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!