Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Woulda-Coulda-Shouldas of Life (Luke 9:9) with a story shared by William Barclay.

NOTE TO MY REGULAR READERS: Just last Saturday, William, one of my regular readers shared that he doesn’t like it when I take time away from doing my blog. Well, William (and others who might feel that way), the time has come again for me to step away. This is one of those “seize the day” opportunities with some members of my family. See you on Monday, July 7th. Have a great 4th of July!

SCRIPTURE: Luke 9:9 (TM)
Jesus said, "No procrastination. No backward looks. You can't put God's kingdom off till tomorrow. Seize the day."

William Barclay shares this story: There is a fable which tells of three apprentice devils who were coming to this earth to finish their apprenticeship. They were talking to Satan, the chief of the devils, about their plans to tempt and to ruin men.

The first said, "I will tell them that there is no God." 

Satan said, "That will not delude many, for they know that there is a God." 

The second said, "I will tell men that there is no hell."

Satan answered, "You will deceive no one that way; men know even now that there is a hell for sin." 

The third said, "I will tell men that there is no hurry." 

"Go," said Satan, "and you will ruin men by the thousands." 

Oh the luxury of tomorrow. Isn’t there a phrase which states, “Don’t do today what you can put off until tomorrow”? Most of us are pretty good at following that sage advice… aren’t we? Procrastination is the downfall of more people and the destruction of more wonderful ideas and thoughts than anything else visited upon humankind. Cursed be the day that a child learns the wonder of procrastination.

Here’s a poem by Shel Silverstein that speaks to this painful reality:
All the Woulda-Coulda-Shouldas
Layin’ in the sun,
Talkin’ ‘bout the things
They would coulda shoulda done…
But those Woulda-Coulda-Shouldas
All ran away and hid
From one little Did.

It is kind of sad to realize what might have been, what could have been, what should have been in our lives just for taking advantage of the moment… those “seize the day” opportunities… just think about the phone calls that didn’t get made, the letters that weren’t sent, the stocks that weren’t bought, the advancements that weren’t realized, the talks that didn’t happen, the relationships that weren’t established… all left on the heap of Woulda-Coulda-Shoulda pile of life.

We beat ourselves up over these don’t we? When it comes to these lost issues we are our own worst enemy. But, hey, the day is still young and each of us still has a lot of living yet to accomplish. So, go forth and seize this day, take hold of today’s opportunity, don’t put off any longer those things that we know we can and should do… especially that which pertains to the Kingdom of God. Make a list of things that we have been procrastinating about at then determine to at least accomplish one thing on that list before the sun goes down. Then tomorrow wake up ready to accomplish two things… and then three… and then four… and BINGO the list will be completed. Yea, God!

Today is a gift. Become the one who can be counted on to do… to get it done… to place our hands on the plough and move forward. Today… right now… no more tomorrows only today! All those in heaven will be cheering for us… or Satan will win another day. It is our choice!

We admit, Lord, that we have gotten into some really bad habits. We spend too much time playing games on the computer, sitting around watching mindless TV programs, and simply wasting the day. Bored, tired, and clueless. But today is going to be different. Today we are going to seize the opportunities that come our way. Today! Not tomorrow! But we are going to need your help… boy are we going to need your help in breaking some very bad, lazy habits!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

What do you want to be when you grow up? (Luke 22:26)

SCRIPTURE: Luke 22:26 (CEB)
But that's not the way it will be with you. Instead, the greatest among you must become like a person of lower status and the leader like a servant.

Houghton Miffin shares this story: John Kenneth Galbraith, in his autobiography, A Life in Our Times, illustrates the devotion of Emily Gloria Wilson, his family's housekeeper: It had been a wearying day, and I asked Emily to hold all telephone calls while I had a nap. Shortly thereafter the phone rang. Lyndon Johnson was calling from the White House. "Get me Ken Galbraith. This is Lyndon Johnson." "He is sleeping, Mr. President. He said not to disturb him." "Well, wake him up. I want to talk to him." "No, Mr. President. I work for him, not you. When I called the President back, he could scarcely control his pleasure. "Tell that woman I want her here in the White House."
I had never thought of it in this particular light until the Rev. Phil Roughton led me down the path. “What are you going to be when you grow up?” We have heard that question a thousand times as we grew up. We probably have asked it of other young people just as many times. “What are you going to be when you grow up?”

Responses begin with, “I want to be a mommy or daddy” as the gender would dictate. As the child matures a little the responses are enlarged to teacher, nurse, policeman, fireman, etc. At every turn I never remember a child telling me that when they grew up they wanted to be a servant. Maybe in the back of an older child the thought was there that they wanted to have enough money to have servants when they grew up, but never, not once, has there been a response of wanting to be a servant.

The disciples were arguing about who was to be the greatest. Actually, scripture says that they were “arguing” among themselves over this issue. Jesus had to remind them, once again, that that isn’t how the kingdom works. Jesus was illustrating and calling men and women to be servants, taking the lowest position possible to bring the greatest good.

Knowing ones role and fulfilling it is extremely important to the success of living out our days. Emily Gloria Wilson knew her role. She knew whom she served. She knew why she was in the employment of John Kenneth Galbraith and no one and nothing was going to get in her way of being Mr. Galbraith’s servant.

So it is with us. We are God’s servants. We serve his cause and his cause alone. We take our orders from him and from no one else, regardless of who is might be. And in being God’s servant it means that we serve others in this life regardless of who they might be. We do not have the privilege of saying, “Oh, I don’t want to serve that one because he/she stinketh” or “That person doesn’t believe in my God” or “speaks a foreign language” or “appears to be lazy” or “doesn’t agree with me politically” or a thousand and one other road blocks that we put up in our path of servanthood.

What do we want to be when we grow up? Well, we are still answering that question aren’t we?

We don’t like the servant role. We want to feel important. We want other people to take notice of us. We want, we want, we want … oops, we forgot, it isn’t about what we want, but what you desire. Help us to be servants so that we can be affective people for the Kingdom.

Monday, June 24, 2013

What does it mean to be anointed by God (Psalm 28:8), just a few questions to chew on... with a Dwight L. Moody story.

SCRIPTURE: Psalm 28:8 (CEB)
The Lord is his people's strength; he is a fortress of protection for his anointed one.

One of the great preachers in U.S. history is D. L. Moody. He pastored in Chicago and there is still a wonderful Bible College there that bears his name and values.

Mr. Moody was a successful minister, but by his own admission, he lacked the power in his ministry. One day two women came up to him after a service. They said, "We have been praying for you."

"Why don't you pray for the people?" he asked. 

"Because you need the power of the Spirit," they said.

"I need the power! Why?" said Mr. Moody.

In relating the incident years after he writes, "I thought I had power. I had the largest congregation in Chicago, and there were many conversions."

Moody also said that in a sense, he was satisfied. He was in a comfort zone. But these two praying women rocked the boat. They told him that they were praying for an anointing by the Holy Spirit.

Mr. Moody could not get this off his mind and he wrote, "There came a great hunger in my soul. I did not know what it was and I began to cry out to God as never before. I felt I did not want to live if I could not have this power for service."

Rev. Moody began crying out for God to fill him. He withdrew, prayed, and sought it over a period of time. He writes the following: "Well, one day, in the city of New York -- oh, what a day! -- I cannot describe it, I seldom refer to it; it is almost too sacred an experience to name. Paul had an experience of which he never spoke for fourteen years. I can only say that God revealed Himself to me, and I had such an experience of His love that I had to ask Him to stay His hand. I went to preaching again. The sermons were not different; I did not present any new truths, and yet hundreds were converted. I would not now be placed back where I was before that blessed experience if you should give me all the world."

The scripture and story brought these questions to mind:

Could we call ourselves the anointed of God?

Have we been anointed by the Holy Spirit?

What would be different in our lives if we were?

Would we dare pray as Mr. Moody prayed?

Do we desire this infilling of the Holy Spirit more than the very next breath?

Are we willing to pursue it with a hungry heart… not resting until the heavens open up and the dove of God descends upon our hearts?

Do we hunger and thirst after God’s righteousness?

Are we ready for the experience of God’s love which would be so powerful that we would ask God to stay his hand?

And here is the larger question: What would happen in our churches if this all became reality?

Such is the case of my devotional life – sometimes just questions… something to chew on during the day. Now I’ve included you in the chewing!

Help us to understand what it means to be your anointed one. 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Weather Report by B. J. Gallagher, a poem about looking at life differently.

I came across this poem today and I just had to share it …
~BJ Gallagher
"Any day I'm vertical
 is a good day"
...that's what I always say.
If you ask me,
"How are you?"
I'll answer, "GREAT!"
because in saying so,
I make it so.
When Life gives me dark clouds and rain,
I appreciate the moisture
that brings a soft curl to my hair.
When Life gives me sunshine,
I gratefully turn my face up
to feel its warmth on my cheeks.
When Life brings fog,
I hug my sweater around me
and give thanks for the cool shroud of mystery
that makes the familiar seem different and intriguing.
When Life brings snow,
I dash outside to catch the first flakes on my tongue,
relishing the icy miracle that is a snowflake.
Life's events and experiences
are like the weather -
they come and go,
no matter what my preference.
So, what the heck?!
I might as well decide to enjoy them.
For indeed,
there IS a time for every purpose
under Heaven.
And each season brings its own unique blessings.

Friday, June 21, 2013

The ultimate question, "Do you love me?" (John 21:17) with a poem by Francis Xavier.

SCRIPTURE: John 21:17 (TM)
Then he said it a third time: "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" Peter was upset that he asked for the third time, "Do you love me?" so he answered, "Master, you know everything there is to know. You've got to know that I love you."

STORY by Francis Xavier:
My God, I love Thee; not because
I hope for heaven thereby,
Nor yet because who love Thee not
Are lost eternally.
Thou, O my Jesus, Thou didst me
Upon the cross embrace;
For me didst bear the nails, and spear,
And manifold disgrace,
And griefs and torments numberless,
And sweat of agony;
Yea, death itself; and all for me
Who was thine enemy.
Then why, O blessed Jesus Christ,
Should I not love Thee well?
Not for the sake of winning heaven,
Nor of escaping hell;
Not from the hope of gaining aught,
Not seeking a reward;
But as Thyself hast loved me,
O ever-loving Lord.
So would I love Thee, dearest Lord,
And in Thy praise will sing;
Solely because Thou art my God,
And my most loving King.

We really do wish the question could be asked differently… do you love me? But there it is asked of Peter and asked of us. When we combine this scripture with the one in Luke 14:25-33 – specifically vs. 26: "Anyone who comes to me but refuses to let go of father, mother, spouse, children, brothers, sisters - yes, even one's own self! - can't be my disciple.” While most translation has the “let go of” as “hate”, the idea of “letting go” is powerful.

How often has a pastor heard, “Pastor, I(we) won’t be in church on Sunday because we have family coming in” … “got tickets to the football game” … “will be at the NASCAR race” … “will be attending a family reunion” … and so the list goes on. I never really know how to respond because family is important and so are times to renew relationships and our souls. So I kind of leave everyone to work out the details as to how their lifestyle and commitments live out the reality of “letting go”.

The poem by Francis Xavier has always been powerful. There was one time that I got into a lot of hot water with the senior pastor of the church when I mentioned, during Bible study, “Would we still love God if a heavenly reward wasn’t factored into the picture?” Francis reminds us that we should love God for no other reason than he is God… our God! And therein lies the dilemma for us – How can we be loyal and committed to our family and friends and love God as the ultimate in our lives?

Peter was pained by Jesus asking him if Peter loved him – not once, not twice, but three times. But isn’t that the root to our spiritual journey… do we love him more than anything else and anyone else? And do we love him regardless of our eternal future? Every day and every moment we are answering that question… and God is looking at the fruits of our labor to discover just how we are answering that burning question.  

Make us an instrument of love. May others experience the love of God simply by meeting us. May we be living examples of love in all that we say and do. May we live love, breathe love, sleep love, talk love, show love … every moment of every day.