Thursday, August 12, 2010

True North

Psalm 119:100
100 I've become wiser than the wise old sages simply by doing what you tell me.
101 I watch my step, avoiding the ditches and ruts of evil so I can spend all my time keeping your Word. 102 I never make detours from the route you laid out; you gave me such good directions. 103 Your words are so choice, so tasty; I prefer them to the best home cooking. 104 With your instruction, I understand life; that's why I hate false propaganda.
105 By your words I can see where I'm going; they throw a beam of light on my dark path.
- The Message

Have you ever had an off day? Of course you have. We all have. That's part of being human. Sometimes we're on top of our game and sometimes we're not. When I'm on the golf course, I'm usually not because I don't play enough to have a good day. That takes practice. But in each of us, we have a talent or a hidden trait that we really don't have to develop or practice, we just naturally have it.

I have one of mind is a keen sense of direction. For some reason, I rarely get lost, but it has happened. Maybe it's because I like to look at maps and because I do, I can usually find my way around. But that's not always the case. My gift or talent is strictly relegated to the outdoors. Once i in a building, don't ask me which way is north. I will probably point up. It often surprises me to sit in a room and feel pretty certain that north is one way only to discover that I have missed by 5 or 100 degrees. I'm not sure why my sense of direction is so off when I am enclosed behind four walls, but it is.

The psalmist who wrote the scripture above knew what it's like to be lost from time-to-time. He knew that if he wanted to say on the right course in life, he needed to follow the trail blazed before him. He sang that God's word leads him through the darkest points of life and won't lead him astray.

On occasion, I find it useful to have a compass with me. It may come in handy when my natural senses fail me because I am surrounded by certain barriers. But, a compass will only guide me towards a temporal destination. On the other hand, when I take time to engage in daily devotions, my spirit is re-oriented to my eternal destination. How about you, when you find yourself surrounded and lost, where do you turn for your guidance? Remember the psalmist exclamation, "By your words [God's word] I can see where I'm going, they throw a beam of light on my dark path."


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Quench the Thirst

John 4:1-14
1 Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard, "Jesus is baptizing and making more disciples than John" 2 (though Jesus himself didn't baptize them -- his disciples did). 3 So he left Judea to return to Galilee. 4 He had to go through Samaria on the way. 5 Eventually he came to the Samaritan village of Sychar, near the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob's well was there; and Jesus, tired from the long walk, sat wearily beside the well about noontime. 7 Soon a Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, "Please give me a drink." 8 He was alone at the time because his disciples had gone into the village to buy some food. 9 The woman was surprised, for Jews refuse to have anything to do with Samaritans. She said to Jesus, "You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan woman. Why are you asking me for a drink?" 10 Jesus replied, "If you only knew the gift God has for you and who I am, you would ask me, and I would give you living water." 11 "But sir, you don't have a rope or a bucket," she said, "and this is a very deep well. Where would you get this living water? 12 And besides, are you greater than our ancestor Jacob who gave us this well? How can you offer better water than he and his sons and his cattle enjoyed?" 13 Jesus replied, "People soon become thirsty again after drinking this water. 14 But the water I give them takes away thirst altogether. It becomes a perpetual spring within them, giving them eternal life."

I have halfway noticed a commercial on television where people are unexpectantly hit with water. I think it is a commercial for a razor, I guess I need to pay attention to that. Anyway, instead of getting hit in the face with a boxing glove or a pillow, these objects become water, cool, refreshing, and non-traumatizing water. I would have really appreciated that last Friday while mowing the grass during the sweltering heat. It would have have been so nice instead of the branch that smacked me square in the face to have turned into water. But, it wasn't...and i had the mark and scratches to prove it.

What was refreshing that day was when my adorable wife came out and brought me a cold bottle of water. So cold, the bottle was sweating. Oh how it hit the spot! Nothing like cold water to quench the thirst on a hot and steamy day.

Sometimes it is easy to know what you want and what you need. Other times, you know you want something, but you don't know what. I hate those moments; especially when they involve food. I will clean out the refrigerator and cabinets trying to fill that insatiable taste. Then when I find it, I am usually to full from all the other "stuff" to fully appreciate the savoring moment.

The passage of scripture above addresses those kinds of moments. Jesus saw that the woman was searching for something. She was looking for love. Later in the story, we can see that she looked for it the arms of several men...and she was still thirsting. Jesus peered straight into her soul and saw that what she was craving was the love that only could come from God.

What about you? Does your soul thirst? Have you tried to satisfy a craving that nothing, no matter how delicious and appealing it may be, still left a thirst that pleads to be quenched? Then let me ask, How is your relationship with God? What Jesus gives truly is a well-spring of hope and joy. Go ahead and take a sip and see that the water is good.


Monday, August 9, 2010

A Real Friend

1 This letter is from Paul, in prison for preaching the Good News about Christ Jesus, and from our brother Timothy.It is written to Philemon, our much loved co-worker, 2 and to our sister Apphia and to Archippus, a fellow soldier of the cross. I am also writing to the church that meets in your house. 3 May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace. 4 I always thank God when I pray for you, Philemon, 5 because I keep hearing of your trust in the Lord Jesus and your love for all of God's people. 6 You are generous because of your faith. And I am praying that you will really put your generosity to work, for in so doing you will come to an understanding of all the good things we can do for Christ. 7 I myself have gained much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because your kindness has so often refreshed the hearts of God's people. 8 That is why I am boldly asking a favor of you. I could demand it in the name of Christ because it is the right thing for you to do, 9 but because of our love, I prefer just to ask you. So take this as a request from your friend Paul, an old man, now in prison for the sake of Christ Jesus. 10 My plea is that you show kindness to Onesimus. I think of him as my own son because he became a believer as a result of my ministry here in prison. 11 Onesimus hasn't been of much use to you in the past, but now he is very useful to both of us. 12 I am sending him back to you, and with him comes my own heart. 13 I really wanted to keep him here with me while I am in these chains for preaching the Good News, and he would have helped me on your behalf. 14 But I didn't want to do anything without your consent. And I didn't want you to help because you were forced to do it but because you wanted to. 15 Perhaps you could think of it this way: Onesimus ran away for a little while so you could have him back forever. 16 He is no longer just a slave; he is a beloved brother, especially to me. Now he will mean much more to you, both as a slave and as a brother in the Lord. 17 So if you consider me your partner, give him the same welcome you would give me if I were coming. 18 If he has harmed you in any way or stolen anything from you, charge me for it. 19 I, Paul, write this in my own handwriting: "I will repay it." And I won't mention that you owe me your very soul! 20 Yes, dear brother, please do me this favor for the Lord's sake. Give me this encouragement in Christ. 21 I am confident as I write this letter that you will do what I ask and even more! 22 Please keep a guest room ready for me, for I am hoping that God will answer your prayers and let me return to you soon. 23 Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends you his greetings. 24 So do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my co-workers. 25 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

I received a pleasant surprise last night. While I was surfing the Net, a strange sound erupted from my laptop. It was a sound that was vaguely familiar, yet still not one that I am used to. After determining that it wasn't a warning of some viral attack, I noticed a little box flashing in my taskbar; I was being invited to chat with someone. The person wanting tho converse with me turned out to be an old friend, a guy who was one of my groomsmen at my wedding, and one that I spent countless days with before getting married. It's funny how much time we spent together, working and cutting up back twenty plus years ago and now, we hardly ever talk. But here he was, wanting to talk. After all the normal "catching up," he got rather serious and asked if i would pray for another old friend. Some trouble had befallen this other friend and in the end all that could be done is to pray for him. I was humbled by the request. While I had forgotten to keep up with old acquaintances,my friend is still watching over them, helping as he can.

The apostle Paul knew how to watch over his friends. When he befriended a slave named Onesimus, he sends him back to his owner with the plea to treat him like a brother and to charge any debt that Onesimus may have incurred to Paul. Paul realized that friendship had to be much more than just saying that you are someone's friend; it has to be backed with action.

I am sure that my old friend would blush with the thought of me using him as an example of being a true friend, but that is what he is. When he sees a need, he steps in. When the need is beyond anything he can do physically, he assures that the person is entrusted in God's care. What a friend - what a real friend.

Friday, August 6, 2010

What's It to You

John 21:20-22
20 Turning his head, Peter noticed the disciple Jesus loved following right behind. 21 When Peter noticed him, he asked Jesus, "Master, what's going to happen to him?" 22 Jesus said, "If I want him to live until I come again, what's that to you? You - follow me." - The Message

The other morning I read a bit of news on the Internet that just wowed me. It was real news and not some glorified, electrified, digitalized email, but straight from the AP News Service. The story told about Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, and I believe thirty-eight other billionaires have each agreed to donate half of their wealth to charity. The amount could equal somewhare in the neighborhood of $600 billion dollars! Yep, you read that right, 600 billion. That is pretty close to the amount that our country had to borrow from China a couple of years ago. What drove them to this unprecedented act of kindness and charity? I don;t know, but I am happy with their action. The problem is, as I read the story with amazement, I was quickly brought back down to the level of my fellow human beings in the comment threads that followed. Many, all so many, rather than praising these folks were bashing them for not giving more! They were making comments like they don't need that much money and that they should give until they have less than a thousand dollars in the bank like most people. What?? These forty or so people are giving away, on their own free will, this much more and people are criticizing them for not giving more? I began to burn with disgust. I started thinking, "How much do you give to charity? What percentage? Give me the number. Most Americans give somewhere around 2% (including to the church) and you complaining about someone who isn't giving more than 50%!" I couldn't understand that mentality. I worry about my fellow people. What's up with them?

This isn't a new problem, not the problem with the people who want to criticize Gates and Buffet. And it's not a new problem with my attitude. We always think we know better or are better. We become jealous when someone else trumps us and looks better, or voices their opinion and seems more pious. Ouch, that hurts.

Jesus saw this for himself. Peter was their with the resurrected Lord when he saw John standing off in the distance. Knowing Jesus' great affection for John, Peter ask about what would happen with him. Was it that he was jealous of John or really concerned about his well-being? We aren't clear about that, but Jesus saw that it was a stumbling block for Peter and said, "What's it to you? Your priority is for YOU to follow me."

I think that is something we should all think about and incorporate into our daily lives. Rather than complain about how others are living, let's get our own lives right first. Then, I bet, we wouldn't complain so much about others, because we would be loving them in spite of the shortfalls, just as Jesus loves you and me.


Thursday, August 5, 2010

Break Time

Mark 6:31-32
31 Jesus said, "Come off by yourselves; let's take a break and get a little rest." For there was constant coming and going. They didn't even have time to eat. 32 So they got in the boat and went off to a remote place by themselves.
- The Message

I'm hungry. No, not spiritually (though my spirit may be rumbling and grumbling a bit), I just mean, I'm hungry. It's six o'clock in the evening and I haven't had a thing to eat all day. It's not that I am fasting or anything, I just haven't had time to eat. I have been busy - busy trying to get ready for Sunday, getting ready for a meeting with the District Superintendent tonight (though I don't know why I need to be ready for that, he is the one leading the discussion), getting ready for a Leadership Team meeting following the other meeting,... the list goes on. So, why don't I stop and eat? Good question. Maybe it's that I am stubborn and feel the need to get all of this other ready first. Or, maybe it's because I just forgot to eat until my stomach started growling. Probably a bit of both.

Jesus knows what it's like to be busy...very busy. Yet, he made sure to listen to his spirit and body and tend to their needs. And he made sure to take care of his friends too. So, if I am going to be a leader of the church, I need to set the example and take time to attend to my needs - physical and spiritual. I guess I need to stop typing and go get something to eat. Bon appetit, my friends!