Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Happy Birthday To Me!

Thank you, everyone, for your kind birthday greetings!

I am treating myself to a second cup of coffee and pondering the significance of my birthday.

My first thought was about the difference between how the Americans and Chinese calculate a birthday.

We Americans say, "How old are you?"  We mean, "How long has it been since you were born?" The answer for me on this day is, "Fifty-Six Years."

When the Chinese think about someone's age, they are thinking about what year of life are you currently living.  A newborn baby is in its first year of life.  Yesterday was my last day in my 56th year of life.  Today is my first day in my 57th year of life. So from that perspective, I am in my 57th year.

On the one hand, a birthday is just a day. On any given day I am one day older than I was at this point a year ago - so what's the fuss?  I am only one day older than I was yesterday! Nothing has really changed, has it?

On the other hand, a birthday is like a mile marker showing you how far you have traveled down the road of life. But in the case of age we don't know how long the road will be, so the information has limited value for trip planning. It is unlikely that I will make it another 56 years - though some people have done so in the past. I might be tempted to think that I would CERTAINLY have another 20 years - or even 30 - but it is hard to say for sure.

The only sure thing is that I have lived through 56 years. Have I learned anything along the way? Certainly. Have I learned everything I should have? Certainly not!
(James 4:14) For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. 
The days are fleeting. We barely get up and get started and the day is over - it's time for bed again. Our opportunities to apply ourselves to work for the glory of God are brief and we are beset with distractions. We say we will apply ourselves better tomorrow - but we are not sure we will have a tomorrow.

Questions to ask myself:
"How will you use THIS day for the glory of God?"
"To what will you apply yourself today?"
"Are you still learning, everyday?"
"Which of your goals are truly worthwhile?"
"How have you expressed your gratitude to God today?"
"How have you expressed your love to your dear ones today?"

Friday, January 27, 2012

Peace & Tranquility

Do you long for peace and tranquility?

Birds singing (not too loudly.) Gentle breezes blowing (warm, but not too hot.)  Sunshine (filtered through nice big trees.) Nothing urgent on your calendar. No cell phone. No traffic. No work to be completed. No sales pitches confronting you. No danger.

A hammock would be nice too - rocking gently.

Sweet peace!

Does this describe your life?


Mine either!

But, I do have peace!

Jesus said, "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28–30) 

In Jesus I've found rest for my soul. In spite of the fact that I could never do enough to be right with God, I have peace with God through my Lord, Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1).  I can rest in the finished work of Jesus.  In Him I have complete peace and safety.

What other kinds of peace do I have?

Well, "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, PEACE, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law" (Galatians 5:22–23).

As I learn to put down the works of the flesh, I find that my relationships with others are much more peaceful as the Holy Spirit guides me into these universal virtues.  The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life are the source of all kinds of turmoil - especially interpersonal turmoil, but the fruit of the Spirit brings peace.

Jesus said, "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid" (John 14:27).

I have the peace of knowing that Jesus has everything under control. He knows where I am. I am under his protection. He is coming back for me. Nobody can thwart his purposes. I am safe and sound in his care.

Peace, sweet peace!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Money & The 99%

I heard an "Occupy" person being interviewed on the radio this evening.  He was disgusted that the Occupy organization was accepting donations of money.  He thinks that they should only accept donations of food, clothes and other necessities.  He said that he agrees with the saying "Money is the root of all evil."

Isn't that interesting?  Here is a truly clueless young man!  There are many relatively clueless people in the world, but this guy is world class in his cluelessness.

He will accept food donations, but not money.  Where does he think the food came from?  Doesn't he realize it has been purchased with money?  Does he think that money is something that literally grows on trees?  Does he think money is a category of things occurring in nature - like fruits and nuts?

He agrees that money is the root of all evil, does he?  Well, that is NOT the saying.  The old King James Bible says, "The LOVE of money is the root of all evil..." (1Timothy 6:10).  Newer translations say, "The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil."

The Occupy folks seem to me to be just as enamored with money as the people they are protesting.  It may be that 1% of the people have the vast majority of the wealth, but the occupy people (who may be only .01% of the 99%) love money just as much.  Isn't one of their objectives a redistribution of the wealth away from the 1%?  What is that, if not an affection for money (and the things it can buy.)

What is the basis of their claim on the money of the 1%?

It may be that some people are paid amazing amounts of money for their work.  But they are working and being paid. This is not inherited wealth.  If they go to work and get paid - why should someone else have a claim on their wages?  What is fair about that?  Do you want to get paid?  Go to work and earn a paycheck - don't camp in the park and protest what other people are earning at their jobs.

Who is greedier - the person that works for a paycheck or the people who protest that the worker should share his wages with them?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Godly Sorrow

(2 Corinthians 7:10 NKJV) For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death. 

People can be very sorry for their sin without being repentant.
  • They are sorry they failed.
  • They are sorry they disappointed people.
  • They are sorry they got caught.
  • They are sorry they feel embarrassed.
  • They are sorry they face the consequences.

They are seriously sorry, too.  They are weeping, depressed and ashamed.  Some are even self-destructive. They are "really tore up."

But it doesn't matter a snap unless it is godly sorrow that produces repentance that leads to salvation.

Godliness is proper reverence for God.  If you love God it will change the way you live - not just make you feel bad about continuing to live the same old way.

Repentance is a turning away from sin and a turning toward God in obedience.  Repentance is the flip side of Faith.  To have faith in God is to repent of my sin against God.

Salvation is not a single narrow dimension of life.  Salvation is all encompassing.  We are saved from our sins.  Not just the penalty for our sins, but also from the power of sin in our lives.  Too many people would like to be saved from the ultimate penalty for their sin, but they don't want to give up the enjoyment of the sin in their present life.  So they are not repentant - just pensive.

We are saved to be dead to sin and alive to Christ (Romans 6).

God, grant us godly sorrow that leads to repentance and salvation.  Cleanse us for your own glory!  Bring yourself praise through delivering us from our sins!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Week In, Week Out

My morning scripture reading included the following verse:

(Matthew 6:34 NKJV) Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

I live with the delusion that there is such a thing as a routine week made up of routine days.  I love the idea that I could be in a routine that operated smoothly - with every step predictable and manageable.  It is a comforting thought.  Maybe it is a quest.

In fact, nothing is predictable or manageable.  Life is a string of surprises and overwhelming challenges.

How will I get everything accomplished?
How will I get ANYTHING accomplished?
How will I survive, much less thrive?
What is going to happen?
Should I curl up in a ball and hide under the covers? (I really like this option best!)

I try to remember...
It is not about me - live for the glory of God!
It is not by my power - live by the grace of God!

Without Christ, we can do nothing.
With God, all things are possible.

So we can go out with Gideon and face overwhelming forces.
We can go out with David and face the giants.
By God's grace we can finish the course with Paul and keep the faith.

But only with God, through God and by God's sustaining grace.
Week in and week out - it is all God's grace.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Sense of Humor

How is your sense of humor?

I worry that mine is overactive. Too often I see humor in things that nobody else sees. Sometimes, even in very serious settings, I am tempted to crack a joke or giggle about something that was said. (Fortunately, I've gained in the self control department over the years.)

I think humor is related to irony and I LOVE irony. But you have to be careful about pointing out irony at the expense of the person who is being ironic. Satire and Sarcasm can be hilarious, but at whose expense?

The other day I was standing on a ladder with my head partly between two 2x4's in the ceiling while I tried to nail another cross piece in place. I banged my head on the 2x4 in front of me and jerked back so that I banged my head on the one behind me, then jerked forward to bang into the front one again! Bang, bang, bang went my head - and it hurt. It was so much like a bell clapper that I laughed out loud!

I figure it was OK to laugh at myself - but it wouldn't have been good to laugh at someone else in the same situation.

For that matter it is good to be able laugh at yourself and unhealthy when you take yourself too seriously.  I notice that when people are tired or stressed, they tend to lose their sense of humor.  They become touchy - easily offended. It is best to be careful not to make jokes to people who are in that mood. You might get an unexpected outburst of unhappiness all over you.

My advice? Take joy in laughing at yourself and in the many absurdities and ironies of life. But be very careful about pointing out those ironies and absurdities to people whose sense of humor might be broken.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Typewriter Thoughts

I am happy to announce that I finished my project for the course I took back in October.  (It remains to be seen if I get a passing grade on it - but it is done.)

Now remember that the last time I took seminary classes was back in the 1980's.  Back then I didn't have a computer - not even a word processor (remember them?).  When I was in seminary I had a manual typewriter that was passed down to me from my father who did his dissertation on it back in the 1960's.  (Nice thing about manual typewriters - they lasted for decades!)

You might think that using a manual typewriter was a disadvantage, and to a large extent you would be right.  My computer does instant spell checking and also makes suggestions about grammar.  On a computer you can keep different elements of a paper in different places and then just blend them at the end.  You can search a computer file and make changes to the whole paper with only one click. (Handy if you sometimes misspelled the name of one of the authors you quoted repeatedly.  On a computer you can set up a format for things like footnotes or references and never have to think about it again.  Besides that, the computer holds everything you write in a nice neat package - without pages flying about and getting smudged, crumpled or lost.  (Not to mention that typing on a computer is much easier on your fingers than typing on a manual typewriter.)

But on the other hand... The computer makes editing almost too easy - so easy that it is hard to make any progress.  When I should be typing my thoughts and moving on, I am stuck changing things back and forth - trying to get just the right wording.  And that leads to editing mistakes where you leave some of the things you meant to change in the midst of the things you did change... In the old days I did my rough copy ("free writing") on a yellow pad and generally when I typed, except for errors, I had my final copy.

Being able to edit things on a computer is great.  I can move whole chapters from place to place in the paper and the computer changes the page numbers automatically.  Wow!  But on the other hand, I miss seeing the paper start to build up in a stack on the desk - next to the typewriter.  The computer tells you that you have 40 pages typed, but it isn't the same as hefting them and leafing through them.  (And probably mixing them up.)

The typewriter is loud - it clacks and clanks and rings a bell when you return the carriage.  (Any kids are saying, "Return the what?")  The only sound from my laptop is the faint noise from hitting the keys as I type.  I probably hit them harder than necessary - a carryover from the old typewriter days.

The paper is done - it was sent electronically from my computer to the computer of my professor.  Think of the paper we have saved!  Things move onward and forward.

Time to register for my next class!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Happy New Year?

On New Year's Eve or Morning we had uninvited guests.

When I took the dog into the side yard on Sunday morning I noticed my lawnmower was over beside the shed. "How did that get there?" I wondered.  When I looked at the shed I noticed the doors were swinging freely and there were pry marks on the left hand door.

Sometime between 10:00 PM and 8:00 AM someone broke into our shed.  The were evidently pros.  They knew just how to break this particular latch.  They probably opened it faster than I could have done with the key!

Sure enough, they took nearly everything in the shed except for hand tools.  They took the walk behind snowblower, the yard vacuum, two leaf blowers, three string trimmers and the grass catcher from my lawnmower.  I figure they either forgot the lawnmower was beside the building and/or they were scared off suddenly.  I wish they had at least left the grass catcher with it!

So - happy new year!  Rotten low life crooks.  What dirty dogs!

But, it is important to remember it is, after all, only stuff and it can be replaced.  I was immediately reminded of Jesus' words:

(Matthew 6:19–21 NKJV) 19 ¶ “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal;
20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.
21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
The fact that thieves can steal it demonstrates that it is just the sort of thing Jesus was talking about.  And while I am not thrilled to have it stolen, since it is not my real treasure I can't be thrown into despair by its loss either.

As Job said when he had lost far far more than this, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked shall I return there. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; Blessed be the name of the LORD.” (Job 1:21)

Indeed, blessed be the name of the Lord! Amen.