As Exciting as a Packer Game!

Along with hundreds of others, My husband and I drove to Green Bay. When we arrived and had to park more than a mile from Lambeau Field, we didn’t complain. Surging forward with the crowd, we hurried on in eager anticipation.

Inside the fast-filling stadium, we found our seats and settled in to enjoy the next few hours. We cheered as the team took the field. We chatted with the fans around us about the plays and speculated on the season’s possibilities. Did it matter that we were mostly strangers to one another? Not at all. We were united by the one thing we had in common–our love for football and the Green Bay Packers.

Interesting how I find a similar joyous unity among my brothers and sisters in Christ. All week long I eagerly look forward to Sunday morning when we gather at church with those of “like precious faith” (1 Peter 1:1, King James Version). Oh, it may not sound like much, but it’s as exciting as going to a Packer game!

I may not know everyone who comes, but we are united by the one thing we have in common–our love for God and his family of believers. Together we sing his praises and eagerly listen to what he will say  to us through that morning’s sermon. We share what the Lord has done in our lives during the past week and cheer one another on. We pray for each other’s needs and help one another.

Yes, I am constantly  thankful for the loving help and faithful encouragement I receive from my friends in Christ–not only those in the church where I serve but also those serving God and one another in other Christian denominations. And I’ve heard other believers in Jesus share the same sentiment. Yes, we are thankful.

Focus: “We always thank God for all of you …” ~ 1 Thessalonians 1:2, (New Living Translation).

How about you? For what are you especially thankful when you gather with other believers to worship God?

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Getting Out the Garbage

I headed out for my usual early morning exercise–a brisk walk to the lake, around the neighborhood loop, and back again. As I passed by, a neighbor emerged from her garage. We waved to greet one another before she grabbed a large plastic container to haul to the end of her driveway.

Yikes, garbage day!

I made a mental note to  put our garbage out as soon as I finished my walk. We sure didn’t need health hazards, clutter, and all things stinky hanging around for another week. How good it always felt to get rid of garbage.

Rid of … hmm. Didn’t God’s Word have a lot to say about “getting rid of”? When I returned, I’d check that out, too.

Ah, hah! Just as I thought. The Bible listed all sorts of garbage that Peter and Paul urged Christian to “get rid of.” I studied those lists for any garbage I needed to get rid of.

Curious? Would you like to know what I found on those lists? Here are just a few items I considered, in case I was carrying them around:

  • “Get rid of all malicious behavior and deceit. Don’t just pretend to be good. Be done with hypocrisy and jealousy and backstabbing” (1 Peter 2:1, New Living Translation).
  • “Get rid of … slander and dirty language” (Colossians 3:8, New Living Translation).
  • “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words … be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another” (Ephesians 4:31, New Living Translation).
  • “Get rid of all filth and evil in your lives … humbly accept the message God has planted in your hearts, for it is strong enough to save your souls” (James 1:21, New Living Translation).

Paul also pointed to a major source of garbage–pride. He could claim lofty heights in his family bloodlines, education, and social status. Though all those things seem important to us, what is their end result? They encourage us to look down on others and count them of less value.

Yet God calls us to love one another regardless of these things. Awakened to this truth and compelled by his love for God, Paul led the way for us. He chose to change his attitude.

Focus: “I once thought all these things were very important, but now I count them as worthless … when compared the with priceless gain of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage” ~ Philippians 3:7-8, (New Living Translation).

How about you?  How would your life change if you took seriously God’s Word and Paul’s example?

 

Sowing Generosity Reaps Rewards

One year a farmer brought in such an overflow of crops that his barn could not hold them. He sat down to think about his problem, and a while later jumped up in his excitement. “I know! I’ll build new and bigger barns. I’ll be set for years to come!”

But God said, “You fool! This very night you will die. Then who will get all this that you are hording for yourself?”

Even if the farmer had not died that night, he would have been a fool. God gives us wonderful resources of time, money and possessions with a greater purpose in mind. He wants us to enjoy those gifts, but he also wants us to share them freely with others.

Do we know someone  who has suffered a death in the family? We can take time to go to the funeral and comfort them with our presence. We can slip a gift of money in a sympathy card to help with expenses. We can bring a meal during the days while they are still stunned by their loss.

What about a family who has lost everything in a fire or suffered some other tragedy that we read about in the newspaper? We can send them a check to help them get back on their feet. If a neighbor, we can share our home and do whatever is needed to help them through the hard days ahead.

Do we hear of someone ill or injured? Even if we don’t know them or they live far away, we can pray for their recovery.

And how about elderly family, friends, and neighbors? We can make time in our busy schedules to visit, to help them shop or get to appointments.

God not only provides us with countless opportunities to help others with the resources he gives us, he rewards us both here on earth and in heaven. So go ahead. Be generous!

Focus: “Use your worldly resources to benefit others and make friends. In this way, your generosity stores up a reward for you in heaven.” ~ Luke 16:9, The Living Bible.

What about you? What opportunities do you see God give you to to be generous with the resources he has also given you?

Please Press the Prayer Button

I was so sick when I arrived at the doctor’s office that he sent me straight to the hospital. After a nurse settled me in bed, she showed me how to summon help. “Just push this button,” she said, indicating a palm-sized mechanism with a white button on one end.

An hour later, the room began to spin, slowly at first, but then rapidly picking up speed.  I didn’t realize that my temperature was spiking. All I knew was that I couldn’t find that button. I called to my roommate, “Please! Press the button!”

She pushed hers frantically.

“Yes?”

“Hurry! She’s in trouble!”

In moments, four nurses surrounded me, working feverishly, their faces tense and their voices controlled. Gradually, the room slowed its spinning and stopped.

Though ten days later I went home, it was another six months before I fully recovered. Even so, I remained grateful to my roommate who pushed the button that summoned help.

We all need help but sometimes are unable to call for it ourselves. It’s at times like these that we are thankful for those who notice and come to our aid. Precious are those who provide what’s needed. Just as precious are those who let us know, “I knew you were in trouble and I prayed.”

Fortunately, prayer is one button we all have access to, one that calls out to Almighty God. Do you know someone who is ill? Does your heart ache because someone you care about is making harmful choices? Does a crisis threaten someone you know? Please press the prayer button! Don’t hesitate to pour out your heart to God on their behalf.

Focus: “Pray for each other … the earnest prayer of a righteous man has great power and wonderful results” ~ James 5:16, The Living Bible.

How about you? Can you recall a time when someone pressed the prayer button for you? Please share.

 

Satisfied with Life?

What if God invited you to ask him for whatever you want and he would give it to you? What would you say?

Young King Solomon of Israel knew what to say. He asked for wisdom to govern. This pleased God so much that he also gave the young man riches and honor (1 Kings 3:1-14, New Living Translation).

Sure enough, Solomon’s wisdom brought him fame. As a powerful politician, he lived at peace with the nations around him. As a master builder, he erected beautiful palaces for himself and his wives and a magnificent Temple to God. A hard worker, he pursued his every interest with a passion. A wealthy man, he denied himself nothing.

Yet when his life was nearly over, he looked back and wrote, “Everything is meaningless … utterly meaningless” Ecclesiates 1:1).

How sad! He had spent his life on everything the world had to offer, and in the end, felt all that he had achieved and acquired meant nothing.

How different life was for Paul, who lived centuries later. Called to spread the Good News about Jesus Christ, Paul never wavered. Leaving everything behind, he traveled the known world and pursued his life’s work of  knowing, loving, and serving God with a passion. He knew times of joy and suffering, poverty and plenty, but he never abandoned God’s purpose for his life.

When the time of his death drew near, he wrote, “As for me, my life has already been poured out as an offering to God … I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me” (2 Timothy 4:6-8). Paul was satisfied. From the moment of his calling, he had spent his life well. He had made a meaningful difference in this world and looked forward to receiving his eternal reward.

  • Is a life of knowing, loving, and serving God and others worthwhile? Yes!
  • Can we do this in the midst of our everyday circumstances? Yes!
  • If we do, will we come to the end of life satisfied with how we spent our time on earth? Yes!
  • And it’s never too late to begin.

Even Solomon–though he lived for pleasure–was wise enough in the end to realize the truth and leave the following advice.

Focus: “Fear (hold in high esteem) God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of every person” ~ Ecclesiastes 12:13, New Living Translation.

What about you? If God invited you to ask him for anything you wanted, what would you say? How might that affect the rest of your life?

The Whole Truth?

I emerged from our pop-up camper just as my husband pulled something from his wallet. Jim grinned. “Can you use this?”

Wow! Fifty dollars! “Sure.” Just what I needed to take out four grandchildren out to lunch and mini-golfing. “Thanks.”

I folded the bill twice and stuffed it deep into the pocket of my blue knit shorts.

Jim frowned. “Better put that in a safe place so you don’t lose it.”

Lose it? Did he think I was a child? I patted my pocket. “It’ll be fine right here,” I said, and hurried up the camp site hill to help my granddaughter set up her tent.

Later, I reached in my pocket to put the $50 in my purse. My heart leapt to my throat, and my knees nearly buckled. My pocket was empty.

I quickly revisited every area of our camp site I had gone to since Jim had given me the money. I had to find it before he found out it was missing.

Finally in defeat, I stood at the top of the hill and prayed. “Lord, you were trying to protect me through Jim, and I ignored you both. Please forgive me and help me find that money.”

I made the rounds again. Again without results. At the bottom of the hill and behind the camper, I bowed my head. My conscience pricked me. My wrong ran deeper than simple pride or disobedience. Though I had long ago given up telling outright lies, wasn’t I lying right now by hiding the truth from my husband?

I went to him. “Jim, I lost the $50.”

To my amazement, he calmly helped me look for the money. When I opened a folded camp chair, out dropped the $50 bill.

How easy it is to talk ourselves into not telling the whole truth in order to keep the peace, save face, or simply urge life on as we believe it should go. But neither outright lies nor keeping the truth from someone who has the right to know honors God. In all our daily choices, he gives us a gentle reminder.

Focus: “You must live in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ.”~ Philippians 1:27, New Living Translation.

How about you? Have you ever been tempted to make life easier by not telling the whole truth? How did that work for you?

 

Happy Father’s Day, Dad

In the late 1800’s, the life of a young Civil War veteran’s wife faded as she gave birth to their sixth child. Widower William Smart raised his daughter and five sons on the family farm in the state of Washington with such devotion that, as an adult, his daughter began a campaign to honor all fathers.

In 1906, Sonora Louise Smart Dodd, then living in Spokane, discussed the idea with her pastor. She envisioned a day of special church services and children offering their fathers words of appreciation and small gifts. The city’s YMCA joined the sponsorship, and on the third Sunday of June 1910–the month of William Smart’s birthday–Father’s Day was first observed.

In 1916, President Woodrow Calvin Coolidge recommended its observance, but decades followed while others slowly joined in the effort to establish Father’s Day. During those years, wearing a red rose honored a living father, a white rose for one not living. Today we celebrate Father’s Day with backyard barbecues and gifts for our birth fathers, stepfathers, fathers-in-law, and grandfathers.

This is all as it should be! However, this year as we honor the fathers in our lives, let’s remember the most wonderful Father of all–our heavenly Father. The One whose abundant love is always the same.The One who never tires of watching over us and providing for our needs. He who, when we stray, never stops wooing us back to him. More than all that, he is the Father who made the way at great personal price–the willing death of his Son on the cross–that we might be his children.

Focus: “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called the children of God!” ~ 1 John 3:1, New International Version.

How About You? How many fathers do you honor on Father’s Day, and how do you choose to do it?

(This blog post is adapted from a June 1999 piece published by Together in Faith in my ten-year column, Love With Shoes On.)