Friday, August 31, 2012

Save us (Romans 10:13) from our foolish politics, opinion polls and ill conceived ways of thinking.

SCRIPTURE: Romans 10:13 (NIV)
"Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."

William Tyndale in the earliest English version of the New Testament uniformly translated the Greek word soteria, “salvation,” as “health.”

We are sick people living in a sick world. Don’t believe me? Just read the papers. Turn on the TV. Walk the mall and listen. We are not healthy – mentally, emotionally, psychologically or in any other way.

We blame. Find fault. We are critical of each other. We believe whatever is emailed to us. We buy into the urban legends. We try to build ourselves up by tearing down others. Our desire to be correct … on the winning side … is so strong that we want to believe that our political party can solve all of life’s issues. Maybe we shouldn’t but we do.

Oh, we call on the name of the Lord. Oh, we will share with the world that we are saved. And while we are at it, we promote not our relationship with Christ, but our country as if we have a God-given mandate to be the saviors of the world. Well, folks, there is only one Savior and he is Jesus Christ.

The reality is that we have tried to do it in every other way but his. Most of us do not even read the instruction book about how we are to live. Or, we read it, relegate it to Sunday observances only and pick up OUR AGENDA on Monday morning. This is strange for people who have been saved, brought to good health, by the Lord. Why would we turn our backs on the Savior and the very thing that brought us health in trying to correct the course of our nation?

The Democrats and the Republicans won’t do it … can’t do it … are unable to do it … and yet, every four years we go through the same process. And in the process of trying to bring salvation to our land, we attempt to build up our candidate by tearing down the other.

God wants to be King of the nation. The Israelites asked for and demanded an earthly king … and look what their earthly king brought them. How long, O Lord, how long will we continue to try to solve it on our own? How long will we continue to play our silly games of politics and believe that we are “doing” the Christian thing? How long, O Lord, how long?

Maybe someday we will actually try to do it your way, but it doesn’t look like that has arrived. Do we have to be taken into bondage before we listen? Do we have to be destroyed before we are built up? Do we have to be conquered and live in exile before we turn our hearts back to you? I hope not, but it doesn’t look good for the near future … regardless which side wins in November. Save us from ourselves and our foolish ways.

Save us from our foolishness. Wake us up to your reality. Grant us health in every aspect of our living so that we can truly be your servants. 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Gaining Christ (Philippians 3:8) because he is the only thing the truly matters in life.

SCRIPTURE: Philippians 3:8 (TM)
Yes, all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant - dog dung. I've dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ

STORY as shared by Wilson O. Weldon:
Sir James Simpson, the discoverer of the anesthetic properties of chloroform and one of the most prominent scientists of his generation, was asked by a friend to name the most wonderful discovery he had ever made, and quickly came this reply: “The greatest discovery I ever made was the discovery I had a Saviour.”

What is the most wonderful thing that you know, have or experienced in this life? When we are asked that question we normally wax eloquently about our children and grandchildren. Sometimes we speak of our job or the church we serve or have served. Sometimes we shared something of the house we live in or the car we drive or maybe even, that last round of golf we played. Those responses are just normal … the road markers of our journey through this world.

What do we hope for? Some hope to win the lottery, especially when the jackpot grows to a sum of over $100 million. While others hope for good health or a good report from the doctor concerning the last series of medical tests that we’ve taken. Still others hope for a little of this or a little of that before the night is finished. And then there are those who just want to make a difference in this world.

There are times that on these lists would go such things as recognition, advancement, honors and/or praise. We are not really choosey. They make us feel good about ourselves. It feeds our psychic and brings a short-lived peace to our souls.

Underlining all of these things – important in their own right and nice to have/receive – is our relationship with Christ. Nothing else really matters … really, really! Nothing else matters. Oh, there are little things that seem to matter … for a while at least, but then we tire of them or get bored or move on to something else. They were just a passing fancy of our emotions … just something to fill the hole in our soul. It can almost be heard in the background of our life: “It’s all about Christ, stupid!”

When will we learn? How long do we have to live before we get it? What experiences do we need to have before it all starts to make sense to us? It is all about Christ – first, last and everything in between. Nothing else really matters. Nothing! It is the greatest discovery that we can make. Everything else is mere rubbish. To have Christ we gain everything.

We pray today that you, O Christ, will be central in our lives and central to it. Help us to live as if nothing else matters … because it doesn’t.

QUOTE by W. Russell Maltby, Christ and His Cross:
“Pilate could wash his hands of Jesus, but Jesus could not wash his hands of Pilate.”

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Having a pastor's heart (Jeremiah 3:15) with a "Dear Abby letter and two personal stories.

SCRIPTURE: Jeremiah 3:15  (NIV)                                                                                                                 Then I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will lead you with knowledge and understanding.
STORY a letter written to “Dear Abby” from a Wisconsin Pastor:
I am a pastor and just received word that a parishioner died yesterday. “Harold” had been hospitalized for a week in another city, and I wasn’t notified. A member of his family said, “We didn’t know if we should bother you or not.” The saddest part is, I was in that city the night before he died, seeing another parishioner. It would have been easy to visit Harold.
Abby, permit me to share three reasons why I want to be “bothered” in the future:
First: The one who is ill is entitled to the care and support of his or her faith community. I have sat at the side of persons who appear nonresponsive, taken their hands and told them who I am. Their hand frequently tightens around mine. When I say familiar prayers, their lips move in concert with mine. Spiritual leaders of other faiths report similar experiences.
Second: My presence may be physically and spiritually helpful to the family and friends of the patient. Many congregations provide networks of contacts for social agencies, additional medical specialists and even respite care groups within the congregation.
Third: The ill person may have confided his or her wishes regarding maintenance of life, burial  and funeral arrangements to his or her spiritual leader. When people come to me to discuss their wishes, I file that information in a secure place. (I also encourage them to share their desires with family and formalize them with an attorney or funeral director.) In at least one instance, the family purchased a burial plot through the funeral home, unaware that one had already been purchased in another cemetery of the person’s own choosing.
I urge adult children and others in charge of another’s affairs. Please contact the faith community of the dying person – for the sake of the patient, the faith community and yourself.
OBSERVATION: Two personal stories from my years as a pastor:
I was driving around the pastor, “John”, who had been appointed to follow me. As we passed several of the nursing homes in which the church had members living “John” turned to me, and in all seriousness, stated: “They don’t expect me to be their personal chaplain do they?” When I inquired about the meaning of his statement he went on to share that he does not visit – period … not in the hospital, not in nursing homes and definitely not in the homes. This, I understand, he also shared with the congregation on his first Sunday. He missed out on sharing a special journey with a number of great people as they struggled with serious illnesses, faced life threatening surgeries and failed miserably as he wasn’t in a position to respond to the personal needs of his people. In my opinion he wasn’t their shepherd. For “John” being a pastor was just just a job to him.
The second story deals with an associate, “Mary”, I had at one church. She came late to the ministry and was older than me. She took great pride in the pastoral care she would show to the members. When I shared with her my approach to visiting with individuals facing surgery, sitting with families during surgery and general visitation for those in nursing home or at home shut-ins she listened respectfully and then added: “Sitting with a family during surgery is just a huge waste of time and I won’t do it.” After explaining to her that as the senior pastor it was my responsibility to “set” the style of pastoral care she agreed to follow my instructions, but continued to fight the process.
“Mary” eventually received her own congregation. There was a young teenage girl in that congregation going in for the simple procedure of having her tonsils removed. “Mary” felt that it was such a simple surgery that she would just phone the family before the operation and then follow back up after the surgery with another phone call to make sure everything went well. It was at this point “Mary” discovered the wisdom of my approach. During the operation complications developed and the young teenager didn’t make it through the surgery. “Mary” later confided in me that she should have been at the hospital with the family. She had failed to be their shepherd at the point of their greatest need.
The world and the church are crying for shepherds, individuals who will take the time to provide pastoral care for those entrusted into their care. I fully understand that not everyone individual is good at everything that a man or a woman is asked to do in the role as pastor, but that doesn’t excuse them from at least trying.
Not wanting to “bother” the pastor or feeling that the pastor has too much on his/her plate already or thinking that the individual is not important enough to take the pastor way from others or what the individual is facing is just a “minor” procedure … are heard often in the church. How sad that the time has come when the pastor is too busy to care for the members.
I started my ministry in rural Georgia where it was expected that when you, as a minister, visited in the hospital you were expected to visit and pray with every individual on the floor or in the wing of the hospital. They were small hospitals and didn’t have paid or volunteer chaplains. It was just expected. Once that “training” became a part of the mindset it just became a part of the general ministry provided to ones congregation. A lesson learned is a lesson practiced.
Lord, help our shepherds. Help them care for the people entrusted into their care. Give to each a pastoral heart for others. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Christ comes unexpectedly (Luke 12:40), but are we waiting and are we expecting him to come?

SCRIPTURE: Luke 12:40 (NIV)
The Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.

The book The World's Worst Predictions lists some of history's all-time prophetic goof.
King George II said in 1773 that the American colonies had little stomach for revolution.
An official of the White Star Line, speaking of the firm's newly built flagship, the Titanic, launched in 1912, declared that the ship was unsinkable.
In 1939 The New York Times said the problem of TV was that people had to glue their eyes to a screen, and that the average American wouldn't have time for it.
An English astronomy professor said in the early 19th century that air travel at high speed would be impossible because passengers would suffocate.

Well, the prophecy in Luke couldn’t be included in the above list. Because, even though a lot of people read this as predicting the Second Coming of Christ, the reality is that Christ will break into someone’s life at an hour and at a time that that individual neither can predict nor anticipate. He has come into people’s lives at various times and in numerous ways since he walked along the Sea of Galilee.

You see, I leave the Second Coming “stuff” up to other people. In fact, my normal response when asked about this subject, is: “I will start worrying about the Second Coming when I can get more people believing that he came the first time.”

An individual, who had just come into a living relationship with Christ, declared that he thought he had been ambushed. He never saw it coming even though he had been preparing for this breakthrough over the course of a number of years. When the stage of his heart was all set … BINGO … Christ came waltzing in and his life has never been the same since.

When we least expect it we are surprised by joy! We cannot plan for it. We cannot work for it. We cannot anticipate it. We cannot orchestrate it. We cannot announce the date or time. He comes on his terms and when he is ready. All we can do is make ourselves ready and willing.

The BIG question is this: Are we praying for it to happen? Are we anticipating it to happen?

Oh, you say, it already has happened on such-and-such date. Okay, but does that mean that Christ cannot come in a fresh and unexpected way now? We better watch out because we never know!

Come on Christ and surprise us!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Living life not for human praise, but for God's glory (John 12:43) with a valuable lesson from the Duke of Wellington.

SCRIPTURE: John 12:43 (TM)
When push came to shove they cared more for human approval than for God's glory.

The Duke of Wellington, the British military leader who defeated Napoleon at Waterloo, was not an easy man to serve under. He was brilliant, demanding, and not one to shower his subordinates with compliments. Yet even Wellington realized that his methods left something to be desired. In his old age a young lady asked him what, if anything, he would do differently if he had his life to live over again. Wellington thought for a moment, then replied. "I'd give more praise," he said.

Shallow. Empty. Meaningless. If praise comes from our fellow human does come with the best of intentions. When praise does come we too often fail to hear it or receive it … or even worse, we simply discount it as in: “What a great dress (tie, shirt), etc.” “Oh, this old thing.” We each know the standard routine.

Sometimes we even shutdown, stop what we are doing, move to another situation, resign, get angry if praise is not received ... or a thank you ... or an atta-boy. We want it. We anticipate it. And as one former member stated: “This is why we do what we do for the Kingdom of God … to get the praise and recognition from our fellow journeyers. Was Norma Jean correct? She probably was closer to the truth than those of us who declare that we don’t want, desire or expect praise from others.

The Duke of Wellington discovered a great human truth. We should give more praise as we journey through this life less people begin to think that we take them for granted. And yet, while the praise and gratitude from others is important to our emotional health it is the approval of God that truly matters.

“Play to an audience of one” is wise counsel. The audience of one … is God. If we live out our life for him than when other praises come, and they will, that is an extra blessing.

Our life is a testimony of our love for you, gracious God. We live for you, because of you and unto you. Nothing else really matters. To you all the glory is given.