Saturday, March 10, 2018

Wake Up, O Sleeper!

There are many wonders in this world, but have you ever wondered ...Why the sun lightens our hair, but darkens our skin? ...Why women can’t put on mascara with their mouth closed? ...Why don’t you ever see the headline: “Psychic Wins Lottery”? ...Why “abbreviated” is such a long word? ...Why doctors call what they do “practice”? ...Why lemon juice is made with artificial flavor, while dishwashing liquid is made with real lemons? ...Why the person who invests all your money is called a “Broker”? ...Why there isn’t mouse flavored cat food? ...Who tastes dog food when it has a “new and improved” flavor? ...Why Noah didn’t swat those mosquitoes? ...Why sheep don’t shrink when it rains? ...Why they are called apartments when they are clearly stuck together? ...If con is the opposite of pro, is Congress the opposite of progress? I really wonder about that one.

[Ecclesiastes 7:13-14] “Consider what God has done: Who can straighten what he has made crooked? When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider: God has made the one as well as the other. Therefore, a man cannot discover anything about his future.” Have you ever noticed how impossible it is to forecast the future? I’m sure lots of folks happily sank a lot of cash into Enron stock...right before it became worthless. Think of any sports draft. Michael Jordan was selected third overall in the 1984 NBA Draft. Sam Bowie was taken #2 that year. Sam never had a shoe named after him and I don’t think the folks at Gatorade ever cared whether or not he drank their product. A lot of NFL fans in Houston are angrily second-guessing the powers-that-be for drafting Mario Williams instead of Reggie Bush or Vince Young. The Beatles got turned down by MCA Records. MCA thought groups with guitars were on the way out. I’d say they missed that one. Where have you missed it? I’m glad that as Christians we are blessed with some clear information about the future. First of all, as Christians we are closer than we have ever been! The cosmic countdown marches on, and only the Father knows how close we are to our reward (Mark 13:31-33). Every step into another day is a step closer to the fullness of our salvation. Romans 13:11-12 says, “And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because your salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.” We are steadily moving toward a divine appointment. You may be building a house you’ll never live in. You may be making plans to take a trip you’ll never take because the Lord has other “travel plans” arranged for you. We are closer than we have ever been to our departure for what lies beyond the grave. In Christ, we can eagerly wait and anticipate the coming day when we will celebrate. Secondly, it is later than it has ever been. We have less time to accomplish our mission. Jesus said, as recorded in John 9:4-5, “As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” It was true for Jesus and it is true for us: the time to shine is right now while we are still in the world. Be faithful and courageous! We are closer than we have ever been. Let’s present to a lost world the plea of the crucified carpenter who wants to build something beautiful out of the broken lives of sinners. Knowing it is later than it has ever been, we can help turn the tide of tomorrow’s tears into the joy of sweet forgiveness and salvation. Today is the day!

Saturday, March 03, 2018

Yes, There's Hope

Is there no other way out of our domestic dilemma except for retracting our lawful ownership of weapons and other properties? What will become of our freedom of speech after free thinking is declared hate speech against an evil society? (That’s already happening!) Will we all eventually be wearing a gray unadorned uniform 24 hours a day to become just like everyone else? The pursuit of happiness is fading quickly because the spirit of love (God) is being driven out of every aspect of life. Hatred is filling the gap!

The history of the destruction of mankind is repeating itself and it seems less and less people can see what’s happening. As individual men and women walked, lived, and breathed on this earth thousands of years ago, they were surrounded by wickedness in the heart and in deed. Violence, mayhem, corruption and filthiness filled the earth. God repented that he had made man, and his wrathful judgment was impending as recorded in Genesis 6:5-7. The world at that time however, was given ample warning. It heard the preaching of Noah, perhaps for 120 years. The doors of opportunity for repentance and salvation were wide open, if only... But they would not hear. They would not in humility turn to God. Obedience was not their chosen option. Spiritual preparation to meet God in Judgment was neglected. They were selfish and unbelieving. The promised rains did come and the door of opportunity was shut. No more time. No more preaching. No more patience on the part of God. Is it possible to imagine the regrets, the sorrow, and the anguish, the mental torment over wasted time, wasted opportunities, and wasted lives? Fathers and mothers watched their families perish. “If only I had...” It was too late. All perished. All perished, save eight righteous souls. There is another judgment coming. What will be of your soul, the souls of your family? God’s wrath or grace? Weeping and gnashing of teeth or rejoicing? Torment or paradise? Hell or heaven?

[Hebrews 10:19-31] A boy, about 8 years old, was asked by a neighborhood friend to attend an afternoon of swimming. He couldn’t swim but thought, “Just getting to tag along would be fun.” Within a few minutes of arriving at their destination, he was easily talked into getting in the water while holding on to the side of the pool. A few more minutes passed and he slipped into the water, gasping, fighting vigorously to return to his safe state. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t regain any type of traction or get his head above water. His peers were busy playing and didn’t notice his plight. He didn’t have any hope of getting out of his situation. Thank goodness he grabbed a limb of another child, who realized he was in trouble, and helped to get him back to the side of the pool. The boy, again, had hope. He went from being hopeless to having hope. We can go from being hopeless to being full of hope because of God’s promises. Regardless of the situation, challenges, or the news we receive, Christians have hope! As Christians, what is our hope? As Christians, we have a life of hope which is unshakeable in the face of obstacles in our path. When the waters crash into the ship, it will absorb the pressure and not drift. As the stormy waters of life push us in all directions, we too, will not drift so long as we are anchored in Christ…this is our hope. God is faithful, are we? Our obedience allows us to have eternal hope. Do you, by your obedience and commitment to your Christian walk, have the hope of Heaven? He is our only hope! If we are in Christ, we have the hope of eternal life with Him. Don’t let the door of opportunity close on you.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Heaven Is Cheering Us On

Like most of you, looking out into the world’s activities, my emotions are like runny scrambled eggs – unappetizing and all over the place. All I can do is encourage you.

Time was slipping away, and it being a school night, a mother sent her fifth-grade boy to bed. In a few minutes she went to make sure he was getting into bed. When she stuck her head in his room, she saw that he was kneeling beside his bed in prayer. Pausing she heard her son praying over and over again, “Let it be Tokyo! Please, dear God, let it be Tokyo!” After his prayer she entered his room to say good-night and asked him, “What did you mean, ‘Let it be Tokyo’?” “Oh,” the boy said with some embarrassment, “We had our geography exam today and I was praying that God would make Tokyo the capital of France.” Prayer is not a magical means by which we get God to do what we want. While God desires that we bring our petitions to him, He has not promised to give us everything that our heart desires. We realize that a godly earthly father sorts through the needs and wants of his child and ultimately decides to give his child what is in his best interest and what will bring that child the most happiness in the long run. William Temple was right when he said, “We do not pray in order to change His will, but to bring our own will into harmony with His.” As we make our requests to God, we remain open to the idea that God may have something better in mind for us. His purpose may be fulfilled in our lives in a way we cannot even imagine. So, if we pray like we ought, we come away feeling blessed, knowing that God has received our petition, but confident as well knowing that if God knows a better path for our lives, He will lead us in that direction. Please continue to pray that our leaders and society as a whole will turn to God in prayer and return to the godly country that was once in majority with God’s will.

[Romans 8:26-39] The ten-year-old stood at the plate. His batting stance was not great, but neither was it terrible. He nervously stared at the pitcher as he began his wind-up. With runners on second and third and his team down by one run, he needed to get a hit. The pitch...the batter stares as the perfect third strike passes him and caught by the catcher. The umpire rings him up, and he begins to jog down-trodden back to the dugout. What can be heard from the stands are not jeers but cheers. There is an encouraging flow of, “It’s alright!” and “You’ll get ‘em next time!” especially from the section where his parents were setting. You see, no matter what happened on the field that day, that boy was loved by his parents. He could have dropped every ball hit to him, missed every pitch he swung at, or fell down as he walked out of the dugout. None of that mattered. His parents loved him and were there for him no matter what. As we live our Christian lives, we need to remember that we are not on the field alone. We are not trying to live this life for Jesus without our supporters. We have each other (Hebrews 10:24; Colossians 2:2). But, on a grander scale, we have a heavenly audience rooting for us. Jesus said that once we are in the Father’s hand, no one or no thing can take us out of it (John 10:27-30). Paul wrote that nothing can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:26-39). As long as we are on the field, we need to remember that in the stands, so to speak, our Father and our Lord are rooting for us no matter what happens. First John, Chapter one, clearly states we must walk in the Light, stay on the field, and in spite of the falls, in spite of the strike-outs, pick yourself up and keep going. And by the grace of God we’ll win the game.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Coin In My Pocket

I was taking inventory of all the stuff I tote around in my pockets every day. Like Dennis the Menace every item is important and generally needed sometime throughout the day. A phone, keys, wallet, note pad, pens, comb and handkerchief, antacid tablets and a small coin I’ve carried like forever. It’s the size of a half-dollar and embossed on one side is an eagle along with the words, “Man of God.” On the other side is a quote from Isaiah 40:31, “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles...” I continue to carry this coin because it is a lasting reminder for me of who’s I am and who I should continually strive to be every day.

“The Cross In My Pocket” by Verna Mae Thomas: “I carry a cross in my pocket, A simple reminder to me; Of the fact that I am a Christian, No matter where I may be. This little cross is not magic, Nor is it a good luck charm; It isn’t meant to protect me, From every physical harm. It’s not for identification, For all the world to see; It’s simply an understanding, Between my Savior and me. When I put my hand in my pocket, To bring out a coin or a key; The cross is there to remind me, Of the price He paid for me. It reminds me too to be thankful, For my blessings day by day; And to strive to serve Him better, In all I do and say. It’s also a daily reminder, Of the peace and comfort I share; With all who know my Master, And give themselves to His care. So, I carry a cross in my pocket, Reminding no one but me; That Jesus Christ is Lord of my life, If only I’ll let Him be.” I couldn’t explain carrying around the coin in my pocket any better.

[Psalm 119:105-112] Several years ago I saw a pair of bumper snickers on the rear of a car in a parking lot somewhere and I made a mental note of them thinking of developing a lesson around them some day. One read: “Yes Lord, We Will Ride With You” and the other read: “Get In, Sit Down, Shut Up and Hold On!” I can’t help but combine the two statements in my mind and think, “so often it seems that people really act in that manner towards Christ.” It seems nearly the entire religious world, and millions of folks who don’t even claim to be faithful, declare a deep reverence for Jesus Christ. They are willing to say to Him, “get in” or “come into my life,” however, for Jesus to come into one’s life, he or she must first enter into Christ. In Galatians 3:27, Paul wrote, “...for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” Without obedience to Christ, a plea for Him to enter our lives is in vain (Matthew 7:21-23). Then there are those who enter into Christ, but by their actions they have said to Him, “sit down and shut up.” They say, “I love you Lord, but I don’t want to hear what you have to say about pre-marital sex” (1 Corinthians 6:18). They say, “Save me Lord, but I don’t think it’s necessary to commemorate your death with the Lord’s Supper every first day of the week” (Acts 20:7). They say, “I am yours Lord, but I will not hear your ways.” “Woe to the obstinate children,” declares the Lord, “to those who carry out plans that are not mine, forming an alliance, but not by my Spirit, heaping sin upon sin;” (Isaiah 30:1). We must be so careful that our lives do not send this message to the Lord: “Get in Lord, but hold on because I’m driving!” Jeremiah wrote: “I know, O Lord, that a man’s life is not his own; it is not for man to direct his steps” (Jeremiah 10:23). We must have the humility to realize that God’s way is ever superior to our own. So, let go of the steering wheel of self-will, and let Him take control. Wait on the Lord and sore on eagle’s wings.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Love Is...

Valentine's Day is a time to celebrate romance and love and kissy-face fealty. But the origins of this festival of candy and cupids are actually dark, bloody - and a bit muddled. Though no one has pinpointed the exact origin of the holiday, one good place to start is ancient Rome. From February 13th to 15th, the Romans celebrated the feast of Lupercalia. The men sacrificed and then whipped women with the hides of animals they had just slain. Young women would actually line up for the men to hit them. They believed this would make them fertile. The ancient Romans may also be responsible for the name of our modern day of love. Emperor Claudius II executed two men, both named Valentine, on February 14th of different years in the 3rd century A.D. Their martyrdom was honored by the Catholic Church with the celebration of St. Valentine's Day. Handmade paper cards became the tokens-du-jour in the Middle Ages. Eventually, the tradition made its way to the New World. The industrial revolution ushered in factory-made cards in the 19th century. And in 1913, Hallmark Cards of Kansas City, Mo., began mass producing valentines. February has not been the same since.  Today, the holiday is big business: Total U.S. spending on flowers, candy and cards on Valentine's Day is predicted to reach $18.2 billion this year (2017), down 7.6% from $19.7 billion in 2016. The average consumer is expected to spend $136.57 on holiday merchandise and services, down 96 cents from 2016. That's an average of $136.57 per person. WOW!

[1 John 4:8, 16] “God Is Love” You may have seen the recent commercials by the Ad Council that tells us love has no limits. It shows people behind an x-ray screen embracing, showing only their skeletal outlines. The people emerge from the behind to reveal they are a same sex couple, to a cheering crowd. The scene is redone with people of different races, religions and ages. Each one is accompanied by the text; love has no gender, love has no race, love has no disability, love has no religion, love has no labels. The ad campaign claims to combat what is seen as bias in our world today. It got me to thinking about how the world is trying to redefine love. We also hear the argument in our world today, "How can a person be against two people who love one another? To try to put limits on love is wrong.” But how does the Bible label love? “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7). To me, some things stick out in this passage that is in conflict with the world’s definition of love. The world says you should cheer when someone is in sin, but Biblical love does not rejoice in unrighteousness. The world says love can act anyway it wants, but Biblical love never acts unbecomingly. The world says you should be proud of your lifestyle, but Biblical love does not brag. The world says you are offensive and should be shunned if you don’t accept what it accepts, but Biblical love does not take into account a wrong suffered. The world says you should accept any belief no matter if it is valid or not, but Biblical love rejoices with truth. There is a saying, “He who controls the language, controls the masses.” When it comes to love, who makes the definition - God, who is love or the world who does not know God? (“I Know What Love Is” by Barry Haynes; Bulletin Digest Feb’18) comes from God (1 John 4:7).