Friday, September 30, 2011

Where can I see Jesus today? - Matthew 25:40 with a story by Toyohiko Kagawa

SCRIPTURE: Matthew 25:40 (The Message) – the full story is Matthew 25:31-46
“Then the King will say, 'I'm telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me - you did it to me.'

A STORY – written by Toyohiko Kagawa, “Meditations,” cited in William Axling’s book, “Kagawa"

God dwells among the lowliest of men.
He sits on the dust heap among
the prison convicts.
With the juvenile delinquents.

He stands at the door, begging bread.
He throngs with the beggars
the beggars at the place of aims.
He is among the sick.

He stands in the line with the unemployed
in front of the free employment bureaus.
Therefore, let him who would meet God
visit the prison cell before going to
the temple.

Before he goes to church let him
visit the hospital.

Before he reads his Bible let him
help he beggar standing at his door.

There has never been a time, except maybe during the Great Depression, when the need is so great to show acts of kindness towards the stranger in our midst. There has never been a time like this to begin to treat individuals as if they are the Christ. There has never been an opportunity to open our doors, open our minds and open our hearts to each other. There has never been …

Painfully we are made aware daily of the huge number of individuals who are losing their homes, seeking assistance at homeless shelters, losing their jobs, going for days without anything to eat. These are our brothers and sisters.

Look upon these individuals standing in front of you … and see Christ. Look into the face of the beggars or the homeless standing on the street corner selling bottles of water or the one trying to rest his/her weary body on a park bench or that person pushing a shopping cart with their entire worldly possessions … and there we will see Jesus.

There but for the grace of God … the miracle of life’s circumstances … go you or me!

Help us to be sensitive to those around us. Help us to become aware of the misfortune of others and all the little blessings that we do possess. Help us appreciate the little things of life and reach out to others who simply need a hand up in life. Help us be what you have called us to be. We ask this in the humble spirit of Christ who washed the feet of his disciples. Amen

Thursday, September 29, 2011

What are we willing to die for - Matthew 10:39 and the story of the monk, Telemachus

SCRIPTURE: Matthew 10:39 (The Message)
If your first concern is to look after yourself, you'll never find yourself. But if you forget about yourself and look to me, you'll find both yourself and me.

STORY as shared by William Barclay:
Somewhere, late in the fourth century, there was in the East a monk called Telemachus. He had determined to leave the world and to live all alone in prayer and meditation and fasting, and so to save his soul. So in his lonely life he sought nothing but contact with God. But somehow he felt that there was something wrong. One day he rose from his knees and it suddenly dawned upon him that this life that he was living was based, not on a self-less, but on a selfish love of God. It came to him that if he was to serve God he must serve men, that the desert was no place for a Christian to live, that the cities were full of men and women; that the cities were full of sin and therefore full of need. So he determined to bid farewell to the desert and to set out to the greatest city in the world, the city of Rome, which was at the other side of the world. He begged his way across lands and seas to Rome. By this time Rome was officially Christian. He arrived at a time when Stilicho, the Roman general, had gained a mighty victory over the Goths. To Stilicho there was granted a Roman triumph. There was this difference from the old days – now it was to the Christian Churches the crowds poured and to the heathen temples. There were the processions and the celebrations and Stilicho rode in triumph through the streets, with the young Emperor Honorius by his side. But one thing had lingered on into Christian Rome. There was still the arena; there were still the gladiatorial games. Nowadays Christians were no longer thrown to the lions; but still those captured in way hat to fight and to kill each other to make a Roman holiday for the populace. Still men roared with the blood lust as the gladiators fought. Telemachus found his way to the arena. There were 80,000 people there. The chariot races were ending; and there was a tenseness in the crowd as the gladiators prepared to fight. Into the arena they came with their greeting. “Hail, Caesar! We who are about to die salute you!” The fight was on and Telemachus was appalled. Men for whom Christ had died were killing each other to amuse an allegedly Christian populace. He leapt the barrier. He was in between the gladiators, and, for a moment they stopped. “Let the games go on,” roared the crowd. They pushed the old man aside; he was still in his hermit’s robes. Again he came between them. The crowd began to hurl stones at him; they urged the gladiators to kill him and get him out of the way. The commander of the games gave an order; a gladiator’s sword rose, and flashed and stabbed; and Telemachus lay dead. And suddenly the crowd were silent. They were suddenly shocked that a holy man should have been killed in such a way. Quite suddenly there was a mass realization of what this killing really was. The games ended abruptly that day – and they never began again. Telemachus, by dying, had ended them. As Gibbon said of him, “His death was more useful to mankind than his life.” By losing his life he had done more than ever he could have done if he had husbanded it out in lonely devotion in the desert.

What is so important in our life that we are willing to lose our life for it? What belief would drive us to making the ultimate sacrifice as did Telemachus? What matters above everything else? Sobering questions for each of us as we life in a world that is every more centered on “self”.

Gracious God, you ask us to have a servants heart, but are we committed enough to place our life on the line for what we believe? Help us sort through the demands and priorities of our life this and so order our life to bring praise to you. Amen

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Learning to give thanks in all circumstances - 1 Thessanlonians 5:16-18 with a story, an observation and a prayer

SCRIPTURE: 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NIV)
Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.

There is a legend about two angels who were sent to earth to gather up the prayers of men and women. One was to fill his basket with the petitions of mankind. The other was to gather their prayers of thanksgiving. Some time later they went back to their Father’s house. One had a basket heaped high and running over with the innumerable petitions of men and women. The other returned with a sad and heavy heart, for his basket was almost empty.

Is it just my imagination or is it a reality that we are quicker to rehearse our problems than to embrace our blessings? It appears that we make long laundry lists of the ills visited upon us by our friends, family and neighbors … or life in general … than to lift our voices in praise and thanksgiving for all the is good in our life.

Now, I will have to admit that it is possible to take this scripture to an extreme as a former member responded to my question, “How are you doing?” with “I have a terrible toothache, praise the Lord!” Pain is pain and yes, we can learn from pain, but I believe that God desires only good for us.

Maybe it is the “glass is half-full or half-empty” syndrome. We see life and our circumstances depending on our mindset … spiritual mindset, that is. If we are in an ongoing relationship with God then life is half-full, everything is a blessing, and we literally give thanks to God in all situations. But on the other hand, if our relationship with God is casual as in - catch-as-catch-can, pray if I have the time, read scripture only if I have nothing else to read – thus seeing our life as half-empty then we take every little criticism personally and we read into every little thing something negative.

I believe that God does not wish for us to live life in this fashion – therefore, God’s instruction to give him thanks for everything … maybe even toothaches.

Help us to see the good that surrounds us and the blessings that fill our days. Help us to discover the fullness of a life with you. In the name of the one who makes it all possible, Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Needing security in a scary world - 2 Thessalonians 3:3 with a story, an observation and a prayer

SCRIPTURE: 2 Thessalonians 3:3 (NIV)
But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.

A Modern Day Parable titled, “Frog in the well.”
He knew his world which consisted of one circler wall. All that he knew of the real world was what he was able to see through the small circle of the opening of the well – a little blue sky, a passing cloud, but little else. It wasn’t until the frog jumped out of the well (and its security) did he see the world in full and all the beauty.

This old world of ours is a little scary. Alright, it is big time scary for a lot of folk what with job lose, unstable stock market, the debt crisis both here and abroad, and two political parties who would rather fight each other than the mountain of problems facing our nation. It is big time, shake-in-your-boots, even wet-your-pants and batten-down-the-hatches scary.

But … who’s our daddy? Who is it that will provide the ultimate protection?

With the affirmation from scripture that the Lord is our protector, we then can turn out to face the world, and with the confidence of his strength and protection begin to risk once again. Risk getting out of our little wells of security; risk getting into relationships with people much different than we; risk trust our resources to see us through yet another day; risk … with a certain Holy Boldness … to step forward and face others (and our life’s situations) with the confidence of our faith knowing that there is nothing, absolutely nothing that can or will defeat us.

For your presence, we give you thanks. For your protection, we give you thanks. For the security that you and you alone provide, we give you thanks. For being there when things “go south” we are left with the feeling that we have nothing left, we give you thanks. In the name of Jesus our redeemer, friend and fellow traveler, we give you thanks. Amen.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Miracles in every day occurances - Hebrews 2:4 with a story, an observation and a prayer

SCRIPTURE: Hebrews 2:4 (The Message)
All the while God was validating it with gifts through the Holy Spirit, all sorts of signs and miracles, as he saw fit.

X-Files (a TV Sci-Fi series), which took true unsolved FBI stories and added some twists and takes on reality. One of the stories, MIRACLE MAN, was about a faith healer who is on trial for killing people. The young lad believes that God is passing judgment on him for the sins of his past. In reality someone is poisoning the victims as a means of getting back at the “Miracle Man.” Special Agent Molder: “People are looking so hard for miracles that they make themselves see what they what to see.” Dr. Scollie (Special Agent who works with Molder): “I was raised a Catholic and I know the Bible somewhat. God will never let the Devil steal the show.” Molder: “Image a miracle and you are half-way there.”

Life is filled with little daily miracles, we confirm that and accept it as normal. We are appreciative of those small every day occurrences and simply move on through our daily existence paying little attention to what God is doing in and through our life. We simply take God and his activities for granted.

But every now and again we look over our shoulder hoping for, wishing for, praying for one of those big, out of the ordinary, life stopping, heart pumping miracles … the kind that people write about in magazines and books or share during evangelistic crusades.

God is still at work in your life and mine. God still operates as never before touching all aspects of life. Those big miracles are happening, but like the gradual growth of a child that so often goes unnoticed, so does God’s activities … his miracle working activities.

Maybe we should just start keeping track of the every day occurrences … the “normal” activities of God in our life so that we can discover the bigger miracles that God is doing without us even noticing.

You are at work, Eternal Sustainer, in our lives. We take you for granted. Forgive us for not noticing the activities of the Holy Spirit in our life and help us see, as well as understand the bigger picture of the full scope of your miracle working presence. In the name of the one who touched lives and changed the direction of their actions, Jesus Christ himself. Amen.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

A Modern Day Parable - During those "quicksand" moments do we need advice or a hand up?

The Path ~ author unknown

There is a parable about a man who was traveling down a certain path. He came to a bend in the path, and being in a hurry, he decided to take a shortcut. He knew that he was not familiar with the shortcut which he decided to take, but reasoned that since it wasn't too far across and that it would save him some time it was worth the risk.

He had traveled off the main path only a very short distance when he discovered that he was in the midst of a bed of quicksand! No wonder other travelers had avoided taking the shortcut. Slowly he felt himself going under.

Worried that he would die before anyone could pass by to help him, his heart leaped for joy when he heard the footsteps of another traveler coming down the main path. Soon the traveler came into view and the sinking man recognized him as Confucius. "Help!" he called out. "Help me. I'm sinking!" Confucius saw him, paused and then remarked: "That should be evidence that men should stay out of such places." With that Confucius continued on his way.

As the man continued to slowly sink into the quicksand, he knew that he would soon be dead. But suddenly there was another traveler on the path. The sinking man recognized the traveler as Buddha. "Help me, Buddha, before I die." Buddha looked at the man and spoke: "Kill the desire to live which you have and you will be alright." Then Buddha continued down the path.

By and by another traveler came down the road. He was Mohammed. As the sinking man cried out for help, Mohammed stopped to survey the situation. Seeing what had happened, Mohammed cried out to the man: "I can do nothing. It is the will of Allah." With that, Mohammed passed on by.

By the time that the quicksand was to the man's waist, a Hindu appeared on the path. In a voice weak from exhaustion the sinking man called out for help. "Please, my friend, help me for I am about to die." The Hindu showed little concern for the man, but he did try to comfort him. "Don't worry," the Hindu called out, "perhaps in the next life you will return to earth in the form of the sacred cow." The sinking man watched as he walked away.
The man had given up hope of survival by this time.

The quicksand was up to his shoulders and only one arm and his head were still exposed. But he heard footsteps on the path again. Looking up, he saw that it was Christ walking down the path. In a feeble, broken voice he cried for help. "Sir, I have called to others for help. In their own way each of them did what he believed would be of help to me. Please, sir, unless you help me I shall surely die."

Jesus left the main path, went down to where the quicksand was, and reached out His hand. "Give me your hand and I shall pull you out."
Together, arm in arm, they walked down the main path.

Life is filled with “quicksand” moments. There are those who will come along an offer advice, but only one will offer and hand up.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Learning from our mistakes - Romans 15:4 with a story, an observation and a prayer

SCRIPTURE: Romans 15:4 (NIV)
For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

A STORY: from “If It Ain’t Broke, Break It,” by Robert Crag, page 194
When UCLA’s legendary basketball coach John Wooden introduced the fast-break to college basketball, his team committed the highest number of turnovers and fouls in memory. But Wooden knew “mistakes were part of the learning.” He expected them, and “knew that every opportunity for failure was equally an opportunity for success.” Wooden’s teams went on to perfect the fast-break offense used today by nearly every team in the nation. His teams also won 10 national collegiate championships in 12 years, one of the most remarkable team achievements in all of sports history.

We all make mistakes. Our lives are scattered with the bits and pieces of those mistakes. There are individuals who delight in reminding us of our mistakes. But, mistakes are a part of life.

Learning from our mistakes is another matter. Evidently, some lessons are harder to learn than others because we just keep making the same mistakes over and over and over again … or at least I do.

A word here … an act there … an ill-timed comment … and, bingo, another mistake has been made.

But mistakes are the building blocks of tomorrow’s successes. We just have to learn what God and life is trying to teach us. If we don’t, we will be visiting this situation again and again until we have learned the lesson needed to move us on to the next level of our spiritual journey ... and therein lies our hope!

Dear Lord, we have to admit making mistakes is painful, learning life’s lessons is painful, growing mentally, spiritually and emotionally is painful, growing is painful … but keep perusing us until we have learned the lesson. We want to grow in you … so help us, even when we become stubborn. In the name of the great teacher, Jesus. Amen.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Don't miss the experience - Psalm 89:15-16 with a story (from "Zorba the Greek"), an observation and a prayer

SCRIPTURE: Psalm 89:15,16
"Blessed are the people who know the joyful sound! They walk, O Lord, in the light of Your countenance. In Your name they rejoice all day long, And in Your righteousness they are exalted."

In his novel, ZORBA THE GREEK, Nikos Kazantzakis has the narrator say, “I was happy, I knew that. While experiencing happiness, we have difficulty in being conscious of it. Only when the happiness is past and we look back on it, do we suddenly realize – sometimes with astonishment – how happy we had been.”

“It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.” Thus, begins THE TALE OF TWO CITIES by Charles Dickens … our life?!? Don’t miss the scenery because of the task of the journey.

The “best” will be determined by our focus. Their concentration is on the Lord. Regardless of the “worst” taking place around them, they seldom – if ever – pay much attention to it because of the light of God’s presence.

A father got permission to go into surgery with his young son because the doctor had overheard the lad say, “Daddy, as long as you are holding my hand I will be okay.” The surgeon want his young patient to experience of his daddy holding his hand as he went to sleep and the experience of his daddy holding his hand as he began to wake up from the surgeon. “His daddy’s hand did more good that day than me and my entire medical staff.”

It was the best of times … but all too often we do not fully appreciate it until it is all over.

Help us, O Lord, not to miss the experience while we are going through it. Amen.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Thank God that he does not remember our sin - Jeremiah 31:34 with a story, an observation and a prayer

SCRIPTURE: Jeremiah 31:34 (KJV)
And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.

A man was taking a pill to help his memory loss. He and his wife were walking along the street one day and meet a friend of theirs. The friend asked about the pill, “Was it working?” The man responded, “That it was working very well.” “What is the name of the pill?” his friend asked. The man thought for a moment and said, “Huh, what is the name of that lovely, beautiful flower which has a good smell and a pink center?” “Rose.” “Yea, Rose” turning to his wife, “Rose what is the name of the pill?”

Memory is a great thing until we start losing it. Memory can be a horrible thing when we cannot forget a horrible happening in our life. Sometimes we have selective memory – only remembering what we want to remember and then there are other times that we have “creative” memory, remembering events, places and people that never took place.

As the song Precious Memories states:




Memories can be precious. Memories can be indifferent. Memories can be fickle … but thanks be to God that the Divine Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer chooses – emphasis on chooses – not to remember our failures, our shortcomings, our misguided past, our ill shaped reality … our sin no more!

Thank you, Eternal God, for not remembering our past. Help us to forgive ourselves so that we can move on with your Divine purpose for our life. Amen.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Having a full life - John 10:10 with a story about Jimmy Durante, an observaton and a prayer

SCRIPTURE: John 10:10 (NIV)
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

There is a wonderful story about Jimmy Durante, one of the great entertainers of a generation ago. He was asked to be a part of a show for World War II veterans. He told them his schedule would permit only a brief appearance, but if they would not mind him doing one short monologue and immediately leave for his next appointment, he would come. Of course, the show’s director happily agreed. But when Jimmy got on stage, something interesting happened. He went through the short monologue then stayed. The applause grew louder and louder and he kept staying. Pretty soon, he had been on fifteen, twenty, then thirty minutes. Finally he took a last bow and left the stage. Backstage, someone asked him, “ I thought you had to go after a few minutes. What happened?” Jimmy answered, “I did have to leave, but I can show you the reason I stayed. Look out at the front row.” Seated there were two men, each of whom had lost an arm in the war. One had lost his right arm and other had lost his left. Together, they were able to clap, and that is exactly what they were doing, loudly cheerfully.

It is a truism for life – we can either seize the moment or we can bemoan our circumstances. We can choose to go through life sad and dejected about those opportunities lost, placing emphasis on the “sadness” of our life or we can choose to embrace the reality of our situation and rejoice in the life that we do have.

It is a struggle for most of us, but the choice is ours. If we look for ways around our difficulties we will be surprised by what we find … like the two veterans who had each lost an arm, but discovered how to still applaud the goodness that had come to them.

Help us to see, Gracious Savior, the opportunities that we do have instead of dwelling on those chances that we have missed or the “cards” that we have been dealt. In the Savior’s name we do pray, Amen.

Monday, September 19, 2011

We matter to God - Luke 12:7 with a story, an observation and a prayer

SCRIPTURE: Luke 12:7 (The Message)
And he pays even greater attention to you, down to the last detail - even numbering the hairs on your head! So don't be intimidated by all this bully talk. You're worth more than a million canaries.

A STORY told by Gene Scott:
A few months ago, I went with my family to see the movie “Aladdin.” The theater filled rather quickly. On the way in, a young man stopped and joined the long line at the refreshment counter. By the time he got into the theater the lights were already dim. He scanned the theater and evidently couldn’t find his family. Well, we watched him pace up and down the aisles searching the crowd in the near darkness. As the lights began to go down even further, he stopped and asked out loud, “Does anyone here recognize me?”

It is easy today, especially with the economic and unemployment climate of our day, to feel insignificant. That somehow we really do not matter. That no one even knows that we exist. That we really are not that important as life goes.

And yet, God thinks that we are so important that he has gone so far as to number the hairs on our head. We do matter. Our existence is important. God has designed life to include us. And, he recognizes us even when we get lost in the darkened world that surrounds us and cannot find our way.

Thank you for embracing us with your divine love, Eternal Creator God that we matter to life’s ongoing purpose and design. Amen

Saturday, September 17, 2011

A Modern Day Parable - A Father's Anguished Decision

After a few of the usual Sunday evening hymns, the church’s pastor slowly stood up, walked over to the pulpit and, before he gave his sermon for the evening, he briefly introduced a guest minister who was in the service that evening.

In the introduction, the pastor told the congregation that the guest minister was one of his dearest childhood friends and that he wanted him to have a few moments to greet the church and share whatever he felt would be appropriate for the service.

With that, an elderly man stepped up to the pulpit and began to speak. “A father, his son, and a friend of his son were sailing off the Pacific coast” he began. “When a fast approaching storm blocked any attempt to get back to the shore. The waves were so high, that even through the father was an experienced sailor, he could not keep the boat upright and the three were swept into the ocean as the boat capsized.”

The old man hesitated for a moment, making eye contact with two teenagers who were, for the first time since the service began, looking somewhat interested in his story. The aged minister continued with his story, “Grabbing a rescue line, the father had to make the most excruciating decision of his life: to which boy would he throw the other end of the life line. He only had seconds to make the decision. The father knew that his son was a Christian and he, also, knew that his son’s friend was not. The agony of his decision could not be matched by the torrent of waves.

“As the father yelled out, ‘I love you, son!’ he threw out the life line to his son’s friend. By the time the father had pulled the friend back to the capsized boat, his son had disappeared beneath the raging swells into the black night. His body was never recovered.”

By this time, the two teenagers were sitting up straight in the pew, anxiously waiting for the next words to come out of the old minister’s mouth. “The father,” he continued, “knew his son would step into eternity with Jesus and he could not bear the thought of his son’s friend stepping into an eternity without Jesus. Therefore, he sacrificed his son to save the son’s friend.”

With that, the old man turned and sat back down in his chair as silence filled the room. The pastor again walked slowly to the pulpit and delivered a brief sermon with an invitation at the end. However, no one responded to the appeal. Within minutes after the service ended, the two teenagers were at the old man’s side.

”That was a nice story,” politely stated one of them, “but I don’t think it was very realistic for a father to give up his only son’s life in hopes that the other boy would become a Christian.”

“Well, you’ve got a point there,” the old man replied, glancing down at his worn Bible. A big smile broadened his narrow face. He once again looked at the boys and said, “It sure isn’t very realistic, is it? But, I’m standing here today to tell you that story gives me a glimpse of what it must have been like for God to give up his son for me, you see, I was that father and your pastor is my son’s friend.”

~ Author unknown

Friday, September 16, 2011

Fulfilling the gift the God has given to us - Romans 12:1-8 with a story, an observation and a prayer

SCRIPTURE: Romans 12:1-8 (NIV)
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will. For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.

STORY – from unknown source:
The animals of the forest all went to school in order to be better animals. When it came to physical education they each had to do every event – climbing, running, swimming, flying. The Duck did poorly with the climbing and running, but excelled when it came to swimming and flying. The Eagle flunked out in all areas except flying and in that not one animal came close. The Rabbit could run and do a little swimming, but had a horrible time climbing and could not fly at all. The Squirrel ran, climbed and swam well and could leap from one tree to another but the instructor couldn’t call it flying. The point: be who you are – work to your strengths.

Are we living into our expectations or someone else’s? Some years ago I overheard a conversation between several USF pre-med students. They were discussing what kind of medicine they were going to go into and why they had decided on the medical field. The discussion that centered around the kind of medicine to choose boiled down to how much money they could make in the various fields. When their dialogue turned to the why, some was money, others was prestige and one sorrowful soul confessed that they only reason he decided to pick medicine was to make his father happy. What would he rather be doing? Playing the piano … “and I’m good at it, but dad thought that I couldn’t make a living playing the piano … so medicine became my future.”

Discovering one’s inner purpose … what we are good at … God’s design for our life … is difficult at best, but when others insert their wishes and desires for our life, it becomes downright hard. When profit becomes the motive instead of service and living up to our potential it is simply becomes a sad state of affairs.

Life unfolds in peculiar ways for most of us. Stories of gifted individuals having to leave school because of a tragic death in the family and pick up the financial responsibilities for the family are too many. Stories of men and women who get caught up in the heady mind games of others are tragic as well.

But the bottom line is this – God has given each of us some very special gifts and graces for living. Seeking happiness? Desire fulfillment? Hungry for a life completing purpose? Then discover those gifts and graces and live into the potential that is within.

Help us all to discover or rediscover the true love of our soul and then guide us down the path to fulfilling the design that you had made for our life … all for the sake of your Kingdom. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

An Understanding Heart - Proverbs 3:5 with a poem by Georgia Harkness, an observation and a prayer

SCRIPTURE: Proverbs 3:5 (NIV)
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding

A POEM by Georgia Harkness titled, “The Understanding Heart
Give me, O God, the understanding heart –
The quick discernment of the soul to see
Another’s inner wish, the hidden part
Of him who, wordless, speaks for sympathy.
I would be kind, but kindness is not all:
In aird places may I find the wells,
The deeps within my neighbor’s soul that call
To me, and lead me where his spirit dwells.
When Jesus lifted Mary Magdalene
And deed was wrought – but more; that there was seen
The bond of holy love for which I ask.
Give me, O God, the understanding heart,
Lit with the quickening flame Thou does impart.

Words are cheap. They fly across the Internet faster than any mail carrier can speed them. Fingers type out a response. We hit “send” … and then it is too late to bring them back. If I had only waited … if I had only taken time to try to understand … if I had only prayed before responding … if I had only asked some questions … if I had only … if I had only … but the words were spoken, typed, written … they are not mine any longer. They cannot be retrieved. If I had only tried to understand where the other person was coming from, what was on their heart, knew something about how they were raised, tried to understand the influences of parental guidance.

Is this your experience too?

And yet, the internet is filled to overflowing with words … words of judgment, words of criticism, words of fault finding, words of excuses, words of anger, words of hate – empty words, false accusing words … yes, words are cheap, but oh, the damage!

If I had only had an understanding heart … if only …

It is surgery for which I pray this day, O Lord, surgery on my heart … surgery to replace my heart with one that will take the time to understand … a heart that is connected to listening ears and a caring spirit. Come perform the surgery and make me better. Amen.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The key role of love and forgiveness after 9/11 - 1 John 4:7 with a story, an observation and a prayer

SCRIPTURE: 1 John 4:7 (The Message)
My beloved friends, let us continue to love each other since love comes from God. Everyone who loves is born of God and experiences a relationship with God.

A STORY: by Marshall F. Mauney
A boy climbed high into a tree and refused to come down. Throughout dinner, which his parents ate with exaggerated relish in the boy’s sight, remarking frequently and fatuously upon the particular delights of the meal, the boy clung stubbornly to his limb, far too high for his father to climb after him. They tried everything, the mother whined frantically to the doctor hours later over the telephone. Everything meant threats, bribery, cajolery, lies, warnings, and screams. “We told him he’d fall and hurt himself. We told him we’d call the fire department, and the firemen would say what a baby he was. We told him he’d catch cold and get sick. We told him there were owls in the tree that would peck his eyes out. We told him he’d get thrashed within an inch of his life if he didn’t come down. We’ve tried everything.” “Did you tell him simply that you wanted him to come down because you loved him and wanted him to be with you?” the doctor asked. “Well, no,” she said. She called back a few minutes later to say that the boy, who had been waiting for five hours to hear just that, had come right down.

It isn’t rocket science … we all need love … we all need to hear that we are loved, needed and wanted. It is basic to the very fiber of our being. It can make the difference between mental and emotional health. And yet, it would seem that we go out of our way to keep from telling those around us – the important people around us – that they we love them and desire to be with them.

While growing up most of our parents spent more time and energy trying to control us instead of loving us … I know that mine did. Now, to be honest, I probably gave them every reason to react that way to my behavior, but in these later years of life the thought has crossed my mind would my behavior been different if they communicated their love for me. The answer is, yes!

Jesus’ teachings on loving our “enemies” – you define “enemies” anyway you wish to define it, but in this context it could mean any person who stands outside of the behavior norm of what you expect or desire. That should include a lot of people. If we followed his directive and loved those who are different, who act differently, who choose to rebel … maybe, just maybe they would act differently.

As much as it pains me to say it (because of strong political differences), but maybe Ron Paul has it correct concerning the Arabs and their attack on the World Trade Centers. It was something that I heard on my very first trip to Israel in 1984 and that being, the United States needs to start treating the Palestinians with the same respect and support that we give to Israel. Also, it would be a wise decision to remove any and all military presence off of Arab land. And the Christian Arab, who was my bus driver, went on to express his fear that something horrible would happen if we didn’t. His words were ringing in my ears on 9/11. His predictions had come true some 17 years later.

Everyone – and I mean everyone – needs to hear that they are loved and needed. Even our enemies!

Gracious God help to love the unlovable. Help me to forgive those who do not seem to want to be forgiven because they don’t think that they have done anything wrong. Help me to reach out and start to bring peace in the world that is at odds with itself. Help me to be your follower. In the name of Jesus who loved those who crucified him. Amen

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The importance of our influence of the children of the world - Matthew 19:13-15 a story, an observation and a prayer

SCRIPTURE: Matthew 19:13-15 (The Message)
One-day children were brought to Jesus in the hope that he would lay hands on them and pray over them. The disciples shooed them off. But Jesus intervened: "Let the children alone, don't prevent them from coming to me. God's kingdom is made up of people like these." After laying hands on them, he left.

A STORY: - source unknown
One of the most charming stories in the life of Jesus is that of our Lord taking a little child into his arms. The apostles had been arguing as to which of them was the greatest. Jesus told them, “If any man wishes to be first, he shall be last of all, and servant of all.” Then he took a little child, and set the child in the midst of them, and taking the child into his arms, he said to them, “Whoever receives one such child for my sake, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.”

Legend has it that this little boy taken up into the arms of Jesus became the great St. Ignatius of Antioch who gave his life for Christ in the year 107 AD. While still a boy, Ignatius often took his companions to the spot where Jesus held him and told his friends, “Look, here is the place the Lord Jesus took me in his arms and embraced me.”

Call this a legend, a medieval fiction, if you will, we do know positively that Jesus did embrace a little child.

I think we all can agree that the world is in a mess and doesn’t seem to be getting any better. But, all around us are God’s affirmations that he believes in our future. All around us are God’s affirmations that there is God given hope. All around us are little persons that look at the world through a set of eyes and all they see is beauty and promise and possibility. God’s affirmations are the children of our world.

Children have to be taught to hate. They have to learn to not trust people that are different. They have to see examples of how to be mean and nasty to other people. They have see anger and hatred modeled before they consistently exemplify those particular behavior traits in themselves.

Each of us is setting an example to a pair of eyes – often eyes that go unrecognized. We can never know when a pair of young person’s eyes is trained in on us. We never know what example we are setting for them. We never know what part of our behavior they will choose to follow. We never know … so why not live a life that we would be proud of to see in someone else?

God make us sensitive to those around us, especially the children. Help us to watch our tongue, our attitude, our action and reaction … helps us live a life that only brings glory to you and builds up young men and women who will be running this world. Lord, we have made a mess of it, but maybe these new signs of hope and promise can turn it around to your glory. In Jesus’ name we ask this. Amen

Monday, September 12, 2011

But what now? - Relfections on 9/11 and who will be first to move us towards peace

But what now?

The nation stopped to remember. Services were held. Candles lit. Flags flew. Flags covered football fields as soldiers, veterans, players and coaches tugged to stretch them out. The national anthem was song. Jet planes flew overhead. Bells rang. Names read. Tears and hugs were shared. Sermons preached. Parades marched along the avenues. Television coverage was given from every angle. Articles were written. The nation stopped to remember.

But what now?

Come Monday morning. When we all return to work. When the candles have burned themselves out. When the soul gets too weak to cry any more. When the school bells ring. When we pick up our lives and march on. When the war on foreign soil continues to kill young men and women. When we still have to go through airport security and get patted down. When we still turn a questioning glance at someone who wears a beard, a headscarf and has an accent. When casual comments are made around the water cooler. When fingers are pointed and heated debates erupt over what we should be doing and why. What do we do now?

Except for the families who lost a loved during the horrific events of September 11, 2001 most of our lives will simply return to “the same old, same old” stuff. Our feelings will not have changed. Our actions, or at least our desire for action, will be the same. Anger will still be right below the surface. We will still what to get the “bad” men and women who did this to us. We will continue to spend trillions of dollars, that we do not have, on a senseless war to accomplish only God knows what.

When will it end? When will the killing stop? When will we try to bring peace on earth? When will it all be over … and we can truly return to living our lives? When will we who claim Christ as our Savior and Lord, the prince of peace, seek to do it his way? When will we discover that we have more in common with our enemies than we have in our differences? When will we all learn to “play nice” and cooperate? Will it be only when the other person changes? Will it be only when “they” lay down their arms? Will it be only when “they” stop trying to destroy us or harm us or hurt us?

Who will be the first to start the journey towards peace? Who will take that first step? Who will be the individual who will stand up and say, enough is enough?

Is it you? Is it me?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

It was a dark and stormy night - Matthew 10:29-30 with a poem and an observation

SCRIPTURE: Matthew 10:29-30 (The Message)
"What's the price of a pet canary? Some loose change, right? And God cares what happens to it even more than you do. He pays even greater attention to you, down to the last detail - even numbering the hairs on your head!

A POEM by St. John of the Cross:
Upon a darkened night
The flame of love was burning in my breast
And by a lantern bright
I fled my house while all in quiet rest

Shrouded by the night
And by the secret stair I quickly fled
The veil concealed my eyes
While all within lay quiet as the dead.

O, night thou was my guide!
O, night more loving than the rising sun!
O, night that joined the Lover to the beloved one!
Transforming each of them into the other.

Upon that misty night
In secrecy beyond such mortal sight
Without a guide or light
Than that which burned as deeply in my heart.

That fire 'twas led me on
And shone more bright than of the midday sun
To where He waited still
It was a place where no one else could come.


Within my pounding heart
Which kept itself entirely for Him
He fell into His sleep
beneath the cedars all my love I gave.

From o'er the fortress walls
The wind would brush His hair against His brow
And with its smoother hand
caressed my every sense it would allow.


I lost my self to Him
And laid my face upon my Lover's breast
And care and grief grew dim
As in the morning's mist became the light.
There they dimmed amongst the lilies fair.

“It was a dark and stormy night” so goes a classic opening line from a novel or if you only read PEANUTS it is Snoopy’s opening line for every book he attempts to write … and it was and is. A feeder band of thunderstorms and rain came rolling into Bradenton this morning around 2:30 AM … but that is not what was keeping me awake.

When I am awake at this hour (1 or 2 AM) it is usually because I drank too much liquid near bedtime or I’m working on a sermon and my mind will not shutdown … or there is a troubling situation within the church that will not allow my soul to find peace. And so the spiritual struggle continues more with the latter than the former.

I am reminded of words spoken by more than one of my district superintendents over the course of my ministry (they must have been reading from the same book): “Martin, you care too much about the church. If you aren’t careful it will end up killing you!”

One of my early mentors in ministry was Dr. Ernie Smith. At the time he was General Secretary for one of the boards of the United Methodist Church. Not only was Dr. Smith a fantastic preacher with tremendous spiritual insight to the condition of the church, but he had the ability to summarize the situation with about 10 words or less and offer a 5 word or less solution. What a fantastic mind! Several books are in my library based on his recommendations – he would read 8 to 10 books at a time.

I had invited Ernie to come and share some special Holy Week services at my Big Pine Key church never dreaming that it was even a possibility considering his heavy travel schedule and demands on his time, but in he flew and the church was profoundly impacted as he shared the spiritual journey from Good Friday evening through Easter morning services.

During our time together I picked his brain concerning some things going on within the church. He started to laugh and then he shared, “Well, when I was just starting out in my first church (Big Pine was my first church) I got really frustrated with my congregation. They loved bickering and complaining more than they loved the Lord. So, one Sunday, after warning my DS what I was about to do, I simply told them the truth about their situation and said, I am going on strike until you decide that you really want to be the church. You will know where to find me because I will just be next door in the parsonage, but as for right now the pulpit is on strike. And I closed my Bible and walked out down the center aisle and went home. It was about 5 or 6 weeks later that they sent a delegation to the parsonage to share that they were ready to be the church. Sometimes you just got to shake them up a bit!”

Through it all though, regardless how deep the problems of life run, one thing stands rock solid … God is in charge and we matter to God. There is nothing that we are facing that he cannot handle … and is handling, even if we don’t yet see his hand working in the hearts and minds of those involved. As the popular adage states: “If God brings you to it he will see you through it.” But this knowledge doesn’t always calm the “dark and stormy nights” does it.

The thunderstorm is raging outside. Wind is blowing. The driving rain is coming down in sheets. The lightening is flashing all around, but I am safe in my house and in the presence of the Almighty God. So off to bed I go at peace with the knowledge that even the hairs on my head are number … I matter to God!

Most gracious and holy God bring peace to my soul and a calming presence to the church. In the name of Jesus. Amen.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

God's Laws - John 1:17 with a humorous look at various laws along with an observation

SCRIPTURE: John 1:17 (The Message)
We got the basics from Moses, and then this exuberant giving and receiving, This endless knowing and understanding - all this came through Jesus, the Messiah.

A STORY of random laws: from an e-mail
Law of Gravity - Any tool, nut, bolt, screw, when dropped, will roll to the least accessible corner.

Law of Mechanical Repair - After your hands become coated with grease, your nose will begin to itch and you'll have to pee.

Law of Probability - The probability of being watched is directly proportional to the stupidity of your act.

Law of Random Numbers - If you dial a wrong number, you never get a busy signal and someone always answers.

Variation Law - If you change lines (or traffic lanes), the one you were in will always move faster than the one you are in now (works every time).

Law of the Bath - When the body is fully immersed in water, the telephone rings.

Law of Close Encounters - The probability of meeting someone you know increases dramatically when you are with someone you don't want to be seen with.

Law of the Result - When you try to prove to someone that a machine won't work, it will.

Law of Biomechanics - The severity of the itch is inversely proportional to the reach.

Law of the Theater & Hockey Arena - At any event, the people whose seats are furthest from the aisle, always arrive last They are the ones who will leave their seats several times to go for food, beer, or the toilet and who leave early before the end of the performance or the game is over. The folks in the aisle seats come early, never move once, have long gangly legs or big bellies and stay to the bitter end of the performance. The aisle people also are very surly folk.

The Coffee Law - As soon as you sit down to a cup of hot coffee, your boss will ask you to do something which will last until the coffee is cold.

Murphy's Law of Lockers - If there are only 2 people in a locker room, they will have adjacent lockers.

Law of Physical Surfaces - The chances of an open-faced jelly sandwich landing face down on a floor are directly correlated to the newness and cost of the carpet or rug.

Law of Logical Argument - Anything is possible if you don't know what you are talking about.

Brown's Law of Physical Appearance - If the clothes fit, they're ugly.

Oliver's Law of Public Speaking - A closed mouth gathers no feet.

Wilson's Law of Commercial Marketing Strategy - As soon as you find a product that you really like, they will stop making it.

Doctors' Law - If you don't feel well, make an appointment to go to the doctor, by the time you get there you'll feel better. But don't make an appointment, and you'll stay sick.

Our lives are governed by laws – some good, some just okay and some just outright stupid, but there they are still on the books long after they have stopped having any real purpose. In Miami there was a law, probably still on the books, that a person could not ride a horse down Flagler street (the main street in downtown Miami). Go figure!

There are certain laws on which we “fudge” just a little – myself included – like the speed limit on the highways when we “bounce” our speed up just 5 mph over the posted limit. After all, it doesn’t apply to us … right? At least that is how others riding in my vehicle are interpreting my “bounce”.

Laws are funny things, especially God’s law. We apply certain ones to our lives while ignoring others. The “thou shalt nots” of the 10 commandments are well known and universally followed by most of us … except maybe the one on coveting. Also, as a general rule the “average” Christian doesn’t think the biblical instruction on tithing applies to them and their resources. After all, there is a mortgage to pay (some have two mortgages now because of the housing bust) and then there is retirement to plan for and/or college tuition for the children or grandchildren … and is that based on “before taxes or after taxes” money.

Or how about Jesus’ instructions to love our enemies and those who seek to do all sorts of evil against us. Well, yes that is extremely hard and downright challenging. It can be creatively interpreted as well like the senior citizen in one of my churches who shared … with a straight face … “Oh, preacher, I don’t hated anybody, I just have a listed of people I will not speak to nor about.” If I thought on that one for a while I probably could come up with a “Murphy Law” to add to the list above.

While God’s laws were created for us and not us for them – to give us guidance through this life and how we are to relate to each other – nevertheless, they shouldn’t be ignored nor “bounced around” as some kind of celestial volleyball.

I don’t know about you, but the challenge ever before me is the “love” laws of the scriptural teachings.

Dear Lord, do not allow me to rest or become comfortable with my relationship with you as long as there is one negative feelings about others housed within my heart. Give me restless nights and troubled thoughts until I am at peace with everyone. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen

Monday, September 5, 2011

Labor Day - 1 Corinthians 3:8 with a story, an observation and a prayer

SCRIPTURE: 1 Corinthians 3:8 (RSV)
The one who plants and the one who waters have a common purpose, and each will receive wages according to the labor of each.

A STORY from Our Daily Bread:
If you're into bumper-sticker philosophy, you've probably seen the axiom, "I owe, I owe, so off to work I go." For a vast portion of the workforce, that's the best reason they can muster for going to the job each day. According to one poll, only 43 percent of American office workers are satisfied with their jobs. In Japan, the figure dips to 17 percent. In the first century, Christian slaves had even less reason to be enthusiastic about their work. But Paul gave them a way to grasp a glimpse of glory amid the grind. He wanted them to "adorn the doctrine of God," that is, to show the beauty of their faith in Christ by how they work (Timothy 2:10).

A significant and often overlooked way that we serve God is in our everyday tasks. Martin Luther understood this when he wrote, "The maid who sweeps her kitchen is doing the will of God just as much as the monk who prays -- not because she may sing a Christian hymn as she sweeps but because God loves clean floors. The Christian shoemaker does his Christian duty not by putting little crosses on the shoes, but by making good shoes, because God is interested in good craftsmanship."

This Labor Day many will find it hard to celebrate because they are out of work. There is nothing to be thankful for. Some have been out of work for a long, long period of time ... several for 3 years or longer. That is a sad thing to realize in this day and time. And, yet we pause to recognize the labor force of our nation and be thankful.

I was raised in a blue-collar home. Dad labored hard all of his life. From the hot furnaces of a steel treating plant in Ohio, to grinding terrazzo in some of the big hotels along Miami Beach coastline, to delivering milk to grocery stores for Home Milk (remember that brand in Miami?) … lifting those old wooden crates three or four at a time while still filled with nine half-gallons, plus the wood was very wet. It was all backbreaking work. Dirty, sweaty, and hard … very hard. And yet it was work.

Us boys would talk about our work – we were a lawyer, an architect, an accountant and a preacher – and dad would laugh. “You all don’t know what work is. Let’s compare hands” and he would open up his calloused hands, comparing them to our soft calloused free hands. “When you have hard calluses on those hands of yours then we can talk about work.” End of discussion.

Well, there is work and then there is work. Some are thankful this Labor Day that they just have a job. Some are thankful that their working days are over as they enjoy their retirement. Some are praying hard for a job … any job … any place. Some carry the heavy burden of a job that pays them less than what they deserve or worth. Some are hard of heart as they bank excessive amounts of financial reward for work hardly done.

All of us can be thankful – thankful for those who labored to make a living for us as we grew up; thankful for those jobs we did have and hopeful for the jobs that will soon be coming our way. This is Labor Day so let us be thankful that we even have the ability to look for work with the hope that a day will come again when a job will be offered.

Just remember that where we might find ourselves this Labor Day, God has us on an assignment. There is something to share, something to learn, an opportunity to grow, a chance to learn … always getting us ready for the next phase of our life.

Help us gracious God, to be thankful for the work we do have. Make us sensitive to those around us who are looking for work … and guides us so that we are grateful for our ability to work when the day arrives for us to go to work. In Jesus name, Amen.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

The importance of children in the Kingdom of God - Matthew 19:14 with a story, an observation and a prayer

SCRIPTURE: Matthew 19:14 (The Message)
But Jesus intervened: "Let the children alone, don't prevent them from coming to me. God's kingdom is made up of people like these."

A STORY from Sunshine Magazine:
A young mother finally got her three children to bed one night and wearily came down into the den when an awful sight met her eyes. An encyclopedia lay open o the floor. A page had been ripped out and torn into little pieces. As she gathered up the mess and reached for the scotch tape, this experience seemed to symbolize the hectic futility of her life. She heaved a sigh. As she repaired the torn page she realized it was the face of a child, and when she turned it over she found on the back a map of the world. And it suddenly struck her that her vocation was not useless. For as she patiently gave herself to putting together the life of a child, she was really giving shape to both the world of tomorrow and reality itself.

We spend a lot of time with our grandchildren. Our decision to move to Bradenton was based on the pending birth of our first grandchild. They are important to us. I have difficulty understanding how grandparents can move away from their grandchildren simply to live in a warmer climate. Yesterday afternoon I babysat our grandson while his sister and our daughters were off getting pre-marriage photos taken. Eli and I just sat in the rocker as I read to him, sang some songs and spoke the names of everyone in the family over-and-over-and-over again …he just turned 1 and is trying to understand language.

I am presently serving as part-time pastor to a church that doesn’t have any children. It is kind of sad. There just seems like a certain “spark” of vitality is missing. There is nothing that can replace the joy and energy of having children around. Actually, it is one of the reasons we moved into our community … because it wasn’t a 55-plus community.

So, the next time you are at a restaurant or at a shopping mall or just walking in the park take the time to notice the children around you. Wave to them. Let them know you acknowledge their existence. And pay attention, you just might be blessed with a smile and wave back.

Gracious Lord, you have populated our world and our lives with children, help us take notice of their presence and help us recognize their importance. In the name of him who loved children and gave them a place of priority in his kingdom, Jesus Christ himself. Amen.

Friday, September 2, 2011

when a word of encouragement is needed - 1 Corinthians 16:13 with a story an observation and a prayer

SCRIPTURE: 1 Corinthians 16:13 (The Message)
Keep your eyes open, hold tight to your convictions, give it all you've got, be resolute, 14 and love without stopping.

A STORY by Dean Merrill, Another Chance
One man who was ousted from his profession for an indiscretion took work as a hod carrier simply to put bread on the table. He was suddenly plunged into a drastically different world; instead of going to an office each day, he was hauling loads of concrete block up to the fifth level of a construction site. Gone was the piped-in music in the corridors; now he had to endure blaring transistors. Any girl who walked by was subject to rude remarks and whistles. Profanity shot through the air, especially from the foreman, whose primary tactics were whining and intimidation; "For---sake, you---, can't you do anything right? I never worked with such a bunch of --- in all my life..."

Near the end of the third week, the new employee felt he could take no more. "I'll work till break time this morning," he told himself, "and then that's it. I'm going home." He'd already been the butt of more than one joke when his lack of experience caused him to do something foolish. The stories were retold constantly thereafter. "I just can't handle any more of this." A while later, he decided to finish out the morning and then leave at lunchtime.

Shortly before noon, the foreman came around with paychecks. As he handed the man his envelope, he made his first civil comment to him in three weeks. "Hey, there's a woman working in the front office who knows you. Says she takes care of your kids sometimes." "Who?" He named the woman, who sometimes helped in the nursery of the church where the man and his family worshiped. The foreman then went on with his rounds. When the hod carrier opened his envelope, he found, along with his check, a handwritten note from the payroll clerk: "When one part of the body of Christ suffers, we all suffer with it. Just wanted you to know that I'm praying for you these days." He stared at the note, astonished at God's timing. He hadn't even known the woman worked for this company. Here at his lowest hour, she had given him the courage to go on, to push another wheelbarrow of mortar up that ramp.

Normally it doesn’t take much to become discouraged. A word here, an act there, a thoughtless comment, a tacky brush-off, some misplaced gossip, an accusation, and/or a boldface lie or even a direct verbal attack … it doesn’t take much. And so it has been for the journey this week. Satan has been on the attack. The spirit was drained. The weight of the world seemed to weigh heavy on the shoulders.

Such is life for even the best of us.

Some of my most admired mentors in the ministry – men and women who, at least on the outward appearances, seemed to have their act together, would admit to deep, dark valleys that they have had to walk. One shared, just as he was about to step into my pulpit to preach, that more than once he was ready to walk away and give up, but something kept gnawing at his spirit and he pushed on. I was in shock … here was one of the conference's great preachers … here was one who had a long and distinguished career before retiring … here was a pastor’s pastor … here was a sought after speaker and Bible teacher … AND HE GOT DISCOURAGED! Wow!

“What caused you to push on, George?” I asked. “Words of encouragement,” was his response. “And the knowledge that God would be faithful and see me through what I was facing.”

As we look around our world there are people who need just a kind word … a word of encouragement … and just maybe God placed you in their path to offer such a word.

If you are the individual who is ready to give up, throw in the towel, walk away … pay attention because God is sending you a word of encouragement today!

When I opened my “homepage” this morning there was a video posting of a little girl singing a simple made-up song with the repeated words: “Never give up”. She was my God-sent word of encouragement! Thank you little girl … thank you God!

God, when we are down, you lift us up. Thank you for being there for us when we needed you most. Amen

Thursday, September 1, 2011

About sowing seeds of discontent - Proverbs 6:16-19 with a story, an observation and a prayer

SCRIPTURE: Proverbs 6:16-19 (NIV) There are six things the LORD hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.

A STORY: A man once took his little granddaughter with him on a New York visit. They rode the ferry out to see the Statue of Liberty. The child was awed by the sight of the great arm holding up the huge torch. On the return boat to Manhattan she kept looking back at the statue. That night when she could not sleep, her grandfather asked if something was troubling her. “I keep thinking of the lady with the lamp,” she said. “Don’t you think somebody ought to help her hold it up?”

AN OBSERVATION: This week I was falsely accused of being a part of the apostasy of Chrislam simply because I expressed my feelings that we should seek opportunities of cooperation with members of the Muslim religion instead of hating them or seeking their destruction. First of all I had to go searching the internet simply to find out what Chrislam was all about. I had never heard of it until yesterday. Boy, have I been out of the loop for too long … but it did get me thinking.

Liberty is a precious gift. We are either all free or none of us are free. As Christians, followers of Christ, believers in his Messiahship, the full breath of his death and resurrection, our freedom comes with responsibility – the responsibility to seek the best for all people; the responsibility to defend the rights and liberty of all people; the responsibility to witness to our relationship with Christ and to take hold of those moments that come to us everyday to witness to our Savior’s love for people of all ages, races and nationality; the responsibility to praise other people instead of spreading seeds of discontent.

Liberty is a heavy burden … and yes, the lady needs all the help that she can get holding up the torch of freedom.

I’m sick and tired of all the hate that has spread across our land. The events of 9/11 were horrible, but the anger and hatred that continues to be spread because of what those terrorists did that eventful day just continues to spread the destruction. When will it stop? Where does it stop? How does it stop? Maybe it can stop with each of us as we hold up the torch of liberty and become the sons and daughters of the King of kings.

Maybe it can stop as we start taking the stand for what is right and moral and just-filled. Maybe it can stop as we start to embrace those that are different than we, believe different than we, work together with those that are different than we.

Let’s stop sowing seeds of discontent and start sowing seeds of love! After all, look what Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. did through non-violence. Their cause was just and their reaction of love and acceptance won the day!

PRAYER: Forgive us, gracious Father, for our hidden prejudices. Help us to seek out those kernels of mistrust and hatred. Lead us in the paths of righteousness and faithfulness so that we can continue to be faithful witnesses to your love and forgiveness. In the name of Jesus the Messiah, who died to make it happen. Amen.