Sunday, August 31, 2014

An Eye for an Eye

Late one summer evening in Broken Bow, Nebraska, a weary truck driver pulled his rig into an all-night truck stop. The waitress had just served him when three tough looking, leather jacketed motorcyclists, of the Hell’s Angels type, decided to give him a hard time. Not only did they verbally abuse him, one grabbed the hamburger off his plate, another took a handful of his French fries, and the third picked up his coffee and began to drink it. How would you respond? Well, this trucker did not respond as one might expect. Instead, he calmly rose, picked up his check, walked to the front of the room, put the check and his money on the cash register, and went out the door. The waitress followed him to put the money in the register and stood watching out the door as the big truck drove away into the night. When she returned, one of the bikers said to her, "Well, he’s not much of a man, is he?" She replied, "I don’t know about that, but he sure ain’t much of a truck driver. He just ran over three motorcycles on his way out of the parking lot." This comes real close to the issue Jesus was addressing in Matthew chapter five. His listeners had been taught to take their truck and demolish the property of anyone who offended them.  However, they were charged to behave differently.  Instead of taking an “eye for an eye” and a “tooth for a tooth” they were told not to resist the evil done to them, but to turn the other cheek when being smitten. Further, they were to “Love their enemies and to bless those who curse them.”  These were and are tough orders to follow.  Everything about our humanity cries out for revenge. Yet, Jesus said we were to operate in love. These were not mere philosophical words spewing from the Master’s lips.  As those listening would find out later, they were principles He chose to live by. Only love could allow a man beaten beyond recognition to look upon his perpetrators and cry out, “Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” We should ask God for the same depth of love. With the strength of that virtue, we will find ourselves easily fulfilling our obligation by not taking “An eye for an eye.”

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Down but Not Out

A tourist was visiting a famous landmark on the ocean and he’d walked out on a pier to see the ocean better. But as he looked over the edge of the pier he was disturbed by how deep the water seemed to be. As he was thinking about water’s depth, he noticed an old man fishing off the pier, and he went over to him and asked: "If I were to fall into this water, would I drown?" The old man smiled and said "Nah. Falling into the water isn't what drowns people. It's staying UNDER the water that drowns them.”  This appears to be the sentiment of Paul as he writes his letter to the Corinthian church. “We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed (2 Corinthians 4:8-9 NLT). The apostle alerts his readers to the fact that they will find themselves at times being succumbed by deep waters but the answer to survival is the refusal to stay under. Knowing this, the question begging for an answer is “How do we resurface and stay on top?” Paul continues in his writing by stating, “For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus' sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh… knowing that He who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us up…”  We survive by taking on the breath of the Spirit and allowing Him to be our spiritual Lifeguard. In every stage of Jesus’ ministry He yielded to the Spirit’s infusion of power. Because of this, no wave of opposition could hold Him; no current overtake Him; no depth destroy Him. He breathed deep into his lungs the life of the Spirit. Thus His struggle turned into strength because the force within was greater than that without. No wonder Jesus breathed upon the disciples and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” He was preparing them as well as us for the deep waters. With Him we may go down but we are never out!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Detecting the Right Voice

One of the fondest memories I have of my childhood is the time I spent with my grandfather.  During the summer months my parents would often take me to his house to stay while they attended our annual church conference.  The days were long and boring until granddad came home from work. Then we would go out on the farm and work in the fields gardening, spraying for weeds, or attending to the cattle. The most interesting part of my visit came in watching the relationship papaw had with his cows.  More often than I can remember, he would walk out into the field and start to yell, “sooh cow, sooh cow.” Upon hearing this cry the cows would start to make their way into the barn. They recognized the sound of my grandfather’s voice and responded to it without delay. At times he would make his plea and they would follow him as he led them to their destination. Even his old honorary bull that would fight, tear down fences and wander into the neighbor’s pasture listened to that call.  Grandpaw would go find his prized beast and walk him back home without ever putting a halter on him.  The bull responded to his voice.  As I reflect upon these scenes from the past I am reminded of the words spoken by Jesus. “My sheep hear my voice and a stranger they will not follow.”  Although sheep are not harnessed, they follow the shepherd without reservation.  They have learned that following the Master is the wisest thing humans can do. When we take the time to listen, we find that God always has our best interest at heart.  All he asks is that we follow him.  Having travelled the road before, He knows every pocket of resistance, every green field for grazing, and every source of water.  He is the great Shepherd of his sheep, and constantly speaks for us as well as to us.  With all the interference we see these days, we must listen to God knowing that it is important that we detect the right voice.      

Sunday, August 10, 2014

What Happens in Old Age

Getting old is no fun, but I tell people all the time it’s better than the alternative. One of the reasons why so many dislike the senior years could be explained by the following story.  An elderly woman called 911 on her cell phone to report that her car had been broken in to. She is hysterical as she explains her situation to the dispatcher: "They've stolen the stereo, the steering wheel, the brake pedal and even the accelerator!" she cried. The dispatcher said, "Stay calm. An officer is on the way." A few minutes later, the officer radios in. "Disregard." He says. "She got in the back-seat by mistake." It’s no secret that old age brings with it all kinds of issues; memories fade, our eyes dim, joints get stiff and muscles lose their strength. And these are just some of the things we’re not embarrassed to mention; the rest I’ll leave to your imagination. While all of us enter into the olden years, I’ve learned this season of life can also be the golden years. A mere reading of the Scripture verifies this fact, especially when we look into the lives of people like: Abraham, Sarah, Caleb, and Samuel. When you look at their legacy, most of the significant things accomplished were during the older years of life.  Often people enter this season of life allowing themselves to become bitter, broken, or unproductive.  However, this is not God’s plan for us.  Why do I say that? Remember who it was that called those previously mentioned. It was the Creator Himself. He chose old people to do great things. That being said, the seasoning of life presents to us great opportunities. We find ourselves older but also more experienced; having less time in which to do the task, but more time to actually do it. The quality of our future depends on the choices we make. We can dry up or dress up, procrastinate or produce, rust out or rev up. Maybe it’s time we climbed out of the back seat got back under the steering wheel and drove into the future of great possibility. 

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Clothed From Above

Last fall one of my members gave Phyllis and me a variety of lilies. They were in small pots and each had a name attached.  While elated by the gift, I had no idea the beauty contained within each plant because at that point I only had a name. Over the next couple of days with shovel in hand I meticulously planted each one. This involved digging the right size hole, fertilizing the plants, and covering them with ample amounts of mulch.  After that I waited with great anticipation for growth to come.  We experienced a colder than usual winter and I wondered if the flowers would survive.  However, when spring arrived to my surprise the buds began to shoot forth. With each passing day I watched them grow and mature into magnificent beautiful flowers. Some were yellow, orange, and purple; others were multicolored. But each one displayed its own artistic grandeur. As I toured the yard giving each lily my undivided attention, the words of Jesus spoken in Matthew 6:28-29 rang in my ears. "So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” It is in this parable that those specializing in horticulture as well as the casual observer such as myself realize such clothing is not to be found at Lowe's, Home Depot, or the best Landscaping nurseries in the land.  The beauty which drapes each lily comes only from above. And if God did this for a flower, how much more will He provide for you and me. No lily is ever forgotten or embarrassed by the thought of not having the proper attire. Rather each one daily models the elaborate design given by the Father.  We have likewise been designed so that the divine designer can lavish our lives with the best of care.  If we truly believe this our worries will be minimal, because we will always be reminded of the fact that we are clothed from above.