Saturday, March 18, 2017

Watch What You're Publishing

I’ll be the first to admit – a social butterfly, not am I. The 21st Century is constantly pushing the envelop with technological advances that benefit mankind in so many ways, including the big fields of medicine, transportation and communication, it’s nearly impossible to keep up with it all. I got to chuckling to myself the other night while scrolling through Facebook. My first great advancement in social media was back in the 70’s when I installed a CB radio in my ‘63 Chevy pick-up. One had to have a unique “handle” (phantom name) to identify with, thus building an incognito circle of friends. On the highway everybody outside your circle was your “good buddy” with helpful information and directions, sometimes. Then there were those who were plain nasty on the air and to have a decent conversation around the big cities one had to escape to a clear channel. The best thing I did for myself was take the CB out of my vehicles. Then I bought a computer and a smart phone. Email, texting and Facebook – Enough - No more!

[Ecclesiastes 8:1] “Who is like the wise man? Who knows the explanation of things? Wisdom brightens a mans face and changes his hard appearance” A Bulletin Digest article (Feb‘17) Heart to Heart, Face to Facebook by Kerry Duke, in part, has this to say about our present 21st Century social communication: “What about the example you set before others on the internet? Does your Christian light shine on Facebook? Do you use wisdom about what you post or share? There is no question that this avenue of communication is used for good. Family, friends, and church members stay in touch. We learn about good works and good news in other congregations. We hear about needs and tragedies that cause us to pray more. We enjoy clean humor and read encouraging words. This modem marvel is even used to teach the Bible. While it can never replace face-to-face conversation, social media allows Christians to influence others for the Lord. Any form of communication can be abused. Anywhere people gather there will be good and bad. We expect the world to talk about bad things, but it is awful when Christians act like the world. Sometimes Christians post things on Facebook they shouldn’t: Bad language. There is no excuse for this. The Bible says, ‘Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen’ (Ephesians 4:29). It doesn’t matter if the story is funny. It doesn’t matter if the statement makes a good point about politics and the condition of our country. There is a right and wrong way to talk about things. You should never attach your name to cussing and profanity. Indecent photos ...Unscriptural talk. There are all kinds of sayings circulating on the internet that might sound good on the surface but are not biblical. Someone will post a statement that says we are to love people, not judge them. But that depends on what kind of judging is under consideration. If a person is talking about hypocritical judging - condemning others while doing worse -  then that is what Jesus meant when He said ‘Judge not’ (Matthew 7:1-5) ...We are commanded to ‘judge righteous judgment’ (John 7:24), and it is our duty to expose sin (Ephesians 5:11). Christians need to consider what they are saying and whom they are quoting. ...We could add to this list, things like gossiping and childish complaining. Facebook is a public arena. Let your light shine. People are watching. More importantly, God is watching.” “...They say, ‘How can God know?...” (Psalm 73) God sees and hears.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Rejoice! God Loves You!

March is the month of transition from winter to spring, the month for planning and preparing outdoor activities. March is a pick-me-up time of year with its little surprises and gifts of nature that appear on scene, but for only a short time. Here in South Texas it’s beautiful wildflowers by the zillions that pop out of the ground working their way northward as the cold weather retreats and the ground warms up at the end of winter. Where I grew up in the northeast, although there may still be a few unyielding patches of  snow lingering around, spirits were always lifted with the perennial appearances of all but forgotten, forever faithful, multi-colored, irises and tulips, waking up in the wet warming ground to decorate the landscape and announce the advent of spring. Our wish is to keep the beauty all year long, but alas, they’re too tender to survive the heat of summer so they recoil to a dormant state, just out of sight, until conditions are right again to lift the spirit.

[Philippians 4: 4-9] You can’t have a rainbow without the rain is the old saying. But is it true? I guess it depends on where you’re at. If you’re talking about life on Earth, the saying definitely holds water. Cloudy days and storms are the norm in mankind’s life. Rich, poor, man, woman, young, old, red, yellow, black or white – no one is exempt from heartache, pain, disaster, disappointment or death. Physical conditions and resources may limit the detrimental experiences that we face, but no earthly condition in and of themselves exempts us from all the trials of life. So the idea of not being able to have a rainbow without the rain reminds us that grief is inevitable, but grief can cause us to look at the blessings of life in a brighter way by reminding us that the storms don’t last forever. Sweet tastes much sweeter after a dose of something bitter! “Rejoice in the Lord always...” Sometimes that’s a tall order. It seemed to be lot easier when I was younger, but nowadays rejoicing “always” isn’t so easy. Writer Ann Lamott reflects on this. She says, “My experience is that you don’t always get what you want – but you get what you get. As you get older, you start to work with what you’re getting instead of crossing your arms bitterly because you didn’t get what you wanted. ‘Okay, here we are. A new 24 hours is starting right now, and this is what we’ve got in our hands now.’ Age is such an incredible blessing, the softening and rounding of corners. And the sort of meat-tenderizing effects of aging, like being a stone in the river – the sanding down of sharp edges.” Rejoicing is the ability to extract gratitude from the daily happenings of life. The person who rejoices is not someone who is waiting for life to be perfect; not someone who expects that everything is going to happen just the way they want it to happen. The rejoicing person does not wait for conditions to be right for rejoicing. A grateful person rejoices. Alfred D’Souza wrote: “For a long time it had seemed to me that life was about to begin – real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be gotten through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid. Then life would begin. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life.” ‘Man born of woman is of few days and full of trouble. He springs up like a flower and withers away; like a fleeting shadow, he does not endure...Man’s days are determined; you have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed...All the days of my hard service I will wait for my renewal to come. You will call and I will answer you; you will long for the creature your hands have made.’ (Job 14) Rejoice! God loves YOU!

Saturday, March 04, 2017

Do You Know...?

I was somewhat taken aback the other day when I discovered that someone had attempted to force their way into a storeroom at the church building. It’s really weird how one can look at an object and know something isn’t right with what you’re looking at, but can’t immediately figure out what’s wrong. The door to the storeroom is a key entry only and as I was putting the key into the lock it appeared that the door was already ajar or had been improperly closed and locked. Upon opening the door the mystery revealed itself. The door casing was splintered and my brain quickly deduced that someone had tried to break the door down. All that’s in the room is overflow from the office - printer inks and toners along with some books, accounting records and janitorial supplies - in my mind nothing really worth stealing. I surveyed the room to discover nothing missing and again concluded that the break-in was unsuccessful. Thanks to the three inch wood screws I used when I removed the worn out typical door-knob and installed the key only deadbolt lock, the want-to-be thief was denied his booty and probably has a sore shoulder.

A number of years ago, leaders in Charlotte, North Carolina, invited their favorite son, Billy Graham, to a luncheon in his honor. After wonderful things were said about him, Dr. Graham stepped to the rostrum, looked at the crowd, and said, “I’m reminded today of Albert Einstein, the great physicist who this month has been honored by Time magazine as the ‘Man of the Century’. Einstein was once traveling from Princeton on a train when the conductor came down the aisle, punching the ticket of every passenger. When he came to Einstein, Einstein reached into his vest pocket. He couldn’t find his ticket, so he reached into his trouser pockets. It wasn’t there, so he looked in his briefcase but couldn’t find it. Then he looked in the seat beside him. He still couldn’t find it. The conductor said, ‘Dr. Einstein, I know who you are. We all know who you are. I’m sure you bought a ticket. Don’t worry about it.’ Einstein nodded appreciatively. The conductor continued down the aisle punching tickets. As he was ready to move to the next car, he turned around and saw the great physicist down on his hands and knees looking under his seat for his ticket. The conductor rushed back and said, ‘Dr. Einstein, Dr. Einstein, don’t worry! I know who you are. No problem. You don’t need a ticket. I’m sure you bought one.’ Einstein looked at him and said, ‘Young man, I too, know who I am. What I don’t know is where I am going.’” Having said that, Billy Graham continued, “See the suit I’m wearing? It’s a brand new suit. My children, and my grandchildren are telling me I’ve gotten a little slovenly in my old age. I used to be a bit more fastidious. So I went out and bought a new suit for this luncheon and one more occasion. You know what that occasion is? This is the suit in which I’ll be buried. But when you hear I’m dead, I don’t want you to immediately remember the suit I’m wearing. I want you to remember this: I not only know who I am...I also know where I’m going.”

[1 John] “...I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life” (5:13). With a serious read of the entire letter John wrote to believing baptized Christians, I think one can come to the conclusion of who they are and where they are going. Is your life centered around the Christ or the antichrist? Are you a child of God or a child of the world? Do you worship Jesus or money as your savior? If you were to die right now, where will you spend eternity?

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Don't Be A Hypocrite

Well, if you saw me driving around town last week I guess you would have known the serpentine belt on my van’s engine was making so much noise I doubt I could have snuck up on a Rolling Stones concert without being noticed. The normally quiet, soccer-mom/covered wagon/truck/bus/taxi I drive, was screaming at the top of its lungs begging for a belt change. I didn’t want to do any mechanic work in the foul weather so tried to mask the inevitable by applying a “belt dressing” in an attempt to become incognito on the streets once again. As an experienced mechanic of thirty plus years I knew this wasn’t going to make the problem go away, only soothe the hurt with some salve to stop the screaming, but the old man in me said, “You don’t have time to fix it right now. Go ahead and try it. Maybe it will give you a few days reprieve before having to tackle the job.”  I showered the belt with the sticky goo from the can and “ta-da” - no more noise - for three miles! Two more applications netted the same results and one more app would certify me as insane, so I stopped at the parts store and bought a new belt. Thirty minutes of wrestling on the “crossways” engine got it installed and now my neighbors are happy.

[Matthew 23:13-15] “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to ...You travel over land and sea to win a single convert and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.” Hypocrisy is an unpleasant word. A hypocrite is someone who pretends to be what he is not, or one who pretends to be better than he really is, or wishes to be seen as virtuous without really being so. Thayer defines hypocrisy as “the acting of a stage player.” Strong defines the same word as “acting under a feigned part, i.e.: deceit.” The Concise Oxford English Dictionary defines the word as “the practice of claiming to have higher standards or more laudable beliefs than is the case.” Does this definition define anyone that came in contact with Jesus? It is the scribes and Pharisees. And Jesus talks directly to them and tells them their hypocritical behavior in Matthew 23:13-36. Jesus is using their behavior as a warning to others and even us. Do not be like the scribes and the Pharisees. Why? Because they are hypocrites. So, how about us today? Our outward appearance and our inner character must match. In this regard, the poem, The Praying Hypocrite by Whitney Montgomery, will help us: I knelt to pray when day was done, And prayed, “O Lord bless everyone; Lift from each saddened heart the pain, And let the sick be well again.” And then I woke another day, And carelessly went on my way; The whole day long I did not try, To wipe a tear from any eye. I did not try to share the load, Of any brother on the road; I did not even go to see, The sick man just next door to me. Yet once again when day was done, I prayed, “O Lord, bless everyone.” But as I prayed, into my ear, There came a voice that whispered clear, “Pause now, my son, before you pray; Whom have you tried to bless today? God’s sweetest blessings always go, By hands that serve Him here below.” And then I hid my face and cried, “Forgive me, God, I have not tried, But let me live another day, And I will live the way I pray.” Those who would grow to be mature Christians must lay aside “guile” and “hypocrisy” (1 Peter 2:1-3), practicing an unfeigned love for both God and man (Romans 12:9, 1 Peter 1:22-23). Screaming for more “meism” only produces more law. Replacing it with God’s will makes life worthy. 

Saturday, February 18, 2017

There Is JOY In The Lord

I really need to get out into my yard and do some work. Mind you, I’m not one to complain, but the West Coast needs to stop sending us rain on the weekends. My weeds are getting out of control and hopefully the grass will dry out by this afternoon where I can break out the mower and get after them. If I don’t get them cut and bagged soon they’ll turn to seed and I’ll have twice the problem next winter/spring. When those clover burrs get stuck to the bottom of ones shoe and tracked into the house, later to be discovered with bare feet at two in the morning, guilt sets in real fast for not cleaning up the yard weeks before. If that isn’t bad enough, there’s this glare I get from my wife while she’s explaining to me how much it hurts when she steps on one of those burrs and asks, “Isn’t there something you can do about those silly things?” What can I say? “Sure, but I just didn’t find the time to do it a few weeks ago.” That simply doesn’t go over well.

[Philippians 2:3] “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility  consider others better than himself.” A few days ago I was visiting with a man who told me about a visit to the doctor. "He gave me some new pills and I asked him what they were for.” The doctor replied, “They’ll help you to remember.” He told the doctor, “I don’t know whether I will take them or not, there are some things I don't think I want to remember!” Are there things in your past you don’t want to remember? There were things in the life of the apostle Paul that he didn’t want to remember. He said, “Forgetting what is behind…I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13,14). Paul wanted to forget the past, but he remembered what he had done calling himself the “chief of sinners” (1 Timothy 1:13-15). When Paul remembered his past it was with joy for he remembered the mercy and forgiveness he obtained through Jesus our Lord. For the non-Christian, memories of the past may bring only pain. Job spoke of bitterness when remembering the iniquities of his youth (13:26) and David pleaded with God not to remember the sins of his youth (Psalm 25:7). One of the greatest struggles for humanity is the discovery of our own value and self-worth. People often feel so very empty and insignificant. The cares of life tend to batter down our self-image and leave us with a sense of meaninglessness and even self-loathing. This is part of the reason why so many people turn to so many vices, i.e. alcohol, drugs, sexuality, in an attempt to “fill the void.” The world is quick to offer solutions. The self-appointed therapists of afternoon talk shows and the mega-rich attitude coaches of late-night infomercials tell us that we need to practice “self love,” and engage in more positive “self-talk.” They tell us that we have to love ourselves first before we can ever learn to love anyone else. Yet, however quaint their advice may be, it is as far from truth as the east is from the west. The Bible tells us that positive self-image does not come through believing we are wonderful, but through the knowledge that God loves us. We don’t need better “self-esteem,” but need a better understanding of God’s estimation of us! In fact, the Bible tells us that the first step to wholeness is understanding and accepting our own wretchedness and turning in utter dependence to God’s awesome grace. The old children’s song has more practical advice on developing self-esteem than all of today’s pop-psychology: JOY: “Jesus first, yourself LAST, and others in between.” There is joy in the remembrance of forgiveness and the future is bright (Romans 5:1-11)!