Tuesday, January 31, 2012

An e-mail story: The song that silenced the cappuccino machine

I had something else planned for my blog today when God placed in my lap this beautiful
story that I felt I needed to share. It is not my story and there was not indication concerning the author of the story. Thanks for taking the time to visit my blog.

The song that silenced the cappuccino machine

It was chilly in Manhattan but warm inside the Starbucks shop on 51st Street and Broadway,
just a skip up from Times Square . Early November weather in New York City holds only the
slightest hint of the bitter chill of late December and January, but it's enough to send the masses crowding indoors to vie for available space and warmth.

For a musician, it's the most lucrative Starbucks location in the world, I'm told, and consequently, the tips can be substantial if you play your tunes right. Apparently, we were striking all the right chords that night, because our basket was almost overflowing. It was a fun, low-pressure gig - I was playing keyboard and singing backup for my friend who also added rhythm with an arsenal of percussion instruments. We mostly did pop songs from the '40s to the '90s with a few original tunes thrown in.. During our emotional rendition of the classic, "If You Don't Know Me by Now," I noticed a lady sitting in one of the lounge chairs across from me. She was swaying to the beat and singing along.

After the tune was over, she approached me. "I apologize for singing along on that song.
Did it bother you?" she asked. "No," I replied. "We love it when the audience joins in. Would
you like to sing up front on the next selection?"

To my delight, she accepted my invitation. "You choose," I said. "What are you in the mood to sing?"

"Well. ... do you know any hymns?"

Hymns? This woman didn't know whom she was dealing with. I cut my teeth on hymns. Before I
was even born, I was going to church. I gave our guest singer a knowing look. "Name one."

"Oh, I don't know. There are so many good ones. You pick one."

"Okay," I replied. "How about 'His Eye is on the Sparrow'?"

My new friend was silent, her eyes averted. Then she fixed her eyes on mine again and said,
"Yeah. Let's do that one." She slowly nodded her head, put down her purse, straightened her
jacket and faced the center of the shop. With my two-bar setup, she began to sing.

Why should I be discouraged? Why should the shadows come?

The audience of coffee drinkers was transfixed. Even the gurgling noises of the cappuccino
machine ceased as the employees stopped what they were doing to listen. The song rose to its

“I sing because I'm happy; I sing because I'm free. For His eye is on the sparrow And I know
He watches me.”

When the last note was sung, the applause crescendoed to a deafening roar that would have
rivaled a sold-out crowd at Carnegie Hall. Embarrassed, the woman tried to shout over the din,
"Oh, y'all go back to your coffee! I didn't come in here to do a concert! I just came in here to
get somethin' to drink, just like you!" But the ovation continued.

I embraced my new friend. "You, my dear, have made my whole year! That was beautiful!"

"Well, it's funny that you picked that particular hymn," she said.

"Why is that?"

"Well ..." she hesitated again, "that was my daughter's favorite song."

"Really!" I exclaimed.

"Yes," she said, and then grabbed my hands. By this time, the applause had subsided and it was
business as usual.. "She was 16. She died of a brain tumor last week."

I said the first thing that found its way through my stunned silence. "Are you going to be okay?"

She smiled through tear-filled eyes and squeezed my hands. "I'm gonna be okay. I've just got to
keep trusting the Lord and singing his songs, and everything's gonna be just fine." She picked up
her bag, gave me her card, and then she was gone.

Was it just a coincidence that we happened to be singing in that particular coffee shop on that
particular November night? Coincidence that this wonderful lady just happened to walk into that
particular shop? Coincidence that of all the hymns to choose from, I just happened to pick the very hymn that was the favorite of her daughter, who had died just the week before? I refuse to believe it.

God has been arranging encounters in human history since the beginning of time, and it's no stretch or me to imagine that God could reach into a coffee shop in midtown Manhattan and turn an ordinary gig into a revival. It was a great reminder that if we keep trusting God and singing the songs, everything's gonna be okay.

Monday, January 30, 2012

On the Super Bowl and setting priorities with an observation on Greg Schiano and a story from the life of Tom Landry

SCRIPTURE 2 Corinthians 12:9 (TM):
My grace is enough; it's all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness. Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ's strength moving in on my weakness.

STORY from an unknown source:
In recent years a head coach divorced his wife of 26 years when he left coaching a college team to become head coach in the National Football League. He said he needed a wife while coaching on the college level for social functions and to show families that he would be looking out for their sons. In pro football, however, she was an unnecessary accouterment and a distraction to winning. He said winning football was his number one priority and his two sons second. How tragic!

In contrast to this, Tom Landry, former coach of the Dallas cowboys said, "The thrill of knowing Jesus is the greatest thing that ever happened to me ... I think God has put me in a very special place, and He expects me to use it to His glory in everything I do ... whether coaching football or talking to the press, I'm always a Christian ... Christ is first, family second and football third."

The world, or at least most of it, will be captured this week about the Super Bowl to be played on Sunday. The pre-pre-pre-pre-pre-pre-pre, etc. game shows have already started. Much like the never ending political ads, these “pre-game shows” will go on forever to the point that many of us will be kind of tired of the game long before it is ever played while others will record them on their DVD so they can watch them again and again.

I will admit that I will watch a number of them – not all of them by a long shot – and I will be duly planted before my TV to watch the “BIG” game. Just hope that it is worth watching. Too many times the hype doesn’t match the reality of the actual matchup. But, nevertheless, there I’ll be like most of the rest of the world.

Tom Landry kept things in proper perspective as does Tim Tebow, Tony Dungy and now, thanks to a Tampa Bay Times article on the new Bucs coach Greg Schiano, “All In His Family,” I have a deeper appreciation for Coach Schiano who places his family and his players and God at the top of his priority list. I’ve witnessed him giving God the glory after a win, but didn’t give it much thought since a number of sports figures point towards heaven at various times during a game, but here is someone, like Tim Tebow, Tom Landry and Tony Dungy, who actually lives it out on a daily basis. I would encourage everyone to read the article. It is good to know that in Coach Schiano we have someone who really cares deeply about his players and his family and his faith.

I cheer for the Bucs (as well as the Dolphins – after all I did grow up in Miami), but the cheers this next season will be a little sweeter now that I am getting to know the new coach better. Thanks Tampa Bay Times for shedding some light on him and an insight into his inner being.

Help us, Gracious Lord, to keep our priorities start and our lives even straighter as we go about our jobs today and the rest of this week. Amen.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Finding a time to rest, Exodus 20:10 with a story about sharpening the ax

SCRIPTURE: Exodus 20:10 (TM)
“… the seventh day is a Sabbath to God, your God. Don't do any work …”

STORY as told by K. Hughes:
Some years ago a young man approached the foreman of a logging crew and asked for a job. "That depends," replied the foreman. "Let's see you fell this tree." The young man stepped forward and skillfully felled a great tree. Impressed, the foreman exclaimed, "Start Monday!" Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday rolled by, and Thursday afternoon the foreman approached the young man and said, "You can pick up your paycheck on the way out today."

Startled, he replied, "I thought you paid on Friday."

"Normally we do," answered the foreman, "but we're letting you go today because you've fallen behind. Our daily felling charts show that you've dropped from first place on Monday to last on Wednesday."

"But I'm a hard worker," the young man objected. "I arrive first, leave last, and even have worked through my coffee breaks!"

The foreman, sensing the boy's integrity, thought for a minute and then asked, "Have you been sharpening your ax?" The young man replied, "I've been working too hard to take the time."

Times have changed since our parent’s day. There was a time when the world seemed to stop on Sunday and in some parts of the Deep South in also included Wednesday afternoon. Sunday was a day for church and socializing with your family, friends and neighbors. It was a time of connecting and building community. Wednesday afternoon was a time to go fishin’.

All of that has been lost on modern society. We have become a 24/7 world. News comes in a constant stream of information. Computers and cell phones allows us to carry our work with us. A time of connecting and building community has been high jacked by Youtube and Facebook and Texting. Something has gotten lost in the process.

It is the time to sharpen our ax. And we wonder what is wrong with society. Maybe it is time to put all of that “stuff” down, to turn it off, and get unplugged.

After I retired I went to work for a direct mail firm. The first thing they taught me, as I visited several clients, was that the cell phone stays in the car. Don’t put it on vibrate, don’t wear on your belt. Turn it off and leave it in the car. The client you are visiting has got to feel that they are the most important person on your agenda.

I get a little upset when having lunch with fellow clergy whose cell phones go off or they are sitting there texting while we are having a conversation. We are a turned on-plugged in-constant connected society … and all the while our ax is becoming dull.

I cannot define someelses “ax” for them. Each of us has our own image of what it is for us. Taking a Sabbath rest has become a foreign idea of us. Community building is something that others do. We are connected, but are we really?

Having said all that I am informing my readers that this will be the last blog for two weeks. Margaret and I are taking a Sabbath rest by going on an 11-day cruise. We look forward to being with several friends and continuing our community building as we deepen the connection we have with each other and with our friends.

God help us to follow your directive and your example by finding time in our 24/7 world for our Sabbath rest be it on Sunday or Monday or Friday. And while we are resting help us to reconnect with each other. Amen.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Making choices, Deuteronomy 30:19 with a story about Luciano Pavarotti, an Eleanor Roosevelt quote and an observation

SCRIPTURE: Deuteronomy 30:19 (NIV)
This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live

STORY from Guidepost:
"When I was a boy, my father, a baker, introduced me to the wonders of song," tenor Luciano Pavarotti relates. "He urged me to work very hard to develop my voice. Arrigo Pola, a professional tenor in my hometown of Modena, Italy, took me as a pupil. I also enrolled in a teachers college. On graduating, I asked my father, 'Shall I be a teacher or a singer?'

"'Luciano,' my father replied, 'if you try to sit on two chairs, you will fall between them. For life, you must choose one chair.'

"I chose one. It took seven years of study and frustration before I made my first professional appearance. It took another seven to reach the Metropolitan Opera. And now I think whether it's laying bricks, writing a book--whatever we choose--we should give ourselves to it. Commitment, that's the key. Choose one chair."

QUOTE made by Tim Kimmel:
The words of Eleanor Roosevelt ring true: One's philosophy is not best expressed in words. It is expressed in the choices one makes. In the long run, we shape our lives and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our responsibility.

Eeney Meeney Miney Moe
Drawing straws
Flip a coin
Closing your eyes and pointing

No matter the method used, we each make choices everyday of our life. Some of the choices are earth shaking and life changing like picking a spouse, having children, getting an education, etc. While others are just the stuff of every day existence … in the long run they mean very little.

We are constantly making choices. And so it is with our faith. We chose each day who and what we are going to serve. This is moving the choice from the head to the heart. Only when our choice takes root in our heart that our life begins to change and positively or negatively effect those around us.

Many years ago, like back in the early 1970s, the philosophy of choice was making it through the halls of the church called Situational Ethics. Basically it said, the choice we make depends on the circumstances confronting us. The result was that individuals got confused because the foundation on which they were building their life on was fluid and always shifting. Situational Ethics was tried and found to fail, especially at the very fundamental issues of life.

The flip side to Situational Ethics is a rigidity that turns people off. This “my-way-or-the-highway” approach places the head above the heart and “thinking” ahead of people. The challenge for us all is to know what we believe, live out our life with conviction based on that belief and turn outward to others in love, mercy and a whole lot of grace. And in so doing, we ultimate shape ourselves and shape those who we meet along this journey.

We choose you this day, O Lord, help us to completely and totally commit ourselves to you and the cause of the Kingdom and in so doing, help us to love those around us who might be making different choices for their life. Amen

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

About winning and losing - 1 Corinthians 9:24 with a reflection on the BCS National Championship game and a story from the life of Jim Valvano

SCRIPTURE: 1 Corinthians 9:24 (TM)
You've all been to the stadium and seen the athletes race. Everyone runs; one wins. Run to win.

STORY as told by Gary Smith in Sports Illustrated, quoted in Reader's Digest:

Suffering from terminal spinal cancer at the age or 47, former North Carolina State basketball coach Jim Valvano spoke with a reporter earlier this year. He looked back on his life and told a story about himself as a 23-year-old coach of a small college team. "Why is winning so important to you?" the players asked Valvano.

"Because the final score defines you," he said, "You lose, ergo, you're a loser. You win, ergo, you're a winner."

"No," the players insisted. "Participation is what matters. Trying your best, regardless of whether you win or lose -- that's what defines you."

It took 24 more years of living. It took the coach bolting up from the mattress three or four times a night with his T-shirt soaked with sweat and his teeth rattling from the fever chill of chemotherapy and the terror of seeing himself die repeatedly in his dreams. It took all that for him to say it: "Those kids were right. It's effort, not result. It's trying. God, what a great human being I could have been if I'd had this awareness back then."

Last nights BCS football game between Alabama and LSU declared the National Champions. For the winning team, Alabama, there was a lot of celebration and joy, for the losing team, LSU, not so much. I congratulate the winners and feel for the losers, even though I had predicted that Alabama would win earlier in the day.

In one aspect it was a boring game because I do not get any joy out of watching a field goal driven game, but it was saved at the end with the one touchdown. In another aspect it was a great game in that we were witnessing a tremendous defensive effort from the Alabama squad.

Winning or losing they all tried. And has Jimmy V discovered in the story above it is participating that really counts matters and giving it your best. As Paul shares in 1 Corinthians it is not winning or losing, but running to win, i.e. giving it your best effort. As long as we are doing our best, putting forth our best effort then we are fulfilling our calling from God.

Actually, I congratulate both teams for reaching that level of recognition and accomplishment … Just wait until next year – Go Gators!

Lord, help each of us to give it our best in anything and everything that we attempt in this life. Amen

Monday, January 9, 2012

The legend of the swan and crane along with an observation about Tim Tebow's victory in the playoffs

SCRIPTURE: Luke 12:18 (RSV)
And he said, 'I will do this: I will pull down my barns, and build larger ones; and there I will store all my grain and my goods.

There is an old legend of a swan and a crane. A beautiful swan alighted by the banks of the water in which a crane was wading about seeking snails. For a few moments the crane viewed the swan in stupid wonder and then inquired:

"Where do you come from?" 
"I come from heaven!" replied the swan.
"And where is heaven?" asked the crane.

"Heaven!" said the swan, "Heaven! have you never heard of heaven?" And the beautiful bird went on to describe the grandeur of the Eternal City. She told of streets of gold, and the gates and walls made of precious stones; of the river of life, pure as crystal, upon whose banks is the tree whose leaves shall be for the healing of the nations. In eloquent terms the swan sought to describe the hosts who live in the other world, but without arousing the slightest interest on the part of the crane. Finally the crane asked: "Are there any snails there?" "Snails!" repeated the swan; "no! Of course there are not." "Then," said the crane, as it continued its search along the slimy banks of the pool, "you can have your heaven. I want snails!"

Building bigger barns, hording more of the worldly goods, enjoying the pleasures that world has to offer … these are a few of our favorite things. They have a tangible value to our life or at least, they seem to add some value to our existence … and therein lays the problem.

When the “stuff” of life takes hold of our heart that which has lasting value is pushed to the sidelines. Winning is great and Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos experienced a tremendous victory yesterday in the Wild Card Playoffs. Mr. Tebow is driven to win. He puts his entire heart and mind to the task. He celebrates each victory like it is the best that has ever happened and yesterday, I was cheering with him during the entire journey. It might have something with being a Florida Gator. But when all is said and done, Tim knows and affirms that the only thing that really matters is his relationship with Jesus Christ. He would be most ready to give up all the winning and honors if it meant that he would sacrifice that special relationship. That relationship is the most important thing in his life, as it should be.

We can settle for the “snails” of life and forego heavens riches. We often do that by misplacing that which has value in our life. The swan knew it, Tim Tebow knows it, but do we know it?

Help to prioritize those things that we value in life and place our relationship with God above all “things” that the world has to offer. Amen.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

A story from the life of Jonathan Goforth - "The smile is all I needed"

A story from Sunday’s sermon, “Waiting for Something Special to Happen.”

The great Canadian missionary to China, Jonathan Goforth loved to tell the following story – a story that I have borrowed from other preachers …

Jonathan’s father put him in charge of one of the family farms at the age of 15. He drew special attention to one very large field, which had become choked with weeds. His father told Jonathan "Get that field clear and ready for planting. At harvest time, I’ll return and inspect it."

Jonathan put a lot of time in ploughing and reploughing, sunning the deadly roots and ploughing again until the whole field was ready for seeding.

He then went and procured the best seed for sowing.

When all was finished, Jonathan invited his father over to inspect the field. When his father arrived, Jonathan led him to a high spot from which the whole field of beautiful waving corn could be seen. Jonathan didn’t say a word – he only waited for the coveted " Well Done".

His father stood for several minutes silently examining the field for any sign of weeds, but there were none. Turning to his son, he smiled.

"That smile was all the reward I wanted" Goforth used to say, "I knew my father was pleased. So it will be if we are faithful to the trust our heavenly father gives us."

Friday, January 6, 2012

The Feast of the Epiphany, the visit of the Magi, and the birthday of Joan of Arc - a story, an observation and a prayer

SCRIPTURE: Matthew 2:1 (NIV)
[The Visit of the Magi] After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem

STORY as told by Keith Warner:
Besides freeing us from fear and guilt, Jesus came to help us see. He wasn’t talking about physical blindness, but rather, spiritual blindness.

We can’t see because we are trapped by habits, addictions and illusions of happiness. Therefore we are trapped, oppressed by our own choices and situations. Some of us are in denial. Others of us are reinforced through the enabling of other people. Consequently, we are not free.

One night a tiger trainer was performing at a circus. He went into the cage with the tigers and a huge hush came over the crowd as the doors were locked behind him. Skillfully, the trainer put the tigers though their routine, entertaining the crowd. But, suddenly there was a “pop” and the all the lights went out under the big top.

The trainer was locked inside the cage with the tigers in complete darkness. They could see him with their night vision, but he could not see them. All he had was a chair and a whip for protection. Finally the lights came back on and the trainer finished his performance.
Later in a TV interview, the trainer admitted how scared he was. Then he realized that the tigers did not know that he could not see them. “I just cracked my whip and talked to them,” he said, “until the lights came on.”

Today the Christian church celebrates the Feast of the Epiphany when the Magi came to the house and fell at the feet of the boy Jesus to worship him as well as Christ’s baptism. Did they stake their reputation on making this journey? Did it take certain amount of brevity to venture forth on this long multi-year journey to arrive in the Holy Land at the house in which Mary, Joseph and the boy child were living? And, does the Christian church truly affirm, in our celebration of this day, that the Christ child truly came to help us see differently? To believe differently? To live differently?

I find interesting that those in France also celebrate the birth of Joan of Arc on this day. Her birthday is actually an unknown. Even Joan herself didn’t know the actual day since the people of that era didn’t celebrate birthdays stating at her Trial of Condemnation on January 1431, “As far as I know, (I am) about 19 years old.” And so her birthday is a thing of legend. But, what is remarkable about Joan of Arc “was her faith, her unswerving dedication to her cause and, above all, her astounding bravery.” (Nancy Goldstone)

Here are two examples – the Magi and Joan of Arc – for us in the 21st Century ... two examples of remarkable courage against unbelievable odds to seek out the Messiah and to serve His cause … in the facing of possible death and disgrace. We would do will to follow their example and we will when we realize that with the coming of Jesus the lights have come on in the world.

Gracious Lord, there are examples all around of us of individual no different than us who have and are laying their life on the line for the sake of the King and His Kingdom. Give us the courage to follow their example and live a life worthy of the Gospel! Amen

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Being called to change ... no excuses ... Matthew 3:2 with a story and an observation

SCRIPTURE: Matthew 3:2 (TM)
His message was simple and austere, like his desert surroundings: "Change your life. God's kingdom is here."

STORY as told by Clark Cothern Tecumseh:

The U.S. standard railroad gauge (distance between rails) is four feet, eight-and-one-half inches.

Why such an odd number? Because that's the way they built them in England, and American railroads were built by British expatriates.

Why did the English adopt that particular gauge? Because the people who built the pre-railroad tramways used that gauge.

They in turn were locked into that gauge because the people who built tramways used the same standards and tools they had used for building wagons, which were set on a gauge of four feet, eight-and-one-half inches.

"Why were wagons built to that scale? Because with any other size, the wheels did not match the old wheel ruts on the roads.

"So who built these old rutted roads?

"The first long-distance highways in Europe were built by Imperial Rome for the benefit of their legions. The roads have been in use ever since. The ruts were first made by Roman war chariots. Four feet, eight-and-one-half inches was the width a chariot needed to be to accommodate the rear ends of two war horses."

Maybe "that's the way it's always been" isn't the great excuse some people believe it to be.

It has been quoted a million times or more that the seven last words of the church are: “We have never done it that way.” But would be the seven last words of an individual? Could it be, “That’s the way I’ve always done it.”

Facing the prospects of the New Year carries a great deal of hope and promise provided that each of us is open to change. Changing the way we think, act and feel. If we, as well as the church, do not change we just might find ourselves in old “ruts” that were established by the influence of others in our lives, “ruts” that make little sense in this day.

We make our excuses and live our lives, but God is in the change business. It is tough. Easy to say we want to change, but when change begins to take place we get upset, especially if it directly affects us. This is especially true in the church. Which is particular sad when those in the church are being called by God to be change agents within the world.

Bring about change, O God, and may it start with me! Amen

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Being the Good Samaritan without the recognition or praise - it is a struggle

SCRIPTURE: Luke 10:33 (NIV) (full story – Luke 10:30-35)
But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him.

Jean Frederick Oberlin, a minister in 18th century Germany, was traveling by foot in winter when he was caught in a severe snowstorm. He soon lost his way in the blowing snow and feared he would freeze to death. In despair he sat down, not knowing which way to turn. Just then, a man came along in a wagon and rescued Oberlin. He took him to the next village and made sure he would be cared for. As the man prepared to journey on, Oberlin said, "Tell me your name so that I may at least have you in grateful remembrance before God." The man, who by now had recognized Oberlin, replied, "You are a minister. Please tell me the name of the Good Samaritan." Oberlin said, "I cannot do that, for it is not given in the Scriptures." His benefactor responded, "Until you can tell me his name, please permit me to withhold mine."

Do we expect recognition for what we do? It is good to get the pats on the back, to be thanked for the efforts we put forth, to receive the “way to go”, and as I have reminded often, “a little praise helps grease the machinery.” So I’m always a little conflicted when it comes to the need that individuals have, myself included, to receive praise for what we do when at the very least it is our duty as servants of Christ.

Herein lies my struggle. Do we do what we do for the praise and recognition or because it is what God calls us to fulfill through Christ?

As the bumper sticker stated a few years back, “Practice random acts of kindness.” And so, as the story above reminds us, we are to be the Samaritan to someone today … do the unexpected, going where no one else will go, saying what no else will say, and doing what no one else will do.

Guide us oh great Jehovah into paths of righteousness so that we might truly be your servants as we serve those around us, especially those in need. Amen.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Holy Boldness and a Fearless confidence - Acts 4:31 with a story, an observation and a prayer

SCRIPTURE: Acts 4:31 (TM)
While they were praying, the place where they were meeting trembled and shook. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak God's Word with fearless confidence.

STORY as told by M. Cocoris:
Hugh Lattimer once preached before King Henry VIII. Henry was greatly displeased by the boldness in the sermon and ordered Lattimer to preach again on the following Sunday and apologize for the offence he had given. The next Sunday, after reading his text, he thus began his sermon: "Hugh Lattimer, dost thou know before whom thou are this day to speak? To the high and mighty monarch, the king's most excellent majesty, who can take away thy life, if thou offendest. Therefore, take heed that thou speakest not a word that may displease. But then consider well, Hugh, dost thou not know from whence thou comest--upon Whose message thou are sent? Even by the great and mighty God, Who is all-present and Who beholdeth all thy ways and Who is able to cast thy soul into hell! Therefore, take care that thou deliverest thy message faithfully." He then preached the same sermon he had preached the preceding Sunday--and with considerably more energy.

On outward appearances alone it would seem that the 21st Century Christian church in America is in the grips of a timid spirit. In the spirit of being “politically correct” and “sensitive to the feelings of others” we remain silent.

I would admit that it is hard to know when and where to speak a word of truth, but maybe we should take a lesson from our brothers and sisters in Africa. Here is an entire continent, country after country where the Holy Spirit is moving and they are speaking out with a holy boldness. The result is that Christianity is growing faster in Africa than in any other country.

Holy Boldness is a fearsome thing. When the Holy Spirit takes over, as the scripture states, we have a “fearless confidence.” Maybe that is why our voices fall silent and our witness is weak, we lack confidence in what we believe. My conclusion is that we should start to pray for a Holy Ghost revival.

Come Holy Spirit and breath new life in your people here in America. Give us the confidence of our convictions and a spirit of boldness to proclaim your truth in spirit and in deed. Amen.

Monday, January 2, 2012

"Under Construction," about New Year's Resolutions and God's desire for making all things new - 2 Corinthians 5:17 with a story and an observation

SCRIPTURE: 2 Corinthians 5:17 (TM)
Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it!

STORY as told by Ian L. Wilson:
London businessman Lindsay Clegg told the story of a warehouse property he was selling. The building had been empty for months and needed repairs. Vandals had damaged the doors, smashed the windows, and strewn trash around the interior.

As he showed a prospective buyer the property, Clegg took pains to say that he would replace the broken windows, bring in a crew to correct any structural damage, and clean out the garbage.

"Forget about the repairs," the buyer said. "When I buy this place, I'm going to build something completely different. I don't want the building; I want the site."

It is that time when resolutions are made. All of them good backed up by good intentions. Lose weight, exercise more, eat better, spend more time with spouse and family, be kinder, spend less, give more to the less fortunate, read more, watch TV less, or whatever is on your list. Each and everyone one of them speak to the basic desire to be better.

A t-shirt spoke volumes. It simply read: Under Construction. I love it because that is the reality of our lives. We are under construction … but who is doing the reconstruction work?

Resolutions normally fail. Within the first 30-days of the new year we have started to slip and the slippery slop only becomes steeper as we return to our old habits, easier patterns, lazy commitments. Therein lies the problem. WE are the ones trying to bring about the change.

Paul writes in Corinthians that God is the one who makes the old life different. Not something that is just a remodeling of the old person, but something totally new. God is the one who makes all things new. The renovations are under God’s direction following God’s design. Our attempts to remake our lives will fail. When our attempts or even our design for the new self are compared with what God has in mind we discover how trivial they really are. In truth, as the story states, God wants the site not the building. He will bring about something that we could never imagine.

God help us to trust you with the site. Tear down and build new. This is our resolution for the New Year … to be under construction … your construction. Amen.