A Plea For Help

According to a story on Yahoo, while Julie Keith was unpacking some decorations she found a letter hidden in the packing material. Apparently the letter was from the Chinese laborer who had made the decorations.

The letter was a plea for help: “Sir, if you occasionally buy this product, please kindly resend this letter to the World Human Right Organization. Thousands people here who are under the persecution of the Chinese Communist Party Government will thank and remember you forever . . . People who work here have to work 15 hours a day without Saturday, Sunday break and any holidays. Otherwise, they will suffer torturement, beat and rude remark. Nearly no payment (10 yuan/1 month).” Convert that to the monetary system of the USA, and you get about $1.61 a month. http://shine.yahoo.com/work-money/letter-chinese-laborer-pleading-help-found-halloween-decorations-202400773.html

When I read this story, I thought: How tragic! As I thought about the letter Julie Keith found, I began to see a parallel to another letter that often goes unread and unnoticed.

Most people call this “letter” the Bible. Even though it is found in the homes of many people around the world, it is often covered with the dust of neglect.

This letter from God had been translated into more than 2,000 languages and dialects. In 1998, worldwide distribution through the combined efforts of Bible Societies totaled 20.8 million complete Bibles, 20.1 million New Testaments, and 19.4 million portions of at least one book of the Bible.

The best known passage of the Bible may be John 3:16: For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (NIV).

Another version of this passage is found in The Message: This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him.

Why not find your copy of God’s letter to You? Dust it off; flip through the pages; and, you will find another plea. It is a plea not for help, and an offer to help: Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly (Matthew 11:28-30 MSG).

Every time I read this letter, I find plenty to keep me thinking.

Now I Understand

I’ve been the pastor of FCC for some 25 years, and I now understand what one of my mentors said to me many years ago:  “Stan, one of these days you will have a long pastorate, and you will find that funerals get harder to do.”

At the time that statement was made, I just brushed it off as the words  of a sentimental old man.  The longer I pastor FCC, the more I understand those words.  I guess I have become like that sentimental old man.

Over the last couple of years, I have  bid farewell to many very good men.  These are men who have served by my side as the elders and deacons of the church.  Over the last couple of years, the corners of my eyes have glistened with the tears of grief and gratitude as I have paid tribute to men like Dale, Ernie, Wilford, and just this week Gayle.

In Proverbs 25:1, Solomon wrote:  A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.  I’ll put a little spin on those words to say that these men fitly lived there lives in such a way that they were the apples of gold in the pictures of silver.

All this reminiscence has left me with that glistening moisture in the corner of my eyes, so this sentimental old man will end with plenty to keep me thinking. 

A GPS for Christmas

Getting to where I want to go is much easier than it used to be.  With the advent of the GPS and the “On Star” technology that is a standard with many new vehicles, it is easier to get from Point A to Point B.

Earlier this week, I was trying to help a person find her way from one place to another, and she said:  To get anywhere, I about need to know where I’m going.

Have you ever asked yourself that question?  Do I know where I am going?  Along with this question, perhaps we also need to ask:

  • Where will this emotion take me if I allow it to control me?
  • How beneficial is this compelling desire to my overall well-being?
  • If I continue to steal from my employer, what will happen if I lose my job?
  • If I allow myself to compromise my ethics and my morals, what will happen to my family?

Perhaps one of the most important questions a person should ask of himself is:  Where am I going when I die?

The good thing about this question is the 3 letters GPS.  I’m not speaking of a Global Positioning Satellite, but rather of God’s Personal Search.

GPS is the real meaning of Christmas.  Jesus was born in such an extraordinary fashion in a so humble place, so He could come to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10).

Are you getting to where you want to go?

A Not So Sly Foxx

At the recently held 2012 Soul Train Awards in Las Vegas, Academy Award winning actor Jamie Foxx called President Barack Obama “our lord and savior.”

When I watched a replay of his comments on the evening news, I thought of a verse from the Old Testament:  God is not like people. He tells no lies. He is not like humans. He doesn’t change his mind.  When he says something, he does it.  When he makes a promise, he keeps it (Numbers 23:19 GWT).

According to this verse, if President Obama was God, he would keep the promises that he has made.  So Mr. Foxx can see that President Obama is not God, I’ve listed five of his broken promises:

A Broken Promise Concerning The Deficit:  “Today, I’m pledging to cut the deficit we inherited in half by the end of my first term in office.” — Obama, Feb. 23, 2009

A Broken Promise Concerning The Closing Guantanamo:  “Guantanamo will be closed no later than one year from now.”— Obama, Jan. 22, 2009

A Broken Promise Concerning Immigration:  “What I can guarantee is that we will have in the first year an immigration bill that I strongly support and that I’m promoting. And I want to move that forward as quickly as possible.” — Obama, May 28, 2008

A Broken Promise Concerning Housing:  “We will help between 7 [million] and 9 million families restructure or refinance their mortgages so they can … avoid foreclosure.” — Obama, Feb. 18, 2009

 A Broken Promise Concerning Israeli-Palestinian Peace:  “We should reach for what’s best within ourselves. If we do, when we come back here next year, we can have an agreement that will lead to … an independent, sovereign state of Palestine, living in peace with Israel.” — Obama, Sept. 23, 2010

I doubt that Mr. Foxx will read this blog, but if he does I hope he can discover there is a difference when it comes to the message of just a man and the ministry of the Messiah.  When Jesus spoke, His words were words of substance, and He was full of grace and truth (John 1:14).

The Miracle of St. Nick

In December of last year, Phillip Bump wrote an article for The Atlantic that examined the Christmas Eve workload of the jolly old elf.  Using data from the CIA, Bump focused his article on Santa’s deliveries to the world’s 526,000,000 Christian kids 14 years of age and younger.

Bump determined that Santa would need to “deliver presents to almost 22 million kids an hour, every hour, on the night before Christmas. That’s about 365,000 kids a minute; about 6,100 a second.”  In the spirit of Christmas and in child-like faith, Bump concluded this is “Totally doable,” and later in the article, he said:  “If anyone ever desired sainthood, it is Nick.”

The anticipation of Christmas is hard to contain when you’re a child.  I can remember how quickly I hurried home after school so I could watch Santa’s Workshop on a black and white TV.  The days from Thanksgiving to Christmas passed by with the agonizing speed of a turtle.

As a child, I thought Christmas would never come; and, truthfully, I gave very little thought to its significance.  The desire that I had for the brightly wrapped gifts carefully placed beneath the bright lights and icicles hanging on the Christmas tree, had little to do with the Christ of Christmas.

So, what is Christmas?  It certainly isn’t big box stores opening on Thanksgiving Day to celebrate the birth and arrival of frenzied shopping.  Christmas is the birth of Hope.  It is a time to step away from the hustle and bustle of the mobs and the malls to find a moment of solitude to reflect on what God has done for us.

Christmas is that day long ago when Jesus stepped down from the glories of heaven to be born in a lowly manger; to live a sinless life; to die the death of the cross; to rise again on the third day, and to return to heaven to intercede on our behalf.

The Apostle Paul summarized the life of Christ, when he wrote:    Beyond all question, the mystery from which true godliness springs is great:  Jesus appeared in the flesh, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory            ( I Timothy 3:16).