Saturday, November 17, 2018

Giving Thanks, Always

As life goes onward day by day, Let each one to his conscience say, That flesh is weak but God is strong, That right is right and wrong is wrong. That I have found my workday flies, But therein all my life’s hope lies. That on life’s upward path I’ll run, My face forever to the sun. That I shall do my best today, Not let one moment waste away; And as I travel on life’s road I’ll try to share a brother’s load. That force has power, but love has more; That peace is mightier than war; That real success is only won, By deeds of kindness one has done. (Author Unknown)

In this season of thanksgiving I thought I might introduce you to some unusual things to be thankful for. * Be thankful when you don’t know gives you opportunities to learn. * Be thankful for difficult times’s during those times you grow. * Be thankful for limitations ...they present you opportunities for improvement. * Be thankful for a new challenge will build strength and character. * Be thankful for your mistakes ...they will teach you valuable lessons. * Be thankful when you’re weary means you’ve made a difference. * Be thankful for the taxes you pay means you are employed. * Be thankful for clothes that fit a little snug means you have plenty to eat. * Be thankful for a lawn that needs mowing, windows that need cleaning and gutters that need fixing means you have a house. * Be thankful for the spot you find at the far end of the parking lot means you are capable of walking. * Be thankful for all the complaining you hear about our government means we still have freedom of speech.  * Be thankful for that huge heating bill means you are warm. * Be thankful for the lady behind you in church service who sings off key means that you can hear. * Be thankful for the piles of laundry and ironing means your loved ones are nearby. * Be thankful for the alarm that goes off in the early morning hours means that you are alive with somewhere to go and something to do. * Be thankful for weariness and aching muscles at the end of the day ... it means you’ve been productive. It’s easy to be thankful for the good things. A life of rich fulfillment comes to those who are also thankful for the set-backs. “...always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20). I pray you have a blessed Thanksgiving Day.

[Romans 5:6-8] Thankfulness is an attitude of heart and mind that expresses itself in speech and action. Most of us have experienced ingratitude from another at some point in our life when we have done something for someone and receive little or no appreciation.  It makes it hard to want to do it again. I often wonder how God feels at His creation’s ingratitude. How many have felt God’s sunshine, breathed God’s air, been blessed with God’s rain and yet never stopped to think of, or thanked, the Creator for all these things. Many, I’m sure, never give a moments thought to God, though they are here living by God’s grace and alive by God’s favor. What ingrates we humans can be. Even more, think about the greatest gift God has conferred upon man – the gift of His Son, Jesus. When we were undeserving, when we were yet enemies of God, the Father, in infinite love, gave His Son to die on our behalf. God’s lovely and innocent Son paid the debt we owed, took upon himself the penalty we deserved, and accepted punishment for the transgressions of our disobedience toward God. Thank God for his saving grace through His loving Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ. God so loved the world... (John 3:16). Blessed!

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Known But To God

Just outside Washington, D.C., across the sparkling blue waters of the Potomac River, lies Arlington National Cemetery. Since 1864 some 45,000 plus courageous individuals have been laid to rest beneath the soil of the gently sloping hill of that impressive field. Among the honored dead is the tomb of the Unknown Soldier. This tomb has become a national shrine and is Arlington’s outstanding memorial. Thousands stand quietly and reverently at its graveside annually. The inscription on the tomb reads: “Here, known but to God, lies an unknown soldier.” That particular tomb has come to represent all the men and women of our armed services who’ve bravely fought and dies defending our nation’s freedom. It’s not only a memorial for every major general, but for every grunt and unknown soldier who’ve sacrificed so much protecting life, liberty and happiness.

It Is The Soldier by Charles M. Province, U.S. Army, November 1, 2004. “It is the Soldier, not the minister; Who has given us freedom of religion. It is the Soldier, not the reporter; Who has given us freedom of the press. It is the Soldier, not the poet; Who has given us freedom of speech. It is the Soldier, not the campus organizer; Who has given us freedom to protest. It is the Soldier, not the lawyer; Who has given us the right to a fair trial. It is the Soldier, not the politician; Who has given us the right to vote. It is the Soldier who salutes the flag; Who serves beneath the flag; And whose coffin is draped by the flag; Who allows the protester to burn the flag.”

[Matthew 6:1-8; 16-18] The Bible has its unknown soldiers scattered throughout its sacred pages; that is, godly soldiers who teach us about sacrifice, courage, love and faith. Their identities are known only to God; however, the good that they accomplished will be forever etched in the annals of Sacred Script. For example, there were the seven thousand who did not bow to Baal (1 Kings 19:18). There was the maid-servant of Naaman who led her master to a cure (2 Kings 5:2-3). Who can forget the poor widow who gave her last two mites to God (Mark 12: 43-44)? In addition, there were those early Christians who, despite persecution, continued faithfully in their service to God (Acts 8:1-4). Just ordinary, every-day people who did what they could for the cause of Christ. Jesus taught in his famous sermon: “Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But, when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then, your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. ...they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so it will not be obvious to men that your are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; ...and He will reward you.” Thus, we learn from Jesus that it is enough to serve simply as an unknown Christian soldier, known only to Him.

Saturday, November 03, 2018

Forever Friends

A man was having a conversation with the Lord one day and said, “Lord, I would like to know what heaven and hell are like.” The Lord led the man to two doors. He opened one and the man looked in. In the middle of the room was a large round table. In the middle of the table was a large pot of stew which smelled delicious. The people sitting around the table were thin and sickly. They appeared to be famished. They were holding spoons with very long handles that were strapped to their arms. Each found it possible to reach the pot of stew and take a spoonful, but because the handle was longer than their arms, they could not get the spoon back into their mouth to eat. The man shuddered at their misery and suffering. The Lord said to the man, “Now you have seen hell.” They walked to the other door and opened it. Inside that room the man saw exactly the same thing as in the first room. There was a large table with a large pot of stew in the middle. All the people were equipped with the same long handled spoons, but here the people were well nourished and plump, laughing and talking among themselves. The man turned to the Lord and said, “I don’t understand.” The Lord smiled and said, “It is simple. It requires but one skill which they learned in life. You see, they have learned to feed one another, while the greedy people in the other room are still only thinking of themselves.

[John 15:9-17] An English publication once offered a prize for the best definition of a friend. Some received were: “One who multiplies joy and divides grief” and another, “One who understands our silence.” The winning definition was, “The one who comes in when the whole world has gone out.” Friends are with us, period. Trials and hardships not withstanding the friend endures with us. As this definition states, when the world leaves, the friend is entering. Others abandon us during hard times, but a friend is a friend all the time. Jesus, when he walked the earth, was derided by his opponents for those with whom he was a friend. “The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and “sinners”’ (Matthew 11:19). Friendship in the world is all too often shallow. It rests more on superficial elements such as beauty, status, power or money than anything substantial. Jesus was friends with those who needed him. True friendship is sacrificial in nature. In our noted reading, Jesus said, “Greater love has no one but this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). The ultimate example of friendship is the sacrifice of Jesus for us. God is just such a friend to us. Think of those who have been God’s friends. God did not desert them during the difficult times but remained their friend, even when sometimes hurt was inflicted upon Himself. Paul teaches that while we were yet ungodly and sinners God loved us and acted on our behalf (Romans 5:6-8). In our deepest, darkest hour, God is the friend who stays and comforts and continues to love, all the while forgiving and forgetting. You see, that’s what friends do. In turn, we are taught that since God so loved us, we ought to then love one another (1 John 4:7-21).Christianity is also about friendship. Not friendship as the world practices. It is a friendship taught and practiced by God (John 15:14). Even if the world turns away from us God will not turn away, neither will the brethren (Proverbs 18:24). This is how friends act. Surely, this is what it means, in part, to be imitators of God (Ephesians 5:1-2). “A friend loves at all times and a brother is born for a time of adversity” (Proverbs 17:17). Believe God – you will be called God’s friend (James 2:23).

Saturday, October 27, 2018

God's Model Home

Take a moment to listen today to what your children are trying to say; Listen to them, whatever you do or they won't be there to listen to you. Listen to their problems, listen to their needs; Praise their smallest triumphs, praise their littlest deeds. Tolerate their chatter, amplify their laughter; Find out what's the matter, find out what they're after. If we tell our children all the bad in them we see; They'll grow up exactly how we hoped they'd never be. But if we tell our children we're so proud to wear their name; They'll grow up believing that they're winners in the game. So tell them that you love them every single night; And though you scold them make sure you hold them, and tell them they're all right, "Good night, happy dreams; Tomorrow's looking bright." Take a moment to listen today to what your children are trying to say; Listen to them whatever you do; And they'll be there to listen to you (Dr. Denis Waitley). Almost all of us have heard the adage, “There’s no place like home.” Scripture and social science testify to the undeniable truth of that statement. For good or ill, no place and no people impact us like those at home. The quality of our home life can make us or break us, hurt us or heal us. More than perhaps any other single factor, how things are in a home impacts how things will be for the people who live together in that home. Be careful to note the subject under consideration is the home, not the house. The house may look like a dream on the outside even as life for those inside it has become a nightmare. Life in the home will be as good or as bad, as strong or as weak, as healthy or as unhealthy as the people who make it up. It is not the house that shapes the happiness, stability, emotional and spiritual well-being of the people who live in it. Rather it is the home itself – that is, the cumulative sum of characteristics, personalities, priorities, values, attitudes, actions and behavior of the people who make it up that determines, more than anything else, the quality of the home, family and married life. The crying need in America at this very hour is not more model houses, but more model homes. Poet William Cowper called the home “the only bliss of Paradise that has survived the fall.” True enough when home life is as God designed it.

[Psalm 127:1] “Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain”. Many homes today are neither built nor maintained according to God’s Word (thus we stand guard over a country the Lord may or may not still be watching). In the worse case scenarios – abuse, addiction and abandonment make some homes more like outposts of hell than a foretaste of Heaven. A house, someone observed, is built by human hands, but a home is built by human hearts. Ephesians 5:18 thru 6:4 sketches out God’s plan for insuring that your family will live in a home, not just a house. Note this scan of the various attitudes, roles, relationships and behaviors in a home where God guides and abides: joy, spirituality and happiness (5:18-19); gratitude instead of complaining (5:20); cooperation instead of “it’s all about me” (5:21-24); love and selfless giving (5:25); concern for moral purity and holiness (5:26-27); emotional nourishment where every family member is appreciated and valued (5:28-29); intimacy, unity and devotion to others (5:30-32); respect, courtesy, obedience, honor, well-being, training, teaching, nurturing, loving discipline, concern for the Lord’s will and His way (5:33-6:4). No matter the kind of house, there’s no place like that home - a home the Lord watches over as you guard it from the wilds of the world.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

The Model

A young ambitious sort of boy asked one of his teacher’s if he could borrow their cell to make a quick phone call. The teacher obliged, assuming he was going to call a parent, and stood nearby to safe-guard both the boy and the phone. “Hello, Dr. Anderson. I’m seeking to earn a few dollars for camp and was wondering if you needed a boy to mow grass and maybe run some errands for you? Oh, you already have a boy? Are you completely satisfied with the boy you have? Okay then, good-bye Doctor.” As the boy thanked his teacher while returning the cell phone, the teacher said, “Just a minute son. If you’re looking for work I could use a boy like you.” The boy replied, “Thank-you, but I have a job already.” The teacher queried, “Didn’t I just hear you trying to get a job from Dr. Anderson?” “Oh, that,” said the lad, “no, you see I’m the boy who works for Dr. Anderson. I was just checking up on myself.” Not a bad idea for all of us to perform.

[2 Corinthians 13:1-10] “...Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves...” A young preacher was shaking hands with members as they filed out after worship. One lady told him as she passed by, “Young man, you are a model preacher.” He felt really good about this. But his self-esteem and preacher’s pride took a serious hit when he got home and looked in the dictionary under “model” and read the definition: “a small imitation of the real thing.” Mankind (man and woman alike, hereto referred to in the masculine form) today is a magnificent creature. He possesses faculties and capacities which places him far above all other living creatures. Endowed with free moral choice, man can reason, plan, think and create. He is possessed by a powerful drive to question, learn, explore and discover. He has developed knowledge, skills and technology that have enabled him to accomplish amazing things. He harnesses the power of the sun, wind and water to improve life. He has developed brilliant and astonishing medical knowledge and techniques. Communication technologies not heard of a generation ago now makes possible wireless and instantaneous communication with anyone anywhere on the earth. Man can access an almost unlimited amount of information on practically any question or subject thanks to the internet. He has been to the moon and now has his eyes on Mars and beyond. He builds roads, bridges, buildings and dams that are breathtaking in scope. He builds cars, planes and trains whose beauty, comfort and efficiency are a tribute to his creative genius. On top of all this he paints, sings and produces magnificent works of art, music and drama that touch and stir the heart making us laugh, cry, hate and love. No one can deny man is a magnificent creature. But man is a small imitation of the real thing God originally created him to be; made in the image of God to have dominion over all creation (Genesis 1-2). Sin marred the model man and man is unable to fix himself. In spite of intellectual, academic and technological magnificence - war, hatred and crime dominate the headlines. The gift of human sexuality is expressed in ways that pervert the Creator’s plan. TV and the internet are saturated with vulgarity and pornography. People lust, lie, steal, kill, deceive, divorce, grumble, gamble, grab, hate and hurt others to get what they want or enact revenge. As a result there is death. Sin has indeed marred man’s magnificence. Is there no hope to restore man’s glory? With God’s help there is! Jesus is the answer (Hebrews 2:5-18), “...Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” Jesus: n. Savior (to save us from ourselves).