Wednesday, October 26, 2016

October 23, 2016 - A Work in Progress

I am a work in progress, there are things about me that I know must change. Rather than bore you with my list of things, I will simply summarize them by saying they are probably very much like yours. Life can be a messy process but the good news is that we have directions on how to change it!

As people I have known pass on, I look at their life and how I remember them. Gaylard Hadley has given me an example of how to live a life of service. His life was a work in progress too, until this past week when he finally finished his works here on Earth. The memory most of us share of Gaylard is the same, he was willing to try and tackle any service project, community need, or most other worthy task that he was presented with. And even if you weren't blessed to know Gaylard most of us can recall someone like him who has been a part if our life.

We have been given examples to live by.

The bible tells many stories, of many people, but in almost all of the stories the people had issues that they needed to work through. This is a quote from pastor Rick Warren, "You are a work in progress. Your spiritual transformation in developing the character of Jesus will take the rest of your life, and even then it won't be completed here on Earth. It will only be finished when you get to heaven or when Jesus returns." 

Paul says in Ephesians 4:13, "This will continue until we all come into such unity in our faith and knowledge of God's Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ."

And from 1 John 3:2, "He has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like Him, for we will see Him as He really is."

We have been given scripture to live by.

"Opportunity knocks" is a familiar slogan to us all. This is something we often hear but never really listen to. Opportunity comes in all shapes and sizes, it comes in forms and people that we may not expect. God provides us with opportunities to change our life and also help change the lives of others. We all need to become better at realizing our opportunities. These may come in the forms of prayer, friendship, compassion, service, or more extreme examples like evangelism...but they are there!

We have been given opportunity to live by.

My desk at school often looks like a total mess, but I know where things are. I am confident some of you can relate to that? Many of the things are notes I have written to myself to remember a meeting or to add or change a grade, or to complete some other task on my list. I always seem to have more and more to do, a definite work in progress! God keeps giving us hints of our need for progressing too. They may come in the form of trials, blessings, scripture or some other form but they help remind us that He is there with is in our walk.

We have reminders to live by.

These are but a few things that lead us in our lifetime task of changing into what God wants us to be. Things that make us all a work in progress! As we each walk our walk we find it may involve one step forward and two steps back. But, it is important to move forward at whatever speed we walk because our plan of change takes an entire lifetime. God has given us one more thing to live by, and it is the reminder through the elements at His table of the sacrifices made for us that allow us to finish our spiritual improvement plan. Let us remember these sacrifices as we share communion.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

August 28, 2016 - Perfection (Again!)

Perfection is something we all strive for at some point in life, we want to be the perfect  son or daughter, the perfect parent, to play something perfectly. It is human nature to want to be the best at something. 

The summer olympics just ended, and it was filled with many joys and sorrows. Two people I know personally had a good chance to participate in the games so I had more than a normal amount of interest in watching them. A former student of mine was one of the fastest 50 meter freestyle swimmers in the world and a former dance mate of my children was trying to make the U.S. gymnastics team.

To reach the level of competition needed to win a place on the olympic team requires a near-perfect, if not perfect performance. Both came up just short, they weren't good enough even though they were among the best in the world. Perfection is difficult!

I began to think about the average person and our average desires to seek perfection. In which areas of life have I sought to be perfect? 
Have I ever reached perfection?
Is even my faith perfect?

In my youth I was a pitcher in baseball. I always longed to throw that "perfect game" but the best I ever did was to just come close. I just read about a pitcher who came within one out of a no-hitter and lost it. So close, but yet so far away.Again, perfection is difficult!

Before I accepted Jesus Christ as my savior I had the misconception to believe that I must walk the perfect path to be good enough. That, "to be saved" I must already be worthy. Fortunately for me, God opened my eyes. I had been hstriving for perfection when imperfection was the reason Christ died for me and for you. Through Christ, we become perfect and able to enter God's kingdom because our imperfections are washed clean.

God teaches us through life and scripture to seek perfection, but accept His help in reaching it. Kind of like my own situation where I failed to understand the second part of His directive. I thought that I, alone, must reach a perfect state.

In The Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says, "You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." Matthew 5:48. 
And as Paul says to the Phillipians, in Phillipians 3:12 "Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own."

We should always remember that we live in God's plan, not ours. 
That our sins and shortcomings are things he has already known about us. 
That our failure to live up to the laws of Moses, though we freely choose to sin like all mankind, are a part of His plan.
And that He has provided a path to perfection that we merely need to accept.

Perfection IS difficult...if we try to reach it alone!

The elements of the table are our reminders that Jesus is our guide to perfection and that, with His body and washed in His blood, we are perfect in the eyes of God. On the night that He was betrayed, Jesus took the loaf and gave thanks for it. Then He broke it, saying "This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

July 3, 2016 - Time

Twelve Score ago our fathers brought forth this great nation. A score is a unit of time that is rarely used today, it represents 20 years. That means 240 years ago our nation was formed.
Time is a necessity, we all live by it.
But what is it REALLY?

Time to a giant redwood tree is very different than time to most insects.
The tree has been around for centuries, the insect exists in a lifetime measured in days or weeks.

Time to us is also based on our lives. 
To a child time passes in segments compared to their existence, a year is 1/4 of the time a four year old has lived.
To someone in their 90s, like my Dad, it is but another flash of their many years of living.
For this reason, time DOES, in fact, pass by faster as we get older.
So we should all try to slow down and live at the pace of a child, live through experiences and those things so easily ignored, just like we did when we were younger.

But time itself is just a man-made way to describe change. We base time on the spin of the Earth and the changes from daylight to darkness. And, in a larger scale, on the travel of the Earth around the sun and the seasonal changes which that voyage brings.

What we have to keep reminding ourselves of is that,
God doesn't live by our standards.
This is one way that keeps us from truly understanding God and our relationship with Him.
Abraham is a perfect example of how God's time sometimes doesn't match human time.

Genesis 17:17 NLT
“Then Abraham bowed down to the ground, but he laughed to himself in disbelief. “How could I become a father at the age of 100?” he thought. “And how can Sarah have a baby when she is ninety years old?””
I can relate to his disbelief!
I often wonder what would happen if someone from the past were to suddenly be alive again and experience the world today. Or if I could travel back and live in another time myself. I believe both experiences would be frightening to the traveler in time. We live when God wants us to live, and experience the things God has prepared us to experience.

The bible tells us many stories of trials, doubts, joys, and sadness but the people involved lived in THEIR time. God prepared them for what they were to experience.

It is important to remember this in our own trials, doubts, joys, and sadness. God has prepared us to live in our time, with our experiences. He has put us into the interconnected web of this world precisely at the time we are meant to live, God makes no mistakes.

So, how many of you have experienced moments, like I have, when you question why something has happened in your life? Or, how you will ever be able to make it through the trial you face? Remember, God has no connection to human time, He is beyond the concepts of days or seasons. Yet He speaks to us through scripture in our language, and reminds us of His presence and His plan for us.

‭‭Ecclesiastes‬ ‭3:1-11‬ ‭NLT
“For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. 
A time to be born and a time to die. 
A time to plant and a time to harvest. 
A time to kill and a time to heal. 
A time to tear down and a time to build up. 
A time to cry and a time to laugh. 
A time to grieve and a time to dance. 
A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones. 
A time to embrace and a time to turn away. 
A time to search and a time to quit searching. 
A time to keep and a time to throw away. 
A time to tear and a time to mend. 
A time to be quiet and a time to speak. 
A time to love and a time to hate. 
A time for war and a time for peace. 
What do people really get for all their hard work? I have seen the burden God has placed on us all. Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.”‬

Part of building our faith in God and accepting His sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross is to stop trying to see things in our time and have faith that He will guide us in His time. This is the only way to understand His world of eternity with our human minds that live within the boundaries of human time. We will always fail when battling our time in this world, but with God, all things are possible. God makes no mistakes.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

May 8, 2016 - Preparation

I had the honor of attending my nephew's graduation from the University of Alabama this weekend. It was a long ceremony and as I watched each graduate come forward to receive their accolades, I reflected upon many things. For example;

I remembered my own graduation ceremonies and others of those close to me.
I thought of the pride in the heart of myself and others who watch these events.
I thought of the love and sacrifices necessary to make these things happen.
I thought of the many hours of study and concentration to learn the many things graduates now carry with them.
And most importantly I reflected upon how God prepares us for all of the things we experience in our lifetimes.

We, as believers, walk the same path. But God in His glory has found a way to make a single path diverge into a path leading billions of different directions. Each of us following the single unique pathway of our individual lives.

Preparation is provided to us in obvious ways as these graduates were now celebrating. But often, and I know he does this all of the time in my life, God prepares us in ways we may not even perceive.

Preparation is a common theme in the bible. God has made it obvious through scripture that he prepares us for what is to come. We need to trust in Him and receive His guidance, even if it may seem confusing some times.

Preparation is placed into our hearts for all of the good and the bad experiences we will have in our lifetime. We sometimes wonder, as Jesus did on the cross, if God has abandoned us at some of our most needy moments. 

From Matthew 27:46; and about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?" My God my God, why has thou forsaken me?"

There are many references yo His presence and guidance when we need reassurance;
Psalm 22 verse 11; Be not far from me for trouble is near; for their is none to help

Matthew 28:20; I am with you always , even unto the end of the world.

Often, if we look carefully and reflectively, we find that he has been there all of the time and has made us stronger in some way through our struggle.

We should all be sure to open our hearts to all possibilities and see these times as preparation for something much greater that might be right down the road from where we are right now.

This table is part of our preparation, for this time, this day. As we partake of these elements let us remember how he works in our hearts when we let him and give thanks  for all he has done to prepare us for our walk.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

January 31, 2016-Alone at Last?

Time alone! Have you ever wished to be alone to your own thoughts and desires? I know I often do. Well, I was given that opportunity last week with a snow day and Bev having to go to work. With our "empty nest" it was just me alone...just me, myself, and I...yep me all mono, all day! Paradise right?

I have to admit, my alone time last week wound up being pretty depressing. I began to think about a multitude of things that  only added to my self-reflecting moments that resulted in quite the lonely pity party that it became!

Upon reflecting on this time alone with my kindred spirit Beverly, after she had noticed upon her return that I was not acting myself, I began to think more of the effects and actions of being alone.

God does not want us to spend too much time alone, although it is necessary to reflect and relax from time to time. He has offered us companionship with other people as He did Adam in the Garden of Eden through relationships and opportunities to worship and bond with others in daily activities. God wants us to talk.

“Then the LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.””
‭‭Genesis‬ ‭2:18‬ ‭NLT‬‬

God also wants us to talk to Him. My unexpected day off threw my routines into disarray, and my daily morning reflection was lost to unplanned actions and thoughts taking control of my day. I forgot to pray that morning! My self-absorption affected my relationship with Him.

“Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment.”
‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭18:1‬ ‭ESV‬‬

This experience has made me more aware of the many possible effects of being alone. It has made me more understanding of my Dad's life now in his nursing home, where he is surrounded by people who he cannot communicate with. His mind still works very well, even though his eyes and ears do not. He is alone like I was but in his case he is alone almost every day, reflecting on a blessed life and thinking continually of things that have occurred in a lifetime of 95 years plus.

From the 23rd Psalm...
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.”

My Dad has always been someone who I have looked up to for guidance and direction and in many ways I have tried to emulate his actions in mine. This is one more instance where I have seen him do things or heard of things he has done that I wonder if I could do myself. Lonliness is his current battle and all those of us who visit him can do is provide temporary relief.

God wants us to have someone else to spend our lives with, and He wants us to know He is always there when others may not be. He has left us with the Word and the Holy Spirit to comfort us and guide us. We just need to remember Him in our daily routine and build our relationship with prayer. As Jesus tells us in John 14:15-19, we will never be alone as faithful believers.

““If you love me, obey my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you. No, I will not abandon you as orphans—I will come to you. Soon the world will no longer see me, but you will see me. Since I live, you also will live.”
‭‭John‬ ‭14:15-19‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Let us remember God's promises as we bow our heads in a word of prayer for the loaf.