lightenload

Come with me on a spiritual Journey!

Archive for the category “Attitude is Everything”

The Cain Way

Usually by reading the Bible we can get a pretty direct interpretation.  However there are times that we need to dig a little deeper into the passage.  I’m thinking about the story of Cain and Abel.  They were brothers parented by Adam and Eve.  Cain was a worker of the soil while Abel was a keeper of the flocks.  Both were much needed and necessary.  When they both made an offering to the Lord Cain brought his vegetables he had grown while Abel brought his firstlings of his flock and of the fat therof.  And Jehovah had respect onto Abel and his offering but to Cain and his offering he had not respect.  And Cain was very wroth and his countenance fell.  Genesis 4 verses 3-5.  To help me understand what that last sentence meant I looked up the words wroth and countenance.  Wroth means intensely angry, highly incensed, Wrathful.  Other synonyms of wroth include fuming, hot, furious, and outraged.  Countenance has to do with a persons face or facial expression.  So Cain’s facial expression changed as he became angry.  Now I can see the picture of someone who is upset, mad , and furious and his face telling the same story even without words.

Image result for Cain and abel photo

I used to think that Cain’s offering wasn’t respected because it was not a blood offering.  We know in the old testament the sacrifice of blood covered people’s sins.  However nowhere in the passage is this offering described as a sacrifice.  This was an offering unto God.  Logically God wouldn’t have expected Cain or Abel to offer something they didn’t have.   Cain was a worker of the soil so what he had to offer was the vegetables he grew.  The other misconception I had after my blood sacrifice theory that went up in smoke was the thought that Cain didn’t give his best vegetables.  We know that Abel gave his best because the passage suggests it.  But it doesn’t say anywhere that God was not happy with Cain because his offering was rotten or worm infested or he gave the smallest worst ones.  On the contrary I believe that Cain gave his best too.

We are not told why Cain’s offering was not respected.  However the passage doesn’t just mention his offering.  It states that Cain and his offering were not respected.  It also states that Abel and his offering were.  Now maybe we can find some clarity there.  Could it be that both offerings could have been respected and the real answer lies within the brothers?  Could it be that because Cain’s heart was not in the right place his offering was viewed as bad too?   Cain’s offering was something that Cain had to work for.  He had to til the soil and do all of the hard labor that it takes to grow things.  Abel’s offering had nothing to do with Abel.  He just offered something that God had given to him.  In reality Cain’s offering was given to him too but could it be that Cain was proud of what he did?   We know that God looks at the heart in anything we do.  That is why the poor widow who only gave one small coin in the new testament was commended by Jesus of giving more than all of the other people who were giving.  While the others it was explained were giving just a portion of what they had the poor widow gave all that she had.  It was a heart gift that went way beyond it’s man made monetary value.

To further the argument that Cain’s problem was a heart thing instead of the actual offering that he gave I offer this.  Cain was truly disappointed that his offering was not accepted.  It states that his head which was probably raised in pride for the things he had grown was now dropped in sorrow.  In life we are going to have disappointments and it is OK to feel that way.  However it is never OK to be bitter and worse to stay that way.  It doesn’t state anywhere that Cain asked God why his offering wasn’t accepted.  Wouldn’t you think that it would be the logical question to ask especially if you were trying to please God?  Cain did not ask the question because it was obvious to him what the answer was.

God knew Cain’s heart so it was no surprise to him how Cain reacted.  Cain reacted in anger and hate.  Have you ever heard it said that it doesn’t matter what happens it is how we react to it that counts?  In this example we can almost see through Cain by how he reacted.  He was furious and it mirrored what was on the inside. It wasn’t enough for him to be upset though.  He could have asked God how he could make it right but he wasn’t interested in that.  He was upset because God knew the condition of his heart which went far beyond the offering that he gave.

I’m going to draw a few conclusions from the passage based on human nature and the evidence of the story.  Cain did not love his brother Abel.  To him it was a competition of who did the most important thing.  Cain thought for sure that God would be more pleased with the offering he worked so hard to get. In his mind Abel job was just leading animals around.  Cain felt like his offering was special and he was proud of the results that he was able to produce.

Isn’t that the way of the world today?  In our world a persons worth is associated with what he or she accomplishes.  This is the Cain way of thinking and is totally against God’s way.  In God’s way it is a matter of the heart.  Why do we do the things we do?  Do we do things to get praise from the world?  If Cain had seen the error of his ways and had been sorrowful and had repented I am sure that God would have been pleased.  However that was not Cain’s attitude.

So what does Cain do?  He is so bitter and angry that he calls his brother to come into the field with him.  I contend that this was not the beginning of this hatred.  I don’t think that Cain loved his brother from the start.  In fact I think he hated his brother from the beginning.  If he loved Abel he would have been happy for him that God accepted his offering.  On the contrary his anger showed how selfish he was.  In his mind it was Abel’s fault that God did not accept his offering.  This hate had probably built up over a long period of time and this was the straw that broke the camel’s back.   Abel probably thought that his brother wanted to discuss something.  Never in his heart did he think his brother meant harm.  I believe that Abel loved his brother and had a loving heart.  Cain murdered his brother and buried him.  Later God asked Cain where his brother was?  Cain answered that he didn’t know…”am I my brothers keeper?”, he stated.

A man with his hands covered with mud

The fact is we are our brothers keeper.  We should be concerned about others because we love them.  God is the only one who can put that love into our hearts.  He looks into our hearts for our true motives.  Our accomplishments in this life mean nothing without God.  Cain didn’t come to the conclusion that everything that he grew was a gift from God.  He was in the human mindset that if he worked hard he would produce results.  God was not in his equation.  Cain’s heart was filled with hate and felt he was the one who determined his own success.   That is called the Cain way and is totally against the word of God.  When we accept Jesus into our lives he puts a loving spirit inside.  Now we start doing things in love not because we have to but because of the desire to do so.  Now there is a new purpose in our lives when we realize that everything that we have or ever will be is a gift from God!  Everywhere we look we see the Cain way in action.  It is the attitude that we are our own God and we control our success.  If you feel that way come to God and he will get down to the heart of the matter!

Advertisements

Exit Stage Right

I guess the hardest thing for a famous actor, actress or celebrities to do is get off of the stage.  This is especially true when they know it is their last appearance. I remember seeing Johnny Carson’s final show.  He had the forethought to give his audience notice in advance that this would be his last show.  It was expertly planned with a combination of the here and now and highlights from shows past. Watching the show brought laughter and tears to his audience as they enjoyed the memories of the past while also realizing that there would be no new memories.  It was a time of reflection and Johnny was at his best.  He was candid, funny, and very reflective of the 30 plus years that he was the host and star of the Tonight Show.

Image result for johnny carson last tonight show

Muhammad Ali was a Heavyweight Boxer the likes that nobody had seen before.  He had speed like a lightweight and he developed a style of hitting without getting hit.  It was his quick reflexes as he could pull his head back just as his opponents were trying to throw their knockout blows.  Almost all of the time they ended up only hitting air.  In 1967 Ali was banned from boxing for refusing to be inducted into the army.  His Heavyweight Title was stripped and for 3 and a half years he was not allowed to fight.  Then in 1970 he was given a license to fight in Georgia.  Ali was still good when he returned but he wasn’t the fighter he used to be.  Subsequent matches he started to get hit.  When he fought Joe Frazier for the Heavyweight crown in 1971 he was hit like never before.  No longer was he able to get out of the way every time.  Joe knocked him down in the 15th round and kept his Heavyweight championship.

Ali persevered after that fight and for 3 years he chased another chance to claim the Heavyweight Title.  Finally in 1974 he got his chance.  George Foreman was now the Heavyweight champion after defeating Frazier the year before.  Ali was a big underdog but he used his ring savvy to tire Foreman out and get his title back.  Ali had hinted before the fight that this would be the perfect way for him to leave the stage.  Ten years after winning the title to regain it against such a powerful foe.  However after he won he wouldn’t quit.

Ali fought Joe Frazier for the third time in 1975 and although he won the fight it took it’s toll on both him and Frazier. It was finally time to get out with his health in tact but Ali kept fighting even though his best days were long passed.  He was getting hit and was lucky enough to barely keep his title in some controversial decisions.  In 1978 he fought a rookie boxer named Leon Spinks who had 8 professional fights at the time.  Ali had not trained properly for the fight and Spinks won the decision and the title.  Later that year in a rematch Ali won his title back from Spinks.  Finally Ali retired and left the stage.  Ali loved the limelight and surely he missed being the center of attention.  The next year he announced that he was coming back to get his title.  The fight with Larry Holmes didn’t go well.  Ali was hit like a punching bag showing none of his old talents.  He fought one more time and lost again before he finally admitted that he was through.  It was sad watching him fight at the end when there was nothing left but the memories of what used to be.

Like Ali we are given a time in the spotlight in life. Ecclesiates chapter 3 mentions that there is a time for everything.

Ecclesiastes 3 New International Version (NIV)

A Time for Everything

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.

One of the hardest to deal with is the time to die.  When Carson walked off of the stage for the last time he knew that his time in the limelight was up.  He dealt with it by planning his show and making a great memory at the end.  Unlike Ali at the end we only remember the extraordinary talent that he had without a slippage in later shows.  The same lesson can be learned from the end of life.  Although we will be missed we have the power to make it more of a joyous occasion instead of a sad episode with no hope.  As Christians we need to remember that this is not our home.  When our time is up there is no need to keep fighting.  That is why so many people die very peacefully.  They know that they are going to a place far better!

I have a friend whose mother was dying.  At Christmas time all of the family decided they would write her a letter telling her how much she meant to them.  Later my friend mentioned that the thinking was all backwards.  They should have had her write a letter to each of them.  It would be a letter like the letters somebody used for the meaning of the Bible which was Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth.

bible page on gray concrete surface

Do You Remember Me?

I had an experience the other day that was kind of embarrassing.  Someone came up to me in a store and asked me if I remembered them.  Actually I did remember the lady.  She worked in the Financial Aid Office years ago.  I also remember running into her years ago in a similar circumstance.  My problem is that I didn’t remember her name.  I did tell her of course I remembered her but I wasn’t honest about her name.  I should have asked her for her name again.  After all it had been years and years since I had seen her.  She mentioned the last time she saw me I was going to buy trophies for my sons basketball team.  I’m thinking that had to be 11 or 12 years ago when I coached them.  It would have been easy to ask for her name and yet I didn’t.  Maybe in the back of my mind I thought that it might be hurtful to her.  Yet when you don’t run into someone for years it’s natural to forget.  It isn’t like you see them every day.   So I skated around the conversation without calling her by her name because I had forgotten.

I had a similar experience yesterday but the shoe was on the other foot.  I walked into a building and there was a guy I hadn’t talked to in years.  His name was George and he was the boyfriend of my boss years ago.  Actually I see him all of the time because he has decided to ride his bike to work instead of driving.  Many times driving to or from work I will encounter him riding down the road.  Of course he hasn’t thought of me in years and naturally when I saw him I said “Hey George!”, and we shook hands.  I noticed he didn’t call me by my name but we exchanged pleasantries.  I told him I see him riding his bike often and he mentioned something about finding that the bike was going against his will too often to Sweet water’s Doughnut Shop lately.  We both got a laugh out of that but at the end of the conversation he said something really softly…I heard it as “take care Terry.”

'This is my wife of 42 years...uh...'  'Lisa.'

I kinda laughed to myself as I continued walking.  I was wondering if I heard him correctly because he said it so low.  I have tried that trick too.  If I wasn’t totally sure I might say the name that I thought it was. The trick is to say it low enough that they would think that I remembered or if it was wrong that maybe they didn’t hear me correctly,.  There was a guy that I was running into every day that worked in Human Resources.  It seemed like every day he was saying “Hi Lewis”, and I was saying “hey how is it going?”, or some other pleasantry.  I had never been introduced to this guy but somehow he knew my name and it was embarrassing.

One day I decided that I have to find out what his name is.  So I searched an old phone book of the people that worked in Human Resources and I thought I had it!  He said “How are you Lewis?”  and I said something like “I’m doing good” and I said a name I forget right now.  The name i thought was right was an unusual name too.  Quickly he corrected me which was embarrassing but the proper thing to do.  “My name is Robert”, he said.  “Oh I’m sorry”, I stated obviously embarrassed.  I think I muddled through the passing conversation using his name Robert.  Quickly I started trying to find a way to remember his name. I used to work with a guy named Robert who was a really good friend.  I made a note that when I saw this guy I would think about my long lost friend.  Now it works like a charm.  It’s either Hi Lewis, Hi Robert or Hi Robert, Hi Lewis!  Now we both feel good when we see each other!

Therein lies the key to people’s hearts.  Everyone wants to feel good.  I was reading a book about Detroit Tiger’s legend Al Kaline.  He was at an autograph show when a fan came up to him asking “Do you remember me?”  Al looked at him and gave him a second glance.  Nothing was coming and he was honest “No I don’t think so, should I?”  The fan explained that it was right after the 1968 World Series that the Tiger’s won!  They were having a victory parade downtown and Al was in one of the cars.  The fan explained that he ran right up to the car and got Al’s attention.  “Hey Al” he said.  He said that Al looked right at him!  Kaline took his eyes off of the ball he was autographing.  “That’s right the parade in 1968”, he said referring to an event 25 years ago.  “You’ve changed a little”, Al offered and they both laughed.  I’m sure that little meeting with Kaline made the guys day.  He probably went home and told his wife and kids that the great Al Kaline remembered him!  The guy next to Al at the table looked at him in amazement of his fabulous memory.  When the fan was safely out of earshot Al quietly told him “of course not.”

There are some people that are brutally honest.  They pride themselves in saying things and letting the chips fall where they may.  Maybe there is a time and place for this if it is in the right spirit and meant to be helpful, but too often their words only hurt the other person.  Too often the brutally honest ones are just brutal.  “I tell it like it is”, they may say proudly.  Yet with their words they sometimes cut a person far deeper than if they were stabbing them with a knife.  That hurt can bring pain to others too.  The phrase “Hurt people hurt people” is very true and it can be passed on or stopped by our actions.  Make people feel good that they saw you.  Leave them in a better mood than before your encounter.  This is what happy people do and we should be happy with the Spirit of God within us!

Years ago Ernie Banks was a big star for the Chicago Cubs.  One day Ernie was at a function and one of the promoters was telling him about his 8 year old son.  His wife would be bringing him over in a few minutes.  “It will be thrilling for him to meet you because  you are his favorite player!”  The promoter told Ernie that he took his son  to a Cubs doubleheader last year on the 4th of July. He mentioned that they got good seats right to the side of the Cub’s dugout and he bought his son a Cub’s hat that he wore the whole day!  “What a great time they had together that day” He recalled, “and how thrilled his son was when Ernie hit a home run!”

As promised the promoters wife brought his son over to where he was.  “I’d like you to meet Ernie Banks”, his father told his son.  Ernie looked up from what he was doing and shook hands with the youngster.  As he was shaking his hand Ernie took a second look.  “Hey, haven’t I seen you before?”, he stated in surprised elation.  “Weren’t you at a game last year?”  The kid mentioned that he was.  “Wasn’t it the 4th of July doubleheader?” “Weren’t you sitting right by the dugout with a Cubs hat on?”  The questions were coming faster than the kid could answer but he was thrilled that the great Ernie Banks recognized him!  “When I saw you do you know what I thought?”  “I thought that kid is a great Cubs fan and I’m going  to try to hit a home run just for him!”

Never Ever Say Never Again

He was who you went to the movie to see!  When he first made his appearance his debut was the same.  As a way of uniquely introducing himself he presented his card and said in his familiar voice “Bond, James Bond”…It was his signature statement and when we heard it we knew that action was soon to follow.  When confusion and depression about what happened  set in James Bond brought hope with those three little words!

Sean Connery played the first James Bond and did it for many years.  From 1962 to 1969 Connery played Bond in 7 movies. He defined Bond in how people thought of him.  His Bond had a Scottish accent and he had a mysterious masculinity about him  He also had many sides as he dressed in his work suit for business and his tuxedo for more formal parties.  Connery was also a quick wit who could bring fear to his enemies and love from the opposite sex.  The whole package with Connery was known when you saw his movies and his character. How he adjusted to different cases varied depending on how he decided to solve the mysteries.  Connery was very popular doing James Bond.  He had a good thing going it seemed but there was a problem.  Increasing tension between him and the producer was bringing him stress on and off the film set.  After awhile it just wasn’t worth it in his eyes.  He announced that he wouldn’t be doing Bond anymore and a replacement was brought in.  The actors name was George Lazenby and he did not fill the giant shoes that Connery had stepped out of.  In 1971 two years since Connery had played his last James Bond film, he was  persuaded to make one more James Bond movie.  It would be “Diamonds are Forever” and Connery made it clear that after this one he would never play Bond again.

Image result for diamonds are forever

Sometimes it can be a dangerous thing to say never.  I have a friend named Jeremy who is also my pastor that faced the temptation of saying never but didn’t succumb to it.  Not only is Jeremy our pastor but he is the lead singer of his band and every year they make a tour to England.  This tour through the years has resulted in many people giving their lives to Christ.  Since the trip takes several hours it is very taxing on their bodies but they make that sacrifice in hopes of reaching the lost.  One trip Jeremy was telling us about was an even more unpleasant trip than usual.  You see Jeremy was in the back of the plane right by the bathroom.  Apparently the toilet overflowed and sewage water flooded the back of the plane.  Jeremy was in the middle of all of that sewage and not only did his feet get wet but the smell was almost too much to take.  Although temptation came Jeremy would not say the words “I’ll never go on this trip again.”  His experience was totally unpleasant but he looked at the mission over his comfort.  He also preferred to look at the positive and the good results over this bad experience.

There are times in every day life when people say never.  It may be an isolated experience such as I experienced earlier this year. I was eating at a Japanese Restaurant with my son and a close friend.  I had never eaten at a Japanese Restaurant before and the food was delicious.  It was so good that I was trying everything on the plate and decided to eat this green stuff with a pudding like texture.  It stuck together and I ended up putting the whole portion into my mouth.  I discovered soon after what an awful mistake I had made.  I started gagging as my mouth and throat were on fire.  I had some water handy and tried to cool them off by gulping down the water.  The water seemed to make the burning increase and I was literally coughing uncontrollably as the tears started running down my cheeks.  It took a minute or two to finally recover.  I later found out that this dish that I had so quickly stuffed in my mouth was one of the hottest things you can eat.  It is called Wasabi and it is a Japanese horse radish. It’s name comes from the Wasabi tree that is grown in Japan. It was intended to be used for dipping very sparingly on the sushi part of my  meal.  This unpleasant experience could have made me say never again and I do think that never again will I eat Wasabi like I did.  However I can see us going back to this restaurant.  The food was delicious and I didn’t let the Wasabi incident ruin an otherwise delightful meal!

https://image.shutterstock.com/image-photo/wasabi-paste-on-ceramic-spoon-260nw-688121719.jpg

In Matthew 21 verses 29 through 31 Jesus told a parable involving two sons.   21:28 “What do you think? A man had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ 21:29 The boy answered, ‘I will not.’ But later he had a change of heart and went. 21:30 The father went to the other son and said the same thing. This boy answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but did not go. 21:31 Which of the two did his father’s will?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, tax collectors and prostitutes will go ahead of you into the kingdom of God! 21:32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him. But the tax collectors and prostitutes believed him. Although you saw this, you did not later change your minds and believe him.” — NET Bible

This story tells us in short that actions speak louder than words.  Many of us in the past have stated that we will never do something again.  Often it could be warranted as my Wasabi incident would be.  Instead of stuffing the whole portion of Wasabi into my mouth I would be better served eating the stuff in small portions as it was intended.  Jeremy may have thought “never again” as he was breathing in the disgusting smell of sewage for hours on his trip.  He never let that experience overcome him and his desire to bring others the love of Jesus.

Sean Connery made his supposedly last Bond movie in Diamonds are Forever.  The movie was a huge success as Connery brought back the Bond character that was so endearing! True to his word he sat on the sidelines as others filled the Bond role.  After 12 years Connery had a change of heart.  I imagine that the enormous money deal he received was tugging at his decision.  That alone couldn’t have been his only motivation however.  He had turned down wealth before in refusing to play Bond again.  The truth is that things had changed on the set and his attitude was completely different.  The film was called “Never Say Never Again.”  The title was based on Connery’s own statement about playing the role.  The movie was a massive success and Roger Ebert in reviewing the film said it best!  “It has been 12 years since Sean Connery hung it up as James Bond, 12 years since “Diamonds Are Forever,” and Connery’s announcement that he would “never again” play special agent 007. What complex instincts caused him to have one more fling at the role, I cannot guess. Perhaps it was one morning in front of the mirror, as he pulled in his gut and reflected that he was in pretty damn fine shape for 53. And then, with a bow in the direction of his friend Roger Moore, who has made his own niche as a different kind of Bond, Sean Connery went back on assignment again.”

Never Say Never Again Movie Poster

Many of you reading this have made the never statement about forgiveness.  “I will never forgive them for that!”, you might have said.  It’s true that whatever happened might have had a stench comparable to Jeremy’s situation.  However, when we use the never word we resign ourselves to limited thinking.  It is not in God’s will for us to be unforgiving people carrying grudges.  It is his will for us to let things go and let people off of the hook.  The results are better for the wrong doers in our lives but more importantly they are better for us!  Now we can live in peace with the love of God moving freely in our hearts.  In the past you may have proclaimed the old never again slogan.  You may have meant it and are on a path to take unforgiveness to your grave.  Just because you said it though doesn’t mean it has to be forever.  A change of heart is far more powerful than to change your mind.  Words can come from an emotional hurt but heartfelt love  controls our actions going forward! When God tells us what to do our first response might be NO.   The blessings come when we do it anyway!

 

 

 

 

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.”

Image result for battery jump cartoon

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.

This Is A Test

This is a test. How many times have we heard these words in our lifetime?  Usually it comes from that crazy radio message stating “this is a test of the emergency broadcasting system, this is only a test”.  It is followed with a siren sound for ten seconds.  Then the voice comes back and tells us what to do if this were a real emergency.  It is kind of like the fire drill tests we got so accustomed to in our grade school.  Line up single file we were told as the alarm loudly went off.  Then we calmly marched out one of the exit doors and ended up on the playground far away from the school.

I have this recurring dream.  It is a dream that I am back in college and there is a class that somehow I have just discovered that I have.  I have missed the whole semester and now they are having a test on the day I walk into the room.  I am not prepared and fear starts to set in.  The nightmare continues as the professor hands out the test and I am totally stumped as I sit there in a cold sweat.  Needless to say this recurring dream is not fun and it seems to play into a fear within me of not being ready for a test.

As a student I recall many times the teacher would surprise the class with a pop quiz.  It was bad enough to get tested when you were given warning, but these pop quizzes seemed to be totally unfair.  Looking back I’m sure that there was a reason for these surprise quizzes.  Perhaps the teacher wanted to find out how many of their students were following the lessons.  How many were comprehending what was being said and were able to apply the lessons to their knowledge?

Image result for classroom college test photo

Looking back on those school day tests today I can see their value.  There has to be a time when the rubber hits the road.  There has to be a time when the teacher grades their students on what they have learned.  Being there and listening to the messages aren’t enough.  Maybe I was there in body but my mind was on the ball game we were going to organize after school.  Maybe my mind was on a million other things besides the subject at hand.  I may look like I was there all of the time but my test scores could tell another story.

In our Christian walk some people expect life to go smooth all of the time.  They might think that when we become Christians we won’t have anymore problems.  Like the teacher, God lets us go through tests.  We may be on the proverbial mountain at times but we also find ourselves in the low valley.  The valley is meant to be a temporary place that God lets us enter. When we find ourselves in the valley we sometimes go on an emotional roller coaster.  Why am I in this place?, we might ask.  It’s easy to get down and depressed.  This is not the will of God for us.  He wants us to be content wherever we are.  He wants us to grow while we are in the valley.  Have you ever noticed that mountain tops have no growth?  Down in the valley is where we find the healthy grass and beautiful flowers.

Image result for flowers in the valley photo

Life will take us to both mountain tops and low valleys. The test is in both instances.  How do we give glory to God when we are on an emotional high?  What is our attitude when we are in the valley?   Like the radio warning “this is only a test.”  When we are content and happy in whatever situation we are in it makes God happy.  It is not true that circumstances can totally make us happy.  We have seen miserable lottery winners and famous people that kill themselves.  The happiest that you and I will ever be is not based on outside circumstances but who is on the inside.

One time Jesus was on a boat with his disciple’s but he was peacefully sleeping in the back.  A storm came up suddenly and the boat rocked.  The disciple’s got scared and feared that they were going to die.  They woke Jesus and said Teacher don’t you care if we die?  Jesus stood up and rebuked the storm.  “Quiet be still”, he said and the storm subsided.  The disciples failed this test but the message is clear for us today.  When we have Jesus with us there is no need to be afraid no matter what situation we are in.  God loves us and like he calmed the storm he will calm the storm inside us when we put all of our trust in him.  Remember this is only a test!

Image result for jesus calms the storm photo

My Spiritual Exam

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

Just like I need a physical
to find out how I am
It’s time for me to ask my Lord
for a spiritual exam

He’ll ask me many questions
Can I be honest with myself?
Thinking that I’ve got it made
could be harmful to my health

Is my gear shifted into drive
or is it stuck in park?
Does my light shine on others
or do I leave them in the dark?

Is my salt being poured out
or is it all for waste?
Does it flavor when it’s poured
or has it lost its taste?

When he gives me the vision
to see how I can be
will I make excuses
or let the Lord use me?

Will my spirit be broken
so my life he then can mold?
Or have I pushed the button
to put the Lord on hold?

When I leave the great physician’s room
will I be better than I came?
Or have I made my mind up
to keep my life the same?

“…I desire to do your will, O my God,
your law is within my heart.”

Psalm 40:8

The Proving Of My Faith

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

It’s easy to praise the Lord
when I’m on a mountain high
or I’m soaring in the air
up where the eagles fly

It’s easy to praise him
when life is going right
and it doesn’t seem the devil
is putting up a fight

But what will I do when troubles come
and I’m not feeling the power?
Will I cling to my faith in him
when I’m in my trying hour?

When I reach my lowest depth
will I take time to pray
or will I lose my grip on faith
and let it slip away?

Unproven faith is not faith at all,
this truth of faith I’ve found
The proving of my faith comes only
when I’m on my lowest ground.

Therefore, among God’s churches we
boast about your perseverance and
faith in all the persecutions and trials
you are enduring.

II Thessalonians 1:4

The Scorekeeper

We’ve all heard the old saying “It isn’t if you win or lose but how you play the game.”  In our society that saying just isn’t true.  We watch sporting events every week and countless players interviewed after the games will say “the important thing is we got the W.”   I remember when my son first started playing basketball.  They had this YMCA basketball league and to my surprise they didn’t keep score.  This absence of a scoreboard struck me as unrealistic.  The thinking was that kids that young didn’t need to be all concerned about if they won or lost.  Being around sports my entire life I found the games to be an effort in futility.  They were playing the game but it was like it didn’t matter how they did.  When I participate in sports I am always the scorekeeper.  I don’t know why I originally took up the role.  I think it is the fact that nobody else ever jumps to do it.  To me the scorekeeper cannot miss a beat.  They need to call out the score after every made basket or winning point.  When others keep score I notice that points are made without them calling it out.  That leads to confusion later as the proper score gets incorrectly called as the game goes on.  I’ve found that in the order of things calling out the score let’s everyone know the game situation.  Everyone is on the same page and the score is never confused unless the scorekeeper makes a mistake.  If that happens the other players will quickly correct them and the game goes on with the proper score agreed on.

In organized sporting events we don’t need to keep score in our heads.  The scoreboard and official scorekeeper are all part of the game.  In the professional ranks people are paid good money to make sure that the score is right.  I’m reminded of watching numerous basketball games where the scoreboard isn’t working right.  Usually it isn’t the actual score as much as it is the time clock.  When the referee comes over to try to correct the problem the scorekeeper will invariably throw their hands up in confusion.  It strikes me as funny that the person in charge of keeping things straight has no idea what is going wrong.

With the knowledge of how important the score is and how people want to know the score Ernie Harwell the great old Detroit Tigers announcer used to make sure he said the score often.  Ernie’s broadcast was on the radio and he realized that people were tuning in and out all of the time.  For them it was important to know what the score was.  For those listening from the beginning a reminder didn’t hurt anything.  By saying the score often they were sure not to get the score mixed up.  Ernie Harwell - WJROneOfAKind.jpg

The official scorekeeper in baseball has traditionally been a rather interesting job. The actual score of the game is easy but the insides of the score can be difficult.  Many a controversy has arrived as to if a batter is credited with a hit or the fielder an error.  That particular controversy is very important to the person hitting the ball.  Getting a hit raises their batting average which is a meter as to how well they are doing their job.  When the scorekeeper scores the hit as an error on one of the opposing teams fielders it is scored like the batter made an out. Even though they are on base and eligible to score a run their batting average has went down.  Players have been known to bug the official scorekeeper continuously over calls that were made affecting their batting averages.  One time Babe Ruth hit a towering popup.  Not only did he hit long home runs but he also hit the highest popups anyone had ever seen.  Players circled around trying to gauge this towering fly and one of the players got a glove on it before it dropped to the ground.  The official scorekeeper gave the fielder an error on the play and Babe was furious.  Every time he saw that scorekeeper he brought up that pop up that he felt should have been a hit.  To his credit the scorekeeper held to his original conviction and never changed his decision in spite of all of the pressure Babe put on him.Related image

Now when we go to a professional event the scoreboard is so big it dominates our thinking.  Not only do we see the score we ,can also watch the game on the scoreboard.   A giant screen can give the viewer an at home view of the action that they might have missed originally.  The scoreboard has come a long ways through the years.  It used to be done by hand with someone hanging numbers on an actual board.  Now everything is electronic and when things go wrong some kind of specialist has to be called in.  Fenway Park in Boston still uses the old fashion way of keeping their scoreboard.  There is still a person inside the famous Green Monster Wall that does the scoreboard by hand.  This old school feature in their ballpark takes us back in time.  Even with all of the technology of today’s scoreboards the obvious thing is most important.  No matter what else is going on that draws our attention the most important thing is to show us the score.  Image result for green monster scoreboard

As important as it is to know the score in a sporting event you would think that keeping score would be something we should do in life.  In fact some of us are constant scorekeepers.  Have you ever heard yourself say “I’ll get even with that person?”  We say or hear other things like “that person gets all of the luck.”  Rick Springfield had a song with the lyrics “I’ve done everything for you, You’ve done nothing for me.” These are all indications that we are score keeping.  

Unlike the basketball game with no scoreboard our efforts in life without a scoreboard are not futile.  If we truly want to please God we cannot be score keepers.  Jesus doesn’t want us to keep score because when we don’t he gives the ultimate victory.  He talks about loving our enemies and if someone sues us and takes our shirt give them our coat too.   Romans 12:19 states It is written “It is mine to avenge; I will repay”, saith the Lord.  In life the ultimate score keeper is in heaven.  He see’s everything and in the end he will settle everything.  It is our job on this earth to walk our road he has set out for us.  There is no room to compare ourselves to other people on their own path.  When we focus on loving God and doing his will it takes away all of the burden of keeping up with everyone else.  “Peace I give to you”, he tells us.  We will never get that peace when we are concerned with the world’s scoreboard.  Giving up keeping score frees us up to do what we are supposed to do in a loving way.  We are supposed to put others first.  When we do that it may look like we are losing on the world’s scoreboard but great is our reward in heaven!

Who Is Following You?

When I ran on the Cross Country team in high school our coach gave us a bunch of stapled pages of inspiration to start the season.  One of the pages contained a poem I’m about to share.  This poem was intended to give us the right attitude in our upcoming competitions.  I have never forgotten this poem and it’s words can inspire us in every battle we go through.  They can help us to look at life from a positive view!

Image result for the man who thinks he can photo

The Man Who Thinks He Can

by Walter D. Wintle

If you think you are beaten, you are

If you think you dare not, you don’t

If you’d like to win, but think you can’t

It’s almost a cinch you won’t

If you think you’ll lose, you’ve lost

For out in the world we find

Success being with a fellow’s will

It’s all in the state of mind

If you think you’re outclassed, you are

You’ve got to think high to rise

You’ve got to be sure of yourself

before you can ever win a prize

Life’s battles don’t always go

To the stronger or faster man

But sooner or later the man who wins

Is the one who thinks he can

As Christians we need to take the promise that God gives us in Psalm 23:i6 to heart!  “Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life.”  Too many of us are followed by doubt and despair.  We think that things never go our way and we say the words at any sign of turbulence.  Christian people say things like “story of my life”, “things never work out for me”, “I just have bad karma,”,  and”Only bad things happen in my life.”  Get off of that negative roller coaster.  The problem is you are not putting God first in your life.  When you do remember his promise.  “Surely goodness and mercy will follow you!”  Speak the words and believe them every day.  Sure there will be turbulent times but rest assured that God is with you!   He will fulfill his destiny and purpose for your life as you come to realize that he is on your side!  Remember that goodness and mercy are running right behind you!

Image result for goodness and mercy race photo

 

 

 

Hey Jude

When I was a kid in 1968 my sister had a lot of 45 records.  I used to compare the times of the songs which were listed on the front.  Almost all of the songs were between 3 and 4 minutes long.  The longest song by a wide margin was Hey Jude by the Beatles.  Hey Jude was 7 minutes and 14 seconds.  That was 3 or 4 minutes longer than any other song that she had on those 45’s and she had a ton of 45’s.  On the back of Hey Jude and for you kids out there 45’s had 2 sides was the song “Revolution”.  The Beatles were recording on the Apple label which was green and designed like an apple.  In the song Hey Jude the lyrics go “Hey Jude, Don’t make it bad, Take a sad song and make it better, Remember to let her into your heart then you can start to make it better.”

Beatles    Apple 2276      HEY JUDE        45 SHIPS FREE / MAKE OFFER

Ironically in the Bible there is a chapter in the New Testament called Jude.  We don’t know much about Jude except he was the brother of James.  Where Hey Jude was the longest song in her collection the book of Jude is one of the shortest books in the Bible.  Apparently Jude had seen something happening in the church that was very disturbing.  People were entering the church and spreading untruths as to what the true gospel was about.  They were bringing the idea in that they could live their life without a change in their behavior.  Do anything and say anything you want was their motto.   This attitude was dividing the church and Jude an unknown felt the need to write a letter reprimanding the church.  The letter was all about warning the early believers that these people were dividers and were a threat to destroy the true gospel.

https://i1.wp.com/www.wphcc.com/wp-content/uploads/bible-jude.jpg

Years ago there was a man that showed up one day at my church.  Nobody had ever seen him before. He came in with an agenda and that was exposed when he sat in the adult Sunday  school class.  At the time the pastors wife was going through a horrible ordeal.  She was sick almost all of the time and nobody could pinpoint what was wrong with her.  The pastor many times came to church by himself.  It turned out that she was suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning that the parsonage was spewing.  This particular Sunday, despite her illness, she had struggled to make her way to church.  The new class member started questioning the churches faith.  He was stating that if anyone was sick all they had to do was pray and believe.  He questioned the faith of the church and brought hard feelings.  The pastors wife was particularly offended by his divisive message because she and her husband had been praying for healing.  Now this person was there questioning their faith and judging the church as a whole. After a week or two that unknown visitor left and was not seen again.  He came, divided and caused pain and then probably drifted to another church.

Somebody recently made a point in a speech that I heard that there are three types of gatherings.  There are Groups which are all about entitlements and social class ruling.  there are Gangs that come in with ideas and force them on the entire population, and there are Teams that work together.  The Teams are people that no matter what their position are willing to sacrifice for the good of the whole.  Whatever job that needs to get done they are willing to do.  It may not be something they are totally comfortable doing or do often, but for the good of the whole they do it anyway.

The opposite of this Team player is the Gang mentality that has a specific agenda.  The people that had infiltrated the church in Jude’s day were of the Gang mentality.  They were pushing their own agenda which was contrary to the Gospel.  They were in fact trying to make their own rules and leading others down a path of destruction.

Isn’t it ironic that the Beatles were recording on the “Apple” label.  We always have associated an apple with the fruit that was the center of man’s first sin.  In the Bible it is the forbidden tree that God said not to eat. The serpent was a disrupter and was very jealous of God’s paradise.  One day he tempted Eve and she ate the fruit and gave it to Adam and he ate too.  Adam and Eve had listened to another voice and had doubted that God was telling them the truth.  That is the same attitude that was in Jude’s time and continues to this very day.

The words “Hey Jude, Don’t make it bad, Take a sad song, and make it better” only partially apply to the task of the people of the church.  Ours is not a sad song.  Ours is the happiest song anyone could ever sing.  The Gospel is about Jesus dying for our sins and giving us a path to heaven.  That is good news and should cause us to rejoice.  We should not be out to disrupt the ship.  We should as a Team, be on board willing to do whatever it takes to keep the ship sailing straight.  We are not here to revolt and cause a Revolution, which the other side of the record is against.  Changing the lyrics of Hey Jude a little gives us a great recommendation.  Remember to let him into your heart, then he can start to make you better.

Thinking back to my pastors wife’s dilemma, it wasn’t her lack of faith that was the problem.  It was the poison that had penetrated into the walls of her house.  She was mysteriously sick for quite awhile.  One day they had their house inspected and the root of her illness was discovered.  That is exactly the same idea that Jude was getting across to the church.  There are people that have come in and are poisoning God’s house with false ideas.  These people need to be called out to change their attitudes or leave so that the church is working as a team without sickness from poison in the house.

 

A Tale Of Two Hearts

It was junk pickup day and my pastor noticed that a couple that drove an old rusty pickup truck was rummaging through the junk on the curb.  God has placed a burden on his heart to talk to people about God’s salvation and love for us so he went out to fulfill that mission.  After some warm greeting pleasantries he asked them if they had ever considered becoming Christians?  Bluntly they told him no and then the whole story came out.  Their 15 year old daughter had been tragically killed in a car accident.  “We used to go to church”, they stated “but never again.”  He would have liked to have consoled them and told them how sorry he was about their daughter. He would have liked to have been able to tell them that God loved them even through their sad circumstance.  Before he could however they coldly and swiftly jumped into their truck and sped away.

This incident about their attitude toward God was upsetting.  He thought about the situation and concluded that the real tragedy was the bitterness and hardness of their hearts.  Of course it is an awful thing to have someone we love dearly taken from us.  Yet it isn’t what happens to us but how we respond to the situations.  The saying of get better not bitter applies here.  I read a quote that is really true although it’s author was unnamed.  “Faith isn’t about everything turning out okay.  It is about being okay no matter how things turn out.”  Saying the words I realize from personal experience that a loving attitude is impossible if we rely on ourselves.  It is natural to place the blame on someone or something.  We have been trained in life to solve problems and most of the time we are able to.  However, there are times when we really don’t know where to begin.  There are times when life doesn’t make sense.  There are events in our lives that fit so perfectly under the category of a best selling book years ago “When Bad Things Happen To Good People.”

When Bad Things Happen to Good People

When bad things happen what is our attitude?  Are we apt to play the blame game?  I can tell you from personal experience that I have played the blame game.  At he end of the day though I realized that nothing gets accomplished by blaming.  Even if the circumstance was in part someone’s fault how can this fact justify the bitterness I let it create?  How can being bitter help the situation one bit?  I had to come to the conclusion that God was the only answer to my hurt.  I’ve heard that when life gives you lemons make lemonade.  Again that is easier said than done and can only come about with God’s helping hand.

When my daughter contracted spinal meningitis that took her life in 3 days we were so devastated as anyone would be.  Why did this happen?  I found that I couldn’t go back to work right away.  When I did the slightest little reminder of her would cause me to break down.  The only thing that saved me was a place that I went to talk to God.  I would literally walk to a building across the street on my breaks and pray on my knees.  I remember a time or two when someone would happen to pass by and wonder if I was okay.  It was a very unusual place to be praying but there I was.  In those times God gave me a peace and I was able to go on until my next break.  I can’t imagine anyone trying to go through such a tragedy without God’s help.

Through my pain I was searching for answers.  A pastor from my mom’s church came to the hospital and counseled us during the bleak hours before the final outcome.  We didn’t forget that act of kindness and started attending his church.  I remember a feeling in my heart as he preached on a topic called Fresh Fire that I was to write a poem.  From that first time many poems came to me that were what God put on my heart.  After three and a half years I put my poems together in a poem book called “The Gardener and My Garden.”

I can tell you that if something tragic has happened to you that blaming anyone including God will not help the situation.  The fact is that whatever happened has already caused damages.  It is like if a tornado comes through your neighborhood.  Are you going to try to pick up the pieces or mutter about what happened?  It is our attitude that we need to be concerned about.  Luke 10:27 states to love the Lord thy God with all your heart with all your soul and with all of your strength and with all of your mind and love your neighbor as yourself.  It doesn’t say that this only applies if you have not been through a tragedy at which point be bitter and curse the circumstances around you.  In choosing love we are giving our life to a higher power who loves us and see’s a bigger picture.  We are no longer fighting the battle alone.  We also trust in Romans 8:28 which states that All things work together for good to those who love God who are called for his purpose.

There are times that I have not packaged doughnuts correctly and let air harden them.  Did you know that if they are not brick hard that usually a trip to the microwave will soften them right up? It is so nice to eat soft, sweet, warm doughnuts instead of hard cold ones.  What a difference the added moisture from the heat can make in the softness and deliciousness of the doughnuts! They actually taste better than they would have out of the box!  My pastor gave a wonderful example about ice and clay last week.  If you put ice and a ball of clay out in the sun the ice will melt while the clay gets hard.  That is the two directions our heart can go too as we face life’s battles.  It is our job to make sure that our hearts have that quality that ice has where they soften and melt rather than get hard and bitter.

https://i0.wp.com/i.huffpost.com/gen/3037054/images/n-DOUGHNUTS-628x314.jpg

There was a young lady he talked about that is now 22 years old.  When she was 5 her brother and her were playing with gasoline and matches in their basement.  The result was severe burns all over her body and multiple skin graph operations.  Today with God’s help her attitude is one of love.  She volunteers at the burn unit of the local hospital.  She has found her niche as she can empathize with their hurt and pain.  She has taken a horrible situation in her own life and through God shows nothing but love for others.

Perhaps you are going through pain as you read this.  Maybe circumstances have given you reason to be bitter and question God.  I can tell you that nothing good will come out of that attitude.  In fact you will find yourself further and further from God.  So how do you develop that soft heart that melts like the ice?  You don’t develop it but you make the decision to follow God and give him all of your cares.  Praise him for whatever situation has come about and thank him for it.  Somehow, someway beyond anything we know he see’s the big picture.  Draw close to him and he will draw close to you.  You will then find like I did that your heart will soften.  The hardness of your heart will slowly melt away and you will find that your melted heart soothes the pains of many.

 

Post Navigation