Monday, September 18, 2017

Tea Bag Wisdom

This morning's hot tea started with hot water and a tea bag.  The tea company prides itself on promoting holistic living.  Each bag has a tag with a bit of eastern wisdom to inspire and motive the tea sipper.  This morning the tag read, "The purpose of life is to know yourself and love yourself and trust yourself and be yourself."   I thought, "Wow!" as the Westminister Catechism written in 1647 rushed to the front of my mind.  The Westminister Catechism is a doctrinal statement which says, "Man's chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever."
 
The tea bag tag proclaims a world view which declares, "It is all about me!"  It surely must have been written by someone who had spent too much time looking at his navel.  This tea bag gospel creates a narrow world where there is room for no one else but the self that sits on the center of life's throne.  Surely, such a life would soon get to be so boring that the tea bag sipper would seek another source of wisdom and inspiration.  Like a lot of today's secular philosophies, the tea bag gospel is empty and contains nothing but self.  What a life!

But, living to glorify God is a whole different approach to living.  When we read the Word of God, we begin to discover that God is glorified not in our moments of self-centeredness, but in those moments when we forsake self to become the heart, the hands, the feet, and the voice of God out there in the world.  What pleases Him is our love for Him and those around us.  As we do this, He is glorified and we spend our life on something far greater than ourselves.
 

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Kindness

Several acts of unexpected kindness came this way recently.  A new neighbor who lives on the highway below the farm came up before Irma arrived to see if there was anything he could do to help with our hurricane preparation.   And, then, after Irma left he drove up the dirt lane from our house to the highway to see if there were any trees or limbs in the road that would prevent us from leaving.  While the road was clear except for some minor debris, there was plenty of limb damage to the pecan trees around here which means a lot of cleanup is ahead.
 
While doing some of that work today, I took a pick up truck bed of limbs and a trailer filled with even more to the recycling center today.  When I finished unloading the truck bed, two young Hispanic guys came up to unload some stuff and as when they finished, they came over and started helping to unload my trailer.  A long hot job was done in a matter of a few minutes!  I offered a "gracias" and they went their way.  But, remembering their kindness has certainly shaped my day.

Acts of kindness cost us very little.  Most of us see opportunities to offer kindness to someone every day.  It just takes a few minutes.  It might mean losing a few minutes on our hurried journey, or a bit of sweat, or maybe a moment of sharing a caring conversation.  What really takes little from us usually is translated in something really big in the life of the one on the receiving end of  some act of kindness.  One thing is certain.  If we are following Jesus, we will find ourselves seeing opportunities often because He will always be stopping and inviting us to stop with Him. 

Sunday, September 10, 2017

To Go or Not to Go

Many local churches canceled Sunday worship services today because of the approaching storm.  I can remember a few times from my decades of ministry when the weather dictated making such a decision.  But, I can also remember a few times when the call to cancel worship came for different reasons.  The one heard most often was on Super Bowl Sunday.  Numerous were the times when someone suggested that the regular Sunday evening worship service be canceled so the faithful could stay home and watch the game without any guilt trips.   Of course, Sunday evening worship is almost an unheard of event in many mainline Protestant churches today. 
 
I always hated to make the decision to do away with scheduled worship hours.  I have always been of the opinion that someone is going to show up with a desperate need.  Many may come out of habit, but there is always someone who comes out of need.  We sometimes forget that people show up who are going through rough times in the their lives.  They come looking for help and encouragement.  They come searching for solutions to their struggles.  And, sometimes there is a note of urgency surrounding these struggles.  The come hoping to hear a word which will enable them to make it through some personal overwhelming darkness.

Of course, this is not to say that canceling worship is something which should never be done.  There are those times when it is the only thing which makes sense.  What is important is realizing that what we do when we worship is important.  It is important enough for worship leaders to care about every single moment of it.  It is important enough for the average pew sitter to show up because of the power of the ministry of presence.  Never can we forget that someone is sitting there with a broken heart and in need of a Savior who can put their life back together once more.  Canceling worship from time to time may be necessary, but it should never be done carelessly.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Praying in a Storm

I sometimes wonder about how to pray in a storm.  Surely, a lot of praying went on a few weeks ago before that devastating hurricane crept ashore to wreak havoc in Texas.  And, no doubt that praying has continued in these days of recovery as people and communities are attempting to get back on their feet.  Of course, an even greater hurricane has been the object of great concern for some days now for the people of the Caribbean, Florida, and other southeastern states.  As one who has contemplated the destruction which could come to our own doorsteps, I have breathed prayers about this storm for some days.
 
But, how do you do it?  Do you pray the storm will turn and bring its havoc on someone else?  Is it selfish to pray that the place you live would be spared those destructive winds?  Do you ask God to do something for you even though it may be at the expense of someone else in another place?  Or, do you stand with your hands in the air praying that God would block the storm from its current path?  How do you pray in the face of such storms?  And, perhaps, even more importantly, how do you pray once the storm is fully pressing against you.?  As I have been praying, I have wondered if I am praying rightly.

"Father God, I confess to not knowing exactly how to pray.  I know in the deep places of my heart that You are the God of all things and that You have power even over the storm which threatens so many of us.  Yet, still I see the storm coming.  Coming to me and coming to others.  I have been saddened by the loss so many have already experienced and it grieves me to consider that it is going to happen again in such a widespread fashion.  Lord, help us all make good choices.  Give us the strength to act on those choices.  And, Father God, please bless what I have done and others have done so that our hope for safety through the storm becomes reality.  Give peace and grant mercy.  In the name of Jesus I pray.  Amen."

The Pipe

"Lord, this rivers of living water thing has really gotten my attention.  It has been on my mind off and on through the day.  Since reading it yesterday, I have not been able to lay it down.  I wonder if there is more here.  I wonder if I am missing something.  I spent some time reading back through the earlier chapters of John and, Lord, there was a lot of water images.  John the Baptist makes anyone think of water.  Then there was the water being turned into wine.  The healing at the pool.  And, then there was the woman at Jacob's Well who got offered the living water.
 
But, this rivers of living water flowing out of believers like me is something altogether different.  If I am getting it right, You are the Source of this living water that flows through me.  I get it that it does not come to me so that I can bathe in it, make myself clean by it, or report to others how I am being favored by some special blessing.  It does not stop in me, it just flows from You to others through me.  I am kinda like the pipe, the means by which You are choosing to touch other folks.  It does not start in me, Lord, but in You.  This living water just passes through me.
 
There have been times when I acted as if others needed me to be blessed, but I surely got that one wrong.  What they needed was not me, but what You were seeking to do through me.  What others needed was the living water that springs from Your heart and moves through me on the way to them.  But, why Lord?  Why did You choose to do it this way?  You really do not need me to bless others. I am not complaining, Lord.  I guess I am more humbled and amazed than anything else.  Of all the ways You could do Your stuff in the world, and, there You go making me a part of it.  I don't get it, but I surely do thank You.  Amen."

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Downstream

Out here in the country on the farm, life is experienced differently than it was back in the days when suburbia was all around me.  Entertainment is not dinner and a movie, but getting in the truck and going out to the pasture fence line and watching the cow as they graze.  An alternative on some evenings means taking the ten mile ride down to the river and watching the current move the water downstream.  I know.  Really exciting stuff!
 
Today while doing my morning devotional read by Oswald Chambers, I found myself hurrying to read about a reference he made to a river.  John 7:38 enables us to hear Jesus saying, "Out of the believer's heart shall flow rivers of living water."  Now, that is an exciting thing to contemplate.  Think about it for a minute.  Jesus offered "living water" to the woman at Jacob's Well in Samaria.  It was water she could receive from Him.   And, only a short time later He is declaring that the same life giving water flows through each of us who believe in Him.  It is important to realize that Jesus did not say that this living water is in us.  It is not ours to possess and claim.  It is what flows through us because we are connected to Him through the power and person of the Holy Spirit.
 
Another thing which we often miss is that He did not say "a river of living water," but "rivers of living water."  The influence we can have because of His presence in our lives is like unto many rivers that emanate from a single source.  The influence of Christ through us is widespread.  It is beyond our ability to measure.  What He imparts to us flows out of our life to touch many lives and go into places about which we know nothing.  Such is how rivers work and flow.  Thanks be to God for allowing us to be a part of all that is going on downstream.   

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Joy, Joy

Interestingly enough, "Joy" is one of the things listed in the fruit of Spirit section of Galatians.   Does this mean that only Christians can know joy?  Actually, it does not.  People can have joy without having Christ.  Even Jesus acknowledged this as He said, "I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete."  (John 15:11)  It would seem from these words that a person can know joy without being someone who seeks after God, or knows Christ in a personal way.  "The words, "your joy" stand apart from any relationship with Christ.
 
What Jesus is saying is that the joy we have apart from Him is a joy that is partial, but not complete.  It is not a joy that could be characterized as full.  Now we know that joy is not synonymous with euphoria, or happiness, or the ecstasy of a heart filled with good feelings.  Joy is something not really dependent on events or circumstances.  Instead, it speaks of an attitude carried into the fray we know as life.  The Apostle Paul points us to it as he writes about being content in any kind of circumstance.  Joy makes such a life possible.  It is an attitude made possible not because of good circumstances, but because of a trusting relationship with a good God. 
 
The spring which feeds joy is thanksgiving.  An ungrateful person is never a joyful person, only the person who lives with an attitude of gratitude.  Ungrateful people are stingy people, they are small narrow minded people, they are ego driven.   Such people can never be joyful because joy springs from a thankful heart.  Be intentional about being thankful and it will become obvious that something is changing in the inner being.  Be intentional about living in a serious relationship with Jesus and discover how He can cause the trickling stream of thanksgiving to become a mighty stream of joy.