Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
"The Miracle Dream"
That night" when in Judean skies
The mystic star dispensed its light.
A blind man moved in his sleep
And dreamed that he had sight.
That night when in the cattle's stall
Slept child and mother cheek to jowl
A cripple turned his twisted limbs,
And dreamed that he was whole
That night when to the mother's breast
That little king was held secure.
A harlot slept a happy sleep,
And dreamed that she was pure.
That night when shepherds heard the song
Of hosts angelic choiring near.
A deaf man stirred in slumber's spell,
And dreamed that he could hear.
That night when o'er the newborn babe
The tender Mary rose to lean,
A loathsome leper smiled in sleep
And dreamed that he was clean.
That night when in the manger lay
The Sanctified who came to save.
A man move in the sleep of death,
And dreamed there was no grave!
Sunday, December 20, 2009
What are you looking for in a Christmas Eve service? Do you hope to hear the old, old story? Are you going to sing the songs of faith? Are you seeking an encounter with Emmanuel, God with us? Is it the fellowship of family and friends that draws you to church? For each of us it is different. I pray you will find it as you head to worship on Christmas eve this year.
Of course there is a critic in every crowd. As I was surfing the internet I came across this review of a service from 2001. I am sure glad he didn't visit First Baptist. I am not sure if it is real or not but it sure is funny at times. So read it and enjoy it and then let's all pray he doesn't show up to review our services. He's obviously looking for something he will never find in a local church. He's looking for a show. We offer a worship experience that honors God through our human frailty. We come, warts and all.
The experience got off on the wrong foot; we were 30 minutes late arriving at my son's house because my wife piddled around while shoveling our driveway, and it ended up taking her far longer than it should have. I tried to compensate for her sheer laziness by moderately exceeding the speed limit during our 120-mile drive to their home, but in the end we were tardy. As a result, we didn't get to Saint Luke's until five minutes before the service started; naturally, this rendered us unable to sit anywhere other than the Scriptural equivalent of the "Eucker seats" in the church. We didn't have a good view of the pulpit, and we had to uncomfortably crane our necks in order to look at the choir loft. Suffice it to say that the evening was off to an unpleasant start.
Let me say that Saint Luke's has some logistical problems. The service bulletin looked as if it was prepared on a Commodore 64. The ushers were haphazardly-dressed and sported obnoxious ties and inordinately loud shirts. One of them was wearing blue jeans, for crying out loud. The church lobby was decorated with art so trashy that one would expect to find Sally Struthers selling it on a late-night television infomercial. In my mind, what I was seeing was not at all what I had been lead to expect by my son and his wife. It was about to get much worse.
The musical introduction to the service took the form of a performance of the classic Christmas carol "Angels We Have Heard On High." Saint Luke's had apparently retained the services of a part-time piano player from some honky-tonk joint on the outskirts of Tulsa. I could tell that he had some piano-playing experience; the notes were all there and they were all correct, but the song was wrong. There was no warmth. There was no feeling. It was like listening to a robot recite the Gettysburg Address. The piano playing was serviceable, but it was by no means good.
This passable piano playing was unfortunately accompanied by the horrendous flute playing of one Katie Michaels, age 12, of Emerson Junior High. Not only did Ms. Michaels miss nearly half of the notes, her flute was flatter than a pancake. Haven't these people ever heard of the concept of tuning an instrument? Goodness, the performance was so excruciating that I had an urge to run out of the church and go out in the parking lot and chew an entire roll of aluminum foil in order to relieve my senses. If Katie's parents have any sensibility at all, and if they possess the slightest modicum of musical ability, they will take her flute out into the backyard, chop it up into a million pieces, and never allow her within 50 yards of a musical instrument for the rest of her natural life, and thereafter.
Dreadful. Mind-numbingly dreadful.
I had hopes that Pastor Thomas would do something original for his sermon, that he would captivate the congregation with an interesting yet wholesome oratory masterpiece. This, unfortunately, was nowhere to be found. Instead, the pastor used the hackneyed, cliched, and time-worn technique of telling a "nostalgic" Christmas story from his childhood and then using some mental gymnastics at the end in order to tie the story in with the whole Christmas message. Been there, done that.
The details of this sermon involved a snowman that the pastor and his brothers made when they were small children; how they put lots of work into it, and how they were devastated when spring came and the snowman melted ("went back to the Father", as the pastor put it.) He then attempted to equate the "life" and "death" of his snowman with the life of Jesus Christ. Booooring. And silly. The pastor spent way too much time talking about the construction of the snowman. He prattled on for ten minutes about that thing, and all the while the congregation was yawning, looking at their watches, and wondering if that "Ralphie movie" would be on TNT when they got home.
This was the "Pearl Harbor" of sermons. It was a silly three-minute story squeezed into fifteen minutes. It had a slow and laborious setup that promised to segue into action-packed fireworks, but said fireworks were disappointing and failed to fully materialize. It was pompous and overlong.
One thing is clear: the congregation at Saint Luke's ought to cleanse themselves of this clown. He needs to be fired, or disbarred, or whatever it is that you do to get rid of defective ministers. If Jesus Himself heard this guy preach, he wouldn't be able to turn the other cheek, because His first cheek would be firmly planted on the table in front of Him as He snoozed peacefully. The Reverand Thomas ought to bring a six-shooter to church with him and then fire it up in the air upon the completion of his sermon to signal to the congregation that "nap time" is over.
As is customary for churches in this area, there was an offering following the sermon, wherein collection plates are passed and the congregation is given a chance to fulfill their tithe obligations. During the offering, the congregation was subjected to the punishing performance of the church choir, which had decided to do one of those "new-Age" medleys that consist of several Christmas carols all rolled into one song. Here's a helpful hint to the staff at Saint Luke's: Next Christmas, you might want to take steps to ensure that half of the choir isn't obviously drunk. If I want to hear a bunch of inebriated zealots screech about the "Chrishmish shpirit", I'll head down to O'Malley's Tavern. This choir is an utter embarassment.
The service, to this point, had been so completely horrid that when the collection plate reached Mrs. Donnelly and I, I took twenty dollars out of it. I figure that $20/hour is a more than reasonable rate to charge these buffoons for subjecting me to such an awful failure. Saint Luke's got a real bargain, if you ask me. Sure, I found myself on the receiving end of a fair number of quizzical glances, but as far as I was concerned, these people owed me.
The Children's Choir
After the offering was completed, the director of the children's choir herded the collective offspring of the congregation up in front of everybody; like a pack of frightened kangaroos, they bounced and bounded down the aisle, took their places in front of the pulpit, and stood uncomfortably, shifting their diminutive weight from one Keds-clad foot to the other. Now, after listening to the prelude and the offertory, I thought that I had heard the worst music that was tonally and physiologically possible. The children's choir proved me wrong.
These little kids literally tortured the congregation. Most of them didn't even attempt to get the notes right; they just shouted the words out. "Away in a Manger" is under normal circumstances a lovely song; the Children's Choir at Saint Luke turned it into a work of horror that would have frightened H. P. Lovecraft himself.
Some would argue that it is unfair to expect a group of four-year-olds to be a pack of little Beethovens. Strictly speaking, this may be true. But you can't tell me that the children of America aren't capable of anything better than this. The director of this "choir" ought to be fired, but before that, she ought to be locked in a closet and forced to listen to recordings of her children's performances. It would be a fitting and poetic touch, at least in the opinion of this reviewer.
Finally, it was time for the part of the service that I most enjoy (that is, the part that involves alcohol.) My wife and I filled out our Communion cards and got in line to receive the blessing. Unfortunately, the staff at Saint Luke's had decided to punctuate the communion distribution with such dreadful hymns as "Your Little Ones, Dear Lord" and "Go Tell It on the Mountain." If you want to go tell something on the mountain, I've got a scoop for you: Saint Luke's needs a new music director .. the sooner, the better.
When I placed the wafer on my tongue, it stuck to the roof of my mouth like Krazy Glue. I thought that perhaps I could get it unstuck by drinking the communal wine that was being handed out by the person at the next station, a skinny ear ringed kid who looked like he would be more at home at a Rob Zombie concert. Unfortunately, the wine that Saint Luke's was serving had the consistency and flavor of toilet water; it took every ounce of willpower in my body to avoid gagging. Eyes watering and mouth stinging, I staggered back to our pew and finally managed to get the wafer down after about five minutes of vigorous tongue gymnastics.
I have very little to add to this review. I will say that this service was an enormous disappointment, and it failed to live up to the hype that our son and his wife had been gratuitously slathering on us over the past week or so. I'll admit that the candlelit portion of the service was quite nice, although it was nearly ruined by an obnoxious man behind us who attempted to sing harmony on "Silent Night" and failed miserably; I had an urge to turn around and tell him that this most treasured of Christmas Carols was not written by Tiny Tim.
Friday, December 11, 2009
Monday, November 30, 2009
As I arrived at the site I noticed that even after eight years the area was pretty much barren. You could see that construction was taking place, but the devastation remained evident. Later on I looked at pictures of the area before the attack and I got a sense of the total loss. The towers of the World Trade Center were easily the largest buildings in the area, rising almost twice as high as any other building there. They stood like mountains in a field of gray. Now there is a hole in the ground where they once stood.
As I walked around the construction I began to think about that day in September in 2001. I remembered what I was doing. I heard the first reports on WFAN as I was driving down to the church. The reporter talked about a stray plane flying into the tower. As he was talking he gasped as a second plane flew into the second tower. Pandemonium broke out.
It wasn't until several hours later that the full effect hit me. I was visiting one of our members and she was transfixed by the images on television and I watched the scene being replayed over and over again. Even days later I was still haunted by the images I saw.
As I walked around the site I began to empathize with those who were on the streets of New york City that day. I tried to capture the fear they were feeling. I thought about the horror they went through. It was as close as I could come to living that experience but I admit it was nothing like being there.
Afterwards I walked across the Brooklyn Bridge. I remembered seeing hundreds of people walking across the bridge on that day. They were fleeing the scene. They were sobbing and crying. They were hurrying to get home to family and loved ones.
As I walked across the bridge and looked back at Manhattan, I tried to picture what they were seeing. I can only imagine their horror.
Looking up and down from the bridge you can see the famous landmarks that tell you this is America's greatest city. The Empire State building, the Stature of Liberty, Ellis Island. On that day the people must have felt all alone even though they were surrounded by thousands.
I'll never forget hearing one survivor of that day tell his story. We had him as our guest at a Prayer breakfast in Norwich. He lived to tell of his harrowing escape from one of the towers and he told us that he never felt like he was alone. He told story after story of how people came together to help one another. As afraid as they all were, there was a spirit there that day that was all around them. Selfless fire fighters and policemen gave their lives leading people to safety. Women and men became guardians over the children.
He told us that several times there were angels, people who appeared out of nowhere to help them down the stairs or who told them where to go. Then he told us that he never felt closer to God in his life.
It was a reminder that god is with us even in the darkest hours of our lives. Too often we don't look for him or realize that He is standing beside us. But when the lights go out, when our fear is the greatest, God stands up and turns the light on. He reveals himself in the kindness of others in the helping hand we receive. He reveals himself in the smile of a stranger of the direction of a friend.
I left New York yesterday feeling a little closer to God and was reminded that God is always with us. The message of Christmas "Emmanuel" wasn't a one time thing a long, long time ago. God is with us today and He still loves us every bit as much.
Hanging by the cash register were two photos of the Senator with the owner of the Restaurant so it was no surprise to see him. Even though I don't agree with many of his voting practices, I was none-the-less star struck to be sitting within five feet from him. He even spoke to us and apologized for all the fuss.
When you think about it, awe is a good way to describe how you feel when you stand that close to one of the most powerful men in our republic. He is a lawmaker and influential thinker. He is one of the few people who has the ability to shape the future of our world.
As we left the restaurant I began thinking about what I was going to say on Sunday morning. As I thought about church, it struck me that every week, we do one better than I had just done. Forget Senators and even Presidents: We get to spend time with the Lord of Lords, the King of Kings, the Creator of the Universe.
I've met a lot of people who tell me that they don't go to church because they find the services boring and out of touch with real life. I could say they that's because they don't come to First Baptist... but truthfully we aren't very different from most of the other churches in town. The real reason we don't feel anything is because we don't put worship in the proper perspective.
Worship is the opportunity to spend time with God. It is an act of devotion. I go to church each week, not because I have to, but because I know God will be there. He'll be there in the people, in the songs, in the scriptures and even in the sermon. When I leave, I will come away knowing that God loves me and he will always be with me.
So it was cool being with Senator Dodd for a few minutes but its even better spending each week with God.
Friday, November 27, 2009
This email showed up in my inbox today and it made me look at the whole argument a little differently. Read it and let me know what you think. He makes a number of pretty good points.
Letter from Jesus about Christmas --
It has come to my attention that many of you are upset that folks are taking My name out of the season. Maybe you've forgotten that I wasn't actually born during this time of the year and that it was some of your predecessors who decided to celebrate My birthday on what was actually a time of pagan festival. Although I do appreciate being remembered anytime.
How I personally feel about this celebration can probably be most easily understood by those of you who have been blessed with children of your own. I don't care what you call the day. If you want to celebrate My birth, just GET ALONG AND LOVE ONE ANOTHER.
Now, having said that let Me go on. If it bothers you that the town in which you live doesn't allow a scene depicting My birth, then just get rid of a couple of Santas and snowmen and put in a small Nativity scene on your own front lawn If all My followers did that there wouldn't be any need for such a scene on the town square because there would be many of them all around town.
Stop worrying about the fact that people are calling the tree a holiday tree, instead of a Christmas tree. It was I who made all trees. You can remember Me anytime you see any tree. Decorate a grape vine if you wish: I actually spoke of that one in a teaching, explaining who I am in relation to you and what each of our tasks were. If you have forgotten that one, look up John 15: 1 - 8.
If you want to give Me a present in remembrance of My birth here is my wish list. Choose something from it:
1. Instead of writing protest letters objecting to the way My birthday is being celebrated, write letters of love and hope to soldiers away from home. They are terribly afraid and lonely this time of year. I know, they tell Me all the time.
2. Visit someone in a nursing home. You don't have to know them personally. They just need to know that someone cares about them.
3. Instead of writing the President complaining about the wording on the cards his staff sent out this year, why don't you write and tell him that you'll be praying for him and his family this year. Then follow up. It will be nice hearing from you again.
4. Instead of giving your children a lot of gifts you can't afford and they don't need, spend time with them. Tell them the story of My birth, and why I came to live with you down here. Hold them in your arms and remind them that I love them.
5 Pick someone that has hurt you in the past and forgive him or her.
6. Did you know that someone in your town will attempt to take their own life this season because they feel so alone and hopeless? Since you don't know who that person is, try giving everyone you meet a warm smile; it could make the difference.
7. Instead of nit picking about what the retailer in your town calls the holiday, be patient with the people who work there. Give them a warm smile and a kind word. Even if they aren't allowed to wish you a "Merry Christmas" that doesn't keep you from wishing them one. Then stop shopping there on Sunday. If the store didn't make so much money on that day they'd close and let their employees spend the day at home with their families
8. If you really want to make a difference, support a missionary-- especially one who takes My love and Good News to those who have never heard My name.
9. Here's a good one. There are individuals and whole families in your town who not only will have no "Christmas" tree, but neither will they have any presents to give or receive. If you don't know them, buy some food and a few gifts and give them to the Salvation Army or some other charity which believes in Me and they will make the delivery for you.
10. Finally, if you want to make a statement about your belief in and loyalty to Me, then behave like a Christian. Don't do things in secret that you wouldn't do in My presence. Let people know by your actions that you are one of mine.
Don't forget; I am God and can take care of Myself. Just love Me and do what I have told you to do. I'll take care of all the rest. Check out the list above and get to work; time is short. I'll help you, but the ball is now in your court. And do have a most blessed Christmas with all those whom you love and remember :
I LOVE YOU,
Monday, November 23, 2009
This is one of the nicest e-mails I have seen and is so true:
I dreamed that I went to Heaven and an angel was showing me around. We walked side-by-side inside a large workroom filled with angels.. My angel guide stopped in front of the first section and said, 'This is the Receiving Section. Here, all petitions to God said in prayer are received. '
I looked around in this area, and it was terribly busy with so many angels sorting out petitions written on voluminous paper sheets and scraps from people all over the world.
Then we moved on down a long corridor until we reached the second section. The angel then said to me, ' This is the Packaging and Delivery Section. Here, the graces and blessings the people asked for are processed and delivered to the living persons who asked for them. ' I noticed again how busy it was there. There were many angels working hard at that station, since so many blessings had been requested and were being packaged for delivery to Earth.
Finally at the farthest end of the long corridor we stopped at the door of a very small station. To my great surprise, only one angel was seated there, idly doing nothing. 'This is the Acknowledgment Section,' my angel friend quietly admitted to me. He seemed embarrassed. 'How is it that there is no work going on here?' I asked.
'So sad,' the angel sighed. 'After people receive the blessings that they asked for, very few send back acknowledgments.'
'How does one acknowledge God's blessings? ' I asked.
'Simple,' the angel answered. Just say, ' Thank you, Lord. '
'What blessings should they acknowledge? ' I asked.
'If you have food in the refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof overhead and a place to sleep you are richer than 75% of this world. If you have money in the bank, in your wallet, and spare change in a dish, you are among the top 8% of the world 's wealthy.'
'And if you get this on your own computer, you are part of the 1% in the world who has that opportunity. '
'If you woke up this morning with more health than illness .. You are more blessed than the many who will not even survive this day.'
'If you have never experienced the fear in battle, the loneliness of imprisonment, the agony of torture, or the pangs of starvation .. You are ahead of 700 million people in the world. '
'If you can attend a place of worship without the fear of harassment, arrest, torture or death you are envied by, and more blessed than, three billion people in the world.. '
'If your parents are still alive and still married ..you are very rare. '
'If you can hold your head up and smile, you are not the norm, you're unique to all those in doubt and despair. '
Ok, what now? How can I start?
Start this week by setting aside a few minutes to pause and say "Thank You" to God.
Twas the month before Christmas*
*When all through our land,*
*Not a Christian was praying*
*Nor taking a stand.*
*See the PC Police had taken away,*
*The reason for Christmas - no one could say.*
*The children were told by their schools not to sing,*
*About Shepherds and Wise Men and Angels and things.*
*It might hurt people's feelings, the teachers would say*
* December 25th is just a 'Holiday'.*
*Yet the shoppers were ready with cash, checks and credit*
*Pushing folks down to the floor just to get it!*
*CDs from Madonna, an X BOX, an I-pod*
*Something was changing, something quite odd! *
*Retailers promoted Ramadan and Kwanzaa*
*In hopes to sell books by Franken & Fonda.*
*As Targets were hanging their trees upside down*
* At Lowe's the word Christmas - was no where to be found.*
*At K-Mart and Staples and Penny's and Sears*
*You won't hear the word Christmas; it won't touch your ears.*
*Inclusive, sensitive, Di-ver-si-ty*
*Are words that were used to intimidate me.*
*Now Daschle, Now Darden, Now Sharpton, Wolf Blitzen*
*On Boxer, on Rather, on Kerry, on Clinton!*
*At the top of the Senate, there arose such a clatter*
*To eliminate Jesus, in all public matter.*
*And we spoke not a word, as they took away our faith*
* Forbidden to speak of salvation and grace*
*The true Gift of Christmas was exchanged and discarded*
*The reason for the season, stopped before it started.*
*So as you celebrate 'Winter Break' under your 'Dream Tree'*
*Sipping your Starbucks, listen to me.*
*Choose your words carefully, choose what you say*
*Shout MERRY CHRISTMAS ,
not Happy Holiday!*
Please, all Christians join together and
wish everyone you meet
Christ is ¡The Reason¢ for the Christ-mas Season!
Saturday, November 21, 2009
Thursday, November 19, 2009
It made me think about what I would do if I awoke one day with the knowledge that I had hours to live. We take so much for granted. The truth is that most of us abuse our relationships with the people who are closest to us in life. We jump on our kids and criticize them for what they do. We nag our spouses for the things they don't do. We blame our parents for the things that we imagine they did to us. Instead of thanking God for the special people in our lives, we waste so much time.
My mom died when I was thirteen years old. That taught me how precious life was and that it doesn't last forever. Yet I am still guilty of forgetting to tell the important people in my life how much I love them. I'd like to encourage you to make it a point to tell those special people how much love them every single day. While you are at it, don't forget to tell God you love him too.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
This is a statement that was read over the PA system at the football game at Roane County High School , Kingston , Tennessee, by school Principal, Jody McLeod (Snopes affirmed this was true.)
"It has always been the custom at Roane County High School football games, to say a prayer and play the National Anthem, to honor God and Country." Due to a recent ruling by the Supreme Court, I am told that saying a Prayer is a violation of Federal Case Law. As I understand the law at this time, I can use this public facility to approve of sexual perversion and call it "an alternate lifestyle," and if someone is offended, that's OK.
I can use it to condone sexual promiscuity, by dispensing condoms and calling it, "safe sex." If someone is offended, that's OK.
I can even use this public facility to present the merits of killing an unborn baby as a "viable! means of birth control." If someone is offended, no problem....
I can designate a school day as "Earth Day" and involve students in activities to worship religiously and praise the goddess "Mother Earth" and call it "ecology.."
I can use literature, videos and presentations in the classroom that depicts 20 people with strong, traditional Christian convictions as "simple minded" and "ignorant" and call it "enlightenment...."
However, if anyone uses this facility to honor GOD and to ask HIM to Bless this event with safety and good sportsmanship, then Federal Case Law is violated.
This appears to be inconsistent at best, and at worst, diabolical. Apparently, we are to be tolerant of everything and anyone, except GOD and HIS Commandments.
Nevertheless , as a school principal, I frequently ask staff and students to abide by rules with which they do not necessarily agree. For me to do otherwise would be inconsistent at best, and at worst, hypocritical... I suffer from that affliction enough unintentionally. I certainly do not need to add an intentional transgression.
For this reason, I shall "Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's," and refrain from praying at this time.
" However, if you feel inspired to honor, praise and thank GOD and ask HIM, in the name of JESUS, to Bless this event, please feel free to do so. As far as I know, that's not against the law----yet."
One by one, the people in the stands bowed their heads, held hands with one another and began to pray.
They prayed in the stands. They prayed in the team huddles. They prayed at the concession stand and they prayed in the Announcer's Box!
The only place they didn't pray was in the Supreme Court of the United States of America- the Seat of "Justice" in the "one nation, under GOD. "
Somehow, Kingston , Tennessee Remembered what so many have forgotten. We are given the Freedom OF Religion, not the Freedom FROM Religion. Praise GOD that HIS remnant remains!
Some people go to church regularly, some go occasionally, and others seldom go at all. How important is church participation? Are there good reasons that I should go to church?
Actually, the Bible calls on believers to be the church, and not just go to church. But to effectively be the church, believers need to faithfully gather with the other members of the body of Christ for equipping and encouragement.
Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th president of the United States, believed in attending and participating in church. In 1917, in an interview with Ladies Home Journal, President Roosevelt offered at least 10 reasons for going to church:
- In the actual world a churchless community, a community where men have abandoned and scoffed at or ignored their religious needs, is a community on the rapid downgrade.
- Church work and church attendance mean the cultivation of the habit of feeling some responsibility for others and the sense of braced moral strength, which prevents a relaxation of one's own moral fiber.
- There are enough holidays for most of us that can quite properly be devoted to pure holiday making. Sundays differ from other holidays, among other ways, in the fact that there are 52 of them every year. On Sunday, go to church.
- Yes, I know all the excuses. I know that one can worship the Creator and dedicate oneself to good living in a grove of trees, or by a running brook, or in one's own house, just as well as in church. But I also know as a matter of cold fact the average man does not thus worship or thus dedicate himself. If he strays away from church, he does not spend his time in good works or lofty meditation. He looks over the colored supplement of the newspaper.
- He may not hear a good sermon at church. But unless he is very unfortunate, he will hear a sermon by a good man who, with his good wife, is engaged all the week long in a series of wearing, humdrum and important tasks for making hard lives a little easier.
- He will listen to and take part in reading some beautiful passages from the Bible. And if he is not familiar with the Bible, he has suffered a loss.
- He will probably take part in singing some good hymns.
- He will meet and nod to, or speak to, good quiet neighbors. He will come away feeling a little more charitably toward all the world, even toward those excessively foolish young men who regard churchgoing as rather a soft performance.
- I advocate a man's joining in church works for the sake of showing his faith by his works.
- The man who does not in some way, active or not, connect himself with some active, working church misses many opportunities for helping his neighbors, and therefore, incidentally, for helping himself.
Ninety-two years have passed since that historic interview with President Roosevelt. And church attendance and participation is still vitally important to faith development and Christian service.
The Scriptures advise us "not to give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another, even more as you see the day of the Lord approaching." (Hebrews 10:25)
Why not go to church next Sunday and learn to be the church in your community every day?
Written by Barry Howard the senior minister of the First Baptist Church of Pensacola, Fla.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
How do I know? Because I was transported back in time as I watched this little girl play in the rain. I could see myself standing there in a similar situation enjoying the raindrops on my tongue. It's been years since I felt that simple pleasure. What happens to us as we grow up? We lose sight of the simple pleasures in life.
I was listening to the radio this afternoon and "Escape," (The Pina Colada Song) by Rupert Holmes came on. I probably shouldn't use it as a reference in this church column but it speaks to a truth we all know. We get so sidetracked by lesser things in life that we lose sight of the blessings God has given us. That's what the song is all about. The man is bored with his life and feeling unappreciated by his wife when he sees a personal ad in the paper. He responds only to find the other person is his wife. They laugh and realize that they had taken each other for granted.
There is a hymn I grew up with that calls for us to "count your many blessings , name them one by one and you will see all the things the Lord has done." We need to live life like this. We need to enjoy the simple blessings that God has given us. We need to slow down, stick out our tongues and catch the mercy drops that are falling all around us.
That little girl was blessed and I pray you will be too.
Monday, November 16, 2009
She told me that she and her husband were all alone. Their family was back in Peurto Rico. I asked her again about church and she said she didn't belong to one. Again she reiterated that she was all alone and there was no one to help.
Now the truth is that she was a little too smooth. Before I could suggest someone else who could help, she beat me to it and named all the other social agencies in town as well as many of the other churches who usually have some funds to help. I also know that at my suggestion she did talk to Pastor Jorge from the Buenas Nuevas congregation here at First Baptist. I suggested she visit his church and get to know him an the good folks there. Pastor Jorge told me she showed up after church one day looking for money. She had no interest in attending services.
When I talked to her today I explained that one of the benefits of belonging to a church was that it became an extended family. The church becomes the support we need when life gets tough. I told her that is what our Deacon's fund is for and that is why many churches limit access to outsiders. These funds are to help our members when they need a little lift.
When she left today she still didn't get it. It made me think about the fact that so many of us think we need to go through life alone, without the support of community. We only reach out when we get in trouble. Of course we do the same thing to God. We live as if He didn't exist and then call on him when something happens. But life is so much better if we live it with God and the faith community. We find strength there. We find hope and encouragement. It also opens the door for us to be a comfort and strength to others as well.
That's the great thing about community. What goes around, comes around. What you give often comes back to you. Are you part of a church family? If not, I'd like to suggest you find one. Check out various churches until you find a place with people you can identify with and a clergy person who speaks to your heart. You will be blessed and your family will grow.
Sunday, November 15, 2009
I'm thinking of taking a group up there next summer. But the more I see of this Atlanta Fest, the more I think that might be more fun. Here is a sample of what they had down there. See if you agree.
Saturday, November 14, 2009
Thursday, November 12, 2009
1) Give God what's right, not what's left.
2) Man's way leads to hopeless end but God's way leads to endless hope.
3) A lot of kneeling will keep you in good standing.
4) He who kneels before God will be in good standing.
5) In the sentence of life, the devil may be a comma, but never let him be the period.
6) Don't put a question mark where God puts a period.
7) Are you wrinkled with burden? Come to church for a face-lift.
8) When praying don't give God instructions. Just report for duty.
9) Don't wait for six strong men to carry you into the church.
10) We don't change God's message. It changes us.
11) The church is prayer conditioned.
12) When God ordains, he sustains.
13) Exposure to the Son may prevent burning.
14) Plan ahead. It wasn't raining when Noah started building the ark.
15) Most people want to serve God but only in an advisory position.
16) Suffering from truth decay. Brush up on your Bible.
17) Exercise daily. Walk with the Lord.
18) Never give the devil a ride. He will always want to drive.
19) Nothing else ruins the truth like stretching it.
20) Compassion is difficult to give away because it keeps coming back.
21) He who angers you, controls you.
22) Worry is the darkroom in which negatives can develop.
23) Give Satan an inch and he'll be a ruler.
24) Be ye fishers of men. You catch them & he'll clean them.
25) God doesn't call the qualified, he qualifies the called.
Think about these and then say a prayer for someone you know. God may be using you to make someone's day.
The Buzzard: If you put a buzzard in a pen that is 6 feet by 8 feet and is entirely open at the top, the bird, in spite of its ability to fly, will be an absolute prisoner. The reason is that a buzzard always begins a flight from the ground with a run of 10 to 12 feet. Without space to run, as is its habit, it will not even attempt to fly, but will remain a prisoner for life in a small jail with no top.
The Bat: The ordinary bat that flies around at night, a remarkable nimble creature in the air, cannot take off from a level place. If it is placed on the floor or flat ground, all it can do is shuffle about helplessly and, no doubt, painfully, until it reaches some slight elevation from which it can throw itself into the air. Then, at once, it takes off like a flash.
The Bumblebee: A bumblebee, if dropped into an open tumbler, will be there until it dies, unless it is taken out. It never sees the means of escape at the top, but persists in trying to find some way out through the sides near the bottom. It will seek a way where none exists, until it completely destroys itself.
People: In many ways, we are like the buzzard, the bat, and the bumblebee. We struggle about with all our problems and frustrations, never realizing that all we have to do is look up! That's the answer, the escape route and the solution to any problem! Just look up.
Sorrow looks back, Worry looks around, but Faith looks up!
Monday, November 9, 2009
I took it to the Blockbuster store to exchange it for a new video. When the cashier looked at it he said, "This video hasn't even been opened." I said, "What?" He told me that the video hadn't been opened and was still in the wrapper. I laughed and couldn't believe it. It just goes to show that your brain can play tricks on you and what you think may not always be the truth.
That's why we are called to walk by faith and not by sight. We are called to trust God and see things through his eyes and not our own.
It is a silly thing. It reminded me that no matter how old you get, there is still a child inside of us. It gets buried beneath the gray hair, the pot belly, the wrinkles and the diplomas. We have expectations on how we should act and what we should think. But every once in a while that child sneaks out and reminds us that it is still alive and well in there.
I think that's a good thing. For Jesus said that the kingdom of God belongs to the children. It belongs to those who can see beyond their own biases and prejudices. It belongs to those who can believe in that which they can't see. I want that child in me to lead me to God's kingdom and as long as I know it is still there, I can continue to hope. So can you.
Saturday, November 7, 2009
I'm posting this today because God may be speaking to you and calling you to check this out. Let me know if you take the challenge. I'd love to be your first customer.
Friday, November 6, 2009
Tony Robbins makes a guest appearance in the movie and he tries to convince Black's buddy that most people are hypnotized into believing that beauty is skin deep by intensive advertising campaigns that promote it at every opportunity. As a result we have all become very shallow and miss out on what is most important.
I got to thinking that we do the same thing in the church as well. We have an image of what a Christian is supposed to look like. We look for the signs or external cues and don't ever look beyond that to the heart of the people we meet. I like what the Bible says about David. It says he had a heart for God. We all know that David was a murderer, an adulterer, and an imperfect man. Yet God looked beyond that and saw a person worth redeeming, a person with the heart that was pure.
I think God sees the same thing in many of us. We aren't perfect. We've messed up. Yet God looks beyond that and sees our heart and he calls us to come to him. That's good news. He doesn't look at the ugliness. He sees what is underneath it all. Praise God.
Thursday, November 5, 2009
I caught up with the cars in front of me and for the next half hour we inched ahead. Then we stopped for a solid ten minutes. I was a mile from the exit when the slow down started. As I came to the exit I had a choice to make. Should I continue on the highway and hope that the disturbance would clear up quickly or try to take an alternate route I had never been on before?
I laughed as I thought about how we are forced to make this kind of choice every day. We come up against roadblocks and difficulties in our lives and have a choice to make. Wait and hope things get better or strike out and take an alternate route. The decision is always hard. We are often stopped in our tracks because we are afraid to make the wrong choice. too often we end up making a choice by not choosing. That's no way to live.
Last night as I sat in traffic and moved beyond aggravation into resignation, I quietly prayed and asked God to help me decide. My rationale mind kicked into gear and I chose the alternate route. Even though I was unfamiliar with it, I had a feeling it would lead me where I wanted to go. I got off the highway and began to move again and i thanked God.
The truth is that I don't know which way proved quicker but I made the choice with God's help and I got to where I wanted to go. The same is true in life. When you have a tough decision to make, talk to God. Ask Him for direction, wisdom and to help you make that choice. Then go with your gut and move forward. God will be with you and He will direct your steps and lead you on.
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
It was a day to remember. Murphy's Law was in full effect. When I got home a few minutes ago I sat down and thanked God that the day had come to an end. Nothing terrible had happened. Nothing irreversible had occurred and I was sitting in my favorite chair in a warm house surrounded by family.
Sometimes it is all we can do but give thanks for the little things. Life can be tough on any given day. The pain may even last for weeks on end. But God is good and he will be with us on the bad days as well as on the good days. On the bad days it is especially important for us to count our blessings. They remind us of the greater truths. They remind us that nothing lasts forever and that God always works for good for those who love the Lord.
Monday, November 2, 2009
As a society we seem to crave R rated entertainment. Everything has to have either sexual innuendo or blood and gore. We crave action films where people are murdered and villains go up against heroes in profanity laced tirades. We go after television sitcoms where everything is about sex and drugs. We like rap music that speak about rubbing our bodies against each other and giving it up for love and Country songs that talk about booze and infidelities. Our mystery and romance novels tell stories that don't leave much for the imagination.
It made me question how a Christian nation can tolerate the degree of filth that floods our airwaves and grabs the attention of our young people. I am not suggesting censorship. I don't think that works. What I am wondering is why more of us don't just reject it all together. If we stopped watching objectionable television programs and stopped buying music and movies that contain language and corrupt ideas then things would have to change.
Unfortunately we have been brainwashed into thinking that tolerance means acceptance. We have come to believe that if we reject something, we are being intolerant. The truth is it simply means we don't approve of it for ourselves. If Christians stopped watching shows like Two and a Half Men and going to movies like Saw VI then the ratings would drop and a message would be sent.
We used to say the same thing about sports that began encroaching on Sunday mornings. We said if the Christians would all stand up and say our kids aren't going to practice and play on Sundays, the system would respond and change back. But too many of us backed down. A Roman Catholic friend of mine said he solved the problem by going to church on Saturday. Now practices and games and tournaments are the norm.
We've hurt ourselves with our inability to take a stand. What's worse is the fact that we have let Christ down. We have been called to be a light in the darkness and it has swallowed us up. But there is still a flicker and you and I hold it in our hands. What are we going to do with it?
Sunday, November 1, 2009
When I hit my fiftieth birthday last year something strange happened. All the old timers were my age or older. Guys that I watched play as I was growing up were all going to be there. All my heroes were taking part in those fantasy camps. Suddenly it didn't seem so silly anymore.
It is funny how time has the ability to change our perspective on things. As we age and have more experiences we come to see everything in a new light. That certainly happens in our faith lives. Those things we used to see as coincidences are now seen as the guiding hand of God. That person who comes along just when we needed someone to brighten our day is now seen as an undercover angel.
The truth is that God is always there. It's us. We just don't notice him and appreciate him when we are younger. But Praise God time helps us see things for what they really are.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
So why do people run to all kinds of crazy places when they have spiritual problems? Why don't they head to the church? What's a spiritual problem? How about looking for meaning and purpose in life?
When we are searching for guidance on what to do, we can usually find it and our moral compass in the church. God, the one who created us, specializes in solving these kinds of problems. He knows us because he wrote the manual on human life.
If you have a problem right now, you should think about coming home to god. He will check out your problem and get you back up and running again.
Monday, October 12, 2009
Mrs.Sarah Estroff writing from / Herzog Hospital, Jérusalem, Israël.
Greeting to you in the name of our Lord,
I am the above named person from Israel, I am married to Mr.Braverman Estroff who is an Oil Consultant / Contractor in before his death, due to the crisis between our country and Gaza , We were married for eleven years without a child. Before his death we were both born again Christian and we worship in Glorious chapel church of God. Since his death I decided not to remarry or get a child outside my matrimonial home which the Bible is against. When my late husband was alive he deposited the sum of ( $12.5 million U.S. dollars)in a trunk box with a Finance company in Italy, Presently the fund is still with the finance company.
Recently, my Doctor told me that i have serious sickness which is cancer. But I pray to God to heal me so that I will be alive and see his work done as my late husband instructed me.Having known my condition I decided to contact you for your urgent assistance, so that you will help me contact the finance company were the consignment box is been deposited by my late husband. on how the consignment will be realised and transferred to your country were we can invest the fund in a good manna and also for me to get my self
well treated and make sure that i invest the fund on what my late husband has instructed me before his death.
Don't laugh. I know it isn't real. There have been scams like this going on for a long time. That's why we say "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is." It's the same reason why so many people have a hard time accepting Christ's offer. Jesus said that if you come to him and confess your sins, they will be forgiven. There's more. If you accept Christ you will not die but have eternal life in him forever.
Sounds too good to be true. Many of us have grown up with the idea that unless we do x, y and z we will not go to heaven. We know we aren't perfect so God will punish us. Even though the Bible proposes that grace is the order of the day we feel like we have to do something to earn God's grace. To have it as a free gift just doesn't make sense. It isn't believable. Yet that is what the Bible promises.
The apostle John says, "For God so love the world that he gave his only son that whoever believes in him shall have everlasting life. For God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world but rather that the whole world might be saved through him." John 3:16- 17
That is God's promise. The one who created us and has blessed us also says these words. They may sound too good to be true but when you consider the source there is no doubt that you can trust them. You see that is the key. The truth is not in what is said, it is in who is saying it.
I don't know this Sarah at all. She could be legitimate but I cannot trust her. I do know god and he has proven to be trustworthy time and time again. So when he makes a promise you can believe it, I do and I hope you will too.
Saturday, October 10, 2009
So tonight let's all take a few minutes to give thanks for some of the blessings we enjoy. I'll go first.
I give thanks for the warm furnished home I live in on this cold rainy night.
I give thanks for the health of my family. All three girls, Lori and I are healthy and well.
I give thanks for my work at the church. It is a blessing to me because it allows me to serve.
I give thanks for the food we had tonight. so many people go to bed hungry.
I give thanks for this computer which allows me to do my work and connect with my friends.
I give thanks for my mom, who's case of terminal cancer is being held at bay by the grace of God.
I give thanks for my friend, George, who has found new love and a new life.
I give thanks for having a little money in the bank and all the bills being paid.
I give thanks for a car that runs.
I give thanks for my kitty, Misty. I love to play with her.
I give thanks for this country I live in where I have so much freedom and opportunity.
How's that for a start. Now it's your turn. Have fun with it.
Friday, October 9, 2009
When I asked her if she was alright she told me that the just found out her seventeen year old daughter was 6 1/2 months pregnant. Wow! Talk about a bombshell. This woman was now dealing with what it would mean for her daughter and herself. She wasn't angry or depressed. She was simply trying to regain her composure in light of the world altering news.
The funny thing is that many of us have been hit with announcements that take our nice little world by surprise. We think we have it all figured out. We have all our ducks lined up in a row. Then life happens.
Upstairs in the same hospital was a friend of mine in the community who was battling cancer. She was pretty beat up by the cancer and the treatment and all that was happening. A few months early she was all excited about her move to a new home. She and her husband had made the decision to go and this is where they were going to retire. Then life happened.
I remember another friend of mine saying that if he didn't have faith he would have thrown in the towel a long time ago. He is right. The good news is that our faith sustains us in these turbulent times. When the storms of life come it buoys us up and helps us stay afloat. No one ever knows when those moments are going to come but we all know they will come. The knowledge that we are not alone, that God cares and he will walk through this with us is a tremendous comfort.
I take it a step further. My faith tells me that God will not only be with me, he will send people to visit and encourage me. I think that's why I happened to bump into they young woman at the hospital today. It wasn't an accident. She needed God today and I gave him a human face. I came with his encouraging word.
The truth is that is what we are all called to do. When we bump into someone it isn't an accident. It is God directing our steps. So be an encouragement to all you meet and let the holy spirit work through you. You will be someone's blessing today.
Monday, October 5, 2009
Wheaton college has put together a collection of items of interest from those meetings, including some photographs and audio sermons. You can check them out at the following address. Just cut and paste it into your browser window.
Check it out and enjoy.
Well the sad news is that this year's team was in first place all season long and then lost it in the final days. Today they are tied for first place and have to play one more game to determine who wins the division and goes on to play the New york Yankees in round one of the playoffs.
In analyzing the team, Michael Rosenberg of the Detroit Free Press, called them a flawed team. He said they had some good qualities but it was the flaws that stood out. Actually, he begins his article with a quote from a conversation that took place before the game:
No, not Jim Leyland, the team's manager.
“Leyland’s son, he came in and told me I was 0-for-8 with five strikeouts against (John Danks), and go get him,” Raburn said. “So I was like, ‘It can’t get no worse. So just drop in and have fun.'"
That’s an odd motivational speech. Hey, I just want to point out: You have STUNK against this guy. I mean, stats don’t lie. He is thrilled you’re in the lineup. He called his family and friends and told them to watch the game. But, hey, go get him!
And yet, Raburn smacked two home runs. So maybe Patrick Leyland has a future as a manager.
In a way, maybe this is what all the Tigers needed to hear after dropping three in a row: You’ve been lousy, so admit it and forget it. But Raburn’s performance, which was essential to the Tigers’ victory, also showcased why this team (however flawed) is so fascinating right now.
As I was reading this article I was struck by how often the same thing is true for us in our Christian walk. Not the stinking part, but the fact that on any given day anyone can be a hero for God. You and I possess the ability to do wonderful things for God. If we offer ourselves to Him, we can make some one's day with a smile or with some act of kindness.
Many of us feel that we can't contribute much to someone else's needs but that's not true. By being a friend or by giving someone a hand, we brighten their day. A phone call or a note can bring an encouraging word. Although a visit from the Publisher's Clearing House Prize Patrol is what most people think about when they think of a life changing blessing, it usually isn't the big things that bring us the most joy. It is the small things done by people who care about us that make the most difference in our lives.
The other point I love is the simple fact that we need to let go of the past. The fact that we messed up yesterday has nothing to do with what we are doing today. It has no hold over us if we don't let it. So give it to God and forget about it. Every day is a new day. Life is too short to dwell on it and we have work to do.
So get out there and make something happen. Be a blessing to someone.