Saturday, December 13, 2014

Give With Wisdom and Love

I noticed this past week that Rudolph the “Red Nosed Reindeer” has entered his fiftieth year of service as lead sleigh hauler. That kind of makes one sit back and think about all the years that have whizzed past, marked by the season of giving thanks and sharing with love. I too have fifty plus years of work and service behind me and like Rudolph, I hope I have many more ahead. Of course we’ve all had to adjust to the ever changing ways the world has to deal with new technology and business management. Even the North Pole has recently had some organizational changes. The recent announcement that Donner and Blitzen have elected to take the early reindeer retirement package has triggered a good deal of concern about whether they will be replaced and about other restructuring decisions at the North Pole. Streamlining will be necessary due to the North Pole’s loss of dominance in the season gift distribution business. Home shopping networks and internet shopping have greatly diminished Santa’s market share. He could not sit idly by and permit further erosion of profits. The purchase of a late model, lighter weight, and streamlined sleigh, has made reindeer downsizing possible. Reduction in reindeer will also lesson airborne emissions to comply with new EPA regulations, and hopefully reduce the unfavorable world-wide press editorials of years past. Tradition still counts for something at the North Pole and management is pleased to announce that Rudolph’s roll will not be diminished. Well, I guess the evening sky spectacle won’t be as big a deal as it used to be. I’m saddened.

[Romans 12:1] From, “Gift of the Magi” a Christmas story written by the famous short story author, O. Henry. Jim and Della, a young married couple, lived in a tiny flat in New York City around the turn of the twentieth century. On the day before Christmas, although they had no extra money to spare, each secretly desired to give the other a special gift. Over the course of the previous year, Della had only managed to save a dollar and eighty-six cents - mostly in pennies. At the suggestion of her friend Maggie, Della reluctantly decided to cut her long, beautiful auburn hair and sell it to a wig maker so that she could afford to buy her beloved husband a proper Christmas gift. Jim, on the other hand, had failed to get his hoped-for Christmas bonus. He left work that day penniless and desperate. So in order to buy Della a gift that would show his love, he pawned his treasured gold watch that had once belonged to his grandfather. On Christmas Eve night, with great fear, Della showed her husband her short locks and gave him his gift - a beautiful gold watch chain to replace his worn leather fob. Shaking his head and almost in tears, Jim confessed to his wife he had hocked his grandfather’s watch to buy her a Christmas present - a pair of jeweled combs for her beautiful flowing hair. At first they thought, “What fools we are!” But then, with powerful irony, O. Henry asserts that, far from being foolish, their extravagant gifts of love to each other made them as wise as the Magi who traveled far to bring their gifts to the Christ child. Their seemingly useless presents turned out to be the priceless gift of love (Matthew 2:1-11). I ask myself, is this Christmas hub-bub all worth it? Are we all fools? The story reminds me that any time we give our best in love to others a miracle of sorts occurs. God has given us the ultimate gift, in love. He gave us His only Son to be sacrificed for the forgiveness of our sins (John 3:16). Give with wisdom and love.

Saturday, December 06, 2014

A Partnership Of Three

I have an anniversary coming up, one year short of thirty, with the woman I don’t deserve. She has the patience of Job and can squeeze a nickel so tight it changes to a dime. Without her I would probably be destitute and boo-hooing over my wretched life.

A husband happened into the bedroom and overheard his wife, as she was sliding hangers full of clothing across the steel rack one by one, to say, “Oh I wish I were eight again!” Without interrupting her he slipped out of the room with a brilliant idea for their upcoming wedding anniversary. All the arrangements had been made and on the eve of their anniversary he announced, “Tomorrow we are going to spend the whole day together.” She retired excited about what the morrow might bring. The alarm rang and she was greeted with kisses and instructions to get dressed they were going out to breakfast. At the pancake house she could have anything her heart desired. Following breakfast they went to the park to ride horses. Then they went to the mall where he bought her the doll she had always wanted as a little girl but never had. It was pizza for lunch with games and a silly side show. A walk in the park led them to the bumper cars, the Ferris wheel and the merry-go-round all of which they rode over and over again. Supper was at a burger place topped off with sharing a banana split. Popcorn and soda during an animated fantasy movie, which made her laugh and cry, finished a day she’ll never forget. Exhausted, she thanked her husband for a wonderful day. He told her he got the idea from her after one day hearing her sigh and exclaim, “Oh, I wish I were eight again.” So, I thought I would take you out for the day hoping you would return home feeling like a little girl again. Breaking out in laughter she looked her husband in the eye and said, “I meant my dress size!” I don’t know what I’ll do this anniversary but it never seems to be enough to express the thanks for putting up with me another year. Keep trying guys. We’ll get it right some day; we can be so stupid!

[Hebrews 13:4] “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.” There is no doubt that God frowns upon the cheating spouse. And, there is no doubt in my mind that it will take more than the forgiving spouse of a repenting adulterer to avoid the wrath of God. It will take the love of Jesus to forgive the adulterer and reconcile ones spirit to God in peace. Is it important to have Jesus in the marriage? Yes! Jesus, God’s Word, (John 1: 1-5; 10-14) is the disciplined love that brightly shines in the marriage and in the home. The Word of God has not been given to us merely for our enjoyment, but to furnish us with life. As blessed as God’s Word is, Jesus said to the twelve, “Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them” (John 13:17). “If you obey my commands you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love” (John 15:10). “A Happy Marriage Takes Three” by J. Morse. “Most people think a marriage is, a partnership of two; But these little words of wisdom, I will relate to you. The happiness of marriages, Has another partner near; Who can handle every storm of life, And make problems disappear. He’s the guide along life’s pathway, He’s the glue that bonds with love; He’s the one that makes a dream come true, And sends blessings from above. This partner’s name is Jesus, Always trust him and you will see; Marriages are sweeter, in a partnership of three.”

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Thank God

I pray your celebration of thanks was peaceful and meaningful. We have so much to be thankful for in this country. As a spoiled people wanting it all right now it’s a shame to see a great tradition beginning to fade like a sunset. The metaphor “Over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house we (used to) go…” for an annual family gathering had meaning and some reverence to it in my younger years. There were no businesses open and if you forgot to gas up the car on Wednesday you weren’t going far Thanksgiving Day. One doesn’t have to worry about that nowadays. Some people in fact skip the whole thanks day in exchange for an up front place in line at Suzy Q’s What-cha-ma-call-it Emporium for a chance at snagging the newest, biggest, greatest ever, one of a kind, on sale, limited amount of purple widget’s, by camping over night at the front door and getting into the store before anyone else. Triumphantly returning home with bragging rights and the spoils of life is always far better than humbling one’s self before the One who so lavishly gives us all we possess; right?

[Psalm 100; Psalm 136] I fear because we have such a comfortable lifestyle in this part of the world we fail to observe the greatness of our Creator and the free gifts he has surrounded us with. The very air we breathe, the water we drink, the complex and elaborate environment and eco-system we live in, is all maintained just for our existence. Our relationship, man and Creator, has become a tradition being observed by less and less people every day because they believe more in themselves than the One who gave them life. The late Dr. Louie Talbot once told of a visit to the gigantic Niagara Falls on the border of Canada and the United States. Talbot just stood there awestruck as the millions and millions of gallons of water poured over the cliffs into that great abyss of roaring, turbulent water below. Then Talbot noticed that when the falling cascades of water hit the debts below, the turbulence created a spray which rose in the form of a mist, higher and higher until it reached the top of the falls. As he observed the magnificent phenomenon, Talbot thought, “Why, that mist coming up is just a picture of worship.” Describing the experience he wrote, “Those millions of gallons of water, pouring and pouring and pouring down upon that open abyss showed something of the river of God’s grace - all of His goodness and all His mercy being poured down on mankind.” Talbot’s picture of the rising mist represented the praise and thanksgiving of God’s people in response to the cascading ocean of grace, represented by the waterfall, is an excellent metaphor of the way our man and Creator relationship ought to function. Praise and thanksgiving as a response to what God has done for us should be like the mist that rises from the turbulence of Niagara’s waterfall. Grace describes what God has done for mankind and a generation of men and women today need to discover that in all of the wisdom of the world there is nothing that parallels this marvelous act of God toward an undeserving people. “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). “Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people and the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever (Psalm 100:3-5). God bless you, always.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Does He Really Care?

I’m about to enter the crescendo of life which has been reserved for those of us who have managed to live long enough to see it. I’m discovering that it takes a lifetime of wisdom to deal with Social Security and Medicare issues and decisions. Shopping for health insurance that won’t leave one penny-less has always been a problem. Like the old TV commercial used to remind us, “Pay me now, or pay me later” it still seems to hold true whether we’re fixing our vehicle or maintaining our body. Choices have befuddled my wife her entire life, extending from the grocery shelf to a simple burger menu, she has a real tough time making a decision. It’s hard for her to grasp the concept of paying for good insurance over a period of time or going bankrupt if and when everything goes south. We don’t like to think about it, but life doesn’t seem to get any easier and it will take wisdom to press forward. Old age ain’t for sissies.

There was a man who had worked all his life and saved all his money. He was a real miser when it came to cash. He loved money more than just about anything and just before he died he said to his wife, “Now listen. When I die I want you to take all my money and place it in the casket with me. I want to take my money to the afterlife.” So he got his wife to promise him with all her heart that she would do that for him. Well, one day he died. He was stretched out in the casket and his wife was sitting next to her close friend. When the ceremony was ended, just before the undertaker was going to close the casket, the wife said, “Wait just a minute” whereupon she produced her dead husband’s favorite briefcase and placed it in the casket. The undertaker locked the casket down and rolled it away. Her friend protested, “I hope you weren’t crazy enough to put all that money in the casket.” She replied, “Sure I did. I promised. I got all the money together, put it in my bank account and wrote him a check.”

[1 Peter 5: 7] “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” That’s true! But it’s also true that God doesn’t care about some things – some of the things we care about deeply. God doesn’t care about how many Facebook friends we have. His concern is that we are Jesus’ friend. “When Jesus saw their faith he said, ‘Friend, your sins are forgiven’” (Luke 5:20). God doesn’t care how many Twitter followers we have. He only cares that we deny ourselves, take up our cross daily and follow Him (Luke 9:23). God doesn’t care about how many minutes we have on our cell phone plan. He cares about the minutes we spend talking with Him (1 Thessalonians 5:7; Ephesians 6:18). God doesn’t care if we have the fanciest watch. He wants us to watch the use of our time (Ephesians 5:16). God doesn’t care about the size of our homes or how much money we have. He wants us to realize that material things don’t last, “…store up for yourselves treasures in heaven…” (Matthew 6:19-21); “…put (your) hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment” (1 Timothy 6:17-19). God doesn’t care about what work we do. He wants us to do all things in His service and to His glory (Colossians 3:23-24). God doesn’t care about the color of our skin. He cares about the content of our character. (Galatians 5:22-23). God doesn’t care about a lot of things we care about. But God does care about us! He cares about us so much that he gave his son Jesus to die on the cross, the perfect sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sins. “…He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish…” (2 Peter 3:9). He cares for you!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Busy, Busy, Busy

I can remember a time when one didn’t dare whisper the word Christmas until the last of the Thanksgiving turkey was gone from the refrigerator. Today it’s practically illegal to relate Christ to the “Holiday Season” for fear of offending someone, but that’s another issue all together. This year seems to be completely out of control with all the “gift giving” experts submitting their perfect time to shop analyses. They have fine-tuned the proper schedule for you to do your holiday shopping, netting you the greatest savings on your spending budget. There is a Greek word for all this hype – “Hog-wash!” All the retailers are trying to do is get you to come to their store with a certain thing in mind and they will be ready to accommodate you in that area. Face it. Retailers couldn’t wait to get school supplies and Halloween stuff off the shelf to fill them with goodies tempting you to empty your wallet over and over again before the end of the year. It’s all a hoax to make you think you’re sharing your God given love.

[1 Kings 20] Ben-Hadad king of Aram mustered an army, with the alliance of several other kings, to attack Ahab, king of Israel. The account reveals God sending a prophet to Ahab with instructions of how to overcome this attack. Ahab followed God’s orders and war was averted. Ben-Hadad came to Ahab and asked for a treaty of peace whereupon Ahab called Ben-Hadad “brother” and signed a treaty with him. As far back as the Exodus from Egypt, God told the leaders of the Israel nation, “…I will hand over to you the people who live in the land and you will drive them out before you. Do not make a covenant with them or with their gods. Do not let them live in your land, or they will cause you to sin against me, because the worship of their gods will certainly be a snare to you. (Exodus 23:31-33). The prophet took this matter to King Ahab that he might pass judgment, thus convicting himself (1 Kings 23:35-42). God has given you and I his very own son as the full sacrifice for our sins. In verse 40, the prophet illustrated King Ahab’s disobedience to God’s will, “…While your servant was busy here and there, the man disappeared.” I’m afraid too many of us are getting so busy here and there that Jesus, our Savior, has disappeared. We are writing far too many treaties with the world and the gods in it, instead of slaying the tempters snares.

Dear Friend; I’m sending you this note to tell you how much I love you and care for you. I saw you yesterday as you were talking with your friends. I waited all day hoping that you would want to talk with me as well. As evening drew near, I gave you a sunset to close your day and a cool breeze to rest you. I waited, but you never came. Yes, it hurt me, but I still love you. I saw you fall asleep last night and I longed to touch your brow, so I spilled moonlight upon your pillow and face and again I waited for a chance to talk with you – but you never came. I have so many blessings I want to bestow upon you, but you never seem to have time for me. This morning you awakened late and rushed off without our being able to visit. My tears fell with the rain. If you would only let me tell you how much I love you. I try to tell you in the blue sky and in the quiet green grass. I whisper in the leaves and breathe it in the colors of the flowers. I shout it from the wind rustling through the trees and give the birds love songs to sing. If you only knew how much I long to visit and talk with you. Please call me …and don’t forget …I love you! Your friend forever; Jesus. Are you too busy to notice He’s there?