Friday, October 30, 2009

REFLECTIONS ON A FUNERAL

I Went to a memorial service last evening, a friend of about 12 years. He was 57 years old, left an 18 year old son, who I am very fond of. When someone close, even a little close, goes Home, you have to give it some thought from many different angles. Glenn said more than once that he was ready…that close to death, I am compelled to believe him. And, better yet, his life showed love for and service to the Lord. I also have a brother, my natural brother, seriously ill and waiting for a liver transplant. Last year in May, one of my best friends went to Heaven and since then, two lady friends from Malaga also went home…I know I’m not young anymore, truly am ready to go whenever He says so, but I wonder how many people I run into every day could say the same thing????  Personally, I am hoping to be “caught up” in the rapture of the church! I truly believe this is the generation that will experience that event in the “alive and remain” condition, I Thess 4:15.  Soooooooo…the question becomes, am I being a living witness to those I come in contact  with and showing forth to others what a “filled with the Spirit” believer looks like? I trust so, it is becoming increasingly important to me as I grow older and more and more of my friends go Home.

In thinking this through I came up with a few thoughts, and here they are:

1. Scripture, in Psa 37 tells us not to ‘fret.” Fretting is an old word, but has great meaning. Fretting is fussing within your mind. We all do that from time to time and it is not a good thing. Worry and anxiety will be the undoing of this generation, so God tells us don’t! Another part of not fretting and aggravating yourself is to remember, if you are doing your best, that is all God requires. He accepts no less but expects no more.

2. Don’t hurry…take the time to do things right. It always takes more time to go back and undo, then redo…so take it easy, and completely.

3. In situations with other people, get all the facts before you draw a conclusion or form an opinion. There are a lot of people walking around with wounds you can’t see…and usually, their perception is twisted and they will react badly to a negative report. Best to give the benefit of the doubt initially, even if you have to back up later. Jesus told us to, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”…Lk 6:3.

4. Don’t look at a difficult task as impossible…try it first. If you are where the Lord wants you to be, doing His will for you, difficult tasks only give Him a bigger platform from which to work.

5. Keep your priorities straight…don’t go for the trivial or unimportant, keep the main thing, the main thing.

6. Don’t procrastinate…one of my greatest hangups, (sin, really). Are you known as a “doer” or do others consider you undependable????? Be honest, if you are undependable, quit it. My friend that we memorialized last night, …HE was dependable. He was always around to do for me whatever I asked him to do…and I will miss that quality as well as he himself.

In summing up my reflections on the passing of my friend, or friends if I go back a year, I think we Christians need to remember the words of James 2:18, that our faith in Christ shows itself in the things we do…how quickly, how completely, how fully and how happily we attack the task at hand. After all, Paul told us to “do all things as unto the Lord,”  whether we want to or not…just do it! Time is short, we need to be about the Father’s business instead of our own, living out our profession, as best we know how.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

MIND CLUTTER

David McCullough, a biographer of John Adams who was one of our Founding Fathers and early Presidents said this: “John Adams was both a devout Christian and an independent thinker, and I saw no conflict in that.”  How many people do you know that believe being a Christian and and a thinker are mutually exclusive? Apparently Mr. McCullough did. Kind of offends doesn’t it? That we are naive or not as bright as we should or could be…

Truth be know, the opposite is quite probably true of many of us. Many of us spend lots of time thinking, meditating, mulling and contemplating…especially on the truths of God’s Word. The book of Proverbs teaches us that wisdom is a gift of God. I’ve always considered wisdom knowledge applied…wisdom isn’t yours until you apply it and make it your own…then you are ready to share it. Lining up our thinking with the mind of Christ is quite a job, taking a lot of effort and dedication, since our nature wants us to exert our way over HIs, even in the thinking processes.

We live in a world that is upside-down, right is wrong and wrong is right, and sin is a nasty word, not a condition of the soul and spirit. Left to ourselves, we would not be able to think our way out of a paper bag. But God didn’t leave us to ourselves, He came to us.

I’ve a few thoughts on keeping the mind clear so as to best hear from the Lord, principles I’ve incorporated into my own life. Give them some thought and use them if you like…

1. Don’t think you have to say “yes” to everything. Prioritize…especially if you are older. It’s better to do a few things well and completely than too many poorly.

2. Take time to re-charge your batteries. When you do that, you can sort out your thoughts and actions and determine which are valid and which are not.

3. Take time to enjoy what you have already accomplished. You’re allowed to relish the good things you’ve done and the people you’ve befriended.

4. Stay away from debt…and not just financial. We can easily get caught up in the “shoulds, oughts, and have-to’s.” Those debts of behavior we feel constrained to do, no matter what. They are usually unnecessary and use of energy and/or resources we really can’t spare. If it should be financial debt, get out of it or it will strangle you before you know what happened.

5. When your mind runs and if it’s cluttered, you frequently talk too much. There is nothing more annoying than a senior citizen running off at the mouth about something that happened 40 years ago! Too much talking evidences itself because of basic insecurity, and/or anxiety about the future, a need to control and a desire to impress people.

6. Last but not least, the why?????  If we really think about it and are willing to be honest, we have a hard time trusting God to work things out, especially in a timely way. Our “talk” issue is really a “trust” issue…we just don’t trust God to handle “it.”

So…is your mind a clutter? Lots of us have junk stored up that we really would like to get rid of. God is willing to take it from you and relieve you of the burden, if you’ll let Him.

Monday, October 26, 2009

CONTENTMENT

Recently I read this: “What you believe determines how you behave…”  this simple statement makes a lot of sense to me, mainly because I see a lot of bad behavior that has resulted from either the lack of thinking or the inability to think/think something through. I see it every time I go to Southern to teach. I have yet to find any inmate that set out when he was young to spend some of the best years of his life in a prison, never gave it a thought. They just acted on what pleased them without thought, at the time.

How does contentment figure into this idea? First, what is the definition of contentment? it is to be self-sufficient, (as a Christian I believe it is to be God-sufficient) or satisfied, independent from external circumstances and supporting oneself with God’s provision, in and through Christ. OK, think…and expand on this thought. If we believe that the Word of God is indeed His God-breathed/inspired very thoughts and words, written for our edification and instruction, If He says He will provide ALL our needs, does He mean It? Of course, but…what He knows is in reality a need, may be different than what we perceive to be a need. In realty it may be a want…a want not in our best interest, consequently He does NOT give it…how do we react? Do we act like a brat, get angry and put God on “knock off?” For many of us the answer is yes, because we want what we want right now. God always sees the bigger picture, bigger view of our lives and the others involved in it with us. Can we learn to trust God enough to “allow” Him to really BE God in our lives and control the life and us?????  Yes we can, but we have to spend lots of time with Him in His Word, in prayer, thinking and contemplating on the truths in the Word…thinking the very thoughts of God Himself as expressed in His Book. The Word says “Godliness with contentment is great gain”…1 Timothy 6:6. Matthew 6: 25-34 tells us some amazing (and true) things…worrying about our everyday needs is futile, God knows what we need to eat, wear, use and He loves us enough to supply what we NEED.  With only one condition, seek Him and the kingdom first of all. What does that mean? It means prioritize your life so that quality time is spent with Him, following His lead, consulting Him about your life decisions, to stop coveting and charging, live within your means, save and buy when you have enough to do so and have God’s ok to proceed. These are just a few things we need to build into our lives. In Romans 12:1-2 God says, “ I beg you brothers, by God’s mercy, to present yourselves as a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God…IT IS YOUR REASONABLE SERVICE…and don’t be conformed (molded) to this world, but be transformed by the RENEWING OF YOUR MIND, that you may prove what is the good, perfect, and acceptable will of God.” If you do this, you will begin to experience contentment, that settled, comfy feeling that lets you know you are where God wants you to be…contented, in a place of service He calls you to…a beautiful, satisfying place. Try it, you’ll like it.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

SHEEP

How many times have you thought about being called a “sheep?” I’ve laughed to myself quite a few times about it, especially after I learned the facts about sheep and shepherds. It is no accident that God chose that word for us…sheep are the dumbest animals on the face of the earth!!! They seem to have no mind of their own, no ambition, goals, list of things to do, nothing. Just eat, wander and eat some more. They follow their shepherd, even if he were to lead them over a cliff…he wouldn’t, but if he did, they’d follow him. Not another shepherd, only their own because they know the sound of his voice. The sheep don’t have a care in the world, they just follow the shepherd.

Now the shepherd is another story. He has full responsibility for however many sheep he is in charge of. He leads them out in the morning…in Bible times, in some larger areas, many flocks stayed together in the sheepfold at night. So in the morning, the shepherd would begin calling the sheep…and they would respond to his voice, and he would head for pastureland. Sometimes he had a dog to assist him. The dog would circle around the sheep, barking to keep them moving in a flock, moving forward, following the shepherd. When they would arrive at the place he wanted them to graze that day, and after he had determined there was water nearby, he would let them begin to eat. The classic picture of David the king as a shepherd boy, shows him sitting nearby the flock, playing a harp and perhaps singing, some of the psalms/songs he himself had composed. When it was time to go home, he’d call them together, and he and the dog would begin to move them toward the sheepfold. When they got there, he would count them to make sure none was missing, he would sit down and examine each one as they came toward him, examine them for cuts, bruises, scrapes, thorns, etc…things they may have picked up during the time they were grazing. He would remove or treat with oil the damage, and encourage the sheep to go on into the enclosure for the night. If the sheepfold were small and only one flock was secured, he would lay down for the night across the opening so none could get out and get lost. Then he would be ready for sleep. Those sheep were totally dependant on the shepherd. And he took the responsibility seriously.

How does this apply to us? Christ refers to Himself as the Good Shepherd, who gives His life for His sheep…us! And, that’ exactly what He did. But, He also cared for us along the way, as the shepherd in our example did. He CARES for us, all the time!
He heals our hurts, calls to us from His Word with words of encouragement, He knows each of us by name, and we know Him, who He is, what He expects of us, and hopefully…we follow Him. It’s a beautiful story and example of God’s loving provision for us, even when we don’t know it. Our life and future are secure with Him no matter how young or old we are…He loves us and will care for us, until our time on earth is finished, then He will secure us in HIs heavenly sheepfold for eternity with Him! PTL.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

MEMORY AND SUCH

This morning, I was reading in the Daily Bread about our electronic devices doing all our remembering for us. It reminded me of years back being at Sandy Cove for a retreat featuring Dr John MacArthur, my very favorite Bible teacher. One of the sessions was on a similar topic, the fact that video/visuals were hampering young peoples thinking processes. There is also the matter of creative thinking and peripheral thinking. His premise was that “seeing” everything hampered the natural development of these skills and the ensuing knowledge that would be gleaned. I was in total agreement with what Dr MacArthur said, and also with what was in the Daily Bread. In agreement mainly because of my own personal observation over many years. Young people do not  have the creativity and “outside the box” thinking capability the older generation has. And now, perhaps some memory retention will be interfered with because of lack of exercise. This bothers me a great deal. It seems to me, everything to do with our discovering God, retaining the Word, becoming more like Him, etc., etc. all hinge on thinking, remembering, putting together information for ourselves…all of this process could and may, be lost. And what will be left? Being spoon fed info and encouraged to swallow! Joseph Stalin said this, “Control the media, control the people.” The media either in print or TV, is where most people get their main information about most things. If we don’t or worse yet, can’t think…we are in deep trouble.Our schools are doing away with penmanship/cursive writing, memorization and oral recitation, just to name a few things. This is being reported in the New York Times, who commented that this will “produce a culture that does not enforce the development of memory skills.” This scares me, because at my age, some of my short term memory escapes me momentarily from time to time. I forget names, or in teaching, if I get off track, I have a hard time getting back to where I was. It comes back, but takes a minute or two. We call this moments, “senior moments.” If the same lack takes over the minds/memory of the young, what will they loose?????

Never before in history has the need been so great for we Christians to hid God’s Word in our hearts. The Scripture says to “be renewed in the spirit of your minds.” Eph 4:23; “let your inward man be renewed, day by day,” 2 Cor 4:16; “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,”; Phil 2:5; “but you have the mind of Christ,” I Cor 2:16. and finally, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength,” Mark 12:30. Without the ability to read and store, memorize, meditate, ponder, share…Scripture…how will we ever truly get to know our God as He would have us do. That’s why He had His mind written down, so that His people could get to know and understand Him, and grow to be like Him. This is serious…really serious. Our children and grandchildren will suffer. They are already suffering from being taught revisionist history…check out www.wallbuilders.com”…  what they will show you will astonish you regarding the text books in our public schools. God tells us this in the Psalms, “Thy Word have I hidden in my heart that I might not sin against You.” May it ever be.

Monday, October 12, 2009

PERSEVERANCE

Character...how does God develop character in us? Very good question, since most of us think we have character right along However, there is a difference between natural, "fleshy" character, the character we bring with us into our Christian life, and the character God wants us to exhibit to the world around us, a world that whether we realize it or not, watches us pretty intently. Someone once said, "you may be the only Bible someone reads" or worse yet, "you may be the only Christ others see." That is very condemning, isn't it! So, how does God go about building this character into us? Well of course He starts with salvation, giving us a clean slate so that we can start over...however, many of us don't take advantage of the clean slate, we bring all our baggage into our new life, never even realizing it is there and needs to be dealt with. So, God has His work cut out for Him...He has to show us our character flaws, and plant within us a desire to change. By His mercy, we CAN change, but it takes work. It begins with suffering..yes, suffering. Hurts, irritations, bad or over-reactions to stuff that happens, bad feelings, anger...all negatives that irritate the living daylights out of us. Now if we are smart, we will go to God and ask Him "what's up with this"...and bless Him, He will let us know in one way or another. He shows us the flaw and the solution! Implementing the solution takes patience, patience being the first step toward perseverance. We must persist in dealing with our flesh feelings and reactions to the sufferings of life, that is how we grow, and as we are growing, God builds into us the character qualities He knows we need to be whole, emotionally, and to serve Him to His glory. That's what it is all about, you know, God's glory. That's why we are here...not for us, but for Him. His intention with each of us is to make us over into the likeness of Christ according to Romans 8:29. If you read Galatians 5:22-23 you will read the list of Christ's character qualities and will see what you are destined for. 

What are some of the enemies of perseverance?

1. A lifestyle of giving up, usually because our self-image is so poor we don't think we can accomplish anything. It usually begins in childhood.

2. A wrong belief that life should be easy. Many people are led to Christ by someone who mistakenly tells them, "God will make it all better," a lie out of the pit of hell if there ever was one.

3. A lack of resiliency. A  lot of us have been beaten down so much, we have real difficulty getting back up and keeping on going. God can help us with this is we allow Him to. The whole book of Ephesians tell us how much we mean to God, and what HE has planned for us. If that doesn't get us going, nothing will!

4. A lack of vision. Creativity and vision come from God, who made us in His image. A God-given vision keeps us moving forward, lack of one will stop you dead in your tracks.

5. A lack of purpose. Persistence (part of perseverance) is stubbornness with a purpose.


Philippians tells us that "He who began a good work in you will complete it"...be encouraged!