Saturday, September 16, 2017

Serving Wholeheartedly

There are those who are still wholeheartedly doing all they can to help hurricane victims in both Texas and Florida. In countless cases their love and compassion for their neighbors and complete strangers has been above and beyond what anybody could ask for. Individuals and group volunteers, from the smallest to the largest non-profit organizations, local, state and federal agencies have all focused on the suffering of humanity in a God-like manner which I pray is noticeable worldwide as peace and love.

[2 Chronicles 25:1-2]  “Amaziah was twenty-five years old when he became king, and reigned in Jerusalem twenty-nine years; ...he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, but not wholeheartedly.” I can’t see into your heart, but God can, and He gives us a peak into the heart of Amaziah. He “did what was right” on two occasions. First in keeping with the Law of Moses, Amaziah did not kill the sons of the people who had murdered his father (verses 3, 4). Second, Amaziah listened to God’s prophet and sent the mercenary soldiers back to their homes (verses 5-10). But Amaziah’s “heart was not loyal” to the Lord. Two examples are given. First he brought back the gods of the people Seir and “bowed down before them” and “burned sacrifices to them” (verse 14). Second he refused to listen when God’s prophet rebuked him for his sin (verses 15, 16). People can do the will of God but not have a loyal heart. They may worship God because they know God desires that we worship Him (John 4:23); but then not worship Him according to truth (John 4:24). People may do what is right as long as it pleases them, but when faced with their error their disloyal heart stops their ears to the truth of God’s word. Is your heart right with God, or are you like Amaziah? Do you walk the walk or just talk the talk? A missionary’s wife was once teaching some children about the value of giving. She quoted Acts 20:35 where Paul was teaching the Ephesian elders, “In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’.” One young boy soaked in every word and then decided to live out her teaching, but he had no money to purchase a gift for her. Then he had an idea. A few days later the boy brought the teacher a seashell necklace. It glistened with iridescent beauty. The woman was taken aback. “Where ever did you find such beautiful shells?” the teacher asked. The youth told her that he walked to the coast of the country to a certain spot where these shells could be found. The teacher knew that it would have taken the young man hours upon hours through difficult and dangerous terrain to walk to the sea. “It’s so beautiful,” she said, “but you shouldn’t have gone all that way to get this gift for me.” The boy smiled and simply said, “Long walk part of gift.” Certainly we can use this touching story to remind ourselves of the “long walk” of Christ that was a part of God’s gift to man. Jesus was “chosen before the creation of the world” (1 Peter 1:20) to come to the earth, walk upon it, live, die, and rise again for the sake of helpless mankind. His trip was difficult and dangerous, but it was all a part of God’s “...eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Ephesians 3:11). Jesus did this willingly and lovingly. He endured hardship, ridicule, shame, and mistreatment – all for us (Hebrews 2:17; 12:2-3). If we were to ask Him, “Why all this trouble, why did you do it this way?” he would smile and say to us, “The long walk was part of the gift.” The blessed walk with God.

Saturday, September 09, 2017

Is Jesus In Your Sight?

I continue to be amazed at the congealing of every level of society to become one class of cooperative support to aide their fellow man in his time of deepest need following Hurricane Harvey. Businesses from large corporations to mom and pop, have sacrificially given all they can to provide basic sustenance to those displaced from their homes. Utility companies through emergency co-ops have provided expert field workers to rebuild infrastructures. Churches and many other non-profits are gathering and supplying refugee families with clothing and household goods, anything to help folks get started with some sort of normal life again. It’s all going to take a long time for our Gulf Coast to rebuild, and now another hurricane is tearing at the fabric of our nation as it enters Florida. Pray for those who will be impacted by this storm and pray they become one to survive and rebuild . Pray we all become a stronger people through our love and grace for one another and that we continue to grow stronger as “One Nation Under God” for tomorrow.

“If from the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks, and one can be known by the quality of the fruit produced, then it is reasonable to conclude that both the words spoken and the deeds done are indicative of the person’s heart. People are able to see this and judge. People of maturity can understand this, but people full of sin (or self) are quick to point out that one, especially one guilty of sinful behavior. It is interesting that these are the same people who look upon the Lord and faithfully proclaim they would NEVER deny Him, but their lives have denial written all over them. The deeds we do, the words we speak, and the thoughts we think reflect correctly on (or against) the Lord’s influence on our lives.” Ron Thomas, Bulletin Digest, September 2016

[Luke 9: 2-4] “...A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but being a short man he could not, because of the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.” Have you ever wanted to see something really bad but couldn’t because your view was obstructed? A friend of mine once told me that several years ago he had the opportunity to see an Ohio State vs. Michigan football game live and in person. Unfortunately, the tickets he had purchased were in the nosebleed bisection of the Horseshoe, and he was only able to see half the field of play. No matter how he positioned himself in that seat, he could not see the action going on below him. Only the scoreboard and the roar of the crowd kept him informed as to who was winning and losing. Luke, by pen of inspiration, depicts a man who had a desire to see Jesus but couldn't because his view was impeded. Isn't this true, even today? Many, like Zacchaeus, want to see and know Jesus but find it difficult because their vision is obstructed; that is, there seems to be something always standing between them and the Lord. Riches impede the vision of many (Matthew 19:21-22; 1 Timothy 6:10). For others their vision is obstructed by false teachers and the traditions of men (Colossians 2:8; Matthew 15:13-14). Worldliness keeps many from truly seeing the Lord (2 Corinthians 4:4). Time and or convenience constricts the vision of some (Acts 24:25). What is keeping you from truly seeing and knowing Jesus? May we, like Zacchaeus, have a desire to seek Him above all else (Matthew 6:33). May we be willing to cast off all fears and climb to new heights, setting our affection on Him instead of on things here below! (Colossians 3:1-2)

Saturday, September 02, 2017

Show No Favoritism

A little girl, age 3, was riding in a taxi with her mother when she pointed to the driver and asked, “Mommy, why is he so black?” The mother noticed that the man’s shoulders stiffened at the question. She hastily searched for the right words that would satisfy both the driver and her daughter. “God makes people as He makes flowers in the garden, so the world will be more colorful. Some are white, some brown, some black, some yellow and there are all shades in between. That makes us all the more interesting to look at, don’t you think?” The little girl nodded, for this made sense. As they left the cab the black driver said to the mother, “Ma’am, when my little girl gets big enough to ask why some people are white, I’ll know what to tell her now. Thank you.” Oh, what a wise mother that woman was! She created light instead of darkness; trust instead of suspicion.

Shortly after a Cub’s game, Yusuf Dale, a blind man carrying a cane, was standing near the curb outside Wrigley Field in Chicago. He tried repeatedly and unsuccessfully to ‘flag down’ a taxi in order to travel home. Casey Spellman, from Indiana, was a stranger to Yusuf and was standing nearby with her friends. As she was talking with her friends, she noticed Yusuf’s failures to obtain a ride. Casey walked over and asked him if he needed some help. He graciously accepted the help. After a few minutes of waiting and pleasant conversation, a cab pulled up to the curb. They exchanged goodbyes and hugs. Unbeknownst to Yusuf and Casey, Ryan Hamilton was on a rooftop nearby, watching the situation unfold. Ryan was so impressed by Casey’s actions that he took pictures and posted them to social media. He was appreciative of Casey’s act of kindness, even though he did not know her name. Both she and Yusuf were later identified when the pictures went “viral.” I have often thought that the modern day concept of “reality” is invalidated when, in so-called “reality shows,” at least one of the participants knows the camera is present. The awareness of that camera invariably affects subsequent actions. Casey, as far as I know, had no such knowledge; she apparently just wanted to help. She was not acting for a camera and was surprised when made aware of the photos.

[James 2:8-13]  “If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’, you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law and are lawbreakers...” When the national media showed up in ‘God’s Country’ looking for the whiners and complainers, and the bashing of government for the lack of support, they couldn’t find any. When they looked to report on the looting and all the crime turned amuck because of the lack of police presence, they couldn’t find it. In several cases reporters were told if they weren’t here to help, go away! Jesus knew that some people of his day did kind things, in the presence of other people, that they normally would not do. Further, he knew that some of those same people did those things in order to be praised by others. Speaking of such people, he said, “...I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full...” (Matthew 6:1-4). Hundreds of thousands of Texan’s saw an immediate need to help and rescue their fellow Texan’s following Hurricane Harvey, which now millions continue to support this very day and will into the future, not for the glory, but out of compassion and love. No news here, we’re just being Texan’s. There’s no sitting around waiting for someone else to do it. We practice our creator’s compassion and love, “...For God does not show favoritism” (Romans 2:5-11).

Saturday, August 26, 2017

The Storms of Life

I went to bed Friday night knowing that today and tomorrow would be challenging to the soul, hour by hour. Harvey has been knocking on my back door for about twelve hours and everyone forecasting the weather has no idea what is going to become of this historical storm, except it’s going to die a hard death some time next week. The storm is south-east of where I live and is producing big wind, but little rain with the promise of a lot more. Being on the west side of the storm is always best, but in the Houston area, the east side of the storm, where my brother lives, is getting super high wind and drowned in rain. The immediate forecast for our area is that it will remain a strong tropical storm, turn west, and come right over the top of where I live, which could produce a very interesting night and first-day-of-the-week scenario to deal with. At the moment, all we can do is wait and see what will happen as the storm is beginning to march right at us.

[Psalm 107] “...Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men.” We all face many storms in our life – some strong and severe, while others are viewed as just a little bump in the road. Nobody’s life is a bed of roses nor is it without pain and sorrow. In Paul’s letter to the Philippians, he reminds them, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! ...Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God ...if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. ...And the God of peace will be with you (Philippians 4:4-9). Likewise he wrote to the church in Ephesus, “...always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:15-21). In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told the story of the wise and foolish builders. He took the example of real life and applied it to man’s spiritual well-being. Building a house on a foundation of sand will not stand when the storms of life beat upon it, but a house build on a rock foundation can stand strong against the winds and tumult the world can throw against it. When we rely only on our self to resolve the troubles of life, we often find it to be a struggle we weren’t prepared to take on. But, if we build our life upon the rock foundation of God’s truth and faithfulness, every day, relying not on our own understanding, but on His guidance, found in his Word, we receive trustworthy answers to our life’s little troubles, as well as grace and comfort through our major disappointments and failures (Matthew 7:24-27). “One day Jesus said, ‘Let’s go over to the other side of the lake.’ So they got into a boat and set out” (Luke 8:22-25). You know the story – Jesus curled up in the bow of the boat and took a little nap. “...A squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger.” Now some of Jesus’ followers are fishermen and know how to handle a boat, even in a storm, but this one must have been a whopper, enough to scare them all. They went to Jesus, probably astonished he was sleeping, and woke him, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!” He got up, rebuked the wind and the ragging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm. ‘Where is your faith?’ he asked his disciples.” - They were amazed. When a person truly comes to an understanding of what God can do – they are always amazed. Do you wait until all is about to be lost before you wake up Jesus? Do you tell him to go back to sleep until you need him again, or does your faith in him keep him awake, alive and active in your life daily? Wake Him, today!

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Blind and Lost

The Blind Men and the Elephant by John Godfrey Saxe (1816-1887): It was six men of Hindustan, To learning much inclined, Who went to see the Elephant (Though all of them were blind); That each by observation, Might satisfy his mind. The First approached the Elephant, And happening to fall, Against his broad and sturdy side, At once began to bawl: "God bless me! but the Elephant, Is very like a WALL!" The Second, feeling of the tusk, Cried, "Ho, what have we here, So very round and smooth and sharp? To me 'tis mighty clear; This wonder of an Elephant, Is very like a SPEAR!" The Third approached the animal, And happening to take, The squirming trunk within his hands, Thus boldly up and spake: "I see," quote he, "the Elephant, Is very like a SNAKE!" The Fourth reached out an eager hand, And felt about the knee "What most this wondrous beast is like, Is mighty plain," quote he: "'Tis clear enough the Elephant, Is very like a TREE!" The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear, Said: "E'en the blindest man, Can tell what this resembles most; Deny the fact who can, This marvel of an Elephant, Is very like a FAN!" The Sixth no sooner had begun, About the beast to grope, Than seizing on the swinging tail, That fell within his scope, "I see," quote he, "the Elephant, Is very like a ROPE!" And so these men of Hindustan, Disputed loud and long, Each in his own opinion, Exceeding stiff and strong, Though each was partly in the right, And all were in the wrong!

It’s amazing how well this timeless parable fits the situation we find ourselves in this very day in the United States of America. Our government, schools and work-place are being taken over by idealists who are already terrorizing the rest of the world and will soon induct our country with fear we have never known before in our history. While our “leaders”, secular and spiritual, are blindly groping about this invading elephant, arguing over what it is and what might we ought to do about it, it is wandering about dividing and conquering the blind who are being led around by the blind. It seems true investigation and research into any given subject, with eyes wide open, is simply too time consuming anymore and dealing with facts is much harder than simply stating ones own opinion, and calling it fact. If we continue down the road following a pack of self-righteous, politically correct sissy’s, you can bet we’re going to lose everything everyone has ever fought for to make this country free. It seems we don’t have any leadership, in government, in our courts, on our jury’s, in our schools or in our pulpits, willing to stand up and speak the truth in defense of the rights of its citizens. United we’ll stand – Divided we’ll lose it all.

[Psalm 119:129-136] As John Saxe said of the blind men: “Each in his own opinion exceedingly stiff and strong, though each was partly in the right, and all were in the wrong!” A partial view of the Bible is like that. Prejudice blinds many a person to the whole truth. When we are blind to God’s will for man we become poor leaders – simple as that! “...There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God – having a form of godliness (“I’m a Christian”) but denying its power...” (2 Timothy 3:1-9) The whole world is headed into an apostate state, and without God, lost forever.