Tomorrow Is The Day

I posted this earlier in the week.  I am posting it again as a reminder that tomorrow (Saturday) is the day.

In the case of Shane Baker and similar situations, I am reminded of the words of Paul in Galatians 6:  As you have opportunity do good . . .

This Saturday, August 4th, we will have the opportunity to do support Shane at a benefit breakfast on his behalf.  The location will be First Christian Church in El Dorado (corner of Central & Star), and time will be from 7:30 to 10:30.

On the morning of May, 14th, Shane’s vehicle was broadsided while crossing Highway 54.  He was life-watched to Wesley Hospital with a traumatic brain injury and 7 broken ribs.  He spent the next three weeks in ICU fighting for his life.

On July 10, Shane was transferred to Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital in Lincoln, Nebraska.  At this specialty facility, he is receiving multiple types of therapy each day to treat his cognitive and physical injuries.

I’ve known Shane for several years.  He is a cowboy who loves the ranch life, and he works near Rosalia with Steve and Jacque Sundgren.  Shane loves his wife Mandy, their daughter  Sydney, and the baby they are expecting in a few months.

Join us Saturday and EAT A BISCUIT FOR A BAKER.  Every penny that we raise will go directly to the Shane Baker Fund at Emprise Bank.  If you cannot make it Saturday morning, you still have the opportunity to do good by sending a donation in Shane’s name to:  Emprise Bank, 200 North Main, El Dorado, Kansas 67042

On behalf of Shane and his family, I say:  “Thanks!”

Orphans, Widows, and Pure Religion

If you have ever flown into New York City, you most likely landed at La Guardia airport.   What you may not know is that this airport is named after Mayor  Fiorello La Guardia who served the people of New York City during the worst days of the Great Depression and throughout all of WWII.

La Guardia was a small man in stature standing just 5’4.”  The mayor was called the Little Flower because he always wore a carnation in his lapel.  He was an interesting man who would take an entire orphanage to a baseball game; ride on a fire truck to the scene of a fire; and, he would accompany the police when they raided the speakeasies.

On the night of January 1935, La Guardia went to a court that served the poorest ward of the city.  In a typical expression of his sometimes eccentric behavior, the mayor had dismissed the judge for the evening and took over the bench himself.

Shortly after the night court session had begun, an elderly woman stood before him.  She had been charged with the crime of stealing a loaf of bread. In an explanation of her actions, she told LaGuardia that her daughter’s husband had deserted her; her daughter was sick; and, her two grandchildren were starving.

The man from whom she had stolen the bread was also present, but he, refused to drop the charges, saying: It’s a real bad neighborhood, your Honor. She’s got to be punished to teach other people around here a lesson.  

LaGuardia looked at the woman, sighed, and said:  I’ve got to punish you. The law makes no exceptions–ten dollars or ten days in jail. The mayor then reached into his pocket and said:  Here is the ten dollar fine which I now remit; and furthermore I am going to fine everyone in this courtroom fifty cents for living in a town where a person has to steal bread so her grandchildren can eat.

When the elderly woman left the courtroom, she had $47.50 inn her pocket.

The actions of La Guardia, are a wonderful explanation of James 1:27:  Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.

Instead of just seeing the guilt of the woman, La Guardia saw her need.  He used his power not to condemn, but to minister grace.

Assault on Aurora

I’ve had a couple of days to reflect on the tragedy of the Colorado shooting.  One verse that has kept coming to mind is Jeremiah 17:9:  The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?

I’m not going to dignify the shooter by using his name—I’ll just use the initials jh.  The premeditated acts of jh are as old as the first murder committed by Cain.  This son of Adam and Eve was angry at God and jealous of his brother Abel, so he killed him.

As I said in church yesterday, I am capable of committing the same transgressions perpetrated by jh.  Given the right circumstances and faulty reasoning, I have the same sinful potential.  Whether you will admit it or not, so do you.

It is doubtful that I or you will ever commit the act of murder; it is very likely, however, that we will be tempted to stray from the straight and narrow.  Like Odysseus, we need to take the necessary steps to resist the Siren’s call of temptation.

According to Paul, we do this by taking our thoughts into captivity (2 Corinthians 10:4-5). When the first murderous thought entered the mind of jh, he should have taken it captive.  Instead, he dwelled on it until it became an obsession that became an act.

The lesson is this:  If we do not exercise the discipline of taking our thoughts captive, we will be captivated by our thoughts.  Either we control our thoughts and emotions or they control us.

I challenge you to keep a diary for the next week.  Every time you are aware of a new thought or some mental message that is floating around inside of your head, write it down.   I think you will be surprised at the frequency of the thoughts and the way they influence your life.

By all accounts jh was a brilliant person.  The flaw in his life was that he had the power of knowledge, but he lacked the freedom of the truth.  This freedom is found in Jesus, and He said:  You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free (John 8:32).

In his letter to Timothy, Paul warned of people who were always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth.  Without truth we are susceptible to the passions that reside within us, and gullible to the chicanery of the world.

Perhaps an old Chinese proverb will be enough to keep you thinking:  Better to light a candle, than curse the darkness.

Enough said about jh and his deeds.  The focus now needs to be JC and His healing.

The Hazards of Life

Hazard is one of those words that we use frequently, but never pause to think of its source.  We know that its noun form means danger, and in its verb form it means to risk or expose to danger.  I’ve heard the word hazard used in many instances to describe different situations and to issue a warning, such as:

  • Hazardous Duty Pay
  • Road Hazard Ahead
  • Care to hazard a guess?
  • Hazardous to your health

Then of course there were those Dukes of Hazard, but that was the county and not a particular situation.  Their behavior was, however, rather hazardous at times.

The word hazard has an interesting origin.  It is a form of the Arabic al zahr, and it means the dice. The history of the word goes back to the times of the Crusades in the Holy Lands.

The Crusaders became acquainted with a number of games that used dice. Early on, hazard was associated with the idea of danger because the dice were associated with the risky business of gambling and the con artists who used corrupted or loaded dice.

As we endeavor to live our lives, the journey requires us to negotiate a path through a myriad of hazards.  Charting this course requires more than just a casual roll of the dice.

Paul cautioned the Colossians and warned them that the world system is playing with loaded dice:  See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.

In one of the Winnie the Pooh stories, Tigger experiences an identity hazard because his stripes are washed off while bathing.  Tiggers are recognized by their stripes and without his, Tigger isn’t sure who he is, so he  tries being a rabbit, a bear, and a Christmas tree.   This dilemma is resolved when Eeyore tells Tigger that he is always the same person on the inside.

To keep our stripes and maintain our integrity, we need to throw the dice away and heed the words of Solomon:  Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight (Proverbs 3).

Here’s a thought to keep you thinking:  What’s the hidden price of rolling the dice?

The Certainty of Adversity

Life is an experience of one lesson after another. Some of these lessons come from the school of hardknocks.  I know there have been times in my life when I felt like I was a student at the University of Adversity.

Even though I loathe the times that I have endured the trials and heartaches of life, I know such experiences have taught me valuable lessons.  I made the comment this past Sunday, that success goes to the head, but trials bring us to our knees.  It is when we are on our knees that we lean on God and learn from heartache.

Let me share a couple of quotes concerning adversity:

Zig Ziglar:  We need adversity, difficulty, struggle, conflict, and resistance on our way to success to make us strong enough to take that success for with it comes issues the weak cannot withstand.

Helen Keller:  Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired and success achieved. Silver is purified in fire and so are we. It is in the most trying times that our real character is shaped and revealed.

Abraham Lincoln:  Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.

The prophet Jeremiah was experiencing a tremendous amount of persecution when God spoke to him:  If you have raced against others on foot, and they have tired you out,  how can you compete with horses?    If you stumble in open country,  how can you live in the jungle along the Jordan River?   Even your relatives and members of your father’s household betray you.   They have also formed a mob to find you.   Don’t trust them when they say good things about you  (Jeremiah 12:5-6).

The lesson in Jeremiah is that we should not worry about the struggles and trials of the future until we learn to manage the stress of the present.  Don’t waste your energy worrying about a potential problem in the future; instead, focus your strength on the present reality.

If, however, your are compelled to focus on the future, do it within the framework of Romans 8:18:   I consider our present sufferings insignificant compared to the glory that will soon be revealed to us. 

I’ll wrap this up with one more quote that I hope will be enough to keep you thinking:  Difficulties mastered are opportunities won –Winston Churchill

The Picture of Health?

When a seemingly well person suddenly dies, acquaintances can be caught off guard and surprised.  The often-heard comment of, I thought he was the picture of health, can be  fallacious due to its external focus.

From the outside looking in, the individual had the appearance of looking healthy, great, and wonderful.  Below the surface, however, a parasite or virus had taken its deadly toll.  This scenario can be true of both an individual and an organization.

Take the recent case of J.P. Morgan.  While this investment bank has been considered to be the best of breed, this morning it reported losses of $4.4 billion in the second quarter of 2012.   When CEO Jamie Dimon learned of the lax and risky trading practices, he took steps to rectify the problem.  Individuals were dismissed and part of an investment office was reorganized.

Even though the reporting of these losses came as a surprise to the banking industry and the investment community, the problem had been festering below the surface for quite some time.

Incidents such as this remind me of the words of Jesus:  How horrible it will be for you, scribes and Pharisees! You hypocrites! You clean the outside of cups and dishes. But inside they are full of greed and uncontrolled desires.  You blind Pharisees! First clean the inside of the cups and dishes so that the outside may also be clean (Mt 23:25-26).

When people are like the Pharisees, and they are satisfied with just appearing to be ethical and moral, there is a problem.  When we neglect to care for what’s inside of our cup, eventually a nasty and very obvious boil will make its appearance.

To lift our cup to enjoy the sweet taste of victory, we need to heed the words of Paul:  Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.  Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.  Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air.  No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize (I Cor. 9:24-27).

Goodness and Mercy

There has probably been some time in your life when you felt like you were living under a cloud of despair.  Regardless of what you did,  there seemed to be a trail of worries and problems that followed you where ever you went.

A stark contrast to this kind of situation is found in the words of David in Psalm 23:6:  Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.  

I think it is important to note that David did not say that every waking moment of a person’s life will be filled with good moments and happy days.  He did say, however, that the goodness of God and His mercy can be experienced each day of our lives.

Unless a person has given some consideration to the meaning of mercy and its close cousin, grace, he may think that the words have the same meaning.  Let me distinguish one from the other:

  • Grace is when God gives you something you do not deserve.  Salvation is a good example of this.  I do not know of anyone who really deserves it.
  • Mercy is when God does not give a person what he deserves.  When a righteous God judges sinful man, He can either punish him or extend His goodness and mercy.

I have heard people say:  I just want what I deserve and what I have coming to me.  Not me, I want the mercy of God.

David said the mercy of God is a given, and we see this in the word surely.  It isn’t a hope so or maybe so proposition, it is a guarantee from God.  In the Lamentations of Jeremiah, the prophet said:  It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed; they are new every morning.  Great is His faithfulness!

In the shepherd/sheep analogy of Psalm 23, we have the Good Shepherd who leads us, and guarding the back of the flock are His two sheep dogs.   One is named Goodness and the other is called Mercy.

Remember the promise of this verse:  Surely goodness and mercy will follow one all the days of my life.  Think about it, Goodness and Mercy are the lap-dogs who are just a whistle away.

Champions of Breakfast

The title of this post comes from the latest edition of Psychology Today.  The article discusses the importance of starting the day with the right kind of food, and it issues a warning:  Skipping the first meal of the day sets in motion hormonal changes linked to appetite shifts, obesity, and diabetes. 

A breakfast full of proper nutrition will help to regulate many body systems that have a lasting impact on alertness and general health.  People who skip breakfast often report that they end up feeling more tired and less energetic.

After reading this article, I couldn’t help but notice the spiritual parallels.    To grow physically, we need proper nutrition, and  to grow spiritually, we need spiritual food.  This truth is seen in the words of Jesus:  Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Luke 4:4).

If you find yourself experiencing the spiritual doldrums, you may want to check the menu.  What have you been eating for breakfast?  What has been the source of your nutrition–muffins or the manna from heaven?