Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Nightly News

There is an old saying that goes, "No news is good news." These days, watching the local or national news at night, I'd have to say that's true. There is nothing good, it seems, on the evening news. And what's there when we DO watch it, is it REALLY "news" at all?

My wife and I just got done with a wonderful vacation. Most of the time we spent together was filled with walking and shopping, eating and moaning (after all the food we ate). There was no news. And we had a wonderful time!

Still, just because there is no news in our lives doesn't mean stuff wasn't going on. When we got back we heard all about the mess in North Carolina - protests, fights, shootings, damage to historic monuments. All a rather disgusting display of humankind. We were not made for this!

I am just entering the Book of Jeremiah in my reading. Chapter One begins wonderfully - a description of how God called Jeremiah.

"Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you. Before you were born I set you apart." - Jeremiah 1:4-5

Wonderful words from God to Jeremiah. The next several chapters however feature anything but love and praise from God. The headings in my Bible read, "Israel Forsakes God, Unfaithful Israel, Disaster From The North, Not One Is Upright." Am I watching the nightly news here?

What we are seeing happening around us is nothing new to God. We have been a disobedient people since Adam and Eve. There are SOME good people around us, but there are not enough of them.

"Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest." - John 4:35

There is not one of us that couldn't use a little more Jesus in our lives. Sure, some could use an extra portion or two, so let's do something about it. Let us pray for this nation. Let us pray for humanity. That we might ALL become more knowledgeable in the ways of the Lord so that things might go well with us as a people. Because things are not going well right now, and things will likely get worse.

"1 I lift up my eyes to the mountains - where does my help come from? 2 My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth." - Psalm 121:1-2

The Man and The Birds - Paul Harvey

Monday, August 14, 2017

Good Samaritan

It seems like these days there are fewer and fewer examples of what Jesus called "The Good Samaritan". Someone stopping to help someone else. But I saw one on Mackinac Island this past week. I saw the whole thing.

It started off with a mother of four trying to get all her kids on their rented bikes. Where the dad was, I have no idea. She was buckling helmets and putting water bottles in baskets. Her own bike was heavily laden with a diaper bad, purse, her own bicycle helmet, and a map.

She was just about done buckling the last of the kid's helmet when her own bicycle fell over into the street. Her stuff flew everywhere but she kept working on her kids, getting them ready.

Now the Mackinac Island road that runs in front of our B&B is a busy street. There are horse-drawn carriages and bikes flying by all throughout the day. Everyone kept speeding right by, swerving to avoid all of her spilled items.

As I watched from our room, a man slowed and then stopped. He picked up the lady's bike and set it back on the sidewalk. He then went out into the street and picked up all of her stuff. The lady didn't even notice him at first. She was still busy with her kids.

When she finally turned around the man was getting back on his bike to resume his travels. She looked at her bike and then at the man. Then, running towards him, I could read her lips, "Thank you!" as the man rode off.

The world is filled with bad examples. There are plenty of people with bad manners and think more highly of themselves than they do of others. It is refreshing to see an example of Christ-likeness walking the earth from time to time and it restores our faith in . . .

No.

I was going to say it restores our faith in mankind but I don't think that's right. This example reminds us how we ALL should act. It demonstrates how the world would be if we "did unto others as we would like to have done to us."

Everyone should be a good Samaritan. There should be no exceptions. But we do not live in a world where we all believe the same way. There are criminals, terrorists, we are "inventors of every kind of evil" according to Paul in Romans 1.

No, faith in humanity is not something to be desired. Faith in Christ, however, is the only faith that saves and restores. There are millions of people in this world. Many do not believe in The One True God OR Jesus. But, what if they did? Imagine the love and peace that would fill the world!

Paul finishes his letter to the Romans in chapter eight and begins it this way . . .

"8 There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace." - Romans 8:1-6

Good Samaritans Compilation

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Rosie

Every once in a while we meet someone who changes our lives. As we watch them living their own lives they make us stop and think about how we are living OUR lives. They encourage us in some way. They can even make us alter how we walk with Jesus. One of those people, for me anyway, lives on Mackinac Island. Her name is Rosie.

My wife and I recently spent several days on Mackinac Island. We go there every four or five years, usually on milestone anniversaries or on special occasions. When we go to "the Island" we usually stay at the Bay View B&B. If you ever find yourself on Mackinac Island needing a place to stay, we'd highly recommend it. But back to my story.

We first became aware of Rosie about ten years ago. I was new in my walk with the Lord and was struggling to find a reason to enjoy being in a place that speaks "money". Huge houses, expensive yachts, the Grand Hotel are prominent features on Mackinac Island. We were just about to eat breakfast when I heard a voice singing in the kitchen. It was Rosie, although we didn't know it at the time.

"What was she singing?" I wondered, as I listened and ate my breakfast. Then I heard something familiar. Something angelic. It was a hymn. She was singing a hymn! Suddenly life on the island began to take on a whole new meaning. God had provided "the voice of one crying out in hte wilderness". That was lesson number one I learned from Rosie. Rejoice in the Lord, no matter where you are or what you are doing. Rejoice!

"4 Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." - Philippians 4:4-8

Rosie does just about everything at The Bay View. She cooks and bakes, she waters the plants. We even watched her heft our huge suitcase onto a bicycle to be taken to our boat! But the most memorable moment with Rosie was the day before we left when we talked about our faith in God on the front porch. That was special.

She shared how she had been adopted at a young age by a relative who was also a minister. After our talk I began to reflect on how ALL believers are actually adopted sons and daughters and just how special that is.

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved." - Ephesians 1:3-6

I always enjoy how God brings people together for His ultimate glory and not always in the way we expect. But always in a way that is memorable. For example, one morning I had gone downstairs, hoping to speak to Rosie, but she was gone. Instead there was one of her helpers in the kitchen - Geneen.

Geneen is from Detroit. I asked her if she was there earning money for school. She said no - that she was from Detroit and was hoping to build a community center for her troubled city. What an amazing thing for a young person to want to do. And God had placed her at the Bay View under the watchful eye of Rosie - a willing mentor.


"Train up a child in the way he should go,
And when he is old he will not depart from it." - Proverbs 22:6

Rosie, you are an amazing woman. Your faith springs forth like rays of sunshine after a rain. You mentor the young ladies who work with you, you are are a humble servant just like Jesus was, and you touch people, like you did me, simply through the sound of your voice singing God's praises.

Before we left the island, Rosie, my wife and I exchanged hugs. She called me "baby" and called my wife "baby girl". I simply call her amazing . . . and "sister". Love you Sis. :)

Amazing Grace - Anne Murray

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

What Do We Say?

Facebook is a window through which we are allowed to see into the lives of other people. At least we see as much of their lives as THEY want us to see. Sometimes . . . often times . . . we see MORE than we want to see.

Should we do anything when we see somebody saying something demeaning on Facebook - kipping someone apart publicly for example. That's not on the list of "Best ways to win friends and influence people."

And what do we do when we see someone who professes a faith in Christ acting contrary to God's beliefs. What should be do then? Should we say nothing? Should do anything at all?

Well, it never hurts to pray. Praying is the first and best thing we can do for our friends and relatives in need.

Let's say someone in our family doesn't know Jesus. How do we talk to them about Him? How do we approach the topic? Or what if someone is caught in sin and refuses to repent? What do we do? Anything?

After we're done praying, before we do anything at all, we should take a good long look at ourselves. Where are WE sinning? What are WE doing that might warrant someone else talking to US?

I saw a Facebook post recently by a young friend of mine who asked an interesting question - very similar to what I am asking today.

"Is it better to lose a friend for being honest, or to hide something and keep your friend?"

What would you do? What would JESUS do? Well . . . the woman at The Well found out.

"16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”

17 “I have no husband,” she replied.

Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.” - John 4:16-18

Jesus just caught her in sin - having sex outside of marriage.

I think we have a certain biblical responsibility if see another Christian sinning. See Matthew 7:3-5

"first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye."


But as for the non-believer, all we can do is pray. We are not to judge them. We are to leave that up to Jesus. However, we CAN confront them in an evangelical effort.

I guess what I am trying to say is PRAY first in all situations. Speak lovingly to a brother or sister if, after careful examination, if feel they are sinning. Love the unbeliever by asking them questions, just as Jesus did with The Woman At The Well

Remember, they will know we are Christians . . . by our LOVE. Let us love one another as Christ loved us when WE first came to believe.

By Our Love - For King and Country

Walking The Path - Morpheus, The Matrix

Monday, August 7, 2017

The Parable of The Faithful Servants

UPS delivery on Mackinac Island
As my wife and I sat eating our dinner in one of the many downtown restaurants on Mackinac Island I was impressed be the faithful behavior of two of the animals we saw.

One was an old, grey-muzzeled black lab who was walking along the sidewalk with his master. The leash was limp. There was no need for it really. Wherever his master went, he went. Whenever his master stopped, so did he. The dog was an amazing example of obedience.

The second example was a pair of horses hooked up to a freight wagon in front of our restaurant. Their driver was loading up empty LP tanks which the horses would then be hauling somewhere to be filled.

The horses just stood there, patiently. There were hundreds of people and bicycles flying around them in every direction, yet they stood still. Just their tails and heads moved to swat away the occasional fly.

When the load was ready the driver climbed aboard and with a quick click of the tongue and a tap with the reins, the horses were plodded off, pulling the wagon down the street. They had clearly done this before. They new the drivers commands and the obeyed.

Can we say the same in our obedience to God's commands? Are we always that obedient as we wait for God to answer our prayers or to tell us what He'd like us to do in a certain situation? Yeah, probably not.

I think we have a lot to learn from the example of obedient animals.

When the dog lies down at night he is fed and petted on the head. The horse is fed his oats and watered. They are both excellent examples of obedience. Their masters are also excellent examples of our Father in heaven - caring, loving and appreciative as they guide and train. So God is with us.

There are all kinds relationships. Husband and wife, the relationship between two best friends, the relationship between a servant and his master. Our relationship with God is ALL those things. May our relationships with Him be one of love, respect, obedience and faithfulness. If it is, our relationships, ALL relationships, will flourish.

"But this is what I commanded them, saying, 'Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you will be My people; and you will walk in all the way which I command you, that it may be well with you.' - Jeremiah 7:23

Obedience - An Essential Part of The Christian Life - Sade Burrell

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Only The Young

I have had this Journey song in my head for the past several days now. Usually, in order to get the song out of this ancient brain of mine, I simply play the song and it leaves . . . but not this time. The chorus just keeps echoing, over and over again. "Only The Young Can Say." So I began searching for a meaning to this madness. I found it in John 3 when Jesus told Nicodemus, "You must be born again."

"That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ - John 3:6-7

When we are born again we become a new creation. We become young once more.

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new." - 1 Corinthians 5:17

What is it like to become new again? To become changed? What is it like to have God's Holy Spirit living inside you? So many questions! But guess who has the answer?

"Only the young can say." Only those who have been truly born again can really say for sure.

Hmm. The song is still rattling around in my head. Maybe there's something else I missed? Hmm, as the song winds down we hear these amazing words of theological wisdom from Journey, "Is it heaven or hell? They know very well. Only the young can say . . ."

God's children DO know very well, if it is going to be heaven or hell. IF we truly believe, the answer is . . .heaven!

This week at work my friend and I have been talking about some of the young adults in our lives. We see them making rash decisions, having sex outside of marriage, doing drugs, getting drunk - and many of these "children" profess a faith in Christ. Yet, they don't act like it. Again I hear those words echoing in my head.

"Is it heaven or hell? They know very well."

Do they REALLY know? When someone becomes born again there is a change! There has to be! We just read about that in 1st Corinthians. The new has come, the old self is supposed to die. IF we remain unchanged after saying we believe, is that cause for concern? I think it is.

There are several possibilities for why we might remain unchanged after professing a faith in Jesus.
  1. Lack of Biblical knowledge. We don't know we've been changed. We repented of our sins and placed our faith in Christ but then no one is there to tell us what to do next. We say we believe but then we backslide into who we used to be. The pull of the world is too great and we get sucked back into it. We forget about Jesus as He gets pushed aside for our worldly desires.
  2. We walk away from God. Something happens in our lives. A death perhaps or some other really bad event, that makes us wonder if God really loves us or even cares about us. "How could God let my grandma die?"
  3. We get lost in religion. If we've been going to church "all of our lives" but have never fully trusted in Jesus as our Lord and Savior, have we become lost in the very thing that we thought was supposed to save us. God hates our vane repetitions in church (Matthew 6:7-9). Jesus detested the religious leaders of His day (Matthew 23).
  4. We never really believed in the first place. I had a kid once tell me that the reason they got baptized was "because everyone else was doing it and they didn't want to stand out" as someone who didn't "go along." That is not a valid reason!
Jesus told us that we must change and come to Him like little children. What did He mean when He said?

"3“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven." - Matthew 18:3-4

Is our heart born again? Are we young, as a child, in God's eyes - our faith unobstructed by a "worldly" world view? This is important stuff here! It's heaven or hell, remember?

May we all approach God with a childlike heart and a faith that is not filled with conditions or laws. God is our Father, in heaven, and we are His children. Should we act like it then? No. We shouldn't be acting! Our faith should be real! God loves us . . . massively! Can we say that we love Him the same way? Like He is everything to us? Who can possibly live a life like that!?!

Only the young can say.

Only The Young - Journey

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The Right Thing

Lewis Hamilton
This past Sunday my wife and I witnessed something that we humans never get to see much of these days - someone displaying integrity, sacrifice, honor and gratitude in a world where all four of those things are in short supply.

This public example happened on the very last lap of the Hungarian Grand Prix as the third place car, driven by three-time world champion Lewis Hamilton, slowed and allowed his teammate to pass him on the very last corner.

Formula One is all about glitz and glamor. It's all about the rich, and partying and spending millions of dollars just so one team can beat another. It's all about winning. Everything that the world says is good. It's the last place you'd expect to see an example of sacrifice, one man giving up HIS interests for those of another.

There are two teams battling for the top spot in Formula One this year - Ferrari and Mercedes. The teams compete in a Constructors Championship and the drivers compete for the individual drivers championship. The team comes first. The number one driver (Lewis Hamilton, in this case) gets priority over the number two driver (Valteri Bottas) who is often asked to slow down and let the number one driver past. Sadly, that very thing happened on Sunday.

Lewis Hamilton leads Valteri Bottas
Each team consists of two drivers and both Ferrari drivers were in the lead on Sunday. The Mercedes number two driver (Bottas) was third and their number one driver (Hamilton) was fourth. Part way through the race the Mercedes number two driver slowed and allowed his teammate to pass him - giving up a certain podium finish as he did so. All this to allow his teammate a chance for victory.

Wow. Talk about sacrifice!

But the neither of the Mercedes cars was a match for the two Ferarris that day and Lewis Hamilton was going to have to settle for third. But instead he mysteriously slowed down in the last corner, allowing his teammate to pass him. By doing this he basically was saying, "Thank you for your sacrifice so that I had a chance to win.

Wow. What an example of gratitude and maturity. Placing the interests of someone else ahead of his own. What an example of Jesus and what our response to the Gospel should be!

Jesus sacrificed Himself on the cross so that WE might have a chance for victory - forgiveness of sin, eternal life, no more pain or suffering. Victory! How should we respond?

In light of what Jesus did for us, what do you see in this example of Lewis allowing his teammate to pass? What should OUR response be to what Jesus did for us as He sacrificed His life?

For me it is to offer MY life as a sacrifice for Him. I see a responsibility in my response to the cross to lay down my life for the one who sacrificed Himself for me. That is what Christianity is about - obedience, sacrifice, mercy and grace.

My wife and I love to hate Lewis Hamilton. He always does well and usually wins his fair share of races. We have always cheered whenever he fails to finish a race. We have loved it where he doesn't win. But all that changed on Sunday with one act of doing what was right.

Each of us must respond to the sacrifice Jesus made on our behalf. It is right and honorable to do so. The question is will we make that response before the end of OUR race here on earth. Or will we cross the finish line of life without recognition of the One who sacrificed Himself on our behalf?

"12 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." - Romans 12:1-2

At The Cross - Chris Tomlin
Lewis Hamilton Post Race Interview