Monday, June 21, 2010

God cares for you

On Sunday my three daughters sang a very special song. It is one that their mother used to sing when she was their age. It was beautifully done.

For 25 years they have come to know this church as a place where family and friends came to discover the love of God. That's a special thing. That's what the song acknowledges. God is always watching over us. That's been the message of our ministry at First Baptist for the last quarter of a century. Times have certainly changed. The world around us has become less personal and more secular. The truth is that my girls have lived their lives going against the tide of society. Over the last twenty five years a generation has grown up without the benefit of a church relationship and the knowledge of God's love.

Yet we still preach Christ and are finding ways to introduce him to the people we know. It is no longer the job of the church to do this. Not the church as in the place where we go on Sundays. The call goes out for every one of us as the body of Christ, as individuals, to be ambassadors for Jesus. Yes, that call has been going out for centuries but today it is more important than ever. Each of us has a sphere of influence that God has given us. We can share love of Christ by following his example and living to his glory.

The truth is that we may be the only contact some people have with God. The way we live our lives, the grace, love, hospitality and truth that is exhibited by our lives will be the message that they hear.

On Sunday the reporter from the Norwich Bulletin asked me what my message was today and how it had changed in 25 years. I told her it was simple and it hadn't changed. God loves you and me. That's the message that the world needs to hear. God still cares and he wants to do something about it.

That's why I love this song. (Never mind the fact that this version was sung by three of the most special people in my life.) So take what it says to heart and then share the good news with someone you know.


Thursday, June 3, 2010

Only by grace

bIt was one of the worst calls in baseball history. Last night umpire Jim Joyce robbed Detroit Tiger's pitcher Armando Galarraga of a place in baseball history when he blew a call with two out in the top of the ninth inning. The batter hit a ball to the right of first baseman Miguel Cabrera and he went over and picked it up and threw it to Galarraga. With a step and a half to spare he made the play. As the runner crossed the base the umpire signaled that he was safe to the utter amazement of the players, the crowd and even the hitter. Despite an argument from the manager and several players, the umpire refused to change his call.

After the game umpire Jim Joyce checked the video replay and saw that the runner was clearly out. In a gracious gesture, he went to Armando and apologized and said he blew the call and cost him the perfect game.

In the hours since the blown call, both Galarraga and Joyce have showed themselves to be classy gentlemen. As a matter of fact, so did the whole Tiger organization. Manager Jim Leyland and several players openly forgave Joyce and said they felt for him. Today Leyland sent Galarrag out with the lin-eup card to meet the umpires and Joyce hugged him. Then the Tiger's owner Mike Illitch presented Armando with a brand new Corvette convertible to congratulate him on his tremendous pitching feat.

The whole thing could be dissected and used for for numerous sermon illustrations. The truth is that many of us have had similar experiences. We have done everything right but someone's mistake has cost us an opportunity. It is so unfair but it is life. We live in a fallen world. We are subject to the sins and errors of others. By the same token, by grace we sometimes experience blessings we don't deserve.

The best thing we can do is give life our best. Armando Galarraga picked up the ball and went right back to the mound. He threw ball and got the next man out. He won the game and that is what really mattered. The apostle Paul says that running the race... doing our best to the finish line is what matters most. I hope when I find myself in a similar position, I will remember stories like this and look to God and ask him for the grace to continue on to my own reward.

God bless.


Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

A time to serve

Mahatma Gandhi said, "The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others." Gandhi studied religion and was well aware of Jesus. I have no doubt that this is a learning that jumps off the pages of scripture. Twice in the Gospel of Matthew Jesus mentions that a person who wants to find his life, has to be willing to lose it for his sake. In recent years Rick Warren has been talking about the purpose driven life and telling us that if we want to find our life, we need to look to God. God is giving and loving.

I am moved by stories that tell how others have come together and sacrificed for the well being of those in need. Modern day heroes include Mother Theresa, Bono, Franklin Graham and a host of people who have made it a point to advocate and live for others. You can have a ton of money and be unhappy. You can have beautiful people in your life and still not find satisfaction. You can have glamor and fame and come away empty. Just look at Tiger Woods, Jesse James, Lindsey Lohan and Brittany Spears and you will see brokenness and a search fo something more.

That's why I love the idea of serving others. I belong to the Norwich Rotary Club and our motto is "Service above self." The idea is that if we serve others, the whole community will benefit. God was pretty smart when he put this idea in our hearts. Later on the Apostle Paul picked up on it when he called the Christian community the body of Christ. He noted that we all have a role to play in making something great happen. It is so true. When we each come together to share our gifts, great things can be accomplished and God will be glorified.

So what are you waiting for? Get out there and start serving.