Friday, April 30, 2010

Waiting in the Check-out Line--God’s Charity Case

Mark 10:25 - "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."

I was coming home late from work and had to stop at the grocery store. I was tired. As I stood in the check-out line, I noticed the woman ahead of me. She was about 25 years old; she looked haggard and worn out. She was distracted by her three children, the oldest possibly seven years old.

I noticed what she had in her cart—convenience food, chips, frozen pizza. When she checked out, she used her food stamps and some card I assumed had something to do with welfare. For some reason, the card wouldn’t work and after a five minute delay, she sheepishly gathered her stuff and walked out of the store with a look of dejection.

Here I am, a hard working guy, a taxpayer, one who has never been on welfare myself seeing her wasting my tax dollars on convenience food, chips, and frozen pizza. How disgusting! Yet I’m not different from her; I have eaten too much of these things myself and I have received charity from other people.  I was agitated; not only was I delayed but as she walked out the door, I’m sure she saw my self-righteous, indignant look. Yes, I stripped her of some of the last dignity she may have had.

The sight of her and her children walking away from the check out counter in humiliation disturbed me; my mind would not rest. I thought, here I am passing judgment upon this woman because she is on charity when in reality I am God’s charity case. Grace is an undeserved gift from God. Who am I to pass judgment upon her? Of all the people that night, I should have known better. I was the one to be pitied, not her. I couldn’t choose; God chose me. God loves me not because of what I’ve done but because I’m His. God is, and has been, gracious to me. God gave His Son to die for me; I did not deserve it and I have the gall, even if it were for one minute, to pass judgment on this dear woman or any one else for that matter.

I’m not any different than her; I just haven’t been publicly humiliated yet. By the grace of God go I. I’ve asked God for forgiveness. It amazes me how disgusting I can be sometimes.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

We have no reason to be bored

She is 18, a college freshman; smart, pretty, but she tells me she is bored. The classes are boring, her friends are boring, and everything is boring.

Her mom and dad want her to get a 4-year degree “in something.” They both have 4-year degrees “in something.” Dad is a fork lift operator and Mom works in the office of a school.

She would really like to be a mechanic; she loves fixing cars. She says, “Apparently Mom and Dad don’t want their daughter to come to the family reunion with scared up, oversized hands with ingrown dirt.”

I can understand teenagers who are bored with life. I believe that’s part of being young. We make the mistake of comparing ourselves to others, and we feel inferior. We all make a common mistake—we compare ourselves to other people’s “highlight reel as it were.” We only see their victories and spectacular accomplishments. We don’t see the hard work it took to achieve their “highlight reel as it were.” We don’t see the long streaks of being “bored” in their life; we don’t see their everyday struggles. As a result, we view our life as boring.

Let’s be realistic, much of our life is boring. We think life is a connection of random happenings which hopefully come together to mean something. Life is joy mingled with tears. We like the joy; tears we can live without. We try desperately to star in our own “highlight reel.”

What saddens me is when I find adults who are bored with life—no purpose, no vision. We should know better but we don’t. A psychologist I know says, “We have all become perpetual adolescents.”

I think it is time to grow up… May we as Christians be brought to maturity by the power of the Holy Spirit. These times need mature people, mature Christians. Let’s put aside this silliness and grow up.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Temporary Dual Citizen

Since you call on a Father who judges each man's work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear.” - 1 Peter 1:17.
“Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.”  - 1 Peter 2:11-12.

I served in the United States military, the U.S. Air Force; I served for four years. I pledged allegiance to this country; I was willing to defend it, defend it with my life. I feel it was one of my obligations as a citizen of the United States of America.

When I served in the Air Force, I was not a Christian. I believe there was a God; I knew He had power, was Sovereign and I understood as soldiers, we were His agents of wrath (Romans 13:4 says “For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.”). This is one of the purposes of government. I knew about God but had no relationship with Him. Once Christ found me, that all changed.

Because I am God’s child, my citizenship is in heaven (“But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ,” - Philippians 3:20.). At the same time I live in the United States and I am a citizen. I have temporary dual citizenship— forever in Heaven, temporarily a U.S. citizen.

God through the Holy Spirit and the pen of Peter in 1 Peter 2:11 says we are to live as “strangers and aliens in the world.” Aliens are defined as “a person born in another country, a foreigner, and so not entitled to citizenship where he lives.” I have the best of both worlds—a citizen of the United States (although temporarily), born here, a native as it were. When I became a Christian, I was “born again” into the kingdom of Heaven, a citizen of heaven for eternity.

The good news is this—some day when I go home to be with the Lord, my temporary U.S. citizenship will end. That’s what I look forward to. In the meantime, I will live here; I won’t let my roots go too deeply into this life and this terra firma called the U.S.A.—my eternal home or citizenship as it were, is in Heaven.

This world is not my home, I’m just passing through says the Old Negro spiritual. It’s good to be reminded of that. All things on this side of heaven are temporary. Good news for this old country boy.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Almost a Christian

Acts 26:28: “Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.” (KJV) “Then Agrippa said to Paul, "Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?" (NIV)

"Almost a Christian—what a disgusting combination! But are there such people? And how may we know them?

"One who is almost a Christian has no personal religious experience. He has never consciously repented of his sins and asked God for pardon, nor believed that God, for Christ’s sake, has forgiven all his sins. He has no daily fellowship with God in the Word and in prayer. He finds the Bible dry and uninteresting, and he can find no time for prayer and meditation. He has found in the Bible neither himself nor the “Pearl of Great Price,” and consequently he does not grow in grace.

"One who is almost a Christian makes no sacrifice. He may make large donations, but only of his abundance. It takes love for the Master and His cause to make one sacrifice. He who is but almost a Christian loves neither the Master nor His work. Christ wants to show him his sins that He may save him; but he does not want to be humbled and beg for grace. Therefore Christ can do nothing for him.

"Dear reader, do not be content to be almost a Christian. “Almost does not avail, Almost is but to fail.” Seek grace to become an altogether whole-hearted Christian who not only has had a personal religious experience but who lives in daily fellowship with Jesus Christ and is willing to serve and sacrifice for Him and His cause.

"Dear heavenly Father, we pray that Thou wilt make us true, whole-hearted Christians, that we may live in daily fellowship with Thee both here and hereafter; in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen."

This devotional is an excerpt from a book that belonged to Judi’s Grandma Nelson entitled, The Home Altar: A Book of Family Devotions for Each Day in the Year published in 1936 by The Danish Lutheran Publishing House, Blair, Nebraska.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Be not afraid – He has Risen

I woke up this morning to hear on the radio the complete hopelessness of the Veterans’ Administration hospitals. My thought had been when I get really old, then I would qualify for the VA Hospital. It is my back-up plan. (Be aware, in spite of what I hear on the radio, I hear the care is excellent in VA hospitals.)

In a meeting with a long-time tenant this week, he said unless things turn around in the next two months, he may shut down the business. He is fearful. Fear is all around. As Christians there is only one thing we should fear... "So do not be afraid of them. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:26-28).  Fear God; beyond that don’t be afraid.

In this fear-laden time, it is fitting that this resurrection week remembrance should remind us that love drives out fear. “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” 1 John 4:18.

In 1 John 4:19 it says, "We love because He first loved us."  Who is He? Jesus. How did He first love us? He went to the cross willingly to bear our sin, die for us, in our place. He did all this when? Romans 5:6-8 “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Why then should we be afraid? We are the undeserving benefactors of the greatest gift of all time (peace with God), the greatest sacrifice (Jesus death on the cross). This is all a demonstration of God’s love to us—all initiated by God. All this was worked out in the life, death, suffering, and resurrection of His one and only son Jesus. If this is true, why are we afraid?

In Romans 8:14-15 it says this about believers… “because those who are led by the Spirit of God1 are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, 'Abba," Father'." (Abba means daddy).

Should we be afraid of the future? No, God is still on the throne with His Son by His side awaiting the command of the Father, to go get His kids (us). Yes, if we believe, why are we afraid?

Fear God alone; beyond that, don’t be afraid. The world is cowering, looking for hope and answers. Share Christ with them.

Jesus Christ alone is our hope and salvation. Let’s live like His children should live—sacrificially and courageously. God help us in these days. Don’t be afraid.