Saturday, April 22, 2017

Here, Take My Seat


I entered the restaurant the other morning and knowing my coffee mate wasn’t going to be there, as he had an early morning doctor’s appointment in the big city, I figured I’d be sitting alone. I headed for the table we always sit at and was disappointed to see someone else occupying our space. I had to giggle at the thought of the old rancher who protested, “He should know I’ve been coming here the same time every morning for forty years and sitting at that table!” I really didn’t much care that someone was sitting there, except now my vantage point of the TV for the morning news was father away - now I’ll have to put my glasses on. It’s crazy how we can feel violated by others in our ritualistic routines.

“A Lady Took My Seat In Church….” written by Rowland Croucher.  A person should be comfortable sitting anywhere. It’s no big deal. Or is it? A lady took my seat in church a while back. It’s not that important really. She is a very nice lady, kind and considerate. A good friend, in fact. There were several other seats available. I can sit anywhere. The people in our congregation are as friendly and caring as you will find anywhere in the world. A person should be comfortable sitting anywhere. It’s no big deal. My seat is in the seventh row back from the front of the church. I’m sure she didn’t intend to take my seat. She just wouldn’t do that. Nor would anybody else in our fine church. It doesn’t make that much difference. My seat is on the end of the pew, on the north side by the windows. On your left as you come into the sanctuary. I can rest my left arm on the end of the pew. It’s a good seat. But I would never raise a fuss about a seat. She probably didn’t intend anything personal by taking my seat. I would never hold a grudge… Actually, it was about three months ago when she took my seat. I really don’t know why she took it. I’ve never done anything to her. I’ve never taken her seat. I suppose I’ll have to come an hour early now to get my seat. Either that or sit on the south side. She really took it because it’s one of the best seats in the house. That’s why she took it. She had no business taking my seat. And I’m not going to go to church two hours early to get what was rightfully mine from the beginning. This is the way great social injustices begin: abusive people taking other people’s seats in church. This is the way the seeds of revolution are sown. A person can only stand so much. Where is it going to end? If somebody doesn’t stand up and be counted, nobody’s seat will be safe. People will just sit anywhere they please. And the next thing they’ll do is take my parking place, too. World order will be in shambles… (Tongue-in-cheek of course)

[Romans 14 - 15:7] The church is made up of people who are different. In the New Testament people from all kinds of backgrounds were converted and became members of the same congregation. Paul said what mattered is that they were Christians. In Christ, he said, “Here (in the church) there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.” They were to be humble and loving toward each other regardless of culture or social standing (Colossians 3:11-14). When you think about how different these groups of people were, it is amazing that they were able to attain unity. Today congregations are even more diverse. Please don’t get me wrong here. I’m not advocating the compromising of God’s Word to appease those who are clearly out to destroy the church. But if all the different kinds of people in the New Testament could come together in Christ, and have peace - why can’t we?

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Are You Ready?


Can you remember a time when it wasn’t heard throughout the house at least once a day, “Are you ready?” It seems we’re always “getting ready” to go somewhere or we’re preparing to do something different. It is a question of preparation that always comes before something that is about to happen. This question is asked before we do a number of physical things: before leaving the house, before bedtime, before meals, before leaving for school, before starting a sporting event, etc. It’s important that we be ready for all the things we are about to do because with proper preparation we can avoid failure because our brain wasn’t into the task at hand or embarrassment because of the lack of equipment, like forgetting to bring your glove to a baseball game. We spend a lot of time “getting ready” to do all the things we do in this life – what about after this life? Are you “getting ready” for the day you depart this world? Have you even considered that there needs to be time set aside to prepare?  How much time should one take to “get ready” for eternity?

[Titus 3:1-11] Titus was a leader in the church at Crete and the apostle Paul wrote to him instructing him on how to be an effective leader of God’s people. “Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men.” How much time should one take to “get ready” for eternity? All day – every day. We are naturally disobedient and want to do things our own way, even though we know the outcome could be bad and the consequences detrimental to our well-being. When we disobey God and his Word, we separate ourselves from His love and grace, because we don’t like God’s law. Yet when we find that our selfish ways get us into more trouble than we can handle, man’s nature cries out to the same God to save him. We want to be forgiven of our sins and everything be okay again. We get caught and don’t want to pay the consequences of breaking the law of the land, but never give a second thought to the breaking of God’s law with its eternal consequences. Man is always looking out for his physical well-being, all-the-while neglecting his spiritual well-being. “...when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth (baptism) and renewal by the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38), whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.” “It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love” (John 13:1). Jesus paid the consequences of man’s sin – “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21) - that through the Son we can be reconciled to the Father (2 Corinthians 5:18-19) and live in His grace. “If our greatest need had been information, God would have sent us an educator. If our greatest need had been technology, God would have sent us a scientist. If our greatest need had been money, God would have sent us an economist. But since our greatest need was forgiveness, God sent us a Savior.” (Roy Lessin) Have you accepted the saving grace of our Father in heaven through his Son who sacrificed his life to pay your sin debt? “Are you ready?” – Prepared for your eternal life?

Saturday, April 08, 2017

Anybody Could Have


“The Responsibility Poem” by Charles Osgood: “There was a most important job that needed to be done, And no reason not to do it, there was absolutely none. But in vital matters such as this, the thing you have to ask, Is who exactly will it be who’ll carry out the task? Anybody could have told you that Everybody knew, That this was something Somebody would surely have to do. Nobody was unwilling; Anybody had the ability. But Nobody believed that it was their responsibility. It seemed to be a job that Anybody could have done, If Anybody thought he was supposed to be the one. But since Everybody recognized that Anybody could, Everybody took for granted that Somebody would. But Nobody told Anybody that we are aware of, That he would be in charge of seeing it was taken care of. And Nobody took it on himself to follow through, And do what Everybody thought that Somebody would do. When what Everybody needed so did not get done at all, Everybody was complaining that Somebody dropped the ball. Anybody then could see it was an awful crying shame, And Everybody looked around for Somebody to blame. Somebody should have done the job And Everybody should have, But in the end Nobody did, What Anybody could have.” How many times have I found myself in this mess?

[John 13:1-17] About two weeks before Jesus’ death he announced he was returning to Jerusalem and he also predicted his impending death. “...with Jesus leading the way, and the disciples were astonished, while those who followed were afraid.” (Mark 10:32). All the believers were looking forward to the kingdom appearing (Luke 19:11) and started jockeying for position of power. James and John, the sons of Zebedee, and their mother approached Jesus wanting major places next to Jesus in the kingdom (Mark 10:35-45). “When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John” (v.41). (There had already been arguments among the twelve about who would be greatest in the kingdom; i.e. Matthew 18:1-ff; Mark 9:33-ffLuke 9:46-ff). Jesus told them it was not his place to grant them such a request as he himself was but a servant of the One who sent him; “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (v. 45). > Fast-forward to the night Jesus was betrayed. Jesus and the twelve were alone in an upper room to celebrate the Passover supper. It was in those days a custom to have a servant of the house wash the feet of their master’s guests before they lounged to fellowship and eat a meal. In their haste to assemble in the upper room, already arranged for by Jesus (Matthew 26:17-19), no one had considered the washing of feet as a part of their preparation before the feast. “...When what Everybody needed so did not get done at  all, Everybody was complaining that Somebody dropped the ball. Anybody then could see it was an awful crying shame; And Everybody looked around for Somebody to blame. Somebody should have done the job And Everybody should have, But in the end Nobody did, What Anybody could have.” Jesus took this opportunity to humble himself and show the true servant he is, not only to the twelve present but to his Father in Heaven, by washing the feet of his disciples. “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them” (John 13:14-17).

Saturday, April 01, 2017

Need I Say More?


Joy and jubilation changed to death and destruction in the blink of an eye on a two lane highway near Concan, Texas this past Wednesday. Fourteen souls of the New Braunfels, Texas First Baptist Church were returning home from a three-day retreat when their bus was hit head-on by a pick-up truck. Upon hearing the tragic news I instantly related my thoughts with what was probably going on within the confines of that bus in the nine miles they had traveled just before the crash. Spending days with brothers and sisters in Christ, praising the Lord and studying God’s Word, planning and developing strategies for church growth or whatever they were doing at that retreat, most likely had brought them all to a crescendo of spiritual awareness and anticipation of doing more in their individual lives to glorify God. Folks tend to say it’s like getting your batteries recharged. But, that bus full of spiritual joy was still in the world. Coming in the opposite direction was a young man driving a one ton, dually pick-up, swerving right then left, leaving the guides of his driving lane, as seen in video recorded by witnesses, who also dialed 911 to report the radical driving several times. Although not as yet a confirmed fact as to the cause of the crash, the driver supposedly confessed to witnesses first on the scene that he had been texting on his phone. Twelve people on the bus, minding their own business, died at the scene and one more passed away at the hospital. I reserve my thoughts as to who, what or why, but ask you to pray for everyone involved and especially for the young man, twenty-years-old, who will have to live with his decision the rest of his life.

When I used to smoke cigarettes health officials warned of health issues related to smoking and I quit, fifteen years later. I knew seatbelts saved lives but didn’t use them until the law said I had to or get fined. Like most people I don’t like to be told what to do. As an adult and overall responsible and trustworthy, I should not have to be forced to comply to any command or request of anyone walking the face of this earth. If and when I comply or fulfill any request, it is because I have chosen to do so of my own free will. I believe that can be said of most people. Life and lifestyles are forever changing and in magnitude the dangers of life are seemingly increasing right along with those changes. We’ve been told for several years now that texting and driving, total distraction from actually driving a vehicle, is killing people on our highways. Need I say any more?

[James 4:13-17] “...What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” Although we still live, breathe, and walk the earth we have the option to make the choice weather or not to obey the Gospel. There will be a day when that option no longer exists. “Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not know what will happen tomorrow.” The senior souls on that bus aged from 61 to 87 and none of them had any idea that Wednesday might be their last day on earth.  “Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’” Today is the only day that we can freely and willingly submit ourselves to His rule and authority in obedience to the Gospel. Tomorrow we may not have that option. Our sin, or disobedience to God’s authority and/or His appointed authorities, has separated us from God. Jesus Christ, the God man (1 Timothy 3:16) offered himself the sacrifice to God for the sins of the world that we may be forgiven for our sins. Now is the day of your salvation. Need I say more?

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Your Beautiful Interior


I got tied up in a mood of reminiscent thought the other day which I’m beginning to think just naturally comes with age as one reflects on life’s accomplishments and failures. I often count my blessings of today and remember that even in the struggles of the past I’ve always felt blessed with what I have. While still in the service to our country, and not making much money at all, I and my roommates used to buy canned goods that were a little beat up and had lost there labels. Of course the contents of such cans were totally unknown but at five and ten cents a can who cared? Opening a can was always full of fun and always a surprise. Inside could be corn, cranberry sauce, spinach, green beans and on occasion, dog or cat food - Yuk! It was unlikely two cans of the same thing were opened at one time and I learned early on the peas and carrots go together good in the same pot.

It is told that in 2015, a certain Mrs. Barton of Newport, Oregon, was selling her house. To the passer-by and prospective buyer it was a rather unassuming house with white aluminum siding, a two car garage and a small lawn in the front; a pretty average, boring house. But it’s a house with hidden secrets. When one steps inside they are greeted to a splendid interior filled with Renaissance furniture imported from Europe, drapery worth more than $10,000 dressing stained-glass windows and painted murals on the ceilings. The stained-glass windows came from English church buildings. Some of the ceilings are supported with gilded beams. On your computer type in the search phrase, “Oregon suburban house hides Renaissance interior” and link to the article in The Daily Mail (dailymail.co.uk) where you can see pictures of the house and it’s interior. Mrs. Barton’s house isn’t much to behold from the outside but is a breathtaking abode of beauty inside.

[1 Samuel 16: 1-13] In this reading of scripture, Samuel is about to anoint for God, a new king to replace Saul. God sends Samuel to a man named Jesse to anoint one of his sons.  Samuel saw Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord.”, but to his amazement, God rejects him. The Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” One would never believe what the common-looking house of Mrs. Barton holds in store for the visitor who took the time to examine the interior. In the same way, the story of Samuel anointing the little shepherd boy, David, is a reminder that God sees much more in us than perhaps other people see. We should not be too quick to judge others, but instead ask, “What does God see in that person?” If God can see potential, beauty, strength and faith, then I should honor that person for the “work of art” he or she is in the eye of God. When counting our blessings we ought to remember the wonder that God looks beyond our faults and weaknesses to love us anyway. God sees us as diamonds in the rough with our hopes and dreams, our potential, our skills and gifts, which can bring glory to His name. Let us live as though God has anointed us to honor and bring praise to him, just as Mrs. Barton’s house brings amazement to its visitors, yet remains a humble, unassuming house with hidden secrets. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom ...with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:16-17). Beautify your inside.