Friday, April 29, 2016

Remember the Sabbath - Part 1

Friday, April 29, 2016

“Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.  You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God. On that day no one in your household may do any work.  This includes you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, your livestock, and any foreigners living among you.  For in six days the Lord made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and everything in them; but on the seventh day he rested.  That is why the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as holy.  Exodus 20:8-11(NLT)
We live in a stress-filled, burnout-prone world.  I have a copy of a cartoon in my office that shows a zebra looking back at his tail-end.  All his stripes are unraveling and falling on the ground.  The caption has him saying, I think I'm having stress!  Pat Reams, a dear friend in a former church stopped by my office one time wearing a T-shirt with a cartoon picture of a cow, laying belly-up, buzzards circling.  The caption is:  I'm all right...really!  Stress is everywhere!
According to The Pryor Report[2] here are some early signs of burnout:
 * Do you tire easily? Feel fatigued instead of energetic?
 * Are you working harder but accomplishing less?
* Are you disappointed in and short with those around you?
 * Do you see less of close friends and family?
 * Do you have pains, headaches, lingering colds?
 * Are you unable to laugh at or tell a joke on yourself?
The more you answer "yes" to these questions, the closer you may be to burnout.
Even in our play we suffer the symptoms of our harried existence.  A Saratoga man describes a vacation as ...that brief period of time between trying to get ahead so you can leave and trying to catch up when you get back.[3]  Another man told how his friend's wife has said ...that being married to him was a vacation.  When [the friend] commented that it was a really nice thing to say, [he] replied:  Well, actually, what she said was I was the last resort.[4] 
Going to a resort like Disney is a prime example.  Families go there to really enjoy a vacation, and they spend thousands of dollars to stand in two hour lines in 300° heat!  On the drive back they honk the horn in frustration and make obscene gestures at other drivers that get too close or don't move fast enough.  Traffic is an indicator of just how insane our lifestyles have become.  All traffic lights are red for you, and green for the other guy – right?  It's incredible – we spend our lives rushing and screeching brakes, getting stopped by every red light on the road.  Then, when we die, they put us in a long black car, and run every red light!  And then, you've got no place to go!  It's no wonder burnout is just around the corner!
Christians have to stop and ask the question – in light of the fourth commandment -- is stress and burnout what God really wants for His children?   The answer is a no-brainer, resounding NO!  What God really wants for us is:
      Healthy personal relationships.
      Strength of character.
      Family joys.
      Genuine concern for others.

For You Today

Does that list describe your life? 
Or are you more like the family coming back from Disney? 
You chew on that as you hit the Rocky Road today…have a blessed day!

[1] Title Image:   By Nevit Dilmen [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons
[2]Vol 9, No. 1a

[3]James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited, (Wheaton, Tyndale House Publishers, 1988), 495

[4]Richard D. Oliva, Reader's Digest, November 1993), 111

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Ham-Stringing - Hand-Wringing

Thursday, April 28, 2016


So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat?  What will we drink?  What will we wear?’  These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs.  Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.  “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries.  Today’s trouble is enough for today. 
Matthew 6:31-34(NLT)
Dr. Charles Graham was my Old Testament professor in seminary.  Dr. Graham was always very gracious and interested in helping students.  But in the personality department Dr. Graham was quite serious, hardly ever breaking a smile to ease the tension (particularly when he would give a pop-quiz on Mephibosheth or Lot’s daughters).  When I took my first class with this professor I saw his serious demeanor as austere, no-nonsense, academic dryness; I remember thinking, it’s going to be a long semester.
Somewhere about the third or fourth time the class met everything changed.  Dr. Graham was teaching in Second Kings on the worry of Gehazi, Elisha’s servant.  After recounting how Gehazi was worried about this and that, and how his worry began to get in the way of his service, Dr. Graham abruptly brought in the words of Jesus in this Matthew text about giving worry its walking papers, because it was good for nothing.
In that 50-minute class, Dr. Charles Graham recounted so many personal experiences of times when he had worried throughout his life and ministry as a pastor, the class was over before I knew it. 
As the class period ended, Dr. Graham let out one golden nugget that I have treasured ever since; he said:  Remember, people, if something bad is going to happen, that is a bad event; to worry yourself to death about it is another bad event.  And then, a broad smile emerged from the man I had imagined hadn’t smiled in his entire life, and he continued:  and one bad event is quite enough!
Spoken by a man who obviously had been there, and done that!

For You Today

Got some heavy stuff coming up?  I hear worry won’t hang around somebody who prays
You chew on that as you hit the Rocky Road today…have a blessed day!

[1] Title Image:   Pedro Ribeiro Simões, and Ignas Kukenys from Vilnius, Lithuania, via Wikimedia Commons

Wednesday, April 27, 2016


Wednesday, April 27, 2016
“No one can serve two masters.
Matthew 6:24a(NLT)


The following is a rather odd quote from 1982; it isn’t odd in word or thought – just that I’m quoting my own words from that time:

“Today we live in an extremely complicated and complex society with lightning fast computers, space travel and lifestyles.  It seems that in all the hurry-up and confusion of our modern existence, some Christians tend to compromise on what is sinful, passing off what used to be called sin as acceptable social behavior.” 

I wrote those words 34 years ago as a young pastor; true words then, and no less accurate today.

An issue that is constantly in the news media today, and therefore, agonizingly highlights the timeless reality of human compromise of core principles of the Christian faith, is LGBTQ behavior; in particular, same-sex marriage.

For the denomination I serve (United Methodist), this past Saturday (April 23, 2016) in Charlotte, NC, a door was opened in this ongoing conflict which will be impossible to ignore, much less close.  Two men exchanged wedding vows and were legally recognized by the state as married.  Those officiating at the ceremony were a retired bishop and the current pastor, both ordained in the UMC. 

What was door-opening about this ceremony is that it was held inside the sanctuary of First United Methodist Church of Charlotte.  The actions (both using a denominationally-owned building, and officiating the ceremony by UMC clergy) are clearly in violation of the denomination’s rules, The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church.

A larger, and for me more disturbing reality, is that this isn’t the first time for the bishop, Melvin Talbert.  This wasn’t his first same-sex marriage rodeo, or as I call it, denominational and ordinational disobedience. 

Here are more 34 year old words from my note file:

“…some Christians have lost the Spirit-guided ability to distinguish between what is and isn’t sin.  They see things as grey – not black and white.  However, the Bible says we cannot serve two masters.”

Marriage between two persons of the same sex is counterfeit.  Just like forged currency is supposed to trick you into thinking you possess the real thing, two men or women standing before a preacher at a church chancel does not result in marriage in any sense of the Biblical meaning; it is merely an appearance of the real thing.

Whatever the state does or doesn’t do in recognizing the “marriage forgery” of same-sex unions – and whatever the UMC legal entities do or don’t do concerning appropriate consequences for the bishop and pastor who have violated their sacred vows of ordination, my prayer is that Christ is lifted up for the whole world to see.  Because in that witness is contained either condemnation (for those who choose to “ordain a forgery”) or a witness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ which is, according to Paul(Romans 1:16) the power of God unto salvation

In all, may all men be brought low, and Christ’s name be praised.

For You Today

Homosexuality isn’t the only failure to honor God in our culture today.

You chew on that as you hit the Rocky Road today…and have a blessed day!

[1] Title Image:   By ** RCB **, via Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Loving Your Enemies

Tuesday, April 26, 2016


"You have heard the law that says, 'love your neighbor and hate your enemy'.  But I say, love your enemies!  Pray for those who persecute you!  In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father which is in heaven.   Matthew 5:43-45(NLT)

25 Years Ago

Our church youth choir was a girl's quintet.  They sang during every Sunday evening service.  Two of the girls, Jaimie and Kathy, tend to enjoy being in the center of things. They stood at the pulpit while the other girls used microphones on stands nearby. 

On this particular Sunday night the girls were in hyper-drive.  It had been a wild and wooly afternoon of youth activities; they were tired, but still going wide-open!  When it came time in the service for them to sing, Kathy and Jaimie came to the center microphone as usual. 

While our Youth Minister was attempting to get the girls ready to sing, Kathy reached up and adjusted the pulpit microphone downward, towards her and Jaimie.  When she let go, Jaimie reached up and pulled it in her direction.  With an exasperated, fiery glance in Jaimie's direction Kathy reached up and straightened it back towards the center. 

Meanwhile the congregation watched intently as the Youth Minister waved her hands to get the girl's attention, and Jaimie reached to pull the microphone back toward her.  In a stage whisper that measured about 9.6 on the Richter scale, Kathy ordered, quit it!  Jaimie quickly pulled her hand back, while Carrie (another youth quite related to me) rolled her eyes and lamented, oh Lord!

When the Youth Minister finally got their attention, the music started and the girls sang a wonderful arrangement of:  There's a Sweet, Sweet Spirit in This Place

There is a vast difference between acting as children and acting as children of the Father in heaven!

Watching what transpired between our youth that night 25 years ago is a pretty hilarious memory of sad irony.  Those girls are grown with families of their own now.  I'm still in touch with several of them and I'm very happy to report that they act much better now!

But thinking about this reminds me (sadly) that some folks never seem to grow out of it.

For some, the command of Jesus to love our enemies falls on deaf ears; indeed they have a hard enough time loving those who are their friends.  And that makes for a lifetime of microphone-grabbing drama; it is anything but sweet-spirited!

For You Today

How "sweet" is your spirit?

You chew on that as you hit the Rocky Road today…and have a blessed day!

[1] Title Image:   By NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan, via Wikimedia Commons