poem, they give him $50." The second boy says, "That's nothing. My Dad scribbles a few words on a piece of paper, he calls it a song, and they give him $100." The third boy says, "I got you both beat. My Dad scribbles a few words on a piece of paper, he calls it a sermon. And it takes eight people to collect all the money!" I suppose all of us could give personal accolades that if entered into a contest would make our father a blue ribbon winner. When you think about it there are no adequate words to describe the sacrifice dads make for their children.  While it can be said that some disregard their responsibility, the majority go far beyond the call of duty to provide for the needs of their family.  The reason being—they have the perfect role model to emulate.  The bible is very descriptive in letting us know that our heavenly Father is a loving provider that constantly seeks what is best for His children. He walks behind us covering our past.  He walks with us helping to order our present, and He walks before us helping to secure our future.  He is a “constant present help in the time of need.”  In other words He has us covered. Therefore, we have no need to worry or be afraid.  To do so is to doubt His faithfulness and His presence in our lives. Elizabeth Cheney explains the anatomy of doubtful behavior when writing:  

“Said the Robin to the Sparrow, I should really like to know
Why these anxious human beings rush around and worry so,
Said the Sparrow to the Robin, Friend, I think that it must be
That they have no Heavenly Father, Such as cares for you and me.”   

In our celebration of Father’s day may we not sit in the audience of the anxious, but may we be overwhelmed with confidence knowing that we have “An Amazing Father.”

Sunday, June 9, 2013

The Cost of Rebellion

A little boy was being rather rowdy and his mother was doing her best to calm him down. Finally after several attempts at trying to get him to behave she came over grabbed him and sat him firmly upon a seat demanding he stay there.  He looked at her and then said, “Mom I may be sitting down but I’m standing up on the inside.”  That humorous story explains the behavior of a lot of people. It also exemplifies an attitude of rebellion which is something God hates.  All of us meet authority at different levels of our lives. Thus, it is something we cannot dismiss or avoid, especially in the spiritual realm.  If the believer wants to have authority he or she must first submit to it. This often presents a challenge because we tend to justify obedience on the basis of our agreement or disagreement with authority. If we agree we obey. If we disagree we offer complaint or protest. However, God has not given us the option to respond according to our own whims. He simply requires obedience.  And to refuse is to invite His judgment upon our lives. Not only are we to submit to Him but also to those over us in the Lord.  Paul describes it like this, “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God” (Romans 13:1). John Bevere agrees in his book Under Cover and states; “We cannot separate our submission to God’s inherent authority from our submission to His delegated authority….There is freedom in submission and bondage in rebellion.” One only has to do a random study on the lives of such Biblical characters as Adam, Eve, Saul, Miriam and Korah to discover that rebellion is too far great a price to pay for temporary spiritual volition.  God’s favor and authority come through submission. While He hates rebellion He loves obedience and sees it as the highest form of worship. So when it comes to compliance let it not be said that we are sitting down but standing on the inside. Rather, let us live our lives in obedience both inwardly and outwardly.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

"No Purchase Necessary"

My ten year old granddaughter recently attended a church service where there was an utterance in tongues given.  Afterwards she asked her mother if she would purchase the Rosetta Stone course for her so she could learn to speak in tongues. While Addison was innocent in her request we read of a man named Simon in Acts chapter 8 that was not.  He was involved in sorcery and loved to be considered “the great one.” Following is the account as given by Luke: “Then Simon himself believed and was baptized. He began following Philip wherever he went, and he was amazed by the signs and great miracles Philip performed. When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that the people of Samaria had accepted God’s message, they sent Peter and John there. As soon as they arrived, they prayed for these new believers to receive the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them, for they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then Peter and John laid their hands upon these believers, and they received the Holy Spirit. When Simon saw that the Spirit was given when the apostles laid their hands on people, he offered them money to buy this power. “Let me have this power, too,” he exclaimed, “so that when I lay my hands on people, they will receive the Holy Spirit!” But Peter replied, “May your money be destroyed with you for thinking God’s gift can be bought! You can have no part in this, for your heart is not right with God.” This was quite a rebuke but totally necessary. There are two things about God that we must always remember.  One, He loves to provide the power of the Holy Spirit as well as other gifts we need. Just as importantly, He loves to provide those things for free.  While we are so accustomed to patronizing stores that display items for a suggested price; God operates just the opposite.  He offers us grace, gifts, and glory with a sign attached, “No Purchase Necessary!”  So why not capitalize on His offer—nothing pleases Him more.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Ultimate Sacrifice

The story is told about a pig and chicken standing in the field talking. During the discussion they began to reflect upon the wonderful characteristics of their master.  He was kind and had always treated them with the utmost respect. It was then that they came up with a brilliant idea. “Let’s throw him a party.” In agreement, the chicken looked at the pig and said, “Ok we’ll do it.  I will provide the eggs and you provide the bacon.” The pig quickly retorted, “For me that means total sacrifice.”  As we encounter this weekend we do so honoring those who gave the supreme sacrifice.  I think about the hundreds of soldiers that have given their lives in the line of duty that we might remain a free nation.  I am reminded of God the Father who gave His only Son. In addition Mary who did not shun her responsibility but answered the Divine call to birth the Messiah only to see Him die at the young age of thirty-three. No words are adequate to explain the pain she felt while suffering this great loss. Even more so we turn our attention to Jesus who gave his life on the cross. It has been said that “salvation is free but not cheap.” Never were there truer words spoken. It costs beyond our comprehension.  Therefore it behooves us to take the time to reflect upon and to honor those who prematurely surrendered all that we might have life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Celebrate this Memorial Day weekend by paying tribute and giving thanks for those who paid the ultimate sacrifice.       

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Turning Lemons into Lemonade

It has been said that if “Life gives you a lemon make lemonade out of it.” That’s good counsel but few of us practice it. When trouble comes our way it’s much easier to complain, struggle or just give up. However, I believe the Holy Spirit has been provided to assist us in doing just that—turning negative obstacles into positive outcomes. Bruce Larson in his Commentary on the gospel of Luke tells the story about one of President Franklin Roosevelt’s election campaigns. His campaign manager was about to print three million copies of his acceptance speech with an accompanying photograph. At that point, it was discovered that the photographer had never given his permission for the use of this photograph. According to the copyright laws, you can be fined a dollar per copy for publishing unauthorized photographs, and that’s roughly three million dollars. The campaign manager was in a panic. But instead of wasting time finding out who slipped up, he shouldered the blame and began to think creatively. He immediately cabled the photographer and said, “I have a plan that could mean great publicity for you. What’s it worth to you if I use your photo on this campaign material?” The photographer cabled back, “I can’t afford more than two hundred and fifty dollars.” It was a deal. You might be tempted to attribute this resolution to quick thinking—and maybe it was. In the natural we are able to manage our way through a certain amount of difficulty. Yet, I would like to believe that in the spiritual realm occasions like this are fertile ground for the Holy Spirit to plant wisdom into our lives. Instead on going into the panic mode we have the opportunity pray and then plan according to answers He gives.  Don’t ever feel as if life has to be lived with the grimace of sour circumstances. Take the lemons given, add the sweetness of the Spirit and enjoy the outcome—refreshing energizing lemonade.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

The Makings of a Mother

Erma Bombeck in her own gifted way tells of God in the act of creation. She says that on the day God created mothers He had already worked long overtime. An angel said to Him, "Lord, you sure are spending a lot of time on this one." The Lord turned and said, "Have you read the specs on this model? She is supposed to be completely washable, but not plastic. She is to have 180 moving parts, all of them replaceable. She is to have a kiss that will heal everything from a broken leg to a broken heart. She is to have a lap that will disappear whenever she stands up. She is to be able to function on black coffee and leftovers. And she is supposed to have six pairs of hands." "Six pairs of hands," said the angel, "that’s impossible." "It’s not the six pairs of hands that bother me," said the Lord, "It’s the three pairs of eyes. She is supposed to have one pair that sees through closed doors so that whenever she says, `What are you kids doing in there?’ she already knows what they’re doing in there. She has another pair in the back of her head to see all the things she is not supposed to see but must see. And then she has one pair right in front that can look at a child that just goofed and communicate love and understanding without saying a word." "That’s too much," said the angel. "You can’t put that much into one model. Why don’t you rest for a while and resume your creating tomorrow?" "No, I can’t" said the Lord, "I’m close to creating someone very much like myself. I’ve already come up with a model that can heal herself when she is sick, who can feed a family of six with one pound of hamburger and who can persuade a nine year old to take a shower." Then the angel looked at the model of motherhood a little more closely and said, "She’s too soft." "Oh, but she is tough," said the Lord. "You’d be surprised at how much this mother can do." "Can she think?" asked the angel. "Not only can she think," said the Lord, "but she can reason and compromise and persuade." Then the angel reached over and touched her cheek. "This one has a leak," he said. "I told you that you couldn’t put that much into one model." "That’s not a leak," said the Lord. "That’s a tear." "What’s a tear for?" asked the angel. "Well it’s for joy, for sadness, for sorrow, for disappointment, for pride." "You’re a genius," said the angel. And the Lord said, "Oh, but I didn’t put it there." Erma has adequately and truthfully spoken. Mothers are one of God’s incredible creations that cannot be done without.  Some things are optional but mothers are a necessity. Be sure to thank God for making yours!