Saturday, August 27, 2016

Prayer Works - When Applied

I think my dog works for my general practitioner. She’s constantly coaxing me out of my chair by either bring a toy to me and then keeping it just out of reach so I have to get up and out of the chair to play with her; Or she’ll sit in the middle of the floor staring at me until I get up and go let her outside. One-by-one she takes her toys out into the yard, via the doggie door, giving each a walk around the fence. It’s comical to watch as she seems to be giving each toy a tour of the yard every time they go out. After that she runs back inside, to stare at me some more, egging-me-on to go outside to play with her there. Of course her next move is to get me to chase her around the yard for a little cardio exercise for both of us. By-the-way, my vocal cords are clear once again and in six weeks they will get another inspection to see if they are still clear. Thanks for all your prayers.

[John 10:11-13; Matthew 7:15-20] I often ponder the thought of where will my leaders be when the wolf attacks. This is the scariest election we as Christians have ever faced, and as seen in recent polls, the Christians aren't voting Christian values. We all need to be on our knees. Do you believe we can take God at His word? Call upon His name, then stand back and watch His wonders unfold. 2 Chronicles 7:14 states. "...if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land." This scripture gives us, as Christians, ownership of this land and the ability to call upon God to heal it. I challenge you to do that. We have never been more desperate than now for God to heal our land. This election is the scariest I remember in my lifetime. During WWII, there was an advisor to Churchill, who organized a group of people who dropped what they were doing every night at a prescribed hour for one minute, to collectively pray for the safety of England, its people and peace. This had an amazing effect, as bombing stopped. There is now a group of people organizing the same thing here in America. The United States of America , and our citizens, need prayer more than ever!!! If you would like to participate, each evening at 9:00 p.m. Eastern, stop whatever you're doing, and spend one minute praying with sincerity for the safety of the United States, our troops, our citizens, for peace in the world, the upcoming election, and that the Bible will remain the basis for the laws governing our land, and that Christianity will grow in the U.S. If Jesus felt the need to pray to the Father, surely we need God’s help in our own lives. God knows our needs even before we ask, but still He wants us to ask (Matthew 6:8); and Jesus tells us that men “should always pray and not give up” (Luke 18:1). James wrote that, “the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective” (James 5:16). Paul wrote in his first letter to the Thessalonians, “...pray continuously” (5:18). A prayer does not need to be long nor eloquent to be pleasing to God. It is to simply come from our heart as we humbly talk to our God and Creator. It was the simple and sincere prayer of the publican that was accepted by God, not the self-praising prayer of the Pharisee (Luke 18:10-14). Prayer is to be directed to God the Father, as Jesus illustrated in teaching His apostles to pray (Matt. 6:9), and in the name of Jesus (John 14:13). Sometimes we get “stage fright” when asked to pray in public. But it helps to know that God is our “audience” and not those around us. “Father, help us all to pray often with sincere hearts for we need Your help every moment of the day. In Jesus name, amen.”

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Live Now To Secure Forever

I once again have been taken aback by the circumstances of life and how fast things can change, putting even the perfect of schedules into a tailspin. Last week was a doosey! Sunday began with the death of a congregation member and pending funeral. Monday I couldn’t get yard work done, too much rain. Tuesday came with a double whammy. I was notified of another member passing away the night before and needing to prepare for another funeral latter in the week. I also traveled to Houston to visit my sister; not much time left there in her terminal cancer state; another funeral pending. I reach a point when I question, “When do I get some time?” The Lord reminds me I’ve dedicated myself to the service of others and there’ll be plenty of time for me - when my service is over.

[Matthew 6:25-34] I think a person’s life can be divided up into four chunks of time: the past, the present, the future and eternity. The devil draws attention to the past and the future; God draws attention to the present and eternity. Therefore, the devil wants to take our focus off of the present and eternity while God wants us to avoid investing too heavily in the past and the future. For example, when a person is thinking about becoming a Christian, the devil attacks that thinking in at least two places. First, the past: “I have done too many bad things that God could never forgive me of,” and second, the future: “Even if He could forgive me, once I was baptized, I could never live up to the high standard of the Christian life.” God, on the other hand, reinforces truthful thinking in the above scenario by coaching a person to do NOW what will secure him or her for ETERNITY. In the process, of course, God does remedy the guilt of sin (PAST) and also gears the new convert up by prayer, worship, Scripture, fellowship, hope, etc. to be faithful in living out the Christian life (FUTURE). The plea to live in the present saturates Scripture: for example; Matthew 6:34 ‘Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” 2 Corinthians 6:1-2 “As God’s fellow workers (Paul and Timothy) we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. For he says, ‘In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.’ I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.” 2 Peter 3:11-12 “Since everything will be destroyed in this way (v7&10) what kind of people ought you be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming...” That does not mean we have no business with the past. There may be a mess to clean up. And it does not mean we have no business with the future, because we must plan: James 4:13-16 says, “Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” It does mean that we should not waste life fantasizing, “I wish I could go back to yesterday,” or “I am waiting for things to be different tomorrow.” Rather, live in the moment. Do what you are supposed to be doing today. Obey God now. Take responsibility for the present. “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administrating God’s grace in its various forms” (2 Peter 4:10).

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Would You Hire Him?

Wow, is it ever hot! Rain is on the horizon, but this time of year all we ever get is the smell of it in the air. One can only pray and wait. I’m kind of being lazy this week, a semi-staycation. Here’s a story, something to think about, because we don’t know the hearts of men like the Lord. Got to go -Bella wants me to go outside and play with her.

[Ephesians 6:7] “Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men...” Would your church hire this guy? RE: Letter of application for employment. Dear Sirs: I understand that a position as pastor is open in your church and I would like to apply for it. I am almost 60 years of age and have been in the ministry for about 25 years. I’ve never lasted very long in any one place, but once I did stay in one church three years. People say my health is not good, but I ignore these kinds of irritants and press on anyway, believing my ill health is actually an advantage to keep my big ego in check. I’m a strong leader and have usually wound up in charge of everything I’ve ever done. I’ll be frank with you, I’m not always popular, and have been expelled from a number of cities where I ministered. But in every case it was because of a trouble-making opposition I seem to get everywhere I go. I just preach the truth and some people get angry when they hear it. You may hear about the time when I confronted the highest leader in my denomination to his face -- in front of an entire church body. But he was clearly in the wrong and he backed down. It is that simple: I was right, and he was wrong. I spoke the truth, as I always do, and the truth won the day. I have seldom been able to work full-time in the ministry, so I have usually had employment outside of my ministry to help support me. In some churches I received no salary at all, and occasionally my job even provided for paying the staff too, though that was not the average situation. Don't get the idea though that I worked only with large churches. Most of the churches I've worked with were small, and all of them were able to meet in a house or small hall. I am a good preacher and well-trained in the Word of God. I often preach longer than people think I should, sometimes for several hours, and I have even preached all night at times. In case you follow up on my references you may discover some questionable events. So I need to give my side on these stories. Yes, it is true that I am guilty of conspiracy to commit murder. But that was before I was baptized into Christ for the remission of my sins. And it is true that because of several problems since becoming a Christian, I have been put in jail. But most of these were short stays, though I have just been released from a four-year stint -- two years in Caesarea and the last two in Rome. But I’ve never given up on my faith, even as a convict. Yes, I have been accused as a trouble-maker but these are false accusations, the real trouble-makers are the Jews who keep following me everywhere I go stirring up trouble against me. Spiritually I have had an incredible journey. I have always worked in a staff ministry, and usually expect a staff as normal. If your church can't pay them, I will figure out a way to have them work directly for me. My staff is generally loyal to me, in fact I demand it. I have been used to working with a large staff, but I admit that I've had a lot of staff turnover -- few of them stay very long. As to my wife, I do not give any details other than I will be accompanied by her wherever I go. A physician, a faithful layman who has been with me for quite a while, will also be moving with me to wherever I go next. Sincerely, Paul, an Apostle of Jesus Christ. (Hired or Not?)

Saturday, August 06, 2016

That Final Journey

An African proverb states, “If you want to go fast - go alone; If you want to go far - go together.” I am always amazed when I see geese flying together in formation. Each one takes a turn in the front of the V formation. The entire flock shares the burden of leadership and when they’re not leading, they are honking their support for the one that is. They may not fly as fast this way, but they certainly fly farther. We can’t do this thing called life solo. We need each other for the long journey. “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up” (Ecclesiastes 4: 9-10).

Something I rarely do is dedicating one of my columns, but I want to lift up all those who take the time to set life aside to be close to a loved one and share their final journey of life upon this earth. My sister continues down that road of terminal brain cancer and I want to salute my brother Art, and my sister’s closest friend Earl, for being with her and seeing that her every need is met to the best of anybody’s ability. My brother’s greatest fear is her thoughts throughout the night-time hours, not wanting her to be crying alone.

[1 Peter 3: 8-14] When all the world seems to forsake you, And there’s chaos in all your affairs; When you’re blue, disappointed and lonely, Of one thing be certain...  God Cares! When your plans and your dreams come to nothing, And your troubles show up in pairs, That’s the time to use your last ounce of faith, And remember that always... God Cares! We don’t know the “why” and the “wherefore” For the pain and sorrow one bears; But we do know this beyond doubting, We are not forgotten... God Cares!

Back in his high school days, Jack had some friends who convinced him to be a monitoring judge for a road rally. There was a course set throughout the county for contestants to decipher clues and then drive down certain roads ending up back at a designated place. The judges were strategically placed in secret spots recording cars which were in the rally as to the time they actually passed by them. This was set up into a points system from which the winners would be determined. When the rally day came, Jack was driven to his spot which was a very remote road in the county. He was tucked away in a wooded area and was told to watch every car that drove by between certain times and simply record it on the official score pad. Jack was given final instructions to be very vigilant. It seemed easy enough. The problem was that the cars that drove by that day on that lonely country road were few and far between. Due to that, Jack became very bored and began to become distracted. He could hear squirrels rustling in the leaves behind him and noticed the sounds of birds piercing through the silence. Jack surmised that if he went and did a little exploring in the woods, he would still be able to hear the sound of vehicles coming from a distance and would have time to make it back to his post to record them going by. So Jack temporarily abandoned his duty to check out the fascinating world of the woods. When Jack was picked up and taken to the rally finish spot, the chief judge was taken aback by his nearly empty score sheet. After his inquiry as to why Jack’s page was virtually blank, he had to fess up. Apparently Jack had become so engrossed with the flora and fauna that he missed several cars going by. They had no recourse but to ignore Jack’s section of the contest. He was thoroughly embarrassed. Has the world distracted your spirit and rendered your life’s journey - judged to be ignored?

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Clothes Make The Person

I have to confess; this election year has been toying with my emotions and pushing my buttons like never before. Then, adding every day, the selfishness of certain people and groups who keep turning up the fires of discontent and boiling issues to the point of blowing the lid off of “their rights”, all the while inflicting harm stomping all over their neighbor’s rights, has got me yelling and screaming at the television and radio, “Why are you destroying the greatest country in the world?” I turn the news on to see how bad the day was across the country and around the world, and my wife leaves the room for an hour. I question myself, “Am I not suppose to care? Should I just tune it all out and be totally uninformed?” A good citizen I would not be. But neither am I a good citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven with out-of-control emotions. I’ve got to work harder on that.

[2 Corinthians 3:18; Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 4:17-24; Colossians 3:1-17; 1John 2:3-6] The following is from Bulletin Digest written by Jacob Evans – ‘It’s Friday evening a little after sundown when he walks through the front door after a long day at work and announces his arrival, “Hi honey, I’m home.” “What took you so long? Supper’s been ready for an hour,” his wife says rather loudly from the kitchen. He walks in the kitchen and explains, “Oh, things were pretty crazy downtown today. We just about had a riot. I’m surprised you hadn’t heard about it already.” The subject quickly changes as she looks up and notices his clothing. “Where did you get that coat? It’s not the one you were wearing when you left home this morning. I know it’s not yours.” “Well, it is now,” he said. “What do you mean, ‘it is now’?” “Oh, I won it today at work.” “Don’t tell me you’ve been gambling again.” “It’s not what you think. We ended up having three executions instead of two. The third guy took the place of that robber fellow Barabbas. He only had one coat, and since we couldn’t tear it up, we had to cast lots for it. It just must have been my lucky day, I guess.” Have you ever wondered about the Roman soldier who walked away from the cross that Friday night wearing Christ’s coat? If only he had realized whose coat he was wearing! Maybe then he’d have the mind to try to live up to his clothing. I wonder if he ever changed his lifestyle after he changed his coat. When you really stop and think about it, you and I aren’t a lot different from this man. When we became Christians, we did more than simply witness the death of Christ like the Roman soldier did; we reenacted and united with Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection when we were baptized (Romans 6:3-4). On that day, we walked away from the foot of the cross not merely with Christ’s clothes, like that Roman soldier did; we left the water clothed with Christ himself. That’s exactly what Paul says in Galatians 3:27, “for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” Being a Christian involves a lot more than blocking off a couple of hours a week, putting on a skirt or slacks, and coming to church. Being a disciple of Christ involves a total transformation that should gradually permeate every area of a person’s life. When we became Christians, we clothed ourselves with Christ, and we are called to live up to our clothing on a daily basis. Does your character and conduct match your clothing? Are you living up to your clothing?’ When the Spirit reminds me of who’s I am, sometimes it’s like a slap up side the head, “Wake up boy!” Although my heart aches over the complex uncertainties of life and weep over the world’s condition, I pray for more understanding.