Archive for January, 2012

Why Not Me?

January 30, 2012

  The next paragraph is something I pulled from my Facebook newsfeed   a couple of days ago.  I read and hear of things like this frequently (it seems all the time lately) from multiple sources.

(names deleted)  grandson, (name deleted), is showing much improvement! He calls the dialysis machine his “washing machine that will let me drink water.” It is so hard for him to understand having to be on IV’s so please continue to pray that his kidneys will start functioning. Thanks! 

I get really upset when I see things like this.  There is a nephew of one of my friends from the insurance agency days who is at St. Jude in Memphis getting chemotherapy.  He is a senior at a nearby school and on their football and baseball teams.  I pray that he will do well, but not everyone does.  My son’s best friend from college died of cancer a year ago.  He was 34.    I wish our young people would apply themselves and go into research and probably cure most of this.  Some do that, but why don’t more?  Perhaps they don’t because they are too into themselves.  We should preach about this.  I should preach about this.  I wish I had done something like that myself, then there would have been some usefulness to my younger and middle-aged years.   Do you remember the line from ‘Catcher in the Rye’?

“Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all.  Thousands of little kids, and nobody’s around – nobody big, I mean – except me.  And I’m standing on the edge of some crazy cliff.  What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff – I mean if they’re running and they don’t look where they’re going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them.  That’s all I do all day.  I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all.  I know it’s crazy, but that’s the only thing I’d really like to be.”  ~J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye, Chapter 22, spoken by the character Holden Caulfield

Permit me to continue the thought:  Then there are too many of them running and you can’t catch them all and some go over the edge and you are powerless to do anything about it.  Then you start crying because they are getting by you and the tears obscure your vision and you can’t see good now and more run by and fall over the edge and you wish it would all go away but it won’t and the rest of the world is standing at the edge of the field watching it all happen and no one will do anything about it and you cry out “Help me.  Do something.”  But they’re all just standing there and have started talking to each other and trying to impress each other with how important they are and all the while all these kids are falling over the edge and I reckon nobody cares because they don’t try to do anything about it, they just put Chicken Soup stuff on their Facebook pages and think that changes something when what they really need to do is get out in the field and do something.

Yeah.  Why don’t I do something?  Why don’t you do something?

Here’s what God says, through the mouth of the prophet Isaiah:

Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying:

“Whom shall I send, And who will go for Us?”

Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.”

(Isaiah 6:8 NKJV)

 

How about it?  Maybe the ‘me’ is me.  Or, maybe the ‘me’ is you.

*Photo is Eric’s dear friend, Will, and his mother.  Will died about a month later.

Happy Sharing

January 23, 2012

You are happier if you share and if you are happy you are more likely to share.

“Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, 45 and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. 46 So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.”  (Acts 2.44-47 NKJV)

The above text records the events of the daily lives of the first Christians shortly after the initial preaching of the gospel of Christ and the obedient response of three thousand souls to that message. Of all the things that are said about them, notice two in particular that characterized their lives. I hope our lives today, can be like theirs were then.

The early Christians were people who were happy. They “ate their food with gladness.” They had learned the truth about Jesus. They had learned that they had committed a terrible sin. But, they had also learned that God loved them and wanted to forgive them. Peter had told them how they could receive the forgiveness God was offering. He told them to repent and be baptized for the remission of sins (Acts 2. 38). They believed the message of God that Peter brought and they obeyed God’s commands. The forgiveness and hope that they found when they trusted and obeyed the Heavenly Father caused them to be excited and filled with gladness. We can experience those same emotions today, when we do what they did.

The early Christians were people who shared. They were “sharing . . . with all, as anyone might have need.” I’ve got a feeling, they were so eager to share because of their joy over their new-found forgiveness. They wanted to live the new life in Christ, and this was one way they did it. They were so excited about the cleansing of the guilt of sin from their hearts, that the same value they had formerly placed on material things, just wasn’t there anymore. These Christians valued helping those who were in need greater than their own monetary wealth. And, they acted that way. When they saw a need, they did something about it.

You know, the Christians in Acts were people just like us. And we can be people just like them. We can be filled with gladness, if we’re faithful Christians; and we can share with others from the blessings God has given to us.

Some Thoughts on the Love of God and His Continuing Offers of Salvation in the Bible

January 19, 2012

Well, it begins in the beginning: Genesis. God’s love is clearly seen in making man like Himself and setting man up in the Garden of Eden. So, what does man do? Man sins. What does God then do? God does expel man from the Garden along with some other consequences, but God doesn’t destroy man, which would have been a just response. He sends man out into the wide, wide world where man can have a very good life if he will only cooperate with God.

Over time man does not cooperate with God and The Flood happens. However, again God does not destroy everyone – He saves Noah and his family. God places a value on human life and sends Noah out into the wide, wide world to repopulate it and use it for his benefit. You cannot read the Bible story and escape being overwhelmed by the love of God and His continuing offers of forgiveness/salvation.

The story continues. Man would sin and God would be patient. Man would eventually repent and God was eager to forgive and accept man back into relationship. God was a thousand times more eager to forgive than to take vengeance. We have made that Biblical point in sermons here.

And the LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, “keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.” (Exodus 34:6-7 NKJV)

Notice how God’s mercy is associated with the number “thousands,” and God’s vengeance is associated with the number “four.”  God had 1000 to 4 rather be merciful than vengeful.  BTW, this text is sometimes called the “Golden Text” of the Old Testament.

The story continues today. The culmination of it all was Jesus. We can be His disciples today and God will eagerly accept us into a relationship of security and blessings with Him. We can be a part of God’s family right now!

The Lord is . . . longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9 NKJV)

God loves you.  He always has.  He always will.

 

A Gentle Religion

January 17, 2012

Our culture is often not very gentle.  Our sons are taught to “deliver a blow” in football.  A “hard-nosed” businessman may be admired.  We are eager to seek personal and national vengeance.  “Don’t tread on me,” and on I could go.  If you have been awake even part of your life, you know what I am talking about and you won’t embarrass yourself by disagreeing.

The gospel of Christ paints a radically different picture.  Oh that Christians would believe the gospel and use Christ as their Pattern instead of acting like the nations (people) around them.  Perhaps if their preachers led them more fully in the direction of Christ they would follow.  Recall Yahweh’s statement at the time of the Assyrian captivity:

Turn from your evil ways, and keep My commandments  . . . Nevertheless they would not hear, but stiffened their necks, like the necks of their fathers . . .  rejected His statutes and His covenant . . . and went after the nations who were all around them, concerning whom the LORD had charged them that they should not do like them. (2 Kings 17:13-15 NKJV)

My prayer is that we would stop imitating our neighbor, start imitating Jesus, and thus become salt and light to our neighbor.

I believe you could say that Christianity is a religion of gentleness and kindness.  Go with me on a little walk through the New Testament and let’s see if that’s so.

The Sermon on the Mount encapsulates Jesus’ teaching on the second great commandment, love your neighbor as yourself, Leviticus 19:18.  The Beatitudes are the Sermon on the Mount in condensed version.  I am sure you remember the third beatitude:

Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth. (Matthew 5:5 NKJV)

‘Meek’ is also translated ‘humble’ or ‘gentle.’  Do we believe we will be blessed if we are humble and gentle?  If we don’t, why do we believe anything else Jesus said?  De we believe God will take care of us if we are humble and gentile, or that we’ve got to “look out for ourselves’?  Who do we trust, God or us?

Jesus had the ultimate wrong perpetrated against Him.  He was murdered when He was not only innocent of any wrongdoing, but had spent His entire earthly life helping other people.  As He hung dying on the cross, did He lash out at His enemies?  Did He admonish His disciples to ‘get even’ with those who had done this to Him?  Did He damn His adversaries to hell?  You know, He had the power to do that.  Did He?  You know the answer.  Here’s what He did:

And when they had come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified Him, and the criminals, one on the right hand and the other on the left. Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” And they divided His garments and cast lots. (Luke 23:33-34 NKJV)

He asked for their forgiveness.  He loved His enemies . . .  like He told us to do . . .  He practiced what He preached.  Do we?  If Jesus could forgive those people, in that circumstance, what is my problem that I cannot forgive my neighbor, workfellow, schoolmate, or family member; whatever it is they’ve done or said?  I must forgive them and treat them kindly, if I want to be like Jesus, if I want to be His disciple.

Here is a disciple of Christ who acted like Jesus.  His name is Stephen.

And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep. (Acts 7:59-60 NKJV)

Question.  What kind of disciples are we?  Could we do this?  What behavior in our life right now would lead others to believe that we might be able to do what Stephen did?  If we listen to the ‘nations’ around us, we probably won’t be able to forgive like Jesus and disciple Stephen.  See why we need to quit listening to what others are saying and aping how they are acting and start listening to Jesus and begin to become more and more like Him.  “More and More Like Jesus.”  We should sing that right now, because I’m not sure everybody believes that.

Let’s move on to the epistles.  Here’s what Paul says:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23 NKJV)
Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4:31-32 NKJV)
Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. (Colossians 3:12-13 NKJV)

I really don’t know how to make that any plainer.  If I can’t be humble, kind, and gentle . . . I can’t be a Christian.  I might be big and bad and command the respect and admiration of my fellow man, but Jesus remains unimpressed.  Whose approval do you  seek?  Who do you want to impress?

And then there’s John . . .

If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? (1 John 4:20 NKJV)

Notice how love of your neighbor and love of God are associated.  Love of neighbor is a prerequisite for love of God.  If you don’t love (think kindness and gentleness) your neighbor, you don’t love God.  If you don’t love your neighbor, you’re not like Jesus.  I want to be like Jesus.  May God help us all to that end.

Jesus, meek and gentle,
Son of God most high,
Gracious, loving Savior,
Hear Thy children’s cry.

Pardon our offenses,
Loose our captive chains,
Break down every idol
Which our soul detains.

Give us holy freedom,
Fill our hearts with love;
Draw us, holy Jesus,
To the realms above.

Lead us on our journey,
Be Thyself the way
Through our earthly darkness
To the heavenly day.

Jesus, meek and gentle,
Son of God most high,
Gracious, loving Savior,
Through earth’s passing darkness,
To heaven’s endless day.

Jesus Meek and Gentle, by George Prynne (1856) and William Monk (1861)

 

Stewardship of the Past: The Past and the Heart

January 17, 2012

It is hard to forget the past.  I guess you could say that is a good thing and a bad thing.  Successes of the past could give us confidence for the present.  Failures of the past could motivate us with the thought, “It won’t happen again.”  Maybe that’s what UA was thinking in LSU II.  Or maybe not.  On the flip side, recalling success could make us arrogant and remembering failure could make us defeatist.

The effect of the past on the present is determined by the heart. 

If my heart is on Jesus, I will learn from the past and those lessons will help me improve my efforts to be more like Him.  If my focus is on me, I may become depressed or (depression’s opposite) overconfident as my past continues to affect me.

Whatever effect the past has on me, one thing is clear:  I must not live there.  I must live where I am in what I can control – the present.  I must personally cause the effects of the past on my life to be positive by focusing on Jesus and not myself.

. . . forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13-14 NKJV)

Paul had a lot of failure in his earlier life, and he didn’t realize it was failure at that time.  I guess he could have dwelled on the lost time and opportunity of what went before.  But, he didn’t.  He wanted to be a good steward of the past by not living there.  He lived now.  He lived to his fullest potential in the present.  This gave him a forward momentum, not a backward slide.

It can be the same with you and me.  We can get lost in the “could have’s” and “should have’s” and miss opportunities now (thus repeating past failures instead of learning from them).  Remembering the past is ok.  Living there isn’t.

Look forward.  Live now.  Win the prize.