Wednesday, November 26, 2008

I Am Thankful

Today was just beautiful! It was a nice, cool day with temps in the mid 60’s and mostly sunny. Perfect. I was also able to leave work early – even before lunch. As a result of my early departure from work, I took advantage of the extra time to go and get some Christmas shopping done. I found just what I wanted for the kids and nothing more. I swung by a food joint after my shopping to pick me up some lunch. On the way home, just as I crossed over the bridge, I had a very delightful sight. Someone had written on the back of their vehicle window in large letters with some window paint. It read, “GIVE THANKS!” How appropriate and how thoughtful this person was, to remind everyone who passed by to stop for a second and reflect on how blessed we are, and to acknowledge the one who blesses us. Honestly, at the time – just before I saw her vehicle, I was looking around at the nice day, thinking of what I had planned later that night, and even over the next couple of days. But I had to stop and give thanks to God for his blessings. But as I was praying, it seemed like I started running out of things to say. I began to stumble over my words and search for things to praise God for. So I decided that I would spend a little time this evening in thinking about just what it was that I was thankful for. Here’s a short list of blessings for which I am thankful:

I am thankful for the Beauty of the Earth. Mother Nature, as we sometimes call it was created by God. Romans 1:20, Romans 1:21 There is just so much to see in this world, that I will never be able to see it all. As beautiful as it is, we’re told not to love this world. 1 John 2:15 We’re also told that as Christians, there’s something better stored up for us on that day. Romans 8:23.

I am thankful for the Holy Spirit. More times than not, I feel inadequate in thanking God and asking God for help. I stumble and stammer for words to speak. I can’t even remember important prayers that need to be spoken, but I believe that God hears me. The Holy Spirit prays for me on behalf of all those I should pray for, and God looks into my heart to see my prayers and request. Romans 8:26, Romans 8:27, Romans 8:28

I am thankful for my great and Godly wife. My wife is worth far more than rubies. I trust her completely. She gives me everything I need. She loves to work. She gets up while it is still dark. She provides food for her family. She uses her money wisely to further prosper. She sees that her hard work pays off and is encouraged to continue working. Her lamp doesn't go out at night, she is the last to go to bed. She is compassionate to the poor. She is prepared for hard times. She speaks wisely. She teaches faithfully. She watches over family matters. She is busy all the time. I praise God for her. - Proverbs 31

I will continue to think long and hard about more of the blessings for which I am thankful, and will continue this same thought next time. In the mean time, don't forget to Give Thanks! Have a great Thanks Giving.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Thank You, Father.

Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. He traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, ten men met him. They had a skin disease. They were standing close by. And they called out in a loud voice, "Jesus! Master! Have pity on us!" Jesus saw them and said, "Go. Show yourselves to the priests." While they were on the way, they were healed. When one of them saw that he was healed, he came back. He praised God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him. The man was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, "Weren't all ten healed? Where are the other nine? Didn't anyone else return and give praise to God except this outsider?" Then Jesus said to him, "Get up and go. Your faith has healed you." - Luke 17:11-19

I’ve been tentatively studying a few examples of Jesus’ emotions. One emotion from Jesus is plain to see in this story. Jesus asked the man three rhetorical questions - questions that He really expected no answer from this thankful man. But instead, Jesus would like to have heard the reasons from each of the other nine.

Ingratitude is another one of those ugly sins which displeases God, the Holy Spirit, and Jesus. Couldn’t you just hear Jesus’ spirit groan from within for the nine only after being lifted up by the one who returned to offer thanksgiving? Can’t I hear the Holy Spirit groan for me, when I grieve the Holy Spirit in this way?
Ephesians 4:30

If I ever need a wake-up call about being thankful for God’s blessings, I need to re-read Deuteronomy chapter 8. God reminds the Hebrew nation that He brought them up from the land of slavery of Egypt, into a wonderful land of Canaan that was already prepared by another people. Deuteronomy 6:11 God goes into great detail of some of the miraculous blessings that He gave His people. Deuteronomy 8:10 Hosea 13:6 How dare they forget – but they did. Psalms 106:21 And sadly, I forget too many times as well. Romans 1:21

Thanksgiving is my second favorite holiday of the year - only after Christmas. But, if we reflect on another meaning of Thanksgiving, how fitting it is that we can actually give thanks for the many blessings that we've received throughout the year even before the year is over. Think about it – praising God for blessing of the past, and those yet to come! He has so much in store for us, and so much more even waiting on us, if we are faithful with His blessings.
Malachi 3:10

What scares me is the fact that today, our youth is ungrateful. We have raised our children by waiting on them hand and foot, by giving them expensive gifts and toys, and each year gets better (or worse) than before. We’ve also not taught our children the act of giving back to others, or helping someone else besides ourselves. Our children can for the most part get what they want, when they want it. There’s a serious reminder found in 2 Timothy 3:1, 2 Timothy 3:2, 2 Timothy 3:3, 2 Timothy 3:4, 2 Timothy 3:5 Did you see the little U-word in there?

I certainly have studied another topic in which I fall well short in my responsible duties. I want to be thankful. I know that I am truly blessed far more than even 85% of the whole world. How can I not thank God for what He has done. And I know that God has so much more in store for me – whether in this life, or the life to come. He has prepared a way for me to be able to come into His presence and accept his blessings. Galatians 3:14
Am I Listening To What God Is Saying In His Word?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Go, And Bring Me That Donkey

Jesus sent out two of his disciples. He said to them, "Go to the village ahead of you. As soon as you get there, you will find a donkey's colt tied up. No one has ever ridden it. Untie it and bring it here. Someone may ask you, 'Why are you untying it?' If so, say, 'The Lord needs it.'" Those who were sent ahead went and found the young donkey. It was there just as Jesus had told them. They were untying the colt when its owners came. The owners asked them, "Why are you untying the colt?" They replied, "The Lord needs it." Then the disciples brought the colt to Jesus. - Luke 19:29-35

Have you ever been asked to do something that you felt uncomfortable with? Have you ever been asked to do something uncomfortable by someone you loved? For a stranger, I would more than likely fail the test and pass right on by - like a couple of people that's mentioned in the NT. Luke 10:31, Luke 10:32 For a loved one, I would more than likely bear it, or better yet, have a convenient excuse. Each time I read this story as found in the three gospels, I always sigh, and think how uncomfortable that would have been for someone like me. I admit, I have much to work on in serving Christ the way He would want.

For instance, just the other day, my wife and I pulled up into a major department store parking lot, and there was a basket in the open parking space. I couldn’t go any further, and being the gentleman that I am, I asked my sweet wife if she would mind getting out and pushing the basket to the side, so I could finish pulling up into the parking space. She gladly agreed. We then talked about her remembering having to do just that same embarrassing task for her parents when she was growing up, and how much she hated it. Then she told me of her asking our oldest son just the other day to do that too, and how he didn’t like doing that either. My oldest son gets this uncomfortable feeling very honestly from both my wife and myself.

Another story I remember as talked about in the OT is that of Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Syria. He was also told to do something uncomfortable, unexpected, and embarrassing.
2 Kings 5:9-12 Naaman had developed a skin disease. Naaman’s army had captured a little Hebrew girl who served Naaman’s wife. The little girl had compassion on Naaman, and explained that he could go and see the prophet Elisha, and the prophet would heal him. Naaman packed up and went, expecting the prophet to come out with a loud commotion and heal him. Naaman never saw Elisha. Elisha simply told Naaman to go and do something uncomfortable, unexpected, and embarrassing. Naaman was furious and refused to follow the directions of the prophet. After a while, some of Naaman’s closest friends told Naaman, that this was an easy thing to do. Even if the prophet had told this strong man Naaman to perform some great feat, Naaman could have done it. Why couldn’t Naaman do this easy thing. This sort of reasoning worked for Naaman because he got up and went to the Jordan river and dipped himself seven times, just as the prophet told him to. To his surprise, it worked, and his skin disease was gone, and his skin was pure and clean.

Back to the story of Jesus instructing two of his disciples to go and take this donkey and bring it back to him. How hard would it have been for me, if Jesus were to tell me to go and do this. I’m not sure how well I would have done. But look closer. Jesus sent two. This would have been much easier for me to consider, if I had someone to go with me, to help me, to support me in this task. I should never forget the power that comes from the help of others in the task that Jesus asks of me. I should also make myself available to help others if there is a need. And, there’s always a need by someone for something.

Jesus also gives the two some additional help. He further explains what “may” happen once they get there, and what to do and say “if” what might happen really does happen. He has given them miraculous proof that would leave an undeniable impression upon both of them, which would do nothing more than strengthen their resolve to obey. Jesus has equipped these two people with strength from each other, and proof that they serve Jesus – the son of God. Who else matters to these two, more so than Jesus? If Jesus told these two to perform this task, and gives them proof of what will happen, and it really does come to pass, can’t you just see the grin on both of their faces as they approach Jesus bringing this donkey behind them?

If Jesus were to ask anything of me today, am I willing to be His servant and obey?

Am I Listening To What God Is Saying In His Word?

Monday, November 17, 2008

With The Determination Of A Weed

Lawn season is pretty much over in my part of the country – thank goodness. I had a pretty good Summer with a lot of help from my oldest son in mowing the yard. As I stare out over my relatively small yard today, there are patches of tan – dying grass mixed among the still green Bermuda. Again, I love this time of year. However, all is not well in my lawn, as I have already started to see cold-hardy weeds cropping up. They will not last long though. Just long enough to flower, and set seed, and then die. Ever thought about it? Ever notice how quick those Spring-time Dandelions go from cute little Yellow flowers to those beautiful complex “Puff-balls” that every kid finds irresistible? Days. Just days. In no time at all a lawn can be filled with Dandelions and other weeds that seem to crop up over night, spreading their seeds around so that they can do it all over again the following year. The bible talks some about the longevity of plants of the field in Isaiah 40:8, Psalms 103:15, and Psalms 103:16.

What I find amazing about these troublesome plants is their purpose and the time it takes them to perform it. If you remember way back in the Garden of Eden, God cursed the ground and made things more difficult for man as a means of punishment for disobedience. Genesis 3:17, Genesis 3:18. So possibly we have weeds today, in part as a result of Adam’s sin in the Garden. Also, to make us work a little harder out in our gardens and lawns. But still, the weeds themselves are an amazing part of creation. They sprout up from seeds that had been dispersed mostly from the year before. Weeds can quickly take over any piece of ground, because they are very hardy plants. Weeds grow fast, spread quickly, are often able to live in harsh conditions, and are usually very disease resistant. They make flowers very rapidly so that they can be pollinated and start producing seeds. Weeds often produce seeds in great quantities, which are often able to survive long periods of drought or even cold weather. Weed seeds are often able to be transferred by various methods such as through the wind, in water, by sticking to animals, or carried by animals which have eaten the seeds.

My point to all of this explanation on the lowly weed is this:

  • They sprout up and mature quickly.
  • They are very resistant to negative influences.
  • They perform their function of reproducing themselves very quickly.

Despite the negative connotation that comes from the mention of weeds, you have to admit that they are very efficient. How well do I measure up?

Have I matured as quickly as I should? Or do I still struggle with elementary ideas? 1 Corinthians 3:1, 1 Corinthians 3:2, 1 Corinthians 3:3.

How do I compare when it comes to negative criticism or discouragement from others? Do I take it too personal and allow it to quench the Holy Spirit that resides within me? 1 Thessalonians 5:19, Ephesians 6:16.

Am I serving God in the way and for the purpose that He has created me? Or do I find myself distracted in serving my own personal needs first. Do I spread His word to others so that it might be reproduced and continue to spread? Ephesians 2:10, 2 Timothy 4:2.

Am I Listening To What God Is Saying In His Word?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Beware Of The Dog!

The other morning as I was sitting on my back porch drinking some coffee, I noticed my neighbor’s dog chained up in their back yard. The chain was attached to the corner of their shed, and the dog paced back and forth in an arc from one side of the shed to the other. I’d seen this same image before growing up. I too had a dog I had to tie up because no matter what, she would manage to dig out of the yard and send me on a wild dog chase. At the end of her rope all along the farthest point she could walk, was a well worn path -- the proof of her presence, the limit of her reach. For the outsider, it was a line that shouldn’t be crossed. For me, it was a limit of how close I could get to her, without her jumping up on me and getting my clothes muddy. Occasionally, I would cross the line – the mud worn path and enter into her world to offer her contact, touch, & companionship.

The neighbor’s dog reminded me of that old Looney Tunes cartoon where the big, obnoxious rooster – Foghorn Leghorn would constantly harass the tied-up Barnyard Dog. The rooster would even measure at times, the extent of the dog’s rope, to know just how far or how close he could get without getting chewed on. At some times, the conniving dog would lengthen his rope and catch the unsuspecting rooster and really give him what for.

I started thinking about this story and relating it to another story that’s found in the bible. The 20th chapter of Revelation (a book with which I hesitantly mention because it has so much symbolism, and I am such a novice with its interpretation) also tells us a story about a dog that’s chained up. Well, it’s more accurately described as a dragon, or that old serpent – the Devil.

Just briefly, the story as first read in Revelation 12:9 implies that the Devil was cast out of heaven and given roam over the earth. The Devil no longer pestered God with accusations of His people, but moved through His people on earth and entering into whomever allowed him to. The story again is picked up in Revelation 20:2 in how the Devil was bound by a chain for a time. This chain again implies that the Devil was not destroyed, but was limited to a certain area – kind of like my neighbor’s dog. As long as I stayed away, he could not get to me. But, if I chose to stroll on into his domain, he’d have much to do with me.

The simple point I’d like to offer is this: How easy it is to see a vicious dog on a chain, see the worn path, and know it’s limitations of how far it can move and decide to stay away. It doesn’t take a real bright person to know to stay away from this threat. We know the consequences of stepping across the line. Even an innocent excuse as needing to get a ball that rolled over into this area, and suddenly find ourselves trapped doesn’t diminish the consequences of stepping over into the area.

Sin is the same way. If we think about it, we don’t purposely look at a temptation face to face – eye to eye and say, “I’m going to go in there, grab a coke, be out the door, and be on my way.” It’s a crazy, risky idea and one that needs to be thrown out as quick as possible. In fact, the brightest thing I could think to do, would be to see how far away I could stay away from the threat.
James 4:7
1 Corinthians 10:13

Am I Listening To What God Is Saying In His Word?

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Church is like a Box of Donuts

The other day, my wife had bought a box of glazed donuts from the store. Ahhh… Now if there were ever a weakness to tempt me – this would be it. I cannot help but love the fresh hot gooey goodness that comes from a card-board box. Well, there are donuts, and then there’s pizza too. By the time I got to the donuts later that same day, I had a chuckle as I opened the box. It reminded me of that little child-hood song where you clasp your hands together, interlocking your fingers and say, “This is the church. This is the steeple. Open the door and see all the people.” And as I open up my hands, I wiggle all of my fingers showing the “people”.

Yes folks, I got a laugh out of that because as soon as I opened the box, even though some donuts were already missing, in my mind I could see a church full of people in those luscious donuts. Everyone dressed the same, looked the same, all the same size, all in their pews where they should be, nice and neat – the perfect church. Needless to say, that church let out quick, ‘cause all them people disappeared in a hurry.

As I thought about that box of perfect church going donuts over the next few days, I started to realize that maybe that church was… well… too perfect. In fact, when was the last time I’d ever seen a church so perfect. Well, never. As much as I try to dress the part, I often time manage to bring a “dent” or maybe I’m missing part of my icing, of maybe my top half is wrinkled. Truth is, when I look closer at that box of perfect glazed donuts, each one is different. From a distance they all look the same, but upon closer examination every donut has its flaws. Every donut is unique, slightly different shape, size, and weight. The characteristics that make the box of glazed donuts seem like
a real church to me, is the fact they are all in the “box” for the specific purpose of:
  • Serving God, and each other.
  • Encouraging each other.
  • Singing to God, and to each other.
  • Communing with God, and with each other.
  • Praying to God, with each other.
  • Studying with each other and allowing God to fill them with His Spirit.

Upon more consideration, I determined that what would represent the church that I read about in the NT, specifically as found in Acts chapter 2, was a church that was made up of practically, every nation! How different can that be? [ Acts 2:9, Acts 2:10, & Acts 2:11 ] Is the church made up of people who are exactly alike in every way? [ Romans 12:4, Romans 12:5, 1 Corinthians 12:12, 1 Corinthians 12:13, 1 Corinthians 12:14, 1 Corinthians 12:18, 1 Corinthians 12:20, 1 Corinthians 12:26, 1 Corinthians 12:27 ] Or does God call all? [ 1 Timothy 2:4 ] And, who am I to “screen” this or that person to see if they “fit the mold”. How hard is it to try and squeeze a perfect donut into a square shape? I don’t believe God calls us to be Bakers or any other artist responsible for making something into something else. That is God’s job. [ Acts 10:42, Acts 10:43, Romans 2:16, Romans 14:4, 2 Timothy 4:1 ] God calls us to teach, and leave the rest up to God. [ Acts 4:19, Acts 4:20 ]

Please read over these few verses to see the example of the first NT church.

[ Acts 2:1, Acts 2:5, Acts 2:14, Acts 2:37, Acts 2:38, Acts 2:39, Acts 2:41, Acts 2:42, Acts 2:43, Acts 2:44, Acts 2:45, Acts 2:46, Acts 2:47, Acts 11:26, Acts 14:23, Acts 14:27, Romans 16:1, Romans 16:5, Romans 16:23, 1 Corinthians 1:2, 1 Corinthians 16:19, 2 Corinthians 1:1, Ephesians 5:27 ]

I'd love to hear your comments about what Church means to you, or if you'd simply like to comment on what flavor or donut you like. :)

Am I Listening To What God Is Saying In His Word?