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In The Silence

With Christmas coming soon I’m reminded of one of a songs lyrics we will hear often.  Silent night, holy night!
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon Virgin, Mother and Child
Holy Infant so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace

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When Jesus first made his appearance in human form there was not a lot of fanfare.  Jesus came in a very humble way.  In fact as the song states it was a silent night.  In our hectic world today the last thing we usually get is silence.  Cell phones ringing or buzzing, the TV blaring, traffic making noise all around, these are the sounds of “busy” people.  We’ve grown so accustomed to the noise that when we don’t have it we turn the radio on in the car or the TV at home.  It seems to be the first thing we think about doing when we enter the house.  Have you ever had the experience of you or someone else being so involved on what is being said on their TV that they or you don’t hear anything someone else is saying?  It is very hard in our world today to put our minds on two or more things at once.  We sometimes make our attention choices on what is the loudest tone in our ears.  Have you ever been on a car trip with a few people?  Sometimes on those trips I have been on there is dead silence.  People can get lost in their thoughts and that’s OK.  However it seems that one person usually tries to break the silence by saying something to fill the air.  There is an old saying that goes “silence is golden” and very often it is so true!

You have probably heard of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.  They were the astronauts who first walked on the moon during the Apollo 11 mission.  Did you know that there was another astronaut?  His mission might have been even more important than the other two.  His name was Michael Collins and his job was to navigate the command module around the surface of the moon three times during the 22 hours Armstrong and Aldrin were jumping around on the moon.  Three times for 47 minutes each Collins found himself on the dark side of the moon with no contact between earth or his fellow astronauts.  The news outlet described his dilemma.  “Not since Adam has any human known such solitude as Mike Collins is experiencing during this 47 minutes of each lunar revolution when he’s behind the Moon with no one to talk to except his tape recorder aboard Columbia.”  Upon returning to the earth Collins described the feeling that he had as he was literally all alone.  I don’t mean to deny a feeling of solitude. It is there, reinforced by the fact that radio contact with the Earth abruptly cuts off at the instant I disappear behind the moon, I am alone now, truly alone, and absolutely isolated from any known life. I am it. If a count were taken, the score would be three billion plus two over on the other side of the moon, and one plus God knows what on this side.”

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With most cars today they have a GPS tracker.  It tells when to make a turn and when to get off of an exit etc.  For most of the time especially on longer trips the GPS is silent.  How many times do we think “am I still going the right way?”  Wouldn’t it be nice if the GPS voice would encourage us.  You are on the right road, don’t worry just keep driving.  Wouldn’t that be comforting when we have that fear that somehow we have gotten off of the path?

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God works in the same way as that GPS tracker.  Many times we panic when we don’t hear from him.  When he tells us what to do we need to have faith to carry out that mission unless he tells us differently.  We as humans would like to have the Moses experience where God is speaking audibly in a loud voice.  That is not how God usually works in our world today.  It is with a still small voice in the quiet times that he can talk to us.  Those are the times that he can tell us exactly what we should be doing!  It is like getting instructions from our boss.  If you or I were getting special instructions on doing a job would we have our headphones on?  Would we be playing with our phone or have our TV on so loud that we couldn’t possibly hear?  Or would we cut all of the competing noise off so that we could hear exactly what to do?  The answer is obvious but the next question is Why don’t we give God the same kind of attention so he can instruct us?

Collins had already received his instructions before his mission.  He knew exactly what he was supposed to do.  If he wasn’t prepared the silence would have brought fear and doubt.  Many of us are not like Michael Collins the astronaut.  We have not been in front of God with closed mouth and open ears.  It is in these times that God can and will talk to us.  It is in these times that the silent night will have a still small voice breaking the silence. When we decide to silence the world’s activities and seek him God will talk to us and tell us what to do.  Then with his help we can execute our mission while we are here.  Christians everywhere question what their mission in life is.  “What is God’s plan for me?”, they will ask.  The answer can be found but it won’t be with countless voices talking to us.  In the silence we find our mission and in the silence many times we carry it out.  That is what faith is.  Like the GPS we are to assume that if we are given a mission and we are carrying it out God will break in if we have gotten off track.

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Somehow Collins was able to stay focused and keep his module on course through the enormous silence.  Three times he had to endure the blackout and each time he put his faith over his fear.  After the third trip around the other astronauts docked with his module and they were shortly on their way home.  Some day our missions will be over too and the silence of faith will be replaced by joy, love, peace, and jubilation!

 

 

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Pretty Amazing Grace

This song really moved me this morning and I wanted to share it with all my readers!  It’s by one of my all time favorite singers Neil Diamond!

 

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I See My Time Is Up

There used to be a radio sports talk show I listened to in the 1970’s from Cleveland., Ohio.  Cleveland had a huge radio signal from 1100 on the dial they called 3WE which was WWWE.  It would normally  come in fine to my home in Michigan at the time of his show which was 7 pm til 11 pm on week nights.  The host named Pete Franklin would spend a lot of the show badgering his callers if they disagreed with him.  The calls of people in agreement were somewhat boring, but the disagreeing calls were why I tuned in.   Pete had an advantage in his arguments because he could get loud and dominate the conversation.  If the argument got too fierce he would many times just hang up on the caller.  I listened not only for the sports but for the entertainment of the whole thing.  At that time Cleveland sports teams were at a low point as far as wins go.  Pete would criticize the management, explain how things could get better,  but his heart was always with Cleveland sports. He would say that his biggest thrill would be if the Indians won the World Series.  Unfortunately they never did.  It was always an entertaining show because it was hard to believe what Pete could get away with.  At the end of the show he signed  off with words very humbling and thought provoking.  He actually appreciated all of the calls both good and bad and his listeners.  “I see my time is up”, he would state, “Thank you very much for your time.”Image result for pete franklin cleveland talk show

That little statement brought back to mind as a listener the importance of time.  I had spent a few hours listening to his show and he was actually bringing it to my mind.  We all spend time which can be compared to spending money only more important.  By observing what someone spends their time on we can discover what is important in their lives.  Most people will tell you that they spend a lot of time at work.  Well that must be important to them then.  Sometimes the important conflicts with the have to.  We see bumper stickers on cars that say stuff like “I’d rather be golfing” or “I’d rather be in Hawaii” or things like that.  Still they are driving their car in Michigan spending their time not really doing what they are dreaming.

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This spending time thing gets me thinking about a very low time in my life.  It was a time right after the tragedy of losing our daughter.  Naturally we were hurting and my mother in law suggested we see a counselor.  At first my wife went alone as I tried to deal with the pain on my own.  Finally I decided to go with her.  I don’t remember if I went to one session or two but I do remember one very well.  We were talking about things that were very hurtful but I felt like that maybe some good was coming out of it.  At the very peak of our feelings when things were getting out that were held in he looked at his watch.  “Well I see our time is up”, he announced.  At that moment I looked at him completely differently.  He had given the image that he really cared about us and our hurt.  Sadly I realized that he was there just for the money and it was because it was his job.  I realize that there is a time frame for anyone in that profession, but the way that he left us in that moment told me that his time frame was more important than us.  We never went back and that image of him looking at his watch is what I think of when I think of him.

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Why do we have to go to specialists to help us with our problems anyway?  Could it be because the people around us don’t care to get involved?  The counselor guy didn’t give any advice out of the ordinary.  Basically we just talked and he listened.  Why can’t the Christian people in our lives take the time to listen to their neighbors in need?  Recently I noticed that a friend wasn’t himself.  I couldn’t place my finger on what was wrong but when I saw him one day I could just tell.  He was quiet when he usually is very out going and he was sad when he is always happy.  I found out that his wife had left him and he was totally devastated.  He loved his wife very much and it took him completely by surprise. I made it a point to take the time to try to comfort him one day.  I put my hand on his shoulder and said “I heard what you are going through and I want you to know that I am praying for you.”  That took a few seconds of my time and obviously I was glad to spend it.  I didn’t realize what an impact those caring words meant to him until I talked to other friends later.  Apparently he has been going around telling people what my little talk did.  He had been holding everything inside and now whenever he talked about how much better he has been he always mentions me and the words I said.

These experience have helped me in my Christian walk to answer the question of why.  Is the person being nice or trying to give advice because they want to or because it is their job?  Are we free with our time or are we stingy when it comes to helping others?  God wants us to love our neighbor but what does that mean?  Does it mean to love them at our convenience and if it doesn’t fit our schedule to brush them off?  Some day we will all have to account for the limited time we were given.  Did we spend it wisely helping others or did we spend it on our selfish desires.  Without Jesus in our hearts it will always be the latter.  With his love there and our constantly seeking his will we will find our time being spent more wisely.  We will look for people we can help not because we have to but because we want to.  Hopefully in the end we can say “I see my time is up, thank you Lord for helping me to spend it wisely!

Eternity

by Lewis Hamilton
from the book “The Gardener and My Garden” c1997

Where should my thoughts
and actions be,
on worldly things
or eternity?

One is passing
the other one lasts
One never ends,
one goes by fast

I often wonder
when my life is done,
will I be rewarded
for souls I had won?

Or will I just carry
what satisfied me,
with no lasting value
for eternity?

But store up for yourself
treasure in heaven, where
moth and rust do not destroy,
and where thieves do not
break in and steal.

Matthew 6:20

 

I Did It For The Lord

I have a friend who had car trouble one day.  He was in the middle of a parking lot and his car battery was dead.  Luckily for him he noticed a Christian guy he knew of who was getting into his car.  My friend told him about his dilemma and asked if he would be able to jump his battery for him.  He had a set of battery cables and it would really help him out.  The Christian man had a sour look on his face.  It was like it was such an imposition to him to help my friend.  He did however agree to the process but not without more complaining.  It didn’t take long before my friends car was started and running fine.  Seeing how much his problem had affected the man who helped him out he offered to pay him.  The man looked at him with that sour expression still on his face and said with a voice that seemed to pain him “no, I don’t need your money, I did it for the Lord.”

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What powers the Christian walk is not a sense of obligation or need to follow rules.  It is the love that is in our hearts.  Jesus recognized the lack of love in a young rich ruler who came to get his favor.  In Matthew 19 verses 16-26 the encounter unfolds.

16 And someone came to Him and said, “Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?” 17 And He said to him, “Why are you asking Me about what is good? There is only One who is good; but if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” 18 Then he *said to Him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, You shall not commit murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; 19 Honor your father and mother; and You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 20 The young man *said to Him, “All these things I have kept; what am I still lacking?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be [a]complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” 22 But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieving; for he was one who owned much property.

23 And Jesus said to His disciples, “Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” 25 When the disciples heard this, they were very astonished and said, “Then who can be saved?” 26 And looking at them Jesus said to them, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”  It wasn’t that the rich young ruler had not kept the commandments.  His problem was that love was not in his heart.  In his case he loved his riches more than he loved God.  He obeyed the commandments from knowledge rather than what was  really in his heart.  Jesus talks about this when he was asked what the greatest commandment is.  37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”Image result for rich young ruler photo

Some of us fail to realize that it isn’t obeying rules that pleases God.  It is the love of his son Jesus in our hearts that pleases him!  When we love him with all of our hearts we will automatically have the right attitude with our neighbors.  We will help them with a song in our heart not because we have to but because we want to.  We will fellowship with our church and be a light to others not because we have to but because we want to.  What we see in Christians too often is that they try to please God in actions rather than with their heart.  The rich young ruler thought that Jesus would give him his total approval and tell him what a good guy he was and that he was doing everything right.  Jesus saw the same thing in him that he saw in the Pharisees of his day.  They worshiped God with their mouth and their actions but their hearts were far from him.  The Bible talks about cleaning the inside of the glass first.  Too many times we are trying to look the part of Christians instead of having the love of Jesus in us.

Unlike the parking lot experience that my friend had, Christianity isn’t about suffering to do the right thing.  It is doing the right thing out of love.  With love in our hearts it is natural to do good.  We should always listen to the spirit within us and help our neighbors out of love and not duty.  Instead of saying “I did it for the Lord”, we should say “I did it because of the Lord!”  There is a saying that goes “follow your heart.”  In our Christian walk it is so important!  When we allow Jesus to not only come into our heart but be our Lord and Savior, he will always give us a desire to love.

Pete Maravich: The Interview

Pete Maravich was a basketball magician who was voted as one of the 50 greatest players in NBA history.  Yet deep down all through his playing career he was lost.  He tells about having large sums of money and yet wanting to kill himself.  Pete only lived 40 years but the last few were his most joyous.  He met Jesus Christ and his life was never the same!  You will be moved by his living testimony that is still so powerful long after he has gone to receive his higher reward!

 

You Can’t Shake Hands With A Crocodile!

Has there ever been somebody in your life that you cannot please no matter how you try?  Someone who might be nice to you to your face but talks bad about you to others?  Do you try really hard to make them like you and only get frustrated?  Jesus had groups of people who had that attitude toward him.  They were called the Pharisees and the Sadducee’s.  They sat and listened to Jesus and plotted ways to kill him.  Their whole agenda was to bait him and used innocent sounding questions with traps all through them.  Matthew chapter 22 verses 15-17 states:

15 Then the Pharisees left the place where Jesus was teaching. They made plans to trap Jesus with a question. 16 They sent some of their own followers and some men from the group called Herodians.a]”>[a] These men said, “Teacher, we know that you are an honest man. We know that you teach the truth about God’s way. You are not afraid of what other people think about you. All men are the same to you. 17 So tell us what you think. Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”  Now what was the purpose of this question?  Was it a friendly question to help them love God more?  NO, It was designed and probably mulled over for hours as a question to ask Jesus to trap him.  If he said to not pay their taxes they could turn him over to the government on charges of treason against their country.  Jesus knew what they were trying to do and his wisdom was amazing!  In verses 18:22 he answers

But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? 19 Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, 20 and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?”

21 “Caesar’s,” they replied.

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Then he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

22 When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.

Notice how they complimented Jesus to try to get his guard down.  Notice also how the compliments led into their trap.  Jesus knew that these people were against him and didn’t fall for their trap.  He didn’t hang out with these fake followers with their fake questions.  While they were concerned about their appearance in society, he looked at their hearts.  He saw that their hearts were evil.  He saw that these were not his friends.

Jesus also looks at our heart.  He is looking for a heart of love, compassion, and forgiveness.  That is in effect the heart of God.  We are to have that kind of heart.  He told us to love our enemies.  In Matthew 5:43-48 he states 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbora]”>[a] and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.Image result for love your enemies photo

The fact that we are called to love our enemies means that we will have enemies. Many Christians will read the  passage above and conclude that they need to not only be nice to people who are against them but constantly try to change how they feel about them.  They may feel that forever trying to please them is a way to change their attitude.  A lot of energy is wasted by Christians trying to change what only God can. The old saying is true “you can’t please everyone.”  Yes, it is true we need to love our enemies.  That doesn’t mean we have to constantly be around them.  It means that in our heart we do not harbor hate and that we have a loving attitude toward them.  It means that we truly care about them no matter how they feel about us.  What it doesn’t mean is that we have to waste energy and time being what they want us to be.  We must be ourselves and follow our Godly principles and if they hate us so be it.  The old saying “Like water off of a ducks back”  applies here.  Like a duck when they feel the water hit them we need to quickly shake it off.  Common sense tells us though that it isn’t safe going over a waterfall.

You Can’t Shake Hands With A Crocodile
By Lewis Hamilton

The Crocodile is strong
and will do you harm
They have a mouth
as long as their arm

They may act friendly
but here is the deal
If you get close enough
You’ll be their next meal

Crocodiles are cunning
They live where it’s wet
They will drag you and drown you
Now that’s a safe bet

So why would you go there
and offer your hand?
Has your head forever
been trapped in the sand?

You won’t have an arm
to use or to bend
If you continue to desire
Crocodiles as your friends

So stop trying to travel
the extra furlong or mile
and quit shaking hands
with those Crocodiles

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Footnote: There used to be a guy at the church I attended who gave the hardest handshakes.  I dreaded shaking hands with him because he always crushed my hand and it was painful.  One day I talked to a friend and told him the situation and he gave me some sound advice.  When shaking his hand take the initiative and get deep into his hand with yours.  That will lesson the force he can apply to your hand.  Maybe that is the kind of advice we need for this story.  Be aware of the danger your enemies present and have a plan.

The Trophy Wife

The year was 1976 and Jeremy was a high school senior.  An announcement that he recently had heard gave him a vision.  His school Portage Northern High School was having a talent show and Jeremy wanted to be in it.  The only problem was that Jeremy was a shy introverted kid.  At that time he had written over 400 songs but they sat there in his basement.  Jeremy’s vision was to play one of his songs at the talent show.  From an early age Jeremy was exposed to music.  He learned the piano and the guitar was soon to follow.  Jeremy grew up loving the Beatles and his sound was inspired by them.

Open Your Heart

Jeremy loved playing the guitar and singing but he needed something else.  It was the approval of his peers.  He dreamed of getting done with his song and winning the trophy that went with the first place honor.  What he really wanted though was for people to appreciate his music.  He would like his fellow classmates, even people he didn’t know, to pat him on the back and tell him he did a great job.  That would legitimatize all of the practice he had put in to acquire the skills he had developed.

Jeremy was also a Christian and he had faith that maybe God would allow him a break through moment.  Perhaps somehow he could glorify God with his singing and what better way than to be recognized as the winner of the talent show contest?   All of these thoughts had left his mind as he was walking on the stage with his guitar.  He had picked a song that he wrote called “Fading Away” but as he walked out on stage he felt like he was the one fading.  He was literally shaking as he started his song.  As Jeremy kept playing he began to relax a little bit.  Still it was different than anything he had attempted before.  Though he was uncomfortable, he was still able to sing his song flawlessly with expression and feeling.  When he finished his fellow students gave him a warm round of applause!

Now the waiting began.  Who would win the prize and the recognition that came with it?  Jeremy knew he did his best and felt confident.  When the judges made their decision however it was two other acts that took the honors.  First place went to a guy who did a drum solo playing “Wipe Out.”  Second place went to a two girl dance team who did a dance to one of the songs from the Jesus Christ Superstar Rock Opera.

Jeremy was heartbroken.  He wondered why his dream didn’t happen like he thought it would.  One of his teachers who happened to be a contest judge wanted to talk to him.  It was Mr. Gianunzio, his English and Creative Writing teacher.  “I want you to know”, Mr. Gianunzio began, “that I voted for you.”   “That other act did not show any creativity like yours did.”  Mr. Gianunzio’s words were a welcomed compliment from somebody Jeremy truly respected.

A black and white trade ad for the 1965 Rolling Stones' North American tour. The members of the band are sitting on a staircase with either their hands clasped, or arms folded, looking at the camera. From left: The front row contains Brian Jones, Bill Wyman; the second row contains Charlie Watts and Keith Richards; the third (and final) row contains Mick Jagger.

I’m reminded of a song not by Jeremy’s favorite group The Beatles but by the Rolling Stones.  The chorus states that you can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometime, you just might find you get what you need.  With God it isn’t us trying it’s us being in his plan.  If we love him and put him first in our lives he will meet our needs and give us the desires of our heart.  Proverbs 3:5 tells us to Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and lean not on your own understanding.  Isaiah 55:8-9 states, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways.  As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts to your thoughts.”

Sometimes when we feel like things are not going our way it is hard to remember these simple verses.  Could it be that God has a different plan for us when our plan fails?  Often God has a way of setting us up for blessings.  Since he can see our future doesn’t it make sense to trust him with it?

Besides Mr. Gianunzio there was another person who comforted Jeremy in his pain.  One of the girls from the second place team named Kathy sought Jeremy out after the results were made known.  Kathy had talked to her partner and they both agreed to give their trophy to Jeremy.  They really felt in their heart of hearts that Jeremy deserved the honor.  Jeremy was humbled by the kindness of Kathy and her partner.  It was an act of selflessness that is rarely seen.  Still Jeremy would not accept their trophy.  He wanted them to have it because they won it.

Through that chance meeting Kathy and Jeremy became close friends.  It was three years after that initial meeting that they were married.  Today 5 kids and 4 grandchildren later Jeremy and Kathy are still going strong!

I was re-telling this story to my son the other day  and he said something that I hadn’t thought of.  When I told him that Kathy wanted Jeremy to have the trophy he smiled and stated, “She’s just the kind of person that would do that!”  I hadn’t thought about that angle of the story.  You see God was not only working in Jeremy’s life but he was also working with Kathy.  The act of kindness that she displayed showed just the kind of person she is and just what Jeremy needed.

As I sat there hearing Jeremy share the story in church tears welled up in my eyes.  You see Jeremy is the pastor of our church and his wife Kathy is right by his side helping everything go smoothly.  It was a match made in heaven literally!

The second place trophy was kept by Kathy’s partner.  Somewhere in a closet or her basement somewhere it may still exist.  It’s too bad that Jeremy and Kathy don’t have it.  Seeing it would bring back tremendous memories.  Come to think of it they don’t need the trophy to remember the beginning.  All Jeremy has to do is look at Kathy.  After telling their story he concluded by saying “and that’s how I met my trophy wife!”

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The Obstacle Course

It was a crazy idea and yet very intriguing.  ABC Sports started it in 1973 and the competition had me glued to my TV set.  Dick Button the famous figure skater in the late 40’s and early 50’s came up with the idea.  Button won the Sullivan Award in 1949 as the best amateur athlete of the year yet he admitted that he was a terrible athlete.  The idea was developed in his mind over many years.  It would be a competition to see who really was the best athlete.  His idea was to take athletes from many different sports and have them compete against each other.  The thought was to have them do battle in things that were not related to their sport.  Baseball players could not participate in the baseball hitting contest, golfers could not enter the golf competition and so on.  At the end of the competition a Superstars winner for that year would be determined and the money that went with it.  Along the way contestants were rewarded for placing in contests with cash prizes too.  The last event which usually determined the winner was called the obstacle course.

I can picture it in my head how the obstacles were arranged.  First there was a giant brick wall and a rope and somehow they had to get themselves over the wall.  Then there was a cement tubular tunnel they had to run through.  After that they had to push a blocking sled about10 yards  before getting their feet in 10 tires that were lined up in 2 sides of 5.  After that they had to jump over a water obstacle and then do a high jump onto a padded landing bed.  Next was 2 hurdles they had to jump over before they reached the finish line.  If any of the obstacles were missed in any way the judges would raise a penalty flag and 5 seconds was added to their time for each obstacle not completed properly.  Image result for superstars obstacle course pictures

Over the years I have seen many athletes that were in the running for the top prize lose it on the obstacle course.  They might have had trouble pushing the sled or maybe they missed a tire.  There were times when everything was going so smoothly until they failed to clear the high jump and knocked the bar down.  Each obstacle had it’s own difficulties and contestants seemed to do some better than others.  Someone might be strong on the blocking sled but had trouble with the tires.  Others might have trouble with the high jump or the wall.  Image result for superstars obstacle course pictures

The obstacle course was the final event and culminated the worthiness of the person being named that years Superstar.  The first competition in 1973 the obstacle course was not an event.  1974 was the first year for the course.  It was a culmination event that made the contestants earn their prize.  Instead of one skill which all of the other ones were this event covered a multitude of skills that had to be performed one after the other.

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Bob Seagren was a pole vaulter in the 1968 and 1972 Olympics.  Bob never won any money doing his sport because to keep his amateur status he couldn’t.  Winning money in the Superstars was different.  He did not lose his amateur status because he wasn’t competing in his sport.  It could be argued that Bob more than any of the other athletes in that first competition was hungry for that prize money.  It made sense, Bob was not rich like many of the other competitors were.  He was the only amateur in the field.  The prize money increased his desire because he had not been lavished with big earnings.  Bob won the 1973 event and accumulated $39,700 in winnings!  In 1974 Bob came in second place to an athlete that nobody had heard of named Kyle Rote (an American  soccer player).  It was the first running of the dreaded obstacle course and Bob won it capturing the 10 points for first place.  Through the years Bob totaled more than $206,000.00 competing in the Superstars.  After his first victory he and his wife were able to buy a house that would have been way out of their price range just a few months earlier.

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Saint Junipero Serra was an 18th century priest who founded the first nine Spanish missions in the state of California.  He came from Spain into the new world because he had a desire in his heart that God had placed there.  It was a desire to spread God’s love in this new place.  His life motto was “Keep Moving Forward.” With God’s help Serra was able to accomplish a legacy that is still alive today.  It is a legacy of not only what he did but the continuing faith that still lives on!  Saint Serra had many obstacles in his way but his keep moving forward philosophy kept him on the path God desired for him.  Saint Serra’s motto is a good philosophy for all of us.  When things get in our way trust God and keep moving forward.

Life is a lot like that obstacle course.  There are always things in the way threatening to block our dream.  I always noticed in the midst of the competition that the competitors kept their eyes straight ahead.  They attempted to the best of their abilities to successfully complete the obstacle before them.   After they did  they went straight to the next obstacle on the course.  They didn’t skip any obstacle in their path. They were determined to go from point A to point B no matter what was in their way!

Like Bob Seagren we need to be hungry for success, not for our own glory but to glorify God!   Are we going to let one of the obstacles in our path get in the way of our goal?  That would be the equivalent of would be winners of the Superstars event losing at the last minute because of an obstacle in their way.  The apostle Paul said it well in I Corinthians 9:24.  “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize?  Run in such a way to get the prize.”

So how do we win the prize?  How do we keep moving forward when multiple obstacles are stacked against us daily? How do we keep our faith in a world of chaos and despair?  How do we proceed with our vision that God has given to us and never quit or get weary?  Relying on our faith and the spirit within us and not on our sight puts us past the obstacles and over the finish line!  Hebrews 11:1 states that “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal”,  II Corinthians 4:18.  Proverbs 3 verses 5 and 6 makes how we should be advancing forward very clear.  It comes from our knowledge of how we get true victory. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him and he will make straight your paths.”

The X-Ray Question

The doctors don’t ask you, they tell you.  “We’re going to need an X-Ray on that.  It could be any part of your body and it could be for a broken bone or anything else.  I had an experience like that a few days ago.  I was experiencing discomfort in my leg.  When I checked the source of the problem (right below the knee) there was a knot maybe the size of one of those boulder marbles some of us used to play with.  It was sore and when I twisted funny it would cause pain.  I put ice on it and that seemed to help for awhile but the swelling wouldn’t completely go away and there continued to be periodic pain.  Finally I went to the doctor and he felt the knot and then he informed me that they were going to do the X-Ray.  He was pretty certain it wasn’t anything serious but the X-Ray would remove all doubts as far as a tumor causing the problem.  So I had the X-Ray and he showed me the pictures.  Of course the pictures came from underneath the skin and revealed everything.  In my case it was added bone like you get with a bone spur.  It was my bodies defense mechanism to protect it from the inflammation that I had experienced.

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I’m sure most of you have heard of the Reverend Billy Graham.  Recently Billy passed away at the age of 99.   After He passed away I saw a cartoon that described a scene that might have taken place in heaven.

Through the years millions of people have prayed the prayer of salvation after Billy had preached a message at one of his many crusades.  Through the years I have listened to many of Billy Graham’s messages at his crusades on TV.   The things that I always noticed were that his messages were not unlike any that I have heard before.  He kept it simple and easy to understand.  The difference though is that he talked to a large number of people every time and he always received a great response when he asked people to come forward and pray.

It started many years ago.  God put a vision in Billy Graham’s heart that wouldn’t go away.  It was a vision of standing in front of multitudes of people and presenting the saving grace of Jesus Christ.  Through the years Billy was led to build on that vision and traveled all over the world with his message.  Billy Graham was sold out to Jesus Christ and only wanted to share the good news with everyone.

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Like Billy Graham Jesus has called all Christians to go into all the world too.  In Mark 16:15 Jesus said …And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.  He didn’t say Go into all of the world and get people to come to church.  He didn’t say Go into all of the world and bring people to your pastor.  There is a statistic that 95% of Christians have never led anyone to the Lord.  This is a very sad statistic that needs to change.  Most of us do not try to lead people to the Lord because we don’t know how.  Another reason we don’t try is we don’t have a plan.  We don’t think about anyone else getting saved as long as we are.  We may think that we can’t go all over the world but Jesus is talking about people we come across in our world.

So how can we be an excited witness for Jesus?  Some of you will not try because you are convinced it is a talent.  I am here to tell you that it is a skill.  With a skill we can acquire it if we practice.  How many of you can ride a bike?  I’m thinking a great majority of you.  Now when you first tried to ride the bike did you take right off?  Probably not…there was undoubtedly falls on the way.  But you kept trying and got better at it and before you knew it you were not falling at all.  That is how it is with sharing Jesus too.  It may not be comfortable at first but the more you do it the easier it gets. 

The first step as in anything we do in life there has to be a plan.  I have learned a simple short way to share the Gospel with people.  It starts with memorizing 4 Bible verses.  Here are the verses. 

Romans 3:23  For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God

Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

John 1:12 states that Whoever receives him he gives the right to become children of God and

Revelation 3:20 states this (this is Jesus talking) Behold I stand at the door and knock if anyone hears my voice and opens the door I will come in. 

You may say to yourself I can’t memorize these verses but I’m telling you that you can!  Remember back in your school days when you had to remember many times more than this.  This is four verses that will help bring people into the kingdom of God!  Are you willing to try and let God use you to rescue the lost? 

Jesus Calling James and John

When Jesus called out some of the fishermen disciples he told them that he would make them fishers of men.  The parallel is really good between fishermen and our calling.  When we fish we don’t chase the fish.  We don’t get in a motorboat and track them down.  What we do is bait our poll and wait.  When people come our way we look for chances to witness to them.  So how do we get on the subject?  When I meet someone I might offer that I write Christian stories on the internet.  You might offer that you go to such and such church or how God has changed your life, or you might just ask them if they like to talk about spiritual things?  It is important that you don’t violate anyone’s free will so if they get angry you should back off. 

After I mention one of the above I ask them if they are a Christian?  Whether they say yes or no really doesn’t matter at this point because the next question is the X-Ray question.  So whatever they say yes or no or I’m an atheist or whatever ask them this.  If I were to ask you what a Christian is what would you say?  If they answer that it means that you are saved by grace or words to that effect and state that they are saved you can cut right to the prayer at the end and ask them if they would mind if we agreed to re-dedicate our lives together?  Otherwise, after they tell you one of the many other answers (and there are many) ask them this…Would you mind if I shared 4 Bible verses with you about what a Christian is?  If they say yes then end it right there…If they say they wouldn’t mind then say this…

Romans 3:23 states that All have sinned and come short of the glory of God 

Romans 6:23 states that The wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord 

John 1:12 states that For as many as received him to them he gave the right to be children of God and

Revelation 3:20 (Jesus talking) Behold I stand at the door and knock If anyone opens the door I will come in. 

Then Mention their name..Dave, Jesus wants to come into your heart right now  Will you let him in?  If they say yes ask them to pray after you..Lord Jesus……Come into my heart and save me…….Forgive me of all my sins……Be my Lord and Savior     Amen 

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It’s that simple.  We are not out recruiting people for our church.  All we are doing is sharing the good news!  A friend of mine mentioned that when he was quite small he was standing at the end of the diving board crying.  “What’s wrong?” his mother asked him.  “I’m afraid to jump in”, was his reply.  It wasn’t long before he felt a push on his back and the next thing he knew he was in the water!  It happened so fast and he came out of there with a big smile on his face!  For the rest of that afternoon he jumped in the water a number of times and loved it.  That is the push we need sometimes as Christians.  Once we experience it we will want to do it over and over because the Holy Spirit gives us such a good feeling that we are doing exactly what we are called to do!

 

Peace In The Storm

We’ve all been through big storms.  The rain comes down hard, the thunder is loud and darkness is all around.  The sun is nowhere to be found and the only light that we see is periodic lightening brightening the sky.  If the electricity is still working we hear news of thunderstorm or tornado warnings.  We may be directed to enter a safe place in our home until the system passes us by.  All of these factors can be very alarming.  Yet I have been through numerous storm warnings in my life and I am sure you have too.  The best way to get through the storms is to get to a safe place, and stay there until the storm passes.  The main thing we must remember is to stay calm because then we can think straight.  We won’t panic and make decisions based on our panic state.  Knowing that we have been through hundreds of storms before and each one went away helps us to live through yet another one.

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In our Christian walk we are going to go through storms.  Nobody said that once we become a Christian storms will automatically pass us by.  The disciples of Jesus were in a boat one time and a sudden storm hit.  All of the sudden they were fearing for their lives.  The waves were beating heavily on the boat and the boat was rocking from side to side.  In the midst of the storm Jesus was in the back room of the boat sleeping.  Scared out of their mind the disciples woke Jesus.  “Jesus”, they said “Don’t you care that we are going to parish?”  Jesus got up and the first thing he did was admonish them.  “Oh ye of little faith”, he said.  Then he commanded the storm to calm and the storm was no more.

It’s interesting the words ye of little faith that he used.  In our daily lives when the storms hit us we tend to panic like the disciples did.  Just like in their case where Jesus was in the boat he is in our boat too if we have asked him into our heart.  With Jesus on board there is no reason to fear no matter how scary the storm is.

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So I ask you this question today.  Do you have little faith or big faith?  Little faith is faith that everything is OK as long as everything is going well.  Big faith is faith that everything is OK no matter what the circumstances are.

When Jesus comes into our hearts he gives us a peace that passes all understanding.  The problem that we have is that we don’t always live in that peace.  We can be like ten of the twelve spies in the Bible who came back and reported that the enemy was too big.  They were looking at the problems instead of the promise.  Isn’t that what we do when we get all upset because all we see is the obstacles?  So how do we keep the peace even through the tough times?  How do we go through the storms with big faith?

We will keep the peace if we are honest with everyone.  We cannot be at peace inside when we are not truthful.  II Corinthians 10 verses 4 and 5 tell us to Cast down imaginations and everything that exalts itself against the knowledge of God.  When we don’t believe that God will get us through a situation aren’t we not casting down these imaginations?  Have you ever heard that 95% of the things we worry about never happen?

When you are in the storm remember who is on the boat with you.  Remember all of the storms that you have been through in the past with his help.  Find the peace that only he can give.  Lean on the Lord and seek his peace above all else.  Remember that whatever you are going through will pass.  After it is over you will have a story to tell.  You see without a test we have no testimony.  The weather in our heart can be sunny and warm even when the storms on the outside are at their worst.  Always remember who is the center of our peace with this saying “No Jesus, No Peace—Know Jesus, Know Peace!”

The Weather of My Heart

by Lewis Hamilton c 1997 From the book “The Gardener and My Garden”

We call the weather line
it’s such a big concern
will rain ruin our weekend
or will the weather turn?

Is there a storm brewing?
It’s very important to me
Turn the TV on right now
and switch to channel three

The weather alert is flashing
there’s a “W” on the screen
The “W” stands for warning
what kind of warning could it be?

We plan our daily activities
from data we have found
wanting to make good decisions
from information that is sound

Do you ignore the weather
that goes on inside?
Is the river of your heart at peace
or is there a high tide?

Are your insides dark and cloudy
and is there always strife
from winds racing out of control
every day of your life?

You can see the forecast on your TV
the screen’s within your eyes
Are they raging from tornado winds
and seas about to rise?

Do you ignore the inside storm
denying that it’s there,
or should you take some action
to show you really care

The Lord saw my stormy inside
and said he’d calm my sea
He’d make my sun shine all the time
his peace he’d give to me

Now my inside weather’s peaceful
although outside it may rain
I’ve discovered who can control
my inside weather vane

I know now just as I’m concerned
what the weather report will be,
It’s more important what the weather is
deep inside of me

For Jesus spoke to my sea that day
He called, Peace be still
There is sunshine every day for me
as I live now in his will

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