Thursday, June 28, 2012

Modern Day Parable - Sharing a bag of potato chips with God.

This story has been floating around on the internet for awhile. It struck me the other day that it is a Modern Day Parable and since I like to share parables from our day here it is. The author is unknown.  Enjoy!

Potato Chips

A little boy wanted to meet God.  He knew it was a long trip to where God lived, so he packed his suitcase with a bag of potato chips and a six-pack of root beer and started his journey.

When he had gone about three blocks, he met an old man.  He was sitting in the park, just staring at some pigeons.  The boy sat down next to him and opened his suitcase.  He was about to take a drink from his root beer when he noticed that the old man looked hungry, so he offered him some chips. He gratefully accepted it and smiled at him.

His smile was so pretty that the boy wanted to see it again, so he offered him a root beer.  Again, he smiled at him.  The boy was delighted!

They sat there all afternoon eating and smiling, but they never said a word.

As twilight approached, the boy realized how tired he was and he got up to leave; but before he had gone more than a few steps, he turned around, ran back to the old man, and gave him a hug.  He gave him his biggest smile ever.

When the boy opened the door to his own house a short time later, his mother was surprised by the look of joy on his face.     She asked him, "What did you do today that made you so happy?"

He replied, "I had lunch with God."  But before his mother could respond, he added, "You know what?  He's got the most beautiful smile I've ever seen!"

Meanwhile, the old man, also radiant with joy, returned to his home. His son was stunned by the look of peace on his face and he asked, "Dad, what did you do today that made you so happy?"

He replied "I ate potato chips in the park with God."  However, before his son responded, he added,  "You know, he's much younger than I expected."

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Learning to accept our circumstances and living a contented life (Philippians 4:11) through Christ - with a story about a "lazy" fisherman who knew how to enjoy life.

SCRIPTURE: Philippians 4:11 (TM)
Actually, I don't have a sense of needing anything personally. I've learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances.

Philip Parham tells the story of a rich industrialist who was disturbed to find a fisherman sitting lazily beside his boat. "Why aren't you out there fishing?" he asked.
"Because I've caught enough fish for today," said the fisherman. 
"Why don't you catch more fish than you need?' the rich man asked. 
"What would I do with them?"
"You could earn more money," came the impatient reply, "and buy a better boat so you could go deeper and catch more fish. You could purchase nylon nets, catch even more fish, and make more money. Soon you'd have a fleet of boats and be rich like me."
The fisherman asked, "Then what would I do?" 
"You could sit down and enjoy life," said the industrialist. 
"What do you think I'm doing now?" the fisherman replied as he looked placidly out to sea.

Why do we do what we do? We are such driven people – driven to succeed, driven to achieve, driven to obtain, driven to get ahead, driven to accumulate … just driven … but are we happy? Do we have peace? Are we satisfied? Are we really fulfilled?

While on our Caribbean cruise this past January we heard continuously Bob Marley’s song: “Don’t worry, be happy.” We can call it “laziness” or a hundred other things, but they just might have discovered something about living that has been lost by the rest of the world.

It seems that we are always in perpetual motion in our attempt to get ahead and to have more. When do we reach the point that enough is enough?

It has been heard numerous times about people that grew up poor, but didn’t know it because they were happy. Their homes were filled with laughter. There was a lot of sharing and if somebody down the road was in need … well, we reached out and shared what little we had. As one person said, “Well, we could always add another quart of water to whatever we were cooking.”

Life is meant to be lived and in living in a relationship with Christ and others there is contentment. Paul shared a good word that no matter what we face we should learn to be content. And contentment begins with acceptance. And acceptance starts at surrendering to Jesus. “All to Jesus I surrender, All to him I freely give…”

Help us to accept our place in life regardless of the circumstances. Help us to surrender to you in our daily living so that we can start to live.

Benjamin Franklin: Content makes poor men rich; discontent makes rich men poor.
Max Lucado: Tomorrow’s joy is fathered by today’s acceptance. Acceptance of what, at least for the moment, you cannot alter.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

When the storms of life are raging stand by me - reflections on Tropical Storm Debbie and being safe and secure in the everlasting arms of Christ.

SCRIPTURE: John 12:27, 28 (NIV)
Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? “Father, save me from this hour”? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour, Father, glorify your name!

The photographer for a national magazine was assigned to get photos of a great forest fire. Smoke at the scene hampered him and he asked his home office to hire a plane. Arrangements were made and he was told to go at once to a nearby airport, where the plane would be waiting. When he arrived at the airport, a plane was warming up near the runway. He jumped in with his equipment and yelled, "Let's go! Let's go!" The pilot swung the plane into the wind and they soon were in the air. 
"Fly over the north side of the fire," yelled the photographer, "and make three or four low level passes." 
"Why?" asked the pilot. 
"Because I'm going to take pictures," cried the photographer. "I'm a photographer and photographers take pictures!" 
After a pause the pilot said, "You mean you're not the instructor?" 

Tropical Storm Debbie has been moving very slowly up the Gulf of Mexico and has now turn eastward. In its path there has been a lot of rain, some strong wind gusts and several tornados. We are now facing the results of all that water – coastal flooding, sinkholes and in a few days, lots of mosquitos.  Some individuals have also experienced some structural problems with their homes, like a leaky roof, missing shingles, uprooted trees while others have lost their electricity in the process.

In the midst of all of this I had an overriding sense of peace. The house was quiet. I was ready for bed wrapped in a warm and comfortable housecoat. A good book was spread before me. Soft light filled the room. I sat there safe and secure in our home as I listened to the wind blowing and the heavy rain beating against the roof. I felt safe. I felt secure. I felt at peace. My thoughts brought up the strain of the last hymn we had sung that morning in worship: “…safe and secure from all alarms; leaning, leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms.”

Jesus, in his time of trouble, turned to the Father – safe and secure as he leaned into that relationship. He would have preferred not to face the trials and tribulations that were coming his way, but he knew that the Father was in charge … God had an ultimate purpose in mind ... “glorify your name”. On the other hand, we need the presence of the instructor. Too many of us are like the “pilot” in the story in that we discover that we have made some assumptions concerning the individuals involved in our life thinking that they are something or someone that they are not. We’ve “turned” our life over to them thinking that they know something that we don’t. We’ve relinquished control based on a conclusion not backed up by the facts. “What you’re not the instructor?” Too late, we are already in full flight. Ouch! “Safe and secure in the everlasting arms” becomes a desperate prayer for help instead of words of praise and gratitude.

Another hymn, if you please: “When the storms of life are raging, Stand by me; When the storms of life are raging, Stand by me. When the world is tossing me… Like a ship upon the sea, Thou who rulest wind and water, Stand by me.”

May it be so!

The storms of life are raging around us today so, Lord, stand by us each step of the way and give us the instructions that we need to survive. 

Monday, June 25, 2012

Behold Christ stands at the door and knocks (Revelation 3:20) but for some strange reason we continue to refuse to open the door ("I hear you knocking but you can't come in"). Why?

SCRIPTURE: Revelation 3:20 (TM)
"Look at me. I stand at the door. I knock. If you hear me call and open the door, I'll come right in and sit down to supper with you.”

A story is told of a man who loved old books. He met an acquaintance who had just thrown away a Bible that had been stored in the attic of his ancestral home for generations. "I couldn't read it," the friend explained. "Somebody named Guten-something had printed it." "Not Gutenberg!" the book lover exclaimed in horror. "That Bible was one of the first books ever printed. Why, a copy just sold for over two million dollars!" His friend was unimpressed. "Mine wouldn't have brought a dollar. Some fellow named Martin Luther had scribbled all over it in German." 

We place value on things and relationships. Sometimes the value is misplaced because we don’t have enough information. Sometimes the value is misplaced because we don’t appreciate the information that we do have. And, sometimes the value is misplaced because we simply don’t know what we have … or what is offered.

Dave Edmunds made popular a song that includes this refrain: I hear you knocking… But you can't come in… I hear you knocking… Go back where you been.” Too often that is how we treat Jesus. Why? Is it because we don’t value his presence? Is it because the value we place on a relationship with him isn’t that important? Or, is it because we have tried this relationship only to find it wanting?

Maybe, just maybe, we hear him knocking and dismiss his knocks sending him away (“I hear you knocking but you can’t come in”) because we think it would just take too much effort to get up from where we are in our life to answer the door.  Or, we are operating under the false assumption that to allow him in would mean that we have to have our house in order, all cleaned up and ready to receive guests.

Even though we continue to refuse he continues to knock … and he will until the door to our life and our heart is opened. Why? Because that is the value that Christ places on a relationship with us. It is so important that he will continue to knock until we finally decided to open up and invite him in.

Lord, we are a stubborn lot aren’t we. We hear you knocking. We’ve heard you knocking for a long time now. We keep trying to ignore you and yet you continue to knock. Someday … hopefully today … we are going to understand the value that you place on a relationship with the likes of us and open the door to our heart saying, Please come in. Amen.

Friday, June 22, 2012

The role of emotions in our relationship with God as well as in the movies - Joel 2:13 along with a quote from Max Lucado.

SCRIPTURE: Joel 2:13 (GN)
“Let your broken heart show your sorrow; tearing your clothes is not enough." Come back to the Lord your God. He is kind and full of mercy; he is patient and keeps his promise; he is always ready to forgive and not punish.

STORY as shared by James S. Flora:
A group of motion-picture engineers classified the following as the ten most dramatic sounds in the movies: a baby's first cry; the blast of a siren; the thunder of breakers on rocks; the roar of a forest fire; a foghorn; the slow drip of water; the galloping of horses; the sound of a distant train whistle; the howl of a dog; the wedding march. And one of these sounds causes more emotional response and upheaval than any other, has the power to bring forth almost every human emotion: sadness, envy, regret, sorrow, tears, as well as supreme joy. It is the wedding march.  
What stirs our emotions? The motion picture industry has discovered how to manipulate our emotions through sounds. And when those sounds are linked to images it becomes a powerful tool to control the viewer. Emotions are powerful. Is that why many go to great lengths to hide their emotions?

Here I’m thinking of my father. He was easily stirred emotionally by what he saw on TV and yet, he never allowed those emotions to find expression outwardly. The tears would be there in his eyes, but would be quickly brushed aside, wiped away, denied and forgotten. We never really got to see that side of his personality. And rarely did we witness him being affectionate towards mom … because men were not supposed to have emotions! It was some stupid ideal of being strong, manly or some crazy notion of another era.

When carry this notion over into our relationship with God we can get into trouble. As Joel states, “Let your broken heart show your sorrow…” Let it be known. Let it be seen. Let our guard down and let the emotions flow naturally from the depths of our being. It is the only thing that can breakdown the barriers that have been built between God and us.

I have often wondered how many men have kept the living Lord at arms length because they are afraid of their emotions. And even further, I have often wondered how many women fail to understand because they approach the relationship solely based on emotions. Now, before everyone comments … yes, I know that these are huge generalities painted with massive brush strokes because there are men who show emotions and there are women who are deep thinkers … but I was just wondering … generally speaking that is.

Spiritual healing includes the heart and the head. God cannot do for you what you are afraid of him doing because of some outdated “ideal” of what it means to be masculine or feminine.

Help us to stop running away from the emotions that are within us. Bring us into a personal relationship with you.

QUOTE by Max Lucado, No Wonder They Call Him the Savior, page 108:
To put a lock and key on your emotions is to bury part of your Christ-likeness! Especially when you come to Calvary. You can’t go to the cross with just your head and not your heart. It doesn’t work that way. Calvary is not a mental trip…. It’s a heart-splitting hour of emotion…. Look again. Those are nails in those hands. That’s God on that cross. It’s us who put him there.