Quick. Put in the Ear Plugs

Disappointments

One of the interesting water activities in Florida is an airboat ride. Riding on the open waterways allows you to see various water creatures. Often you will see alligators sunning themselves on the shoreline. It is amazing that the ride is so noisy that many people wear ear plugs or ear muffs, yet the noise doesn’t seem to bother the wildlife.

We took our grandson on an airboat ride. He was filled with anticipation. He wanted to see the alligators in their natural habitat. Having hearing damage already, he made sure the driver placed him in the boat where he would have the least noise and vibration. He put in his ear plugs, then his noise reduction muffs, and was ready for the adventure.

An hour later, he removed the muffs and plugs and reminded us disappointingly that he had not seen anything – not even a duck or a shore nesting bird. And certainly no alligator!

Sounds like life sometimes, doesn’t it? We build up anticipation for a great adventure or event and when it is over, the only thing we have experienced is disappointment.

The apostle Paul reminds us in Romans 5:5 that “hope does not disappoint us”. He is not speaking about anticipating some special thing or activity that we are looking forward to. He is reminding us that we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God, or in modern English, “a joyous expectation of the heavenly state of God,” The prophet Isaiah had this to say about hope, “Those who hope in me [God] will not be disappointed” (49:23c). Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that “suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Romans 5:3).

If you are experiencing disappointment today, take out the ear plugs, remove the ear muffs, and rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. He will never fail you, never desert you, never disappoint you.

Paul’s Hall of Fame

I usually skip over lists of names in the Scripture, much to my loss. My wife was reading Joshua 12-21 in her “reading the Bible through” goal for 2016, and I thought, If she can read all those names, I can at least read Paul’s catalog of names in Romans 16. So I read them. And I have been enriched and challenged to learn of Paul’s love and praise for all his co-laborers in the spread of the good news of Jesus Christ, and the importance of women to him at a time when women were considered a “house thing” or “property.”

Paul himself is overwhelmed with joy by the active involvement and support from the Roman Christians. He was delighted that different people were serving with their gifts (16).

Three highlights to provoke you to read the names are (1) that people are important to Paul, (2) the prominence of women in the church whom he highly praised, and (3) his inclusion of so many obscure names. His “Greet one another with a holy kiss” is an expression of warm, close fellowship, encouraging relationships, and mutual love of Christ being tangibly expressed.

To realize the impact of Paul’s personal roster acknowledgment of naming more than thirty workers and building up of one another in local churches that filled Paul full of joy (16:19), you will want to read the entire chapter of names, not skipping over any of them. It will challenge all of us modern day Christians to be as active and supportive of one another in the local church as they were.

What can we learn from Paul’s roster? It will encourage any of us who feels he’s a nobody to understand how important we are to Christ’s ministry. We can also see how we, like Paul, can love one another more from his praise of Priscilla and Aquila “who risked their lives for me” (3);“Ampliatus, whom I love in the Lord” (8); “my dear friend Stachys” (9); and “Rufus’ mother who has been a mother to me” (11).

Faithfulness will be rewarded. Though you may seem like a nobody, to God you are a somebody (Malachi 3:16). You are special and loved by God. You are in the list of names in God’s Hall of Fame.

FLASH! I have a gift for the 10th visitor to my blog who includes a contact source and says how you have benefited from this study.

In case your missed last week, you might want to go back and read God and His Rainbow.

Holy Habits

According to a recent survey, the top two New Year’s resolutions for Americans are to lose weight and to exercise more; both broken within 30 days. My son prefers setting goals to making resolutions for if you fail to keep resolutions, you tend to give up, but if it’s a goal, you can continue pursuing them. I have discovered, however, that to set holy habits for the New Year has helped me achieve better than resolutions or goals. Among the holy habits I am focusing on this year is to study the Scriptures an additional hour daily.

My motivation to read and study the Scriptures has been triggered by three Scriptures.

The truth given to the prophet Ezekiel 3:3, 4: “Son of man, eat this scroll I am giving you and fill your stomach with it. So I ate . . . He then said to me, ‘Son of man, go now to the house of Israel and speak my words to them’.” We are only prepared to communicate his truth, in my case, to write about his truth, when our minds are full of his words and our hearts are prepared by his words to share him.

Psalm 119:20 burdens me to experience the reality that “My soul is consumed with longing for your laws at all times.” A high order. But that’s the holy habit I am pursuing this year. It will come gradually as I read, study, memorize, and meditate on his laws. My weakness will be memorizing, especially the references. My mind doesn’t hold them as it used to.

Last year as I studied the Book of Job, 23:12 burned into my heart: “I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread.” I confess it will be a challenge to pursue that holy habit. But what a habit to form!

Psychologists suggest that it takes only twenty-two consecutive days to establish a habit. Knowing me, it’s going to take me much longer.

So readers, let’s join together in pursuit of our holy habits. Maybe we need to pray more, serve in our churches more, establish a daily devotional time, share our faith more, help others more, or even read the Bible through this year. These holy habits will not only help us individually but the body of Christ as well so that we experience the reality of strengthening spiritual muscles for ourselves and in our churches to make them power houses for worship, growth, outreach, and discipleship. Our communities will benefit from Jesus being alive and well and active in his people.

No God in my Manger

“What! You want to stage the nativity scene without the Infant Jesus in the manger? Then there’ll be no God in your manger.”

“That’s right. No God in my manger.”

The Christ Child Festival, an annual celebration, held in the Coliseum, Fort Wayne, Indiana and open free to the public, attempts to visualize the meaning of Christmas without any secular commercialism, including Santa Claus. Booth displays, set up by individuals, organizations, churches, and schools, stage some aspect of the Christmas story.

One Christmas I decided to set up a booth at the Festival and selected the theme, No God in my Manger. The manger was filled with a Monopoly Game, a portable TV, sprayed gold bricks, stacks of paper play money, and a model red Mustang convertible with Mary and Joseph staged around the stuff-filled manger. The purpose was to provoke dialogue on the real meaning of Christmas.

The irony of this whole scenario was that I had contradicted the theme, “No God in my Manger,” for there was a god in our crib. It just happened to be the gods we substitute for the Incarnate Christ. So having an empty manger was inconsistent with the theme. Then I reasoned, wait a minute, there is still NO GOD in my manger, at least, not the true and living Almighty One, but only false gods fashioned by the creature of the Creator-God.

My prayer was that those who visited our booth would come away with pricked consciences from the visualization of how commercialism usurps the holy celebration.

This Christmas season I can toss out the false gods cluttering my nativity and be like Mary, who in her Magnificat, bursts forth with “I’m dancing the song of my Savior God” (Luke 2:7 The Message). She had already laid her God in the manger. As Mary picked up her firstborn, her son Jesus, and cuddled her Savior God in her arms, I too can”cuddle” my Messiah for there are no false gods in my manger now.

Is your manger, for the most part, filled with the “gods of trinkets, toys, and trifles” or
is it filled with the living God, Jesus?

A Shadow on the Moon

I stood with my daughter on September 28, 2015, and gazed at the full moon, hiding its shiny face from us that night.

We witnessed the one hour, twelve minute total lunar eclipse–in awe and wonder. The display of an all-powerful Creator as the earth came between the sun and the moon. What a phenomenon! Like a curtain being pulled across the moon, turning it blood red. All by the mighty hand of Christ-Creator.

Everything’s purposeful and orderly in the universe as Paul described to the Colossians, “For Him all things were created and by Him all things hold together” (1:16, 17). What a reminder and a confirmation that he “sustains all things by His powerful word” (Hebrews 1:3).

Had the sun come between the earth and the moon, all inhabitants of the earth would have been fried pretzels.

When earth’s shadow had moved passed the moon, and the moon reflected the sun’s rays again, I said to my daughter, “God is not entertaining us. Instead, He is reaffirming he’s in complete control of all His creation and reminding us of the truth: “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–His eternal power and His Deity–have been clearly seen, being understood by what has been made” (Romans 1:20), including the lunar eclipse.

It was as if He were saying, “Sleep well tonight, my child, I’ve just let you know that ‘I’ve got the whole world in My hands.’”

Just Enough Milk for Morning Cereal

As I threw away the empty milk carton I pondered how many things we discard as disposable. We throw away pop cans, styrofoam trays that held leftovers from a meal out, plastic grocery bags, water bottles, and plastic silverware because we have no further need for them so they are “useless.” We have become so used to being a “throw-away” society that it has redirected our very thought processes, our very being.

It has become easy when trouble stares us in the face to throw away another human being and say, “Well, he can’t expect me to keep my word,” “I can’t be expected to be loyal to my employer,” “Why should I be true to my friend when she did this to me?“ and often we are led to ask the ultimate throw-away question, “Why should I stay in this marriage? It isn’t what I expected it to be.” We have little or no regard for those who will be affected by this “throw-away” question – spouse, children, parents, friends, and many who have looked to us to be an example of Christ’s love, care, and concern us.

However, life is not a “throw-away.” We are loved by the eternal unchanging God and He has promised that He will never leave us nor forsake us. We are reminded over and over again in the beautiful Psalm 136 that “His mercy endures forever.”

Whatever you are facing this very day, forget the throw-away mentality of our present world and cling to the permanent, eternal, everlasting mercy of God which endures forever. We are not throw-aways to Him. He will never discard us because we haveoutlasted our usefulness. His love remains FOREVER.

 

Guest Writer Emily L. Pippin