Sunday, March 30, 2014

Checking Out

Have you ever stayed at a bad motel? A few years ago my family and I went to the General Assembly in San Antonio Texas. We had booked rooms at a place we had only been told about by some friends.  Because it was during a time when we were struggling financially, the place seemed like a good deal. As expected, the price was right, but the environment was not.  The motel was in a rough section of town and each day presented us with unusual entertainment. I remember some former church members who lived in the city coming to pick Phyllis and me up. They took one look at the place and asked, “How in the world did you wind up here?” We thought about changing, but rooms were limited and we rationalized our decision to stay with the thought, “We’re only going to be here for a few nights.” The same can be said of this world. It’s nothing more than a bad motel. And the way we maintain hope is by reminding ourselves, “We’re only going to be here for a few days.” That seems to be the message Jesus was relaying when He looked into the eyes of his listeners and said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” God’s plan for us never involved our being checked into this world indefinitely. Earth’s bad motel was only to be a temporary residence. And from the signs of the time we are seeing everywhere it appears that our checkout date is upon us. We are hearing the sounds of war, witnessing natural disasters, seeing the resurgence of incurable diseases, feeling the rumble of earthquakes in unique places, and the decline of morality in an unprecedented fashion. All of these are indicators given as a prelude to the Lord’s return; signs alerting us of the need to get up, pack up, and look up because at any moment we will be checking out!     

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Does Kindness Really Work?

The words stung the ears of its listeners as they rolled from the Master’s lips.  "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.”  Is such an action possible? Do we really have the capacity to function with such grace? And does it really make a difference? When one surveys the life of Christ the evidence is more than convincing, which means it can also be accomplished by those called to be His contemporaries? The following story proves the point. A Christian lady owned two prized chickens that got out of their run and busied themselves in the garden of the lady’s rather grouchy neighbor. The man was incensed when he saw the two hens. So he ran out, caught them, wrung their necks, and threw them back over the fence. As you can imagine, the woman was upset, but she avoided her urge to get angry, rush over and scream at the man. Instead, she took the birds, dressed them out, and prepared two chicken pies. Then she delivered one of the freshly baked pies to the man who had killed her hens. When she handed him the chicken pot pie, she apologized for not being more careful about keeping her chickens in her own yard. Her children, expecting an angry scene, hid behind a bush to see the man’s face and hear what he’d say. But the man was absolutely speechless! The chicken pie and apology filled him with a burning sense of shame and he apologized to her for reacting so harshly. Kindness had completely disarmed the neighbor. When we pick up on the words of Jesus again, He says, “For He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” This means the Father refuses to be biased. When it comes to kindness He sees no difference between the good, bad, and the ugly. He treats everyone the same. Likewise, God has not given us the prerogative to behave according to a prejudicial mindset. When it comes to our Christian demeanor, He would have us to see all men the same; to act accordingly by demonstrating His love. In doing so, we will display a tender spirit which will tear at the heart of those who are not so kind. And in the end we will find that kindness really works!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Living above the Net

During the building of the Golden Gate Bridge over San Francisco Bay, construction fell badly behind schedule because several workers had accidentally fallen from the scaffolding to their deaths. Engineers and administrators could find no solution to the costly delays. Finally, someone suggested a gigantic net be hung under the bridge to catch any who fell. In spite of the enormous cost, the engineers opted for the net. After it was installed, progress was hardly interrupted. A worker or two fell, but the net saved their lives. The net allowed them to move on in their work without fear and worry. What keeps you moving in an unpredictable world? Is it the realization of the net? Sometimes we have the tendency to forget that we are eternally protected by the hands of the Father. However, the enemy is very much aware of it.  When Satan presented himself with the sons of God and was asked the question, “What have you been doing?” He responded very forthrightly, “I have been walking throughout the earth looking for someone to take advantage of.”  God then asked, “Have you taken a look at Job?” Yes, was the reply! “I’ve looked him over real good but you have such a net around him, he cannot be touched.” Is this not the message we get from the temptation of Jesus?  When taken to the pinnacle of the temple, the Devil suggests that the devoted Son jump off because of the promise, “He will order his angels to protect you. And they will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.” While there is the aspect of tempting God in this suggestion, there is also the truth that we live with a net. Even more so, is the comfort given in Psalm 23. “Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.” In a day when the demand of the kingdom requires continuous labor, we must maintain our belief that we are protected from cessation and ultimate failure. That coverage cannot be found in policies written by multi-million dollar insurance companies. No, it is only to be found in the domain of our heavenly Father; He has encouraged us to scale the highest heights without fear because we have the net.     

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Who Is Really Important?

In 1997 two celebrities died just six days apart—Princess Diana and Mother Teresa. While both were acquainted with each other and known to the public one’s death way overshadowed the other. The Princess of Wales always stole the media limelight standing tall and beautiful; the missionary however remained in obscurity appearing short and simple. The first championed as a reformer of society; the second a mere missionary to the poor. Both made their mark in history, but if you measured the importance of one against the other according to television coverage the Princess far exceeded the humble Mother of Calcutta. At the time of their deaths, the Networks spent days highlighting the accomplishments of England’s lady of charm while little was said of India’s saint. So, “Who was the most important?” I would like to think we finite humans have the ability to answer such a question but I know the decision can only be found in a wisdom that reaches far beyond us. Such can only be revealed by the One who is omniscient; the One who sees the true depth, height, and breadth of a person’s influence. He sees what we do not see and knows what we do not know. I think this becomes evident in the experience of the disciples. The account comes to us in the book of Mark.  “Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came over and spoke to him. Teacher,” they said, “We want you to do us a favor.”  “What is your request?” he asked.  They replied, “When you sit on your glorious throne, we want to sit in places of honor next to you, one on your right and the other on your left.” But Jesus said to them…. I have no right to say who will sit on my right or my left. God has prepared those places for the ones he has chosen.” James and John thought they were the evident choice, yet Jesus was quick to point out that God has left that decision to Himself.  That means those who have status and live lives of grandeur may very well be overlooked while the simple will be chosen to take the seat of importance. The message here is you can never underestimate your individual worth. You may consider yourself to be inadequate having accomplished very little. The media may avoid you and the world dismiss you; but you may be the one the King of heaven and earth selects to take the seat by His side. You may be the one God chooses to crown with the crown of importance. 

Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Danger of Judging

I read where the Indians have their own motto in respect to judging. “Don’t judge a man until you’ve walked a mile in his moccasins." This is not dissimilar to the mindset Jesus had. Because one of the things He disliked most in humans was their proclivity to judge. Notice what he had to say about it.  “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.”  Does this sound serious or is my emotional system getting the best of me? When we consider this strong admonition from the Lord we realize that there is incredible danger in placing the wrong evaluation upon others. And realistically we have to confess that we are guilty more than we care to admit. You see judging causes us to jump to conclusions like the story of the newspaper reporter I read about. He was searching for a story about the laziness that existed throughout the South when he saw a man in his field, sitting in a chair and hoeing his weeds. This had to be the ultimate in laziness. So he rushed back to his car to start his story when he looked back a second time and what he saw changed his entire outlook. He saw that the pant legs on the farmer hung down loose -- the man had no legs. So what seemed at first to be a story of laziness turned into a story of great courage. We must be careful not to make a hasty assumption--which is one of the foremost traits of judging. A second danger is, it causes us to reflect self-righteousness. Discrediting others becomes a misconstrued way of adding value to our own stature. Of course one only has to look at the teachings of Jesus to learn this behavior is a gross misinterpretation of true spirituality. A person’s worth appreciates only when he finds the good in others. Third, judging challenges God’s authority. Whether done consciously or unconsciously it is an attempt to usurp the position the Creator holds only for Himself. Quite frankly, if we were given the privilege, we would do a lousy job at it. Why? We would do so based on partial information, biased attitudes, and faulty affections. That’s why God keeps this discretion all to himself. He is the only one who can conduct such an assessment with unquestionable justice. Again, judging can be dangerous. It should be avoided because it carries eternal repercussions; but most of all it causes us to overestimate our ability, underestimate the ability of God, and even greater render a less than fair appraisal of others. That being said, we better just leave it to the one who issued the warning: “Do not judge unless you want to be judged.”