Saturday, June 03, 2017

A SIMPLE PLAN

Peg and I were sitting on the back porch/deck this afternoon. I was finally finished putting some new boards down on the shed entrance, and I was dog tired. But not too tired to notice something important.

I think.

I recalled when Brad and I built the deck and the roof over it. It was 1993, just about the time of the big Birmingham Snowpocalypse ... two feet of snow are not well received by folks in Central Alabama ... and it posed the first test for our building prowess. We had one side of the roof deck on, while the other side was just the rafters. So we had two feet of snow (which weighed a bunch) on one side and nothing on the other.

Thankfully, it didn't budge at all. And even at that, I added 50% more to the central beam.

So the deck and its enclosure has been there for a couple dozen years, and we've enjoyed it immensely ... especially since we have retired. And we built it years in advance of the bulk of our use thereof.

1993 was also around the time we started saving for retirement. Our employer started a "Simple Plan" ... a simplified retirement plan, per the IRS, in which  the employer can match certain amounts of the employee's contribution ... and we jumped in with both feet. Or wallets.

The Simple Plan has performed wonderfully and contributed much to our years of retirement.

NOW: That got me to thinking of faith.

There was a certain sense of security in preparing for retirement. In knowing we were being prudent in the handling of\ our income, so we'd be able to retire without worries about income. So that part of the preparation was enjoyable, from that perspective.

And now that we're actually retired, we're benefiting from what we did back then.

The same can be said for our deck. It was fun to build, and it was nice to have in the following years. But now that we're retired, we can go out there most any time.

That's where the Spiritual comes in. It's nice to know that, when my time here is up, and I keep that appointment specified in Hebrews 9:27, I have nothing to fear. Plus it's really enjoyable living as a Christian in this foreign land of E.A.R.T.H.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

STUFF WE LIKE TO HAVE ....

That's a picture of my shoes. Most of them. They sit on a rack in the closet off our bedroom.

I've got two pairs of black loafers and two pairs of brown loafers. I have found that, for me, two pairs last well over twice as long as one pair, kind of spreading the wear around.

I have another pair of MBT black loafers that have a problem, about which I've written the manufacturer.

Without results.

I also have 2 pairs of lace-up athletic shoes, one of which is on my feet right now. I bought the second pair after my second knee replacement forced me to get $900 of orthotics, in an attempt to correct some difficulties caused by the replacement.

Orthotics I no longer use, as they physically injured my right foot about a year ago.

I have a pair of loafers for around the house, which I do usually wear, when I'm not wearing those white ones around the house. Plus those boots up top, which I last wore in 2000, I think it was.

Not counting sandals ... 2 pair ... on the top shelf. I last wore a pair of those on a mission trip to Nassau, in the early 1990's. And that's net of the 2 pair I already gave away.....

I have space to keep them, so I just do. I suppose it's kind of nice just having them.

And then there are tools. Oh my. I could go on forever about my tools. I have an engine crane I used when I replaced the dead 4-cylinder in the '79 S10 I bought from my grandson, with a really healthy 350. Maybe 10 years ago, and now at 79, I doubt I will be personally replacing any motors in any trucks.

Or the transmission jack, used to lift a transmission back in place under a car. Doubt its future usefulness as well.

There's also some stuff like cylinder hones, piston ring compressors, ball joint forks and the like, facing a future non-fate.

And hand tools? I have two good-sized tool boxes full of wrenches, hammers and the like. One each in the garage and the shed. And that includes wallboard hammers, trowels for finishing wallboard, and 25 or 30 gallons of old paint.

In fairness: Old paint is really hard to throw away......

Clothes? Ahh .. there we have a minor victory. We bagged up about two dozen shirts I haven't worn in years, and gave them to a local mission here in Pelham. They were happy to have them and assured me they'd be given away and worn in the near future. Goodness knows I wouldn't have...

POINT ONE: I hung on to all that stuff just because I had it and it was kind of nice to have. But when the jammed closet makes it hard to get at the stuff I do use, it's time to do something.

If I get another pair of shoes that I do wear, I probably ought to get rid of one pair.

POINT TWO: My faith had best not be like this. Just something nice to have.

Like the "Johnny Carson School of Theology". I heard him say on his show, one night, almost word for word: "Of course I believe .. a man would be a fool not to believe ... if it's true, you're ok, but if it's not, it doesn't make any difference".

Like I said. Nice to have.

I don't want to have that kind of faith. I want the kind that fills my mind every day, points me to things God wants done, and in general controls my life. And understand I don't claim credit for that ... I think Jesus died so I could have that kind of faith, and I want nothing less.

The desire started with Him, after all.

And in my mind, THAT is the only kind of faith that's nice to have.

Friday, May 19, 2017

"ONLY ONE LIFE, 'TWILL SOON BE PAST......

" ... only what's done for Christ will last".

So goes a poem a friend once related. He said it had changed his life, and it had. He was the Field Director of the OMS Mission in Haiti, and we had dinner with him, and his family, one evening.

We were there on an OMS-sponsored mission trip, and had dinner each evening with  a different missionary family.

Dave told us he'd been in Agribusiness in Oregon when he read the poem, and it gave him immediate pause. And caused him to analyze his life and decide he needed to be full-time in his service.

HIS service.

Having been active with the laymen's arm of OMS, he gravitated to them and eventually became a full-time missionary. Which put him in Haiti, some years before. After a few years, his heart for the Haitians and his skills became obvious, and he was named the Field Director.

From what we saw, he did an excellent job in the position, which he held until his retirement a few years ago.

In case you haven't figured it out, the photo above is not that of Dave. It's Susan, our server at Ruby Tuesday's a few days ago. And she kicked off this train of thought.

We'd asked if we could pray for her, when we blessed our lunch, and she reacted wonderfully.

After we finished lunch, we stopped at Dairy Queen for a little dessert. While devouring a Peanut Buster Parfait, the following train of thought pulled into my mental terminal:


  • I have eaten many treats like the PBP.
  • I have visited many,. many places on earth. Something like 45 states and 35 countries. And done a lot of memorable things there.
  • Stood on Victoria Peak in Hong Kong and stared at the South China Sea.
  • Visited a village in China, and sat with a lady in her little house there. She showed us the picture of her, with Michael Jackson, while he was in China.
  • Ridden many miles at 110mph on the Autobahn.
  • Seen and touched famous race cars that Id' read about since a child, at the BMW and Audi Museums in Germany.
  • Walked the Formula One race course in Monte Carlo.
  • Shook Liberace's hand and got his autograph, while in Las Vegas. in 1974. He'd been playing the quarter slots there when we happened upon him.
  • Watched Killer Whales, while they were playing not far from the balcony of our room on the cruise ship, in Alaska.
  • All that's left of them is memories. 
There's more. A lot more (hey .. I'm 79 and have done a lot of stuff,,,,,), but this establishes the thought ... I think:

 I have a lot of terrific experiences in my memory bank.

But that's all they are. Memories.

As pleasant as they are, they're not what floods my mind when I am trying to drift off to sleep. Then, I tend to mull over.....

  • The time I delivered a "message" ... some might say a sermon ... at Red Hills Baptist in Kingston, Jamaica.
  • The impromptu Bible study with a half dozen "Bahama Mamas", who had brought their kids to our Backyard Bible Club at Zion Yamacraw Baptist Church in Nassau.
  • The time I interrupted an "F.A.I.T.H." presentation and just talked to a young lady named Kori.
  • The time I presented the Gospel to a Sunday School class at a Boy's Prison in Plainfield, Indiana.
  • The time this week that we asked Susan, who served us lunch, if we could pray for her when we blessed the food.
Those events brought about results which will last into eternity. And I think that, of just such things as those, Heaven's Treasures are made.

What we do here, good or bad, we will alway have done. And at age 79, there are two things of which I am absolutely sure:

  • There's only one life here, and it will soon be past.
  • Only what's done for Christ will last.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

GREAT PROOF, A GREAT EVENT, A GREAT DAY

Christianity as a faith is determined, differentiated, and declared by the empty tomb. The tomb borrowed from Joseph of Arimathea, on the day of Jesus crucifixion.

Jesus didn't own much beyond His robe and gown ... if you ignore the fact that the whole earth and, everything in it, belonged to Him ... so His followers had to borrow a tomb in which to lay Him.

One might suppose that they knew He wouldn't be gone for long, but were that the case, I doubt they'd have prepared Him for burial in accordance to Jewish traditions. Spices, burial cloths etc.

Interestingly, the person who brought the spices with which to wrap Him, was Nicodemus, the Pharisee to whom Jesus said "You must be born again" ... in the first recorded use of that term.

We're all familiar with the story of what happened on "the first day of the week...". After just a couple of encounters, word got to the followers that Jesus was, indeed, no longer in the tomb. And, after a few hiccups along the way, things got back on track for Jesus' continuation of the building of His church.

There have been a number of things offered, as proof that Jesus really did rise from the dead. First, of course, is that the Bible says so. And that really ought to be enough. But there are folks who tend to want to explain away what Scripture says, by saying it really means something else. Well, I don't buy that.

One evidence is the persistence of the church to this very day. That in itself is pretty strong evidence that something supernatural has been going on. There's no reason why a supernatural resurrection wasn't part of that. Add to that the persistence of Scripture, coupled with the miraculous way it all came together, and we just know that clever men could never accomplish something like that.

I've also heard that contemporary historical accounts also tell of the prophet who came back from the grave.

There's also the fact that most of His Apostles died an early death at the hands of the enemy. One does not do that for even the biggest of lies. So we know the Apostles were convinced of the truth of the resurrection. But, to me, the greatest proof of all is contained in Scripture itself, and not just what it says about the resurrection.

Matthew's Gospel, 28th chapter, beginning at verse 11, reports "While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, the gave the soldiers a large sum of money, telling them "You are to say His disciples came during the night and stole Him away, while we were asleep."

I am convinced that you do not bribe someone to tell the truth. This leads me to believe the elders and chief priests we convinced, as were the guards, that Jesus had been resurrected.

Wow.

It's been said that, when the devil tries to intervene, he invariably shoots himself in the foot. For instance, the sign Pilate painted, stating "The King of the Jews", and which hung over Jesus' head, told the thief on the cross that Jesus was a King. I don't think Pilate intended that, when he painted the sign, and even refused to change it when one of his soldiers challenged what he wrote.

Then, of course, there's Joseph, and what eventually came from his brothers' jealousy and hatred.

Of course, the ultimate example is the Crucifixion itself. What the devil surely meant for evil, God intended for our good!

Maybe that's what happened with a certain lie concocted by the elders, chief priests and a few guards on a certain Sunday. They proved that which they would not admit, even to themselves.

For me, that's the checkered flag at the finish line. The "amen" after the prayer. The gavel at the close of the court case.

Case closed.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

You think YOU Have Experienced Tension?

I have little doubt that the day after The Crucifixion was the most tension-filled day, ever.

Consider:

Jesus had been with them for a little over 3 years. He had performed many miracles in their sight, so they knew something was extremely special about Him. More special than anyone they'd ever seen, I'd guess.

They also saw Him as a Human Man. He ate with them, slept within their sight, prayed to His Father ... albeit differently from what they did.

He always prayed a little way away from them ... far enough that they could not hear His prayers. That's why, IMHO, they had to ask Him to teach them to pray like He did.

They knew there was something special going on there, and they wanted some of it.

But they did not have the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. Hence, they could not have understood the Spiritual truth that Jesus and His Father were, in fact, One. I doubt they could have understood the truth that Jesus had the authority to lay His life down, and to pick it up again.

They knew He had authority over death, but now He was dead. He wasn't there, so they could never have understood that He ... His Father ... could bring Jesus back to life.

If you think about it, the Disciples weren't just biding their time on the day after the Crucifixion. They were huddled in fear, Leaderless. And when the women went to the tomb on Sunday morning, it wasn't to greet a Living Savior, it was to anoint a dead body. They had so consigned Him to death that they did not ever recognize Him when they first saw Him.

If they'd have realized ... connected the dots ... that Jesus said He was going to be killed one day, and would come back to life 2 days later (as we celebrate it), they would have seen that the entirety of their faith was on the line, that day. Either....

  • He doesn't rise from the tomb, meaning their faith was in vain, what Jesus said was all untrue and hence He was either a liar or a lunatic, And certainly not a Savior... or ... 
  • He rises to life, meaning He was what He said He was, He really did make the atonement for all the sin of His followers, And God was putting His seal of approval on everything Jesus did and said. 
So there it all was. Pass/Fail. Go/NoGo. Life/Death. Win/Lose.

It was ALL on the line. What a day it would have been to be there, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, just waiting in anticipation of the greatest event the world will ever know.

I think that's why we're reminded, in Hebrews 9:27, that it is appointed to us to die. There will be a day in our life when it'll be Pass/Fail ... Go/NoGo ... Life/Death ... Win/Lose.

I am thankful I'm on the winning side. 



Friday, April 14, 2017

WELL, IT WAS A GOOD FRIDAY

I recall the day I had my first knee replacement surgery.

As I recall, it was a Monday. Now, surgery is surgery. This one was preceded by Versed, which always eases the ride into the O.R. Then Propofol took over, and I didn't even dream

Just slept.

Woke up for the usual groggy amusement of the Recovery Room, and then back to the private room and the family.

The really unpleasant part of it all was the pain. I got to the room in mid-day, and the knee hurt a lot, when the anesthetic wore off. Sure, the nurses tried the usual meds, but morphine and acetaminophen have no effect whatsoever on pain, in me. The nurses didn't believe me, and didn't want to give me anything else after they gave me that stuff.

I was in extreme pain all night. I slept not one wink, all night.

Next day, they finally gave me a pain-killer that worked, and I finally got some sleep.

Four years later, I had the other knee replaced.

Now, many years later, the knees are fine and I am sure glad I had the surgery. Despite the absolute agony and the disruption of the surgeries, everything came out just fine.

So's my family! I can recall when walking was painful and stairs were out of the question, that I wasn't a lot of use to anybody around the house.

NOW:

There's little doubt that Jesus' pain during the scourging and the crucifixion were excruciating. Much much worse than you or I have or will ever experience. I get that it was monumental. Considering God's economy, I would also guess that, as much worse as Jesus' experience was, than any we'll ever endure here, that the beauty and the wonder and the profit from the experience would be much greater than anything we'll ever do, or endure.

I look back on the surgery date ... for both of my knees ... and recall the pain that went with both experiences. But that's not the overriding thought; that's assigned to the fact that I'm 78, had knees that were totally worn out, and today, they're absolutely no problem.

My hips, neck, back and shoulders are all complaining loudly every day about the arthritis they contain, but not my knees!

Such, it is, with the Crucifixion. As terrible as it was, it became wonderful on the following Sunday. And it still is, yet today.

I believe Jesus would say the same thing about that first occurrence of the Friday that was Good, even when nobody else on earth knew it.


Sunday, March 26, 2017

So Long, Stereotype!

The church is sort of full of stereotypes. In the New Testament context, I suppose they start with the story of Jesus' birth.

We picture an evil innkeeper who wouldn't find a room for Mary and Joseph.  Except it probably didn't happen that way.

Or maybe the crowd gathered around the newborn Jesus, in a manger in a barn out back of the nonexistent "inn". More likely it was downstairs of the house where they couldn't find anywhere else to stay.

Houses back then were not an acre with a lawn and a 3BR/2BA bungalow, you know. Or a stable, for that matter.

Perhaps the time honored painting of that crowd around the manger, which includes the 3 Wise Men from the East. Well .. they wouldn't have been there, either. They were a LONG way away from Bethlehem, and it's doubtful Mary and Joseph would have kept Jesus in a manger until the Magi could get there.

They probably weren't even expecting them....

But hey, nothing in the scripture says there were 3 of them, anyway. Only that however many of them there were, they brought 3 gifts.

Those may be common stereotypes, but they're not the ones I am thinking of. I am thinking specifically of the commonly-held views about Jesus, Himself.

If you want a cute little exercise some time, just replay in your mind, Jesus' interaction with the woman at the well, or the woman caught in adultery. But put a smile on Jesus' face.

No judgment for an extensive divorce history, or a scandalous sex life. Just love, showing on Someone's face. Can you just imagine the grin when He said "Go get your husband .... ", knowing full well her situation? Or maybe Him grinning, first, before He said "Where are those who accuse you?"

Before I get back to The Shack, a side trip. Have you ever done anything to help someone,where it made a huge difference in their life? I recall a "F.A.I.T.H" visit once, in which I was asked to share a "FAITH testimony" But my train of thought was interrupted when I noticed the daughter of the person we went to see. She was quietly crying in a corner of the living room, which caused me to stop the "presentation" and ask her to come sit on the couch. So I just talked to her.

She ended up getting big-time, down-front, saved. Repentingly, rejoicingly, resoundingly SAVED!

That's been 10 or 15 years now, and I've only seen her once or twice, in that time. But I have to tell you, those really were times of rejoicing.

So I think it is, with Jesus and the redeemed. Yet I do not see many representations of the Savior, that reflect that. Those are normally the "Sallman head", Jesus standing at the door and knocking or maybe on a cross, or an ethereal picture featuring a halo or aurora.

Those are OK, I guess, but how do you think Jesus reacts when He sees one of His redeemed? Yes, He suffered sore for us, but ... news flash:

IT WORKED!!

When you see a grown child of yours ... one that makes you proud ... is the first thing you think of, the grief they brought? The pain of childbirth? The sacrifices you made to raise them? The things you did without?

I doubt it. I think you get blessed to the max with how they turned out. And I think the same thing goes through Jesus' mind when He sees one of us.

That's a picture of the actor who played Jesus in the movie, up yonder. Wearing just about his default expression in the film. And that was my big takeaway from the movie, The Shack.

When I read the book, I was percolating along fine until I got to the passage in which Mack tells Papa that he felt abandoned by God, much as Jesus said He was, on the cross. Papa corrected Mack and said "I know what He felt ... but I never left Him".

Wow.

Well, this time, the "AHA" moment came when I saw Jesus as a winsome, happy Man Who loves to engage with His people, and is "tickled pink" that His suffering worked.

I think He's just that, and more, And what a privilege to look forward to seeing that smile again, one day.

He won't be the only One smiling, if I'm right....