Saturday, April 18, 2015

What Would You Expect?

My lawn, along with most people’s lawn, has suffered much over the past few years due to the lack of rain. It takes rain to naturally decompose matter into new rich soil, full of nutrients, the natural way to fertilize the old garden. While city water might keep a lawn half way alive, the chlorine and fluoride contained in it have little value and can never replace the nitrogen rich rain water falling from the sky. Well, I decided after thirty years of neglect to help things along last fall by fertilizing my weary lawn, repeating the feeding once during the winter and another application just before the recent rains began. It now looks as though I might wear out all my lawn grooming equipment before the end of summer this year. Like the man says, “Well, what did you expect?” When logic sneaks up on me and slaps me up side the head all I can say is, “Doh!” and move on. It’s been a long time and the rain is very welcome. Praise God!

As they prepared for their final exam in Logic, the college professor offered his students some relief. He told them that they could bring as much information to the exam as they could fit on a piece of notebook paper. Most students crammed as many facts as possible on their 81/2 x 11 inch sheet of paper. One student, named Bob, walked into the exam room, placed a piece of notebook paper on the floor, and had an advanced Logic student stand on the paper. The upper graduate told Bob everything he needed to know, awarding Bob correct answers and the only student to receive an “A”.

If you got in your car and drove in the direction given by a sign that read, “Dallas – 20 Miles”, what would you expect to find after driving twenty miles? * If you passed a sign that warned “Speed Radar Patrolled” and you were driving ten miles an hour over the speed limit when you passed a police cruiser parked on the side of the road, what would you expect to happen? * If you decided to take a class at a local university and the teacher handed out copies of a syllabus that stated there would be a total of three tests in the coming semester, what would you expect? * If you stood before a preacher and a group of witnesses promising to love and remain with the person beside you until one of you died, and both of you were still alive in ten years, what would you expect?

[2Peter 2:20-22] A life insurance salesman was unable to persuade a couple to purchase a policy. “I certainly don’t want to frighten you into a decision,” he said as he got up to leave. “Please, sleep on it tonight, and if you wake up in the morning, call me, and let me know what you think.” If you walked into a place where people claim to worship God according to his word, what would you expect? * If you opened your Bible and read its descriptions of Jesus and the salvation from sins for those who repented and resolved to follow him, what would you expect? * If, like Saul of Tarsus, you were immersed in water so your sins would be washed away (Acts 22:1-16), what would you expect? * If you began meeting regularly with a group of Christians and they promised to welcome you among them as a brother/sister, what would you expect? * If you began living in ways similar to the ways you lived before becoming a Christian and stopped meeting with, and associating with, your brothers and sisters in Christ, what would you expect? * If you continued to live a life that led away from God and his people, and you died in that condition, what would you expect? If you were to die tonight, would you know, without a doubt, where you will spend eternity?

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Encouragement

The past two weeks I’ve had a few friends I haven’t seen for some time pop in and out of my life. It was good to see them and converse for a while. We baby-boomers are at the threshold of, or are already, retiring from a life of hard work, most of us earning an honest wage and ready to slow the pace of life a bit. Yes, I’m a Senior Citizen and cringe at the thought of whom I am becoming. I still try to be the life of the party… even if it lasts until 8 p.m. I have become very proficient at opening child-proof caps with my little hammer and water-pump pliers. I’m pretty much ready to go home before I get to where I’m going. I’m generally awake long before my body is ready to get out of bed. I smile a lot more now-a-days because I can’t hear half of what you’re saying. I catch myself telling the same stories over and over and over. People say I’m grouchy, but I don’t think so. I just don’t like traffic, waiting, crowds, lawyers, loud music, unruly kids, Jennie Craig and Toyota commercials, barking dogs, politicians and a few other things I can’t think of at the moment. I’m sure everything I can’t find is in a safe secure place, somewhere. I used to joke, “If I’d known I was going to live this long, I’d have sure enough taken better care of myself” and now I’m discovering the joke is on me. The adage, “Old age ain’t for sissy’s” is coming into view and some serious health maintenance is in order enabling me to press forward without too much pain and gritting my teeth (dentures) all the time. Adults are way too young these days and when did they start allowing kids to become policemen? It’s all down hill now.

All joking aside, life is a wonderful journey set before us by our Creator and hurried along by people sharing the way who take time to encourage our endeavors. “A word of encouragement during a failure is worth more than an hour of praise after success” (Unknown). “Correction does much, but encouragement does more” (Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe). “The finest gift you can give anyone is encouragement. Yet, almost no one gets the encouragement they need to grow to their full potential. If everyone received the encouragement they need to grow, the genius in most everyone would blossom and the world would produce abundance beyond our wildest dreams” (Sidney Madwed). “There are high spots in all of our lives and most of them have come about through encouragement from someone else. I don’t care how great, how famous or successful a man or woman may be, each hungers for applause” (George M. Adams). “Flatter me, and I may not believe you. Criticize me, and I may not like you. Ignore me, and I may not forgive you. Encourage me, and I may not forget you” (William Arthur). “I believe that a man’s life will be filled with constant and unexpected encouragement, if he makes up his mind to do his level best each day, and as nearly as possible reaching the high-water-mark of pure and useful living” (Booker T. Washington). Thanks for yours to me.

[Hebrews 3:12-13] Paul said: “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair…” (2 Corinthians 4:8). The word perplexed means more than just being puzzled. It comes from the Greek word “aporeo” which means “to be at loss with ones self; be in doubt; not to know how to decide or what to do, to be perplexed” (Thayer, 66). One might say it means to be at your wit’s end. Using the Word of God to encourage someone who is perplexed is to help keep them from falling into despair. When folks are desperate - life comes unglued. God is love; God is in control; our glue.

Saturday, April 04, 2015

Newness Of Life

This story has been around for some time and research has never produced an author. It’s one of those stories that morph’s into many versions but with the same message in the end. A message of renewal – newness of life. Jeremy was born with a severe disability and some mild intellectual impairment. Although Jeremy was 12 years-old, he was still in second grade at his Christian school. In fact, his teacher, Miss Miller, had repeatedly tried to put Jeremy in a special education class, but the boy’s parents were big on inclusion and they wanted him to stay with his classmates. This frustrated Miss Miller as she had 18 other youngsters to teach. But she prayed and asked God to give her patience. Spring-time came rolling around and also the usual lessons Miss Miller taught about Easter. She explained the story of Jesus to he class; that he died on the cross for our sins and rose from the grave victorious. She then gave the class an assignment. Each child was given a large plastic egg and told to take it home and bring it back the next day with something inside that showed new life. All the children were super enthusiastic, that is except for Jeremy. Miss Miller wasn’t certain Jeremy even understood the assignment. The next morning the children came to school, each talking about the surprise inside their egg. The eggs were all placed in a wicker basket on Miss Miller’s desk. Just before morning recess it was time to open the eggs. In one egg a child had placed a small silk flower, a perfect sign of new life, Miss Miller commented. The next egg contained a little plastic butterfly, which the teacher also commented positively. When Miss Miller opened the next egg she found it empty. Because nothing was in it Miss Miller assumed it was Jeremy’s egg, convinced he must not have understood her instructions for the assignment. Because she did not want to embarrass the disabled boy, she quietly set the egg aside and reached for another. But Jeremy spoke up, “Miss Miller, aren’t you going to talk about my egg?” The teacher replied, “Jeremy honey, your egg is empty.” As she had feared, the class burst into laughter. Undeterred and with the simple wisdom of a child he said, “Yes; but the tomb of Jesus was empty too!” The recess bell rang and while the children ran out into the school yard, Miss Miller went to her desk, quietly sat down and dabbed her tear filled eyes. Here for an entire semester she felt it a waste of time trying to teach that little boy. He was too much of a distraction and the extra attention she had to give him was a heavy burden. But all the while, she can now see, Jeremy possessed an insight to godly things that were far beyond those of his classmates. Three months later, his true health problems, unknown to his teacher or classmates, Jeremy passed away. Those who paid their respects at the funeral home were surprised to see 19 colorful plastic eggs on top of his casket – all of them open, and empty.

[John 20:10-18; Romans 6:3-11; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 4:22-24] “…don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come.” Are you prepared for the opening of your own tomb? (John 5:24-30) Are you looking forward to sharing in the resurrection of Christ – to meet your God?

Saturday, March 28, 2015

We and God

A couple of weekends ago I performed a wedding ceremony for my grand-son and his bride. My local readers will remember the weather was not the greatest and Friday evening at the rehearsal it appeared that rain was going to spoil the bride’s plans for an outside “country” garden wedding. The yard out back of the reception hall was well maintained, packed solid and in spite of all the recent rain the ground was still firm and able to support chairs and such. But, what were we going to find the next day after an all night rain? Saturday morning was dismal and cold with rain falling and a forecast of continued rain. Arriving at the scene of the 3 p.m. scheduled nuptials, rain was still prevalent at 1p.m. and arrangements to wed indoors were continuing. At 2 p.m. the sky lightened and the rain turned to a sprinkle, but the cell phone weather radar showed more rain on the way. At 2:15 the bride sent word that if it wasn’t raining any harder by 2:45 the wedding was going to be outside in the garden. The call went out for “all hands on deck!” Groom, groomsmen, father-of-the-bride and all able bodies, dressed for a wedding, hit the ground running, setting up chairs on the lawn, in sprinkling down rain. The husband to be ordered his groomsmen to stand firm during the ceremony even if the rain pours down and everyone else heads for the barn, “My beloved is going to have her outside wedding. I like to be prepared so hid an open umbrella out of sight behind the decorated arbor backdrop which we would stand in front of during the ceremony. Well, to make a long story short, the bride had more faith than anyone else and it paid off to fulfill her dream day. The rain completely stopped about 2:50 for the rest of the day! Her country wedding, including a crowing rooster and his harem wandering the grounds, went off without a hitch. It is said to be good luck if it rains on your wedding day and if that’s true it’s going to be a great marriage. I do know one thing; if their optimism of life holds true, God will continue to bless their union.

The story is told of an encounter between a high school principal and a young ninth grader. The principal noticed the young man in the hallway with a very defeated and frustrated look on his face. He asked, “Is everything okay?” The boy replied sternly, “No! I don’t understand all the stuff the math teacher is trying to teach us; all the letters, formulas and logarithms. It’s impossible!” With an encouraging tone, the principal said, “I’m sure we can work hard and do it, can’t we?” With a condescending tone the boy quickly replied, “Well, I guess ‘we’ can say that, because the ‘you’ half of ‘we’ doesn’t have to do the homework and take the tests with the ‘me’ half of ‘we’.

[Ephesians 5:22-33; 1 Corinthians 13:1-8a; 1 Thessalonians 5:12-24] God, being the author of both marriage and the church, has outlined very similar behaviors to be conducted in both families. ‘We’ have to work together in love and forgiveness, all the while teaching, learning and correcting one another that ‘we’ may always glorify God in all ‘we’ do. It shouldn’t surprise anyone to find that the happiest married couples are also faithful, obedient, active Christians. Don’t think for a moment they don’t have problems, but a successful marriage and family looks to the Word of God for strength and guidance just as the church family does. “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not put out the Spirit’s fire …test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.”

Sunday, March 22, 2015

They've All Got To Go!

Well, we’ve seen a pretty dismal winter this go around, but not to complain because the cold is quit beneficial to the fruit trees stimulating new growth, producing more fruit and Lord knows we needed the rain. Now the weeds I could have gotten by without. I thought in years past I had worked hard enough pulling and doctoring weeds that spring-time would get easier preparing for a nice summer lawn. Forget it this year! I pulled up burr clover runners until I was blue in the face from bending over, but it’s that or contending with those illusive little burrs in the carpet a month from now. Those things can sure make you light on your feet at two in the morning when you step on one somewhere between the bathroom and the bed. So, about the time I thought I had the clover beat back the weather started to warming up some and out popped those little thistle trees with the decorative yellow flower on top, not to be confused with dandelions. Those crazy things look like a miniature evergreen and have tap root like a tree. The ground is wet enough that, with hands adorned with gloves, most can be pulled out of the ground. With the help of a little gardening spade the rest can be persuaded to turn loose and be placed into the trash can. But, every now and then one can hear a snapping sound deep in the ground when the little tap root breaks off and some of it remains in the soil. That’s generally followed by a little voice heard to say, “I’ll be back!” and rest assured, that root will grow again, maybe not this year, but... If you’re a weed puller you soon discover there’s no shortage of what you’re trying to rid your yard of. It seems one can fill a whole “Homer Bucket” with pulled weeds only to turn around and see just as many waiting to be pulled. I’ve noticed that the small weeds I pass over getting to the big ones have become the eye sores that need to come out of the ground next. I guess there’s no such thing as a little weed. If you want a clean lawn, all the weeds have got to go! Oh, I can’t wait for the crickets and mosquitoes to come.


[2 Peter 2] From the “Out of the mouths of babes” department: A family is riding in the car when an ad for a current movie comes on the radio. At the end of the advertisement there is a disclaimer; “Opens Friday in a theater near you! This film contains intense thematic material, graphic violence, nudity, strong sexual situations, drug content and coarse language. May not be appropriate for children under thirteen.” The family’s young son sitting in the back seat asks, “Mommy, who would it be appropriate for exactly.” The apostle Paul writes; “Everything is permissible for me” but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible for me” but I will not be mastered by anything (1 Corinthians 6:12-20). “Everything is permissible” but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible” but not everything is constructive (1 Corinthians10:23-33). So just what is appropriate for me in this sinful world that would justify my character and please my God? One only needs to look to God’s Word for those answers. God helps us get the weeds out of our life. There are the obvious sinful practices that do not please God and with those out of the way we allow the Word of God to examine us closer where we discover inappropriate actions we may have never considered before, or just past them over as, “that’s just the way I am” sort of thing. Like there are no little weeds, once discovered growing about in our life, there are no little sins. If you want a clean heart, mind and soul before God, all your sins have to go.