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Saturday, September 29, 2012

Spiritual Blessings

            Yesterday was my birthday and it was a good one. I was reminded of a birthday card someone purchased for a friend several years ago. It began inspirationally:

Forget about the past, You can't change it.

Forget about the future, You can't predict it.

             But then the recipient opened up the card and saw this inside:

Forget about the present, I didn't buy you one.

            Well, I didn’t need a material present to feel blessed on my birthday. As a matter of fact, it was the intangible (and spiritual) things that brought me so much happiness. For example, the greetings I received in cards and in the social media, such as Facebook. It wasn't the ink and pixils that made those so special, it was the sentiments that they represented and that were passed along. For those, I am truly grateful.
            They are yet another reminder that there is an unseen world that impacts us, for good or for bad, even more so than the seen world. 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Thief Who Tithed

            Years ago, I remember hearing my college preacher, Rick Atchley, mention in a sermon about an article he had read in a newspaper. A widow, living in New Jersey, was robbed of $7000 in jewelry, coins, and dollar bills. It was everything valuable that she owned.
            The thief, going through the loot, had noticed that the widow had set aside some money in an envelope for a church where she worshipped. Consequently, the robber took that money, addressed the envelope to the church, put a stamp on it, mailed it off, and kept the rest for himself.
            It was as if he was saying, "It wouldn't be right to take something that belongs to the church. But what you can get from people in the world you take and stick in your pocket."
            Rick applied that to God’s people in the book of Amos. They were dividing their lives into two categories: one dedicated to the Lord on the Sabbath (Sundays for us) and the other dedicated to the rest of the week—when they could exploit people.
            When we take from people, we are taking from God.
            When we exploit people, we are exploiting God.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Monuments to Ourselves

              About thirty years ago, the preacher, Doug Parsons, wrote a bulletin article addressing the sin of selfish ambition. In that article, he told a story…

            Near Lincoln, Kansas stands a group of gravestones that boggle imagination. A farmer named Davis, a self-made and determined man, managed to amass a considerable fortune, but had few friends and no relatives for whom he cared.
            When his wife died, Davis erected an elaborate statue, showing both her and him sitting at opposite ends of a love seat. So pleased was he with this monument that he commissioned the sculptor to create another, this time showing him kneeling at her grave with a wreath in hand.
            That made such a fine impression that he set out to erect still another tombstone, depicting his wife kneeling at his future gravesite with a wreath. He even put wings on her back, as she now resided in another world. So, as time passed, and one idea led to another, he eventually spent over a quarter of a million dollars on monuments to himself and his wife.
            Davis had no interest in aiding his fellow man or benefitting his community. Nor did he become a blessing to the church. He used all his resources on himself and died at ninety-two, a lonely, dispirited man. His cherished stones are slowly, but surely sinking into the Kansas soil, victimized by vandalism and neglect, weathered by time.
            How many people live out their lives in much the same way, building monuments to themselves, but ignoring needs of others about them? They avidly pursue their personal goals of fame, fortune, pleasure, and power. How different was Jesus, who “became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich" (2 Cor. 5:15.) May God help us to do more with our lives and fortunes than build monuments to self.
            --Douglas F. Parsons

Friday, September 14, 2012

The Missionary and the Brahmin Priest

            I heard Rick Atchley tell several years ago the story of a missionary in India. A Brahmin priest approached him and said, "You know, our two faiths have so much in common. You have a love for creation; Hindus love creation. You want peace in your soul; we want peace in our soul. You want to treat your neighbor right; we believe in treating our neighbor right. Really there's only one thing Christianity has that the Hindus don't have."
            The missionary asked, "What's that?"
            The Brahmin priest said, "A savior."

For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10.) NIV

Thursday, September 13, 2012

How to Learn

         The greatest coach of the 20th century, John Wooden, applied four basic laws of learning: explanation, demonstration, correction and repetition.
The Bible is like that: "All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right" (II Tim. 3:16.) NLT

Source: SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, Sept. 19, 1994

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

How to Stop a Thief

            Have you heard this one before? When they want to punish a thief, the Eskimos will take him before the community, and subject him to laughter. Supposedly, this action holds theft in check.
            This may be apocryphal (I spent some time this morning trying to validate this information, and while I found it referenced in several places, I was not able to validate it to my satisfaction), but I believe the reason this story is told so much is because it strikes a chord within all of us.
            We do not like to be laughed at. This fear drives many people.
            I heard one speaker talk about our fear of laughter. He used teenagers as an example. How many times do teenagers make decisions based upon their fear of their friends laughing at them? Furthermore, how many times the adults do the same thing?
            More than ever, I am reminded of what the author of Hebrews emphasizes: the voice we must listen to is God's. The audience we must play to is God.
            To do so takes great courage, but it is a essential for Christlikeness—and for healthy living.

Friday, September 7, 2012

The Worst Prediction

            Sports writer Harless Wade once wrote that perhaps the worst prediction in sports history was made by Tommy Holmes, manager of the 1952 Milwaukee Braves AAA minor league team. Having observed one of the young players in the Braves’ system, Holmes said, “The kid can't play baseball. He can't pull the ball."
            He was talking about Hank Aaron.
            The Apostle Peter admonished Christians in his second letter to remember that the Lord said he would return. Scoffers made fun of this prediction (“Where is this ‘coming’ he promised?”) However, in doing so, they were making a prediction of their own: Jesus was not coming back.
            Tommy Holmes’ prediction on Hank Aaron’s future was a bad miscalculation; however, those who predicted Jesus would never return have committed an even graver error.
            10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.
11 Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives 12 as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming (II Pet. 3:10-12a.) NIV 1984

Thursday, September 6, 2012

I Always Feel Like Someone is Watching Me

            A story I’ve told my kids is one told by General Colin Powell. As a young man, Powell had a job mopping the floors at a soft-drink bottling plant near his home. A story told to him served as his motivation:
            There were once three ditch diggers. The first rested on his shovel and bragged about one day owning the company. The second whined about the long hours and low pay. The last digger kept right on digging.
            The years passed, and the first digger could be still found leaning on his shovel. The second digger had retired: receiving a disability settlement for a fake injury. Meanwhile, the third digger… owned the company.
            Powell wrote, "The moral is no matter what you do, someone is always watching. So I set out to be the best mop wielder there ever was. One day someone let 50 cases of cola crash to the concrete, and brown sticky foam cascaded across the floor. It was almost more than I could bear. But I kept mopping, right to left, left to right. At summer's end, the foreman said, ‘You mop floors pretty good.’ The next summer, he had me filling bottles. The third summer, I was deputy foreman. As I have learned, someone is always watching.”
            The Apostle Paul, in Eph. 6:4-8, emphasizes that someone is always watching as well: God.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Happy Trails to You

            Benjamin Sickles could not escape the police in Washington, Pennsylvania. Early on the morning of July 5, Sickles broke into a Subway restaurant and stole nine bags of potato chips.
            He had broken a glass door to get inside and had tried to steal money from the cash register. That proved unsuccessful, so he settled for the bags of chips.
            He might have escaped except that he left bag after bag (all empty!) along his trail. Law enforcement officials simply followed the bags until they led them all the way to Sickles.
            I think we humans look like Benjamin Sickles to God. We engage in our sin and somehow convince ourselves that we are getting away with it. However, we do not realize that the residue of our sin leaves a trail that leads all the way back to us.
            If I may take the last part of Numbers 32:23 out of its context: " may be sure that your sin will find you out.”
Story source: WORLD magazine