Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Assumptions

           “Sam and Jacqueline Pritchard started receiving mysterious phone calls to their home in England in the middle of the night. The person on the other end never made a comment. After a long pause, he would hang up. They changed their phone number to stop the harassing night calls. The stalker changed his tactic. He started sending them obscene and threatening anonymous letters in the mail. The couple discovered their house had been daubed with paint, and their tires were slashed. The Pritchards became prisoners of their own home and spent a small fortune on a security system. They had no idea what they had done to deserve such cruel treatment. After four months of unexplained terrorism, they finally met the perpetrator. Mr. Pritchard caught James McGhee, a 53-year-old man, while he was damaging their car. As they looked at each other, Pritchard asked him, “Why are you doing this to us?” The vandal responded, “Oh, no—I’ve got the wrong man!” McGhee thought he was terrorizing a different man, who had been spreading rumors about him. He had looked up Pritchard’s name and address in the telephone directory and assumed he was the person responsible for slandering him. He got the wrong Pritchard. Assumptions make us jump to the wrong conclusions, and others suffer as a result” (Kent Crockett, I Once Was Blind But Now I Squint, p. 71).
          “But I thought…”  How often has that got you in trouble?  Imagine the regret the apostle Paul felt as he considered an assumption he made earlier in his life.  "So then, I thought to myself that I had to do many things hostile to the name of Jesus of Nazareth” (Acts 26:9).  As a younger man, Paul assumed Jesus was an imposter and that his followers were a threat.  And acting upon those assumptions caused incredible suffering for disciples of Christ, including imprisonment and death.
          Jumping to conclusions is a poor exercise program.  No good ever comes from it. Instead, endeavor to take the time to get the facts and hear from all sides.

God loves you!
Mike

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Self-control

“As the hard-fought Little League game was underway, the coach paused to say to one of his players, “Do you understand what cooperation is? What a team is?” The little boy nodded yes. “Do you understand that what matters is whether we win together as a team?” The little boy nodded yes. “So,” the coach continued, “when a strike is called, or you are out at first, you don’t argue or curse or attack the umpire. Do you understand all that?” Again, the boy nodded yes. “Good,” said the coach. “Now go over there and explain it to your mother” (Michael Duduit, preaching.com).
Each of us, to one degree or another, has discovered that self-control is a difficult virtue to practice.  The heart of the problem lies in that little word that comes before the hyphen -- “self.”  Frankly, we normally do not like to limit or deny ourselves.  Left to our own devices, it’s difficult to say “no” or act and speak with restraint.  It’s like giving a convict the keys to the prison.  No one is surprised when they find the cell block empty.  Our default mode is do what we like, what pleases us, what is in our best interests.  And while doing things like this is not always wrong, far too often it leads to mistreatment of others.
Perhaps that is why Jesus linked following Him with self-denial (Luke 9:23).  Self-indulgence is an identifying mark of religious hypocrites (Matthew 23:25).  But it’s so hard to control ourselves, isn’t it?  Do you remember what frightened the Roman governor Felix when Paul spoke of faith in Christ?  Sandwiched right between the theological heavyweights of righteousness and the judgment to come was self-control (Acts 24:25).  Like Felix, maybe it scares us to contemplate what we need to control in our lives.
What part of my “self” needs controlling?  My thoughts?  My body?  My emotions?  My words?  My attitudes?  My reactions?  How about you?

God loves you!
Mike

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

“LET ME SELL YOU A BRIDGE…”

“In the long history of con artists, George C. Parker holds a special place of dishonor. He is remembered as one of the most successful and daring swindlers in American history. He set up an office in New York City and “sold” some of the city’s most famous attractions to tourists. His favorite was the Brooklyn Bridge, but he also sold the Statue of Liberty, Madison Square Garden, and Grant’s Tomb. He produced elaborately forged documents and deeds to convince his targets that he was the rightful owner of the landmarks he was selling.
“Parker was so persuasive that on more than one occasion, police had to come and explain why the new “owners” of the Brooklyn Bridge couldn’t put up tollbooths to collect money from those who tried to cross. After his third conviction for fraud, Parker was sentenced to life at Sing Sing Prison in New York, where he spent the last eight years of his life. He dishonestly made a fortune preying on people who foolishly believed his empty words. He not only was an expert salesman, but he realized that many people were gullible and he could use that to his advantage” (ministry127.com).
Unscrupulous people have always been quick to take advantage of undiscerning victims.  It’s not surprising, then, to learn that it happens even in religion.  Right near the end of his Roman letter, Paul has this warning about certain individuals: “Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them. For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting” (Romans 16:17-18).
Choose your spiritual advisors carefully.  Compare what you are being told with what the Scriptures say.   Sadly, not everyone can be trusted in spiritual matters.  Not everyone is who they claim to be (Matthew 7:15).  Not every bridge is for sale.

God loves you!
Mike

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

There's A Shark In My Boat

“The shark jumped right into his boat. Terry Selwood was fishing off the coast of Australia, just like he had hundreds of times before. Something almost knocked him down and when he turned to see what it was that hit the boat, he realized that a seven-foot, 440-pound Great White shark had jumped into his boat. I wonder who was more surprised – the shark or Mr. Selwood. After radioing for help, he hung on the side of the boat until he was rescued.  He evidently did not think it wise to share his boat with a shark. And seeing this story got me to thinking about life, Jesus, and ministry. You never know when life will take an unexpected turn for the worse. It could be a natural disaster that destroys property, an unforeseen layoff at work, or bad news from the Doctor.  It can be something evil done to someone you know and care about.  Or to you.  It might be consequences from a bad choice or decision.  It is a hard world and bad things happen” (Steve Ridgell, “Sharks, Life, and Jesus,” http://char.is/).
Perhaps there is a shark in your boat right now.  It could be any of the things mentioned above or some other equally devastating problem.  Regardless, there it is -- lying in the bottom of your boat, snapping its powerful jaws, seeking to take a bite out of you.  You didn’t invite it in, yet, there it is, threatening to overwhelm you.  What are you going to do???
I like the lines from the story above.  “After radioing for help, he hung on the side of the boat until he was rescued.  He evidently did not think it wise to share his boat with a shark.”  None of us can handle the sharks of life one on one.  The wisest course of action is to get out of harm’s way, send out a distress call to God, and hang on.  It may not sound heroic, but it has an amazing success rate.

God loves you!
Mike

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Cooperation

Roberta Ursrey and her family were looking forward to a fun day at the beach on the Florida coast recently.  Little did they know that the day would nearly end in tragedy. Roberta’s sons had ventured too far from the shore and their screams signaled that they were in trouble.  Ursrey and other family members waded out to try and help them but also got caught in the rip current.  Now nine people were stuck in about 15 feet of water.  But thanks to some other quick-thinking individuals, another rescue plan was initiated.  Dozens of onlookers formed a human chain, stretching out hand-to-hand for the length of a football field, to get close to the distressed family.  When the water got too deep for the human chain, a few strong swimmers covered the remaining distance to tow those in danger back to the people in the chain, who then passed them back to safety.    Later, Roberta Ursrey was quoted as saying, “I am so grateful...These people were God’s angels that were in the right place at the right time. I owe my life and my family’s life to them. Without them, we wouldn’t be here” (http://www.newsherald.com/news/20170710/human-chain-saves-family- from-drowning).
          In a time when the news cycle is dominated by so much negativity, it’s refreshing to encounter a story like this.  Beyond the obvious blessing of the rescue of this family, I see a couple of lessons to be learned.  First, there were people on the beach that day who were willing to get involved rather than stand back and wait for someone else to do something. Second, it took cooperation to make it work.  No one person or handful of people were going to be successful.  Everyone had to join hands and work together to get the job done.
          Hopefully, the application to work in the kingdom of God is readily apparent.  When each one of us makes it a priority to get involved and when all of us join hands to work together, great things can happen.

God loves you!
Mike


Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Bad Days

“We do not go through tough times simply because life is rough.  No, because these have powerful significance.  We must not waste a bad day.  What we do is turn that which attempts to shut us down on its head.  We win it into productive submission.  We use it--the hurt, the pain--to help others; just as did Jesus as he perpetually helps us.  And why?  Because all around us are awesome people who've just about had it with injury and obstacle. Even those who behave with intent of hurting us will only serve to strengthen us because we will learn how the others in our circles feel.  It is here that we will be of useful purpose.  Jesus teaches us how to make a difference....just like he did.  This is called ministry. We must not waste a bad day.  Jesus didn't.  He used the agony of the Cross and the numbing death of the Grave to wow the world!” (terryrush.blogspot.com).
I’m guessing that most of us view bad days as a waste of time.  But the Bible teaches that even bad days shouldn’t be wasted.  Bad days can strengthen our faith. “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing (James 1:2-4). Bad days equip us to minister to others. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). Bad days remind us that this world is not our home. “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18).
Be thankful for bad days!

God loves you!
Mike

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

PERSONAL FAVORITISM

           "In a stately church a noticeably untidy man visited the church for the first time. He was met by one of the smartly-dressed ushers who immediately ushered him to a back pew so that his unkempt appearance and foul odor would not upset the decorum of the church.
“Another first time visitor stood in the foyer. He was neatly groomed and made a striking appearance in his dark pinstripe suit. One of the ushers strode proudly down the aisle with him and seated him in the front of the church. Following the service, the president or the congregation invited the man to dinner at his home.
“As they were seated around the table, the food was passed. The visitor helped himself to the delicious looking potatoes placing them on his plate. But then he did a strange thing, he scooped the potatoes into his suit coat pocket. The family watched as he proceeded to do the same with the carrots and the meat. Unable to keep silent any longer the father asked, "Why are you pouring the food into your coat pocket?" The visitor smiled and answered politely, "Judging from where you seated the visitor who came in before me I gather that you invited my suit to lunch so I’m feeding it" (sermoncentral.com).
This story illustrates what James was trying to say in his letter to believers in the New Testament. “My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism. For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, "You sit here in a good place," and you say to the poor man, "You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool," have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives?” (James 2:1-4).
Remember -- it is a sin to show this kind of partiality (James 2:9).

God loves you!
Mike