Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Dark Valleys Revisited

Posted: January 24, 2020 in Uncategorized

valley

How do we handle the dark valleys of life?  There are four facts about valleys that you need to remember whenever you go through a tough time:

VALLEYS ARE INEVITABLE.

They are going to happen so you might as well count on them. You have just come out of a valley, or you’re in one right now, or you’re probably headed toward one. Valleys happen throughout life. After every mountain top there is a valley. Jesus was very realistic about it. In John 16, He says “In the world you will have trouble.” It’s not a matter of if, it’s when. It’s going to happen. You’re going to have difficulty, disappointment, discouragement in life. There will be times of suffering, sorrow, sickness. There will be times of frustration, failure and fatigue. They are going to happen. They are a normal part of life. Don’t be surprised by it.

 VALLEYS ARE UNPREDICTABLE.

 You can’t plan them, time them, schedule them. Valleys are always unexpected. They usually come at the worst time — when you don’t have time, when you’re unprepared. Have you ever had a flat tire at a good time? They just happen. And usually when you least need them and it’s most inconvenient. It would be very great if we could schedule our down times in life. You can’t plan life like that. Valleys come suddenly. They are unpredictable. Have you noticed how easily a good day can become a bad day? A phone call, a letter, a routine doctor’s check-up, a freak accident. Valleys just happen.  Jeremiah 4:20 “Disaster follows disaster… In an instant my tents are destroyed, my shelter falls in a moment.”

 VALLEYS ARE IMPARTIAL.

No one is immune to them. No one is insulated from pain and sorrow. No one gets to skate through life problem-free. Everybody has problems — good people and bad people. Experiencing problems, trials, difficulties or depression doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. It means you’re a person. The Bible is very clear that good things happen to bad people and sometimes bad things happen to good people. Valleys are impartial. They don’t care how good or bad you are. Matthew 5:45 Jesus said, “It rains on the righteous and the unrighteous.”

 VALLEYS ARE TEMPORARY.

 They have an end to them. They don’t last. They are not a permanent location. David says, “Even though I walk through the valley…” The valley is not something you stay in your entire life. It’s something you go through – a circumstance, a situation that has a season to it. When you’re in a valley you often think it’s a dead end, but it’s not. It’s like a tunnel — there is a beginning and end. You go through the tunnel and eventually you’re out of it and back out in the light again. They don’t come into your life to stay. They will pass.  Psalm 30 tells us, “Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.”  When you go through the dark valley, refuse to be discouraged. Remember God is with you, walking beside you. Rely on God’s protection and guidance. He will never leave you or forsake you. 

Counting Every Blessing

Posted: November 22, 2019 in Uncategorized

If you have food in the refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof overhthe-things-you-take-for-granted-someone-else-is-praying-for-quote-1ead and a place to sleep you are richer than 75% of this world. If you have money in the bank, in your wallet, and spare change on your dresser, you are among the top 8% of the world’s wealthy. If you own a computer, you are part of the 1% in the world who have that opportunity.

And if you woke up this morning with more health than illness, you are more blessed than the many who will not even survive this day. If you’ve never experienced fear in battle, the loneliness of imprisonment, the agony of torture, or the pangs of starvation, you are more blessed than 700 million other people in the world.

If you can attend a church without the fear of harassment, arrest, torture or death you are envied by, and more blessed than, three billion people in the world .

Why is it that we take for granted the uncounted blessings of life until they are removed from us?  It is important that we develop the habit of counting all our blessings.

It is important to be thankful, but it is also important to express this thankfulness.
David says in Ps. 107 “Give thanks to the Lord for he is good.” We should express our thanks to God and others.  In Luke 17 we read about ten men who were healed by Jesus of their leprosy. Out of those ten men only one came back to give thanks and Jesus said, “Where are the other nine?” He was the only one willing to take time to go back and say “thank you.” Because of that Jesus said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”  Have you ever wondered why Jesus said that?  Like the nine others who chose not to come back, the man was already healed of his leprosy. But when Jesus says to this one man, “Your faith has made you well,” He wasn’t just talking about a physical healing, he was talking about a spiritual one. He was made truly whole and complete. We too are made whole by our thanksgiving. Psychologists today tell us that sincere gratitude, thanksgiving, is the healthiest of all human emotions. Hans Selye, who is considered the father of stress studies, has said that gratitude produces more positive emotional energy than any other attitude in life.

Our prayers are often very general. We say, “Thank you God for all your blessings” but what blessings are we really thankful for? Count your blessings…name them one by one.  It is not uncommon for people to compile wish lists at Christmas, and draw up a list of resolutions for the New Year. But there is another list often overlooked – a Thanksgiving list of all for which we are thankful.  If we sat down and thought about it, we could come up with many blessings that God has provided.

But our Thanksgiving should also include the burdens of life.  This is a tough one. 1Thessalonians 5:18 says, “Give thanks in ALL circumstances.” Ephesians 5:20 says, “Always giving thanks.” You may think, surely Paul made a mistake or even that this was easy for him to say. But it wasn’t. Paul suffered from some very difficult problem that he called a thorn in the flesh. He also had been run out of town, beaten, whipped, imprisoned, betrayed by friends, naked, cold, hungry shipwrecked, and stoned because of his faith. Yet, Paul never stopped giving thanks.

Maybe when we prepare our lists, we should include things such as these: “I am thankful for: The taxes I pay – because it means I have a job;  the clothes that fit a little too snug – because it means I have enough to eat; a lawn that needs mowing, windows that need washing, and gutters that need cleaning – because it means I have a home; my huge heating bill – because it means I am warm; the piles of laundry – because it means I have loved ones nearby. Now our lists might not all be the same, but I’m convinced that if we began to make a list, we would find that we have much more for which to be thankful than just our material possessions. Like you, I’m sure my list would include the major things life, health, family, friends, and the nation we live in, despite all its flaws.  But if we really thought about it, our lists would include the myriad of small blessings that God showers upon us every day.  There are many things that we take for granted, but it is important to count all of our blessings, every day, not just 1 day out of the year.  Thank you, Lord!  Amen.

 

When the arrival of Jesus was announced to the shepherds, the angel said, “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ, the Lord.”  At the end of his life, as Jesus hung on the cross between two thieves, one thief taunted him, but the other, recognizing who Jesus was, in the last moments of both of their lives, made a request of Jesus.  He said, “Remember me when you enter your Kingdom.”  Jesus replied, “Today you will be with me in paradise.”

Throughout His life and ministry, there was a sense of urgency about Jesus.  There was always a choice or a decision to be made.  “Today” mattered and today’s choices had eternal consequences.  The Bible is filled with people who encountered Jesus and were faced with choices.

Jesus met Peter, Andrew, James, John and Matthew, said “follow me” and they dropped everything to do so.  Zacchaeus climbed a tree to encounter Jesus and was changed, while the rich young man walked away because he was too attached to his “stuff”.  A woman suffering from bleeding for twelve years had the courage to work her way through the crowd to touch the hem of Jesus’ robe and was healed.  He said her faith had healed her.  Another woman encountered Jesus at a well in Samaria and in spite of her past mistakes was used powerfully by Jesus.

All of these people lived, like we do.  They had their failures and successes, their illnesses, their responsibilities, their doubts and their struggles.  Then, they each had an encounter with Jesus.  That day … that “today” presented them with decisions … choices. Meeting Jesus always does.  I will give you a heads up … Jesus is coming.  As the angel announced to the shepherds on that first Christmas day, “I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ, the Lord.”

Today we celebrate Christmas in July.  Why?  Because Christmas is not just December 25.  On that first Christmas day over 2,000 years ago, God presented us a gift.  “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.”

Who was on your gift list last Christmas? Most of us usually give gifts to family and friends. We buy gifts for people we love and people we care about. Most of us tend to give gifts to those who treat us well, people who are kind and compassionate to us. However, we generally don’t buy gifts for our enemies. I know I usually don’t buy gifts for people who oppose me. We really don’t even give a gift to the person who has slandered us in the past year. We don’t give a gift to the irate neighbor who never has a kind word to say. A co-worker who causes drama or trouble. We don’t give a gift to someone who has tried to run us out of business. Nor do we send a gift to the thief who broke into our car or home and stole something from us.

But consider this: when God sent Jesus Christ, His Son, and gave us this ultimate gift, He gave it to us while we were still His enemies. We heard in this morning’s scripture, Romans 5:8, “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us”. None of us did anything whatsoever to earn or deserve this gift. In fact, what we really deserve is judgment. Why? Because we all have sinned against God (Romans 3:23) and the wages for our sin is death (Romans 6:23). We all have deliberately crossed that line. We have rebelled against God. We have been disobedient to Him.

The amazing truth about Christmas is that, in spite of our sins, God sent His Son to save us. In that tiny manger in Bethlehem, He loved us so much that He gave us a gift that not one of us is worthy to receive.

Today, we prepare ourselves for the arrival of the Savior.  Revelation 3:20 says, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.”

Today, we will have choices to make.  Will we go out of our way to see Jesus, like Zacchaeus, and let him change our lives?  Or will we be like the rich young man and walk away because we are chained too tightly to our possessions?  Will we be brave enough to approach Jesus, like the bleeding woman?  Will we be strong enough to overcome our past and know that Jesus wants to use us just the way we are?  When Jesus says “follow me” what will your answer be?

Today is not just another day.  It’s Christmas day, and the gift is still being offered to us.  Will you accept it?  Amen.

Only the Wounded

Posted: January 29, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

Jesus came to spark a revolution and to establish a Kingdom.  We can learn a lot about that revolution by examining the life of its founder.  What was Jesus known for?  Love.  He loved people no one else would love.  His love was so radical, it restored souls and turned lives upside down.  Time and time again, Jesus loved, and loved specifically.  We can learn more about this revolution by looking at its motto.  Jesus lived in a day before advertising on billboards and t-shirts.  Before tweets and Facebook posts.  Even still, his revolution had a motto.  It had a creed.  ‘Love God, love people.’  

We don’t remember Jesus because he gave wonderful sermons urging us to embrace some innocuous general good, some theory of good. We remember him because when he was in our shoes, even as he was set upon by the powers and principalities, he found a way to love specifically – to specifically love a leper, an outcast, a traitor, a woman at a well, a soldier, a Samaritan.

If we are going to have any hope in this world, if we are going to have any happiness or joy in the world, we had better learn that the only answer for humanity, the only hope for humanity, is to love specifically.

“Not me” you say.  I don’t have the training.  God doesn’t want me.  I’ve made too many mistakes.  One of Thornton Wilder’s first plays was “The Angel That Troubled the Waters”.  The play is based on John 5: 1-4, which tells about a pool in Bethesda where blind, lame and paralyzed people would wait for healing.  Legend had it that occasionally an angel would stir its waters and the first person in the water after the touch of the angel would be cured of his infirmities.  Wilder’s play imagines a physician who occasionally would go to the pool, hoping to get in the water so that he could be healed of his melancholy.  Finally the angel appears, but blocks the physician just as he is about to enter the water.  The angel tells the physician that the healing is not for him.  The physician implores the angel to let him in, but to no avail.  Finally the angel clarifies why he cannot allow the physician to enter the pool: “Without your wounds where would your power be? It is your melancholy that makes your low voice tremble into the hearts of men and women. The very angels themselves cannot persuade the wretched and blundering children on earth as can one human being broken on the wheels of living. In Love’s service, only wounded soldiers can serve.”

Jesus is calling you to serve … scars and all.  Jesus is calling you to join the love revolution … to love God and to love others.  To love specifically.  Will you say “yes” to the call?

 

 

The Sound of Your Breathing

Posted: September 20, 2018 in Uncategorized

Breathing.  It’s something we all take for granted.  I have spent the last few days sitting in my Dad’s hospital room watching him breathe.  He has been sleeping for several days now, and in the past few days he has developed some apnea … he will breathe and then pause.  Sometimes for up to 15 to 20 seconds.  It’s unnerving, so I watch and wait for the next breath.  I am taken back to the days of being a nervous new parent, watching your baby’s little chest rise and fall during nap time.  I did it more than once … just to be sure they were okay.

All this preoccupation with breathing reminds me of something I heard several years ago.  In the Book of Exodus in the Bible, God reveals His name to Moses.  We spell it “Yahweh”, but there are no vowels in Hebrew, so God’s name would correctly be spelled Y H W H.  These are four aspirated consonants, so if you were to pronounce each consonant in order, it would sound very much like the sound of breathing.  So, with this in mind, when you are born and take your very first breath, you begin speaking God’s name.  You repeat it over and over throughout your lifetime until that day comes when you breathe your last breath.  You die when you stop speaking the name of God.

This all makes sense to me since the Hebrew word “ruach” can be translated as “breath” or “spirit”.  For the time being I will take comfort in watching each breath.  I will also take comfort in knowing that when that time comes when my father ceases to speak God’s name, he will have the chance to be with Him.  Amen.

Valley of the Shadow

Posted: June 26, 2018 in Uncategorized

One of the most powerful images of darkness, tragedy and pain can be found in Psalm 23 … “the valley of the shadow of death”.  valleyIt is a terrifying place.  Most of us have been there.  Some of us have been there multiple times.  If you have been there, no doubt you still bear the scars.  If you haven’t yet been there, it’s a place you never want to have to go.  Unfortunately, life is very cold and cruel, and few, if any, escape the valley.

The valley of the shadow is not something you can see in the distance and plot a path around.  Sometimes, you can be on top of the world, on the mountain tops of life, and in a moment find yourself or someone you love crashing to the valley floor.  Surrounded by darkness.  You can’t find the way to go, or even see your next step.

Sometimes you find yourself in the valley after a long journey.  A slow, steady, almost imperceptible decline into the darkness.  At times along the way, you may see glimpses of light, breaks in the clouds, harbingers of hope.  There may be plateaus, but ever so slowly the decline continues.  Before you know it, you are there.

However you arrived, the valley of the shadow is the same once you’re there.  The darkness is oppressive, suffocating.  Pain and hopelessness, grief and death swirl around you, knocking you off your feet, filling you with a sense that this will be your life from now on.

But there is hope, even in the darkness.  Remember Psalm 23.  It says “though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death”.  As dark, foreboding and permanent the valley may feel, take heart because it is only temporary.  You will walk through it and you will eventually emerge into the light again.  Psalm 30 assures us that “weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.”  The valley of the shadow is painful and it is difficult, but you will never walk through it alone.  Christ will be beside you every step of the way.  He will support you, comfort you, pick you up when you fall and eventually bring you out of the shadows and into the light.  Amen.

God’s Gifts

Posted: March 9, 2018 in Uncategorized

giftDebbie Macomber tells a story that goes something like this:  “A woman arrived at the gates of heaven to be met by St. Peter.  “When you’re ready, I’ll take you on a tour of heaven.”  When the time came for her tour, she could hardly take it all in.  They explored every nook and cranny of heaven – waterfalls, fields of flowers, exquisite buildings, and streets of gold. As the tour drew to an end, she noticed one massive door they had not yet explored. A gold padlock secured it. “What’s in that room?” she asked.  “You don’t want to see that room,” St. Peter said, steering her away from it. “It’s only a storeroom.”  “But I do. May I see inside? I want to see every bit of heaven.”  St. Peter didn’t answer. Instead he took a large key out of his pocket, put it in the lock, and turned it.  He took the lock off and opened the door. Inside the cavernous room were stacks and stacks of gifts, wrapped in all the colors of the rainbow and tied with beautiful ribbons.  She clapped her hands with delight. “Is this where you store presents for everyone in heaven?”  “No. These gifts are not for heaven, they were meant for earth.”  “What do you mean ‘were’?” She walked through the stacks and came to a pile marked with her name. “Look, these gifts are for me.” She fingered the paper and ribbons. “May I open them?” “No. You don’t need them now.” St. Peter put a hand on her shoulder, guiding her toward the door.  “But if I don’t need them now, does that mean I needed them on earth?” She couldn’t take her eyes off the pile. He nodded his head. “Yes, you needed them on earth.”  She looked around the room, realizing that there must have been millions of gifts. Maybe more, since she couldn’t see an end to the room. “Why weren’t my gifts sent to me on earth?” As she looked closer, she could read names on all the gifts. “Not just my gifts; why haven’t any of these gifts been sent?”  St. Peter sighed. “You don’t understand. Every one of them was sent.” These are the ones that were returned unopened.” He moved her toward the door. “Many people on earth don’t recognize God’s gifts and fail to open them.”  Unfortunately, in real life God’s presents don’t always come brightly gift-wrapped, and they are not always easily recognized.  Often these gifts are people shaped.” 

     People enter our lives and become very important to us. These are the gifts we have chosen to open. These are the companions on life’s journey that make it worthwhile.   Life is fragile and unpredictable, cold and painful at times.  Sometimes those we love deeply are taken from us.  But the gift keeps on giving … in the form of memories, shared experiences and laughter.  Prayers go out to the family and friends of Josephine Roemmelt.  She was a gift to many, and don’t forget that those who mourn her loss were also a gift to her, enriching her life and making her smile.  Thanks to God for giving us companions on Earth,  and for assuring us that when this journey ends another awaits. 

 

 

 

Hope

Posted: December 2, 2017 in Uncategorized

I absolutely love the Christmas season.  I love picking out gifts for my family members and when I get something that I know someone will really like, part of me can’t wait for Christmas to get here so that I can see them open it.  I’ve been known to have a fitful night’s sleep on Christmas Eve … tossing and turning, sitting up to see what time it is and so on.  Needless to say, Betsy doesn’t usually get a good night’s sleep either, and there has been a time or 2 when I have been banished to the couch.  If you happen to be patrolling our neighborhood on Christmas morning, I can almost guarantee that our house will be the first one with lights on.  As excited as I get for Christmas to arrive, there is a part of me that wants to savor the moments, too.  That part of me wants the world to slow down so that we can find the time to sit together and watch all of our favorite Christmas movies.  It’s just not the same without Chevy Chase in Christmas Vacation, “you’ll shoot your eye out, kid”, crying at the end of “It’s a Wonderful Life” and watching “A Christmas Carol” … but only the black and white version with Alistair Sim will do.  The memories and laughter are treasures to be enjoyed to the fullest.

As a pastor, there’s nothing better than the Advent season.  The four weeks of Advent highlight hope, peace, joy and love – commodities that this world is starving for, things that each one of us is desperate for at some point in our lives.  What a privilege to be able to stand here and tell the story of Jesus Christ who is the one and only key to finding hope in our despair, peace in the midst of chaos, joy in the darkest times and love which is greater than anything this world can throw at us.  Today, on this first Sunday of Advent, we will explore hope.

In the dictionary, “hope” is defined as “a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.”  A Christian’s definition of hope is far superior to that of the dictionary.  Instead of wishing or hoping for something to happenhope, a believer knows that his or her hope is solid, concrete evidence because it is grounded in the Word of God.  The Christian has a hope that is “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).  It is a hope that cannot be moved by circumstances or what the eyes see because we trust in an unseen God and His faithfulness.

As Vice President, George Herbert Walker Bush represented the U.S. at the funeral of former Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev.  He was deeply moved by a silent protest carried out by Brezhnev’s widow. She stood motionless by the coffin until seconds before it was closed. Then, just as the soldiers touched the lid, Brezhnev’s wife performed an act of great courage and hope. She reached down and made the sign of the cross on her husband’s chest. There in the center of secular, atheistic power, the wife of the man who had run it all hoped that her husband was wrong. She hoped that there was another life, one best represented by Jesus who died on the cross.  And she hoped that the same Jesus might yet have mercy on her husband.

The Jewish hope for a Messiah can be traced back to God’s covenant with King David in 2 Samuel, chapter 7.   Hope arose that God would someday restore a godly king to Israel. Some of Israel’s prophets foretold the coming of a king from the line of David, and their descriptions seem to portray him as far more than a mere mortal. Isaiah foretold the coming of a “child” and “son” who “will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace,” and whose kingdom will never end (Is 9:6-7). Again Isaiah prophesied the coming of a Branch of David, on whom the Spirit of God will rest, who will rule the earth with justice and equity (Is 11:1-5).  The Jews waited a long time for the arrival of the Messiah, and their experiences colored their hopes of what this Savior could do for them.  By the time of Jesus, the Israelites had been exiled, enslaved and their nation had been occupied so much that all they wanted from a Savior was to get rid of Rome.  Their dreams were so small.  If only they recognized exactly who Jesus was.

We go through seasons in our lives.  Sometimes these seasons are difficult ones filled with illness, uncertainty, pain and loss.  At the end of these difficult seasons, we can sit and assess our situation.  We can look at our finances and calculate how much less we will have with unemployment, rather than a paycheck.  We can read the medical reports.  We can see the empty chair at our dining room table.  At the end of these seasons, we can evaluate the harvest … all of the aftereffects that we can see and touch and measure.  If our crop was apples, we can weigh our harvest, we can tabulate and we can count.  We can even count the number of seeds in each apple.  One thing we are not able to do is count the number of apples in the seed.

We think of the harvest as the end.  It’s a done deal.  It’s over.  What we see is all we have.  But we cannot forget the seeds.  Within the finality of harvest are the seeds of hope.  Our Savior is coming.  What is it that you hope for?

  • I hope that I get what I want for Christmas
  • I hope that the kids can come home this year.
  • I hope I can afford some better gifts.
  • I hope I can remember all my grandchildren’s sizes.
  • I hope there’s no homework over Christmas break.
  • I hope they sing Silent Night at the Christmas Eve service.

Remember … the Bible tells us that hope is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.  So let’s dream big.

  • I hope that we can help the people out there see how real God is.
  • I hope that you have prepared room in your heart for Jesus.
  • I hope that illnesses are cured, that relationships are strengthened, that families are mended, that pain, loneliness and discouragement are slowly, surely replaced by joy and comfort.

Jesus is coming.  There’s nothing He cannot do, if you just let Him in.  Amen

 

Helpers

Posted: September 8, 2017 in Uncategorized

Over the last several years we can remember many times of disaster – Hurricane Katrina, The 9/11 terrorist attacks, Hurricane Sandy, the Boston Marathon bombings and most recently, Hurricane Harvey.  These disasters, some natural and some man-made, resulted in death, destruction and chaos.  But amid the tragedies and loss can be found stories of heroism, rescue and hope.

We have all seen the television coverage of Hurricane Harvey this past week.  The Coast Guard and the regular military have done more than 16,000 rescues in Houston since Harvey hit. Other uniformed first responders, including helpers from the FDNY and NYPD, have saved many more. But plenty of regular citizens have added to the heroism.

  • The “Cajun Navy,” a group of recreational boat owners and volunteers who helped the rescue effort after last year’s Louisiana flood, mobilized again.
  •  So did countless individual boaters (and jet-skiers) in Texas. Asked on-camera by a reporter what he was going to do with his boat, one Texas City man replied: “Go try to save some lives.”
  •  When 78-year-old J.C. Spencer and his wife, Karen, realized they needed to evacuate their home, they called their local Chick-fil-A, where they’re regulars, to order two grilled chicken burritos with extra egg — and a boat. “The manager said that she would send her husband, who has a boat, and she did,” J.C. said. But when the boat couldn’t get into the house, “two wonderful men” came up on jet skis and rescued them. They’re still waiting on the food, though.
  •  Amanda Labove has been a one-woman call center, dispatching complete strangers to Orange and other small towns along the Texas-Louisiana border. By 1 p.m. Wednesday, volunteers had picked up 500 people in Orange alone. “I just showed up early this morning and started taking calls, sending people where they needed to be and doing the best I can,” Labove said.
  •  Countless good Samaritans have been pictured saving animals, getting them in boats, off the tops of cars and houses, freeing horses trapped in cages.
  •  A chain of Houston mattress stores opened up its locations to serve as makeshift shelters. Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale on Tuesday said one of his stores was supporting 360 people and another 400.
  •  Anheuser-Busch stopped beer-making and started canning clean emergency drinking water, delivering over three truckloads — over 155,000 cans — to the Gulf Coast area.
  •  On Tuesday, an unidentified man dressed up as Spider-Man to give out toys and stickers to children taking shelter at Houston’s George R. Brown Convention Center. The day before, Batman showed up with his 4-year-old son, “Little Batman,” to hand out clothes and supplies.

After 9/11, Mister Rogers came out of retirement to offer words of comfort.   InRogers the bleakest depths of a disaster, he noted, average people step up alongside emergency responders to become heroes. In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, regular Americans are once again proving him right.

Jesus told this parable: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead.  A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side.   So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.  But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him.  He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him.  The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”  That challenge still holds true for us.

In the words of St. Augustine, “What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like.”  To help in times of tragedy is to love others as Jesus would have us do.  We also show our love by standing up to and speaking out against hatred and intolerance.  As we were each asked during our baptism, “Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves?”  The answer is still “yes, I do.”

 In Romans, chapter 12, the Bible gives us some basic instructions as Christians – “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.   Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.  Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.   Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.  Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.  Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.  Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.  Do not be conceited.  Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.  If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”  Choose to be a helper.

 

Standing on the Pinnacle

Posted: July 25, 2017 in Uncategorized

mountaintop

Everyone has a passion, a life’s work, a mission.  We all have things that are important for us to accomplish, things that are worth our work our toil, sweat and sacrifice.  Often, these things, even though they are “ours”, benefit others as well.  They are lofty goals and worthy targets, both large and small that fuel our lives.

When these life passions align with the gifts God has given you and the plans God has for your life, you are really onto something special.  This is when Satan steps in.  When you are climbing toward the pinnacle of your dreams, Satan will do all he can to force you off the path, or even push you off the edge.  He wants nothing more than for you to fall, fail or turn back.  No methods or tactics are off the table.  Satan will use anything and everything against you.  Ironically, his most powerful weapon is your own mind.  He knows your fears and your weaknesses and will use these against you.  The Bible refers to Satan as the deceiver and the liar.  He will go to any lengths to capitalize on your fears and doubts.  He will fill your mind with lies – “you’re not good enough, you’ll never reach your goals and nobody will care anyway.  You are worthless, you are dirty, you deserve to fail, you’re too far gone for God to care about you.

I was recently planning Vacation Bible School for my church  in Erin.  I was working with some great people and we had a good event planned, but a few days before the start Satan had me thoroughly convinced that no one would come.  I was discouraged, embarrassed and defeated.  I wasn’t sleeping well and having back spasms from the stress.  I tried my best to push these feelings aside, we had our VBS and it was an awesome experience for the staff, our church and the 8 children who attended.

We all will face these times of struggle.  Believe  in your goals, don’t give up, keep climbing toward the pinnacle no matter what.  Sometimes you’ll make great strides, sometimes you will crawl, but keep moving ahead.  Remember, you’re not travelling alone.  Lean on the people who love you and trust in God.  Cling to these words from Ephesians 6:10-17, “ Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.  Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.   Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.  In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”