Thursday, April 23, 2009

A life - in words

Rev. Baker looked at us and said, "Did you know you are writing your eulogy right now?" He was speaking at the funeral service for Ann-etta Cannon this morning. After a wonderful eulogy by Ann's son and some loving tributes by her daughter and a good friend, Rev. Baker reminded us that it was her loving acts that gave life to the words that had been shared. He reminded us that it is how we live our life that will determine how we will be remembered.

I couldn't help but think of the words "Well done good and faithful servants." Those are the words that all of us hope to hear when God calls us home. The only way we are going to hear them, is if we decide right now to live a life that glorifies God.

I think the nicest words that were said in describing Ann came from her son who said that she lived God's commands to love God and to love her neighbor. I hope the same can be said of you and I when our eulogy is finished and our life is said and done.


Monday, April 20, 2009

Where is your treasure?

I sat there looking at this very simple home. The exterior walls were made of concrete and the interior walls were cork board. A few pictures were hanging on the walls and the front door looked like it never closed. That's probably because the owners had an open door policy when it came to hosting church events.

In one of the poorer neighborhoods in Mexicali, this family opened their home to children of the neighbor and their families for a Vacation Bible School. They didn't have much but they were willing to share it all.

It made me think about so many people I know back home who have been blessed with so much. They jealously guard everything they have. The verse of scripture that comes to mind is "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal." from Matthew 6:19. Instead we are urged to store our treasure in heaven.

The folks in Mexico were doing just that. They were building the kingdom of God one brick at a time. In the three years that I have gone down there, I have learned so much from the people. They have their priorities right. Maybe we would be happier back home here if we were to listen to Jesus and begin reinvesting our treasures.


Sunday, April 19, 2009

Finding the thing that connects us

I am watching the Mash retrospective on TV Land. The cast members from the 1970' television show are together again and talking about the show. MASH was on the air for eleven seasons and a big hit. I am really enjoying it. I was teenager when the show originally aired and didn't really get into it until it was in reruns in the 1980's.

I think what really set the show apart from so many others was the depth of the characters and the way it touched real life. They were believable. The show talked about the horror of war and its effects on people in a way that made many of us sit up and take notice. It spoke to us.

As I watched a few flashback scenes, it made me think about the ways that we reach out to the world today with the gospel. How do we present it so that people can identify with it? Jesus often spoke in parables. He used illustrations from every day life. He talked about shepherds and laborers and Samaritans and beggars. Whenever he mentioned a person or a situation it was one that people immediately understood.

I don't really watch American Idol or Survivor or any of the popular reality shows today. Recently I read an article that suggested preachers need to have the Bible in one hand and a copy of the magazine Entertainment Weekly in the other. Illustrations from popular media can help connect our audience with the deeper truths of God's word. Finding ways to do that with integrity will help us become a hit with the people we are seeking to reach.

We may never do what MASH did for television, but if we can get one person to understand just how much God loves them, then it will be worth the effort.


Friday, April 17, 2009

Dinner with a hero

Tonight I got to eat dinner with a real, live hero. Mercy Gonzales Barnes was in town and we hosted a pot luck dinner so people could meet her. Mercy works with Mexican pastors and churches along the United States border. She encourages, equips and energizes them and helps them answer God's call to serve some of the poorest people on the North American continent. I've been there and seen how the churches minister to their neighborhoods bringing hope to families that struggle to make ends meet. It's a different world

Mercy and Rick, her husband, have given their lives to this calling and they do it full time. They live that injunction to preach the good news to the ends of the earth. They go out on our behalf and serve in places that many of us will never have the chance to visit.

At the meeting tonight Mercy told of how they have worked alongside some of the churches in the region. It was great. All of our missionaries are special people. But tonight we got to share a few minutes with one of them. This video tells a little bit more about Mercy and her work.

Please put Mercy and Rick on your prayer list. They do good work and funding is in short supplies these days. Ask God to bless their ministry and their finances so they can keep doing what he has called them to do.


Thursday, April 16, 2009

Building one day at a time.

I couldn't believe my ears. She was telling her friend "I didn't do anything today. I feel like a big waste of time." Then she went on to talk about her experience on the work site. My friend had big expectations for that first day on the mission trip. She wanted to build something, change a life, transform a community. All she did was dig up some dirt and break a few rocks.

I thought about this later that night. A lot of us look at accomplishment in terms of finished products. We can work for hours and days but if we don't finish the project our efforts appear to us as being unsuccessful. We measure our effectiveness by the end result. If we don't complete the job then it was a waste.

A few years ago I heard a speaker at the Billy Graham School of Evangelism say that it takes seven people to bring a person to saving faith in Christ. He said that when all is said in done we may very well meet someone in heaven who will thank us. They'll say, "You were number three. You thought I wasn't listening but I heard every word and it set the stage for the next person who came along. It all added up until I finally realized the truth."

Paul said it even better when describing his role in the church. He says in I Corinthians, "I planted, Apollos watered and God made it grow." (I Cor 3:6) You see life is a progression or a series of actions that build on each other.

I reminded my young friend that last year we carried on the work of another church group who erected the walls of the church we were working on. This year we came back and helped sheet rock the walls of a second story someone else had put up.

It's important to remember that even if we never see the effect of what we are doing, God will use it to make great things happen. The key is to remain faithful and do what we can do. It was true there on the mission field. And it is true right here with what we are doing today. So go to it and give it to God.


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Give a shout out for reporting good news

I received this in my inbox this morning. It is a little dated but it makes a valid point. Read and you will see why.

Ed Freeman

You're an 19 year old kid. You're critically wounded, and dying in the jungle in the Ia Drang Valley , 11-14-1965, LZ X-ray, Vietnam . Your infantry unit is outnumbered 8 - 1, and the enemy fire is so intense, from 100 or 200 yards away, that your own Infantry Commander has ordered the MediVac helicopters to stop coming in.

You're lying there, listening to the enemy machine guns, and you know you're not getting out. Your family is 1/2 way around the world, 12,000 miles away, and you'll never see them again. As the world starts to fade in and out, you know this is the day.

Then, over the machine gun noise, you faintly hear that sound of a helicopter, and you look up to see an un-armed Huey, but it doesn't seem real, because no Medi-Vac markings are on it.

Ed Freeman is coming for you. He's not Medi-Vac, so it's not his job, but he's flying his Huey down into the machine gun fire, after the Medi-Vacs were ordered not to come.

He's coming anyway.

And he drops it in, and sits there in the machine gun fire, as they load 2 or 3 of you on board. Then he flies you up and out through the gunfire, to the Doctors and Nurses.

And, he kept coming back.... 13 more times..... And took about 30 of you and your buddies out, who would never have gotten out.

Medal of Honor Recipient, Ed Freeman, died last Wednesday at the age of 80, in Boise, ID . . . May God rest his soul!

Actually Ed Freeman passed away on August 20 of last year. I bet you didn't hear about this hero's passing, because the newspapers and television stations are more interested in reporting on Brittany spears drug rehab stints or some Hip-Hop coward beating the crap out of his "girlfriend.” Why is it that the newspapers and electronic media give more coverage to the bad news than to good news. It is because bad news sells. We are a voyeuristic society that loves to look in on other's misfortunes. We stay glued to the television when O J is racing down the highway in a white Bronco or pirates are attacking a freighter. Put on a feel good story about a woman who bakes cookies for her neighbors and we change the channel.

The truth is that it isn't just those secular people that are feeding this craziness. It is all of us Christians too. We buy into it and we don't support the good news that is offered when it comes out.

We can make a difference. It just means making a conscious effort to look for the good news stories and then give the newspaper or television station positive feedback. They listen to you. If enough people begin giving them kudos for reporting good news, it can make a difference.


Medal of Honor Winner

Ed Freeman!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Make that call

I was playing around on the computer tonight when I noticed the Skype symbol on the bottom of the screen. I double clicked on it and the dialog box came up. After a couple of minutes it dawned on me that I had a complete record of all the calls that we had made with our daughter Sarah when she was in Australia last fall. There were text messages and the days and times when we hooked up.

It gave me a good feeling. It made me think back about those calls. They were special moments when we could chat and catch up with all the important things in life. It suddenly hit me that God must feel the same way whenever we take the time to hook up with him in prayer. Those are special moments to him and he keeps a record of all of them because he loves us so.

If you haven't spoken with him yet today, why not do it now. He'll be waiting up to hear your voice. Take it from me. A father knows a father's heart.


Sunday, April 12, 2009

Dancing for God

How do you express your faith? Today in church we had two young ladies do it through a liturgical dance. They used their talent to praise God.

We all have gifts. Most of the time we are reluctant to use them in church or to glorify God. They may be gifts that don't seem very spiritual. Maybe you are an athlete and you can't see what hitting a baseball has to do with God. Well look at the professional athletes who lead chapel services for their teams or the guys who play in recreational leagues who are sought out when someone has a problem and they need someone to talk to. It is more about being available than it is having a spiritual gift. Your gift may put you in a place where Gd can use you.

I know a teacher who never says Jesus' name in her classroom but she reveals him every day in the way she loves her students. The truth is that we all have gifts to share and the only question is whether we will do it or not. The where will come later.

Some will have opportunities to do it in worship, in Sunday School and on boards and committees. Others will do it at work or as they live out their life in the world. God honors both ways. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and dance for God.


Saturday, April 11, 2009

He forgives our sin, even if we don't recognize it as sin

Over the last week I have seen three different police cruisers roll through stop signs to make a right turn without stopping. The truth is that a lot of people do it. There are probably more people who roll right through them than actually stop. So I didn't think twice when I saw it.

It did prompt me think about the nature of sin in our lives. There are an awful lot of things that we used to call sin that don't quite hit the mark on our radar any more. We tell little white lies and cheat a little on our taxes. We gossip about our friends and get angry at those who serve us. These are just the little things, like rolling through stop signs. But there are bigger things too.

The truth is that the Apostle Paul was right. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. That's why we need a Savior. When even those who should know better end up breaking the law, then what hope is there for the rest of us.

Here is the good news that comes to us this weekend. Jesus died and took our place on the cross. He bore the curse and punishment for our sins so that we could be forgiven. Then he rose from the dead as a sign that God would be true to his word. As we celebrate the resurrection on Sunday, we celebrate our new life in Christ. The old has passed away. The new is here forever. Praise God for his wonderful love.


It is how you play the game.

My favorite baseball team won yesterday. Now I can't wait for the Detroit Tigers to play again. It is funny how that works. One win and I am so excited for the action to continue. Winning is contagious. The truth is that sports has that effect on us. We go so wrapped up in it that a team's winning streak can carry us through a difficult time in our lives.

On the other hand, when our teams lose, it can set us off and take the luster off everything else in our lives. Why do we let our fascination with sports teams have such a powerful effect on us? The truth is that it speaks to our very nature.

When we have a disagreement with our spouse and things are not going well, it colors the way we see the world. No matter how well everything else is going, we view the world around us with a sense of sorrow and loss. Yet, when our sweetie gives us a hug or does something nice for us, the clouds disappear and the sun starts blazing over head. It doesn't matter if in reality it is pouring outside. Your world will be bright.

We get too caught up in the here and now and let it shade the future. That is why it is good to see things from God's perspective. He takes the long view of things. He knows there will be ups and downs in life. He encourages us to take the sure and steady road.

Sparky Anderson, former manager of my Tigers, used to say, "Every team is going to win fifty games and lose fifty games no matter how good they are. It is what you do with the other sixty two games that makes the difference between a good season and a bad one." The truth is that it is how you play the game that matters most. We will have hills and valleys in our lives. But how we live and what we put our trust in, will determine how good of a life we have.

So trust God and follow him and you will be blessed.


Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Singing the old song in our own way

I was wondering how many different versions of the Old Rugged Cross I could find. Here is Elvis singing it.

Here is Johnny Cash taking his turn.

Check out Johnny Paycheck's version. This shows anyone can sing it. It may not be a sweet melody to your ears but it is to God's.

Here is Jim Nabors (Gomer Pyle) singing the old song.

I love the Statler Brothers and here is their contribution.

Well I hope you have enjoyed the different voices singing that same song. The truth is that whenever we give our testimony to the love of God, it will sound a little different but it is the same song every time.

God bless. Cal

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

I will sing God's praises

Every once in a while I have a "blue day" where I am just feeling a little down and discouraged. The circumstances of life press in on me. It is on these days when I need to remind myself of the One who is always there to pick me up and carry me through. Back in 2005 I heard Don Moen sing at a Worship Conference and he was wonderful. I came across this song tonight and it is perfect for a down day. It reminds us to sing God's praises all the time. Enjoy.


Friday, April 3, 2009

We will know because we know him.

Last night I made sugar free chocolate pudding. I was excited because with skim milk and sugar free cool whip you can make a super good low calorie dessert. I whipped up the batch of chocolate and put it in the cups. I placed it in the refrigerator to chill and waited.

I was feeling pretty good about everything until I pulled the cup out of the fridge and went looking for the Cool Whip. There wasn't any to be found. I pulled out ever drawer in the freezer to no avail. That's when I was struck with a crazy idea. Why couldn't I use ice cream instead? It wouldn't be a low calorie dessert anymore but it sure would taste good.

And that's how I invented chocolate pudding ice cream. As I sat there eating this delicious treat it dawned on me that this is how most things happen in life. We like to think we are in control and that we plan everything. But so much of what happens to us is the result of improvisation on our part. Life is unpredictable and so we have to make choices and determine what we will do as we go along. John Lennon once said that "Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans."

That is why it is so important to have a solid relationship to Christ. When we walk with him every day, we'll find it much easier to make the right choices that will lead to happiness and fulfillment. It doesn't guarantee that you won't make mistakes. It simply means that you and I will be more apt to make good choices because they will be informed by our faith. We won't have to ask the question "What would Jesus do?" because we will know from our own walk with him.


Thursday, April 2, 2009

Can we change the world?

One of my classmates sent this to me and I watched it as if I was re-reading Alvin Toffler's future shock. Maybe you read that book when you were in high school or college. It looked to the future and predicted the rapid change and decaying of society. It presented a picture that really depressed me. Well this AARP video gives me hope that maybe Toffler was wrong even though some of his predictions were true. The truth is that as people of faith we can change the world. It is all in what you believe and what you do about it.



Wednesday, April 1, 2009

I found this and thought it was very appropriate as we head into holy week. Enjoy.