Saturday, January 21, 2017

2017 Is Marching On

Two old friends hadn’t seen each other in many years. Now they had a long talk trying to fill in the gap of those years by telling each other about their lives. Finally one invited the other to visit him in his new apartment. “I have a wife and three kids and I’d love to have you visit us.” “Great” said the other. “Where do you live?” “Here’s the address. And there’s plenty of parking behind the apartment. Park and come around to the front door, kick it open with your foot, go to the elevator and press the button with your left elbow, then enter! When you reach the sixth floor, go down the hall until you see my name on the door. Then press the doorbell with your right elbow and I’ll let you in.” Looking a little confused the potential visitor said, “Good. But tell me...what is all this business of kicking the front door open, then pressing elevator buttons with my right, then my left elbow?” His host replied, “Surely, you’re not coming empty-handed.”

Most of you know I hate politics and my thoughts toward most politicians are generally not very favorable. As of January 20th the United States of America has a new President, Commander and Chief. Through the electoral processes afforded by the constitution of this country he has been invited to our nation’s capital to represent and lead the country as our highest official in government. Some people see him coming as one kicking in the front door and elbowing his way into power, but it could just be he isn’t coming empty handed. I’m impressed with his continued use of the words “we”, “our”, “together” and “as one” during his inaugural address as they echo from his campaign speeches urging unity in citizens and government alike. For the life of me I cannot understand why this is such a problem for some people. It is what it is. Expect the worst if you must, but at least pray for the best and lean on the One for whom this country is anchored. If we lose our faith in Him, and one another, we are doomed as a country revered by the world.

[Ecclesiastes 1:3-11] Time is tick, tick, ticking onward without asking for either our consent or approval. 2016 isn’t even cold yet and 2017 is already relentlessly marching forward. Nothing you and I can do will ever get that time back. With each passing day we creep closer towards time's end. But, as always, with Jesus there is good news. • 2017 will bring with it days of defeat and success. • 2017 will bring with it both sadness and great joy. • 2017 will bring days of suffering balanced with days of healing. • 2017 will bring with it days of loss and others of enrichment. • For some 2017 will bring with it a day of finality. But there will not be a single day in 2017 that you will have to encounter alone! We have One who can lift us up from defeat, comfort us in sadness and sustain us through suffering. There is One who can truly place momentary loss into eternal perspective. And not to be forgotten, we have each other, charged with the duty of sharing in life's highs and lows (Romans 12:9-21) and with bearing “one another’s burdens" (Galatians 6:2). While we are powerless to keep time from sifting through our lives like sand through our fingers, we can do something about how we spend it. While much time will fall wasted at the feet of humanity, as a follower of Christ you can use your time to God's glory and time will ultimately deposit you in His timeless glory. It may seem to you that God and religion are coming to you as someone or something trying to kick in your door and elbow its way into your life uninvited, but if you look closely, you’ll see God hasn’t come empty handed. He has a gift for you (John 3:16-21).

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Let It Go!

In the middle of last month I spent the afternoon in the hospital emergency room with high blood pressure and chest pain. While waiting to be treated one has the tendency to allow the mind to convict the soul of its past sins against the body and convincing the mortal structure of skin and bones awaiting a diagnosis – it’s time to pay the fiddler. I just knew my heart must be screaming for help and some sort of drastic measures were fixing to be applied to my body which I was not going to like what-so-ever. X-rays, EKG, several blood draws and other tests showed nothing. No heart attack evident. Well, I feel better, I think. A visit to the cardiologist confirmed, no blockage; no heart attack; I’ve dodged another bullet. He told me he can medicate my blood pressure, but I have to learn to let things go. Anxiety? Yep! I did get some new medicine for my problematic high blood pressure, which seems to be working great, and I started a supplement to boost my serotonin levels, which is definitely working well. No more OCD? We’ll see about that!

The passenger leaned forward and tapped the cab driver on the shoulder to ask him something. The driver screamed, lost control of the car, nearly hit a bus, went up on the sidewalk, and stopped inches from a department store window. For a second everything went dead quiet in the cab, then the driver said, “Look mister, don’t ever do that again. You scared me half to death!” The passenger apologized and said he didn’t realize that a little tap could scare him so much. The driver replied, “You’re right. I’m sorry. Really, it’s not your fault. Today is my first day as a cab driver.” Reassuring the driver the passenger said, “You seem to be a very capable driver and you were doing a great job, in fact I was enjoying the ride. What kind of work did you do before becoming a cab driver?” “Oh”, said the driver, “I’d been driving a hearse for the past 25 years.”

[2 Corinthians 5:11-21] The cabbie allowed his past experiences to cause him to take his eye off of the road and his goal of getting his passenger to his destination. Sometimes we allow our past to affect our present and future goals and destinations also. The apostle Paul told the Philippian brethren:”Not that have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:12-14). When we find our past affecting our lives in a negative way, we need to learn how to forget those things. We especially need to forget those things which keep us from focusing on our goal of heaven. When we have people in our lives that are causing us to take our eyes off of our goal of heaven, we need to forget them. When our guilt from former sins, which have been forgiven, causes us to take our eyes off of our goal of heaven, we need to forget them. When temptations to sin lead us astray from our goal of heaven, we need to forget them. We need not to allow anything in our past to take our focus off of heaven. “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory” (Colossians 3:1-4). Let it go and relax. God still rules and has it all under control.

Saturday, January 07, 2017

Put Your Glasses BackOn!

Who turned the heat off? Well, ‘old man winter’ has certainly made a grand entrance locally, something we’re not used to. The many media weather forecasts are good at warning the public about the super swings in temperature we have to deal with in this part of the country. We generally get a day or two to get ready and then sometimes those cold-fronts don’t even reach this far – happy days. Texas is big enough to see an eighty degree difference in air temperature from the northern panhandle to the southern gulf coast on a given winter day. Twenty-two degrees this morning is enough to make any hot blooded South Texan cry mercy when he rolls out of bed and his bare feet hit the floor. I grew up in up-state New York off the south shore of Lake Ontario where arctic air likes to blow for days and snowfall is measured by the foot. People laugh when I tell them some of my winter stories. I can still recall one winter when we were out of school so long, because of  several big snowstorms, it was June 21st before we were dismissed for summer vacation. It makes me shiver just thinking about the hours spent in my youth shoveling snow. I’m not ashamed to say my happiest winter on earth was in my nineteenth year of life when I discovered there were places on this planet that didn’t have snow during the winter but about every twenty years, or so. That’s why I pitched my tent here and haven’t regretted one minute of it. And the best part about winter in South Texas – it only lasts about three days at a time. Yep, next week it will be in the seventies again and instead of shoveling snow, I’ll be mowing the grass. Snow is a no - Happy am I!

My face in the mirror isn’t wrinkled or drawn; My house isn’t dirty, the cobwebs are gone; My garden looks lovely, and so does my lawn; I think I might never put my glasses back on! A man was asked to describe his life in ten words or less. He replied, “Me, Me, Me!” There’s a lot of people in this world who really need to put there glasses back on.

[Hebrews 2:18] “Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” I live with my bride, Paula, and a cranky old man named My Self. I rise early to meet some friends for coffee every morning. Self tells me, “You shouldn’t go out so early this morning, it’s too cold.” - “Well, we’re going out anyway,” I reply. “Your feet are going to get freezing cold and you know that makes the rest of your body shiver and groan,” Self says. Self knows how I hate to be shivering cold. “Be that as it may,” says I, “we’re going.” Self doesn’t always like to get out early in the morning, though he always feels better for doing it, ‘cause lying in bed brings on a back ache. Self also likes to eat foods that are bad for us, and he would like to engage in conduct that is just plain wrong. So, we have a lot of arguments. Listing the fruit of the Spirit, the apostle Paul included self-control (Galatians 5:23). In the next verse he wrote, “Those who belong to Christ have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.” This relates to an earlier statement in the same book when Paul wrote, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). The problem most people have, including me, is that we are supposed to crucify Self and its desires and exercise self-control. Instead, we let Self talk us into things we shouldn’t do. So, when Self and I have discussions about what I should, or shouldn’t do, he usually loses. Under the control of a new owner, Jesus Christ, he now rules in my life. Does he rule in yours?

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Beware of Satan's Nose and Foot

At the beginning of each year, I think nearly every mature adult wrestles with an uneasy spirit while examining their lifestyle, which could use some sort of improvement. There is always an area of life we are not happy with, normally, a habit we need to break or a habit we need to get started. Most habits build slowly, but we tend to want to end or start one abruptly, so we procrastinate on even getting started. Whether getting a bad habit out of, or a good habit into ones lifestyle, the battle between heart and mind – soul and body - is a lifelong war filled with many battles. Your strategy to overcome self must include a strong faith in your Creator’s love for you and know your enemy very well.

The worst enemy of man is Satan. His goals are wicked; his ways evil. In the Bible the devil is called “a roaring lion” (1 Peter 5:8), and “that ancient serpent” (Revelation 20:2). Do we know how he works? The Bible says he works by * Telling lies (John 8:44). Satan told Adam and Eve, regarding the forbidden fruit, “You will not surely die” (Genesis 3:4). An example of Satan’s lies today is, “Whoever believes will be saved.” The Lord said, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mark 16:15, 16) * Perverting the scriptures. In Matthew 4:5-7, Satan took a passage out of context, thus twisting its meaning. * Organizing his churches. Not all religious groups are approved of God. Revelation 3:9 speaks condemningly of “the synagogue of Satan.” * Thwarting God’s purposes (1 Thessalonians 2:18). * Masquerading as “an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14). Good appearances can be deceiving. Religious cranks, denominationalists, cults and charlatans fool many with their errors. The ancient Arabs had a saying: “Beware the camel’s nose” which means that if we let one small undesirable situation occur, then there would soon be a worsening to a disastrous predicament. The context is that if you let a camel get his nose into the tent, the whole body would soon follow. In America, we have a similar saying in that we let someone get “a foot in the door.” In addition to many applications, these proverbs can well warn us of the danger of letting Satan into our lives. Like the bulky, smelly camel or the persistent, annoying salesman, Satan can work himself into our lives, and if we give him the opportunity, he will lead us down a slippery slope. Consider these examples from Scripture. • Eve (Genesis 3:1-6) allowed herself to doubt the word of God. From there the downhill slide was very rapid. For then she looked at the forbidden fruit, took it, ate it, and finally gave it to her husband. She allowed just the tip of the nose of doubt into her mind, and before she knew it, Satan had ruined her whole life. • The people of Israel were forbidden to take any spoils of war. But Achan (Joshua 7:1-26) was tempted. In his confession he states that he saw, coveted, took, and finally hid the treasures. Notice how Satan got his foot in the door and kept forcing his way deeper and deeper into Achan’s greedy nature. • King David (2 Sam. 11:1-27) looked at a woman bathing, lusted after her, had an affair with her, tried to hide the sin, then conspired to murder her husband. Note the slippery slope of sin and disaster that David fell into after taking a few seemingly small steps of following Satan’s temptation. Let us always be wary of Satan’s temptations and realize that we can quickly be lead astray if we give him the opportunity. Satan is a greedy creature; if we give him an inch, he will take a mile. “…do not give the devil a foothold; in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.” (Ephesians 4:27; 2 Corinthians 2:11).

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Committing Anew

I don’t know about you, but I for one am so happy this year is coming to an end! I think I’ve been sick all year – down in my back several times, three surgeries on my vocal cords in twelve months, my sister’s decline in health and ultimate departure from this world due to cancer, dealing with a crazy world, getting even crazier and a political world following close behind. Physically and mentally, the year 2016 has weighed heavy on most and I’m ready to start fresh and anew; turn the page; start a new chapter. But, I have to admit I have been most highly blessed over-all. I am cancer free at the moment, I am over thirty pounds lighter and my wife’s health has greatly improved. Praise God!!

In the early 1800s, Billy Bray was known as a no-good drunken miner in the village of Twelveheads in Cornwall, England. But then he was converted to Christ and he was never the same again. He stopped drinking, became a productive member of society, and told everyone he met about his Lord. “I can’t help praising God,” he once said. “As I go along the street, I lift up one foot, and it seems to say, ‘Glory,’ and I lift up the other, and it seems to say, ‘Amen.’ If they would put me into a barrel to keep me quiet, I would shout, ‘Glory’ out of the bunghole. Praise the Lord.” Billy was often heard proclaiming these words: “He has made me glad and no one can make me sad; he makes me shout and no one can make me doubt; he makes me leap, and no one can hold down my feet.”

The world famous tenor, Luciano Pavarotti, related a story about his upbringing and success. “When I was a boy, my father, a baker, introduced me to the wonders of song. He urged me to work very hard to develop my voice. Arrigo Pola, a professional tenor in my hometown of Modena, Italy, took me as a pupil. I enrolled in a teachers college. On graduating, I asked my father, ‘Shall I be a teacher or a singer?’ ‘Luciano,’ my father replied, ‘if you try to sit on two chairs, you will fall between them. For life, you must choose one chair,’ I chose one. It took seven years of study and frustration before I made my first professional appearance. It took another seven to reach the Metropolitan Opera. And now I think whether it’s laying bricks, writing a book, or whatever we choose, we should give ourselves to it. Commitment, that’s the key. Choose one chair."

[Joshua 24:1-24] This great advice applies to many aspects of life and, most important of all, to Christianity. As Joshua taught the Israelites that it is through the power of God they have been blessed and it is God they should worship only, in the same manner Christ plainly spelled it out, “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money” (Matthew 6:24 NIV). We cannot be servants of sin and of righteousness simultaneously (Romans 6:19-20), nor can we be conformed to the world and to God at the same time (Romans 12:1-2). As Joshua stated so boldly, we need to “choose whom we will serve.” We need to choose which chair we are going to sit in. We can sit in the chair of Christianity or some other chair. Hopefully we will sit in the same chair as Joshua did and echo his powerful statement, “ for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15). How about you? Do others see you praising the Lord no matter what the situation? Is everything you do centered around Jesus? Just consider all the Lord has done for you and let that rule your life, attitude, and words. Live your Christianity loud and proud and praise the Lord! Count your blessings - see what the Lord has done!