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Archive for the month “July, 2018”

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 

Image result for will you let jesus in photo

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!

 

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