Can I Have This Dance?

   Being a PK (preacher’s kid) was difficult at times. One of the difficult times was, we just couldn’t do some of the things other kids were doing. There were school activities we wanted to attend, like the school dance. It wasn’t much… it wasn’t the end of the world, but as kids, we thought it was. We just couldn’t understand why? We didn’t like
being ‘different’.  
    Truth be told, preacher’s kids, and families
are put on a pedestal. They are expected to be better than the other kids,
since they are an extension of the Minister, and thus the church. This means
being open for all kinds of criticism from members. It wasn’t all bad of course,
but WE had to be especially careful, because we didn’t want dad to lose his job
on account of us… so dancing was out. We missed the school socials, the proms,
and when we started to date, we didn’t know how to dance.   
   Now, some 50 years later, thanks to my wife’s encouragement, we’ve started to dance. At first it was ‘Swing’ dance, which is nice, but we had to do some travelling each week for lessons. Then we happened to find ‘Round Dancing’ here in Lake City! I never thought I would ‘get it’, but since January, we have both been learning, and having fun. Sure I have a long way to go, but ‘better late than never’.   
   Whoever said, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks”, just gave up too soon. I’m here to tell you…. this ‘old dog’ can and is! Actually everyone can learn, if you want to bad enough. I’m just happy to have a wife who encouraged me to lay aside the excuses, (and television) and try. Besides, it means being together, making friends, having some good fun.   
   Try it! David did! No he wasn’t doing
the Round Dance… he was just overjoyed at bringing the Ark of the Lord back. “So
David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of Jehovah with shouting,
and with the sound of the trumpet. And it was so, as the ark of Jehovah came
into the city of David, that Michal the daughter of Saul looked out at the
window, and saw king David leaping and dancing before Jehovah; and she despised
him in her heart” (2 Samuel 6:15-16). (Maybe Michal “despised him in her heart”
because he had ‘two left feet’ like me.)

   Sure some dances are not good because
they are not intended just for fun. Think about it, there’s a reason why they
call it dirty dancing. However, being together and just enjoying good clean
fun… well, nothing wrong with that.

   “Can I have this dance, for the rest
of my life…?” I’m so proud, my wife said, “Yes!”


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Jesus And Jonah (The Reluctant Prophet)

   Once again ‘hard headed’ Pharisees approached Jesus. As usual it was to challenge Him. They wanted to see a “sign”, something which would speak directly of his authority. 
   Where had they been?! Jesus had been openly performing miracles and signs (Matthew 12:22-23). Their response… 24 “But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons.” Would Satan work against himself? Of course not. Their hard heart was so obvious. Their request for a “sign” was answered this way… “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now something greater than Jonah is here” (Matthew 12:39-41).  He had called them hypocrites and “vipers”, and now He points them to Jonah…. but why? 
   Jonah had prophesied some 800 years before. (Here is the short version.) God had called Jonah to go to Nineveh and tell them, “Repent of perish… He didn’t want to go, because they were the enemies of Israel. He figured, if he didn’t go, God would destroy them which would help Israel. Instead of going to Nineveh he went the opposite direction by boat. God sent a big storm, which threatened the ship, and Jonah confessed, he was running from God. This frightened the others, so he volunteered to be thrown over-board. Now God sends a big fish which swallows Jonah. Three days in that situation would make anyone repent, so he did. I can just imagine how sick Jonah made the fish sick, and he vomited Jonah up on the land. He then went and preached his short “REPENT OR PERISH” sermon. They repented, and God spared them…. Jonah pouted, God rebuked him. 
   Now you can’t call Jonah a fable without calling Jesus a liar. Jesus referred to Jonah as the only “Sign” they would get. So what is he referring to?
   Jesus was speaking of the time when he would be crucified, and then on the third day, He would rise from the dead. (Just as Jonah had spent three days in the belly of the whale/ big fish…. Would this convince them? Evidently not, at least most of them rejected Jesus. This is why Jesus said that the people of Nineveh would testify against them in the judgment…. because the people of Nineveh repented, but these hard hearted Israelites did not.
   All the miracles done in their presence… all the messages presented in their hearing…. all the prophesies fulfilled… even the greatest miracle of all… the resurrection of Jesus… who was seen by hundreds afterwards, (I Corinthians 15) … and many still refused.  What will God do with those who’s hearts are so hard, that they are unmoved by His grace? (Luke 10:13-14).  It’s not over, till it’s over friends.

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More Than Just Five Stones

   He is listed as a “Faith’s Hall Of Famer” along with many others in Hebrews 11. He was just a shepherd boy, one of 8 sons, and certainly not the most impressive, although he was “handsome”. The prophet Samuel had been called to come to the house of Jesse and anoint a king for Israel, not because he had killed a lion and a bear while
caring for his sheep. Not because he was the youngest of the brothers… but I am
convinced it was because of his faith. 
    Faith in God is an unusual and powerful thing. For it places the focus on the ability not of self, but on the Almighty. The writer of Hebrew said, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1). There are many who laugh and scoff at this faith, claiming it to be nothing more than an emotional
crutch for the weak and stupid. How WRONG they are. The fact is “… without  faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Hebrews 11:6). David had FAITH, not that he wasn’t a confident person… but this is not what stands out in his life. He believed and trusted in God and was not ashamed to speak up about it.
  From this faith came a very special Psalm. One day he wrote “The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, He refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with
me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in
the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely
your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell
in the house of the LORD forever.”  (Psalm 23).
   How then did David deal with the giant named Goliath? Was there some strategy to outflank, or out run this giant? Was David’s plan to somehow distract so the Israelite soldiers could secretly attack? No. Did David just ‘believe’ and the giant would fall? No. For you see, faith is an active, motivating dynamic of the Christian’s life. It is what comes by hearing and accepting the Word of God as authoritative (Romans 10:17). Without this one dynamic, the stones are just stones… baptism, is just getting wet…
   David said to the Philistine, “…. I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the LORD will deliver you into my hands…the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the LORD saves;
for the battle is the LORD’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.” 
    Faith, truly is the victory that overcomes!

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Run Hide Or Fight

   The Ostrich has big eyes.  He stands nine feet tall and can weigh up to 350 pounds.  The Ostrich top speed is 40-45 MPH, and can run at this speed for up to 10 miles while keeping its head absolutely level. It has small weak wings, massive bare thighs and hoof like feet.  Long elastic tendons in its legs act like springs allowing the bird to run very efficiently.  An ostrich kick can be fatal.
   A hen can lay one large cantaloupe-size egg a day until there are six eggs in the nest.  Other hens will add eggs to the nest until it is full.  The hen and her mate will then incubate all the eggs for the six weeks it takes for them to hatch.  When the babies hatch, they are about a foot tall and begin walking and pecking immediately.  The mother never feeds them so they are not a burden to the parents.  The babies will hang around the parents for protection, but they grow rapidly increasing their weight 100 times during their first six months of life. After a year, the babies are close to eight feet tall and the mother will run them off where she can mate again. 
    Since this big bird cannot fly, when trouble comes it will lay down on the ground
and stick its head in the sand. No complaints from the big bird, this is the way God made it. ‘Built in’ response mechanisms to things feared for mankind and for the Ostrich and with all other creatures, are for safety. There are times when this pays off, while other times it does not. 
   Jesus taught, “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you…..
   Love your enemies, do good to them,  and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High,  because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked” “Be merciful,  just as your Father  is merciful.
   “Do not judge, and you will not be judged.  Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven” (Luke 6:27-31, 35-37). 
   Truly the way the world fights back and the way Jesus teaches Christians to ‘fight back’ is different. Difficult? YES! But this is just one thing which makes Christians different. They ‘march to a different Drummer’. Jesus said, “And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:27).  
   Christians are not Ostriches, they just ‘fight’ different. Peter said, “But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God” (I Peter 2:20b). The world may ‘win’, for now, but in the end they lose. Good guys don’t always end last.

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She Put In Everything She Had

This article is part 4 of 4 in the series Giving

   It was just a small country church. The elderly minister had always prayed for just two things: WISDOM and UNDERSTANDING. God had blessed him with this, as with Solomon of old.
   One of the members who attended his small church was very rich. He had climbed his way ‘up the corporate ladder’ and was now CEO. He attended church every week. One Sunday afternoon, they had a ‘dinner on the ground’, and the old minister sat with him. He said to him, “I know giving is a private matter, but I have just wondered why your contribution has not increased over the years?” The rich member replied, “Well, when I was beginning, we were giving about 15% of our income. It was hard, but we enjoyed giving it. But now that I have ‘made it big’, it’s just not reasonable to give that amount.”
   They finished their meal, and were ready for dessert, and the minister asked him if they could have a brief prayer… They bowed, and he began… “Dear God, I praise your Name for the way you have followed this man’s career with favor. You have showered him and his family with blessings which, at the beginning could not be imagined. Please Lord, return him to the beginning days, when he was just a low entry workman. Reduce his salary to the level then, where he can give liberally as he once did. After all Lord, you have never been interested in the amount which one gives, just the proportion and the attitude of the heart where the gift comes from. Bless him that he can once again become generous as he once was. Amen”
   Paul said, “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:6-8).
   GIVING IS A GRACE, NOT A LAW. Yet principles and laws apply, like the one mentioned above. While tithing is an Old Testament law, and Christians are free from this. Christians grow BEST UNDER GRACE, than under law. Giving is individual, and private. Be careful in judging the motives and hearts of others. Don’t threaten, or guilt Christians into giving. It won’t (and shouldn’t) work. Just encourage brethren to GROW IN GRACE, and let them enjoy the whole process.
   Jesus said,  “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap.  For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Luke 6:38). “Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.” (Mark 12:41-44).

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Sowing And Reaping

This article is part 3 of 4 in the series Giving

   One day, while trying to make a living for his family, Fleming, a poor Scottish farmer, heard a cry for help coming from the bogs. Now peat bogs are “wet spongy ground of decomposing vegetation; has poorer drainage than a swamp; soil is unfit for cultivation but can be cut and dried and used for fuel”. Many have lost their lives sinking down in the bogs. Fleming dropped his tools and ran to the bog where he found a terrified boy, up to his waist, hopelessly stuck and sinking. With a rope, he slowly pulled the boy to safety.
   The next day a man, who was obviously well off, appeared at the poor farmer’s door. He introduced himself as the father of the boy he had saved. “I want to repay you,” he said. “No, I can’t accept payment for what I did” the farmer said. At that moment, the farmer’s own son came to the door. “Is this your son”? The nobleman asked. “Yes, this is my son Alexander”, the farmer said proudly. “I’ll make you a deal” said the nobleman. “Let me take your son, and give him a good education. If the lad is anything like his father, he will make you very proud.” They agreed.
   In time the farmer’s son graduated from St. Mary’s Hospital Medical School in London, and went on to be known throughout the world as Sir Alexander Fleming, the discoverer of PENICILLIN. Years afterward, the nobleman’s son caught Pneumonia. What saved him? Penicillin! 
   What was the name of the nobleman’s son? Sir Winston Churchill! This is a true story which illustrates an old principle. Giving is not all and only about the money, it is all about actions of the heart, which always speak louder than money. Paul put it another way, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers” (Galatians 6:7-10). 
   The principle of “what goes around comes around” “what you sow will be what you reap” are basic laws which even though sometimes we don’t like, they work, and will change your life, and maybe many others as well. “I just don’t believe it!” someone says. That’s fine… one may not believe in gravity either, yet it still works. Listen, a person may not understand this principle of giving, any more than how the law of aerodynamics work, but the fact is, it works! 
   As you live your life, give some thought to those you meet, who knows, the one you reach out to, the one you help, may just become a “Sir Winston Churchill” or “Sir Alexander Fleming”.

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Lost And Found – When ‘Home’ Is Not Safe

This article is part 12 of 11 in the series Lost And Found

     This is difficult…. but it must be addressed. We just finished a look at Luke 15, ending with the story of the lost son… There was no balancing the books for him. The books could no more be ‘balanced’ than for the unmerciful servant of Matthew 18:22-38. The books could no more be ‘balanced’ for this son, than yours or mine can be with God. If it were not for the father’s UNCONDITIONAL LOVE, and AMAZING GRACE AND FORGIVENESS, this parable would not make sense. The son would have been deeply disappointed and hurt, and lost. Home was special even more now to him. The things he didn’t like about home, now he deeply loves and appreciates. Would he leave again and run off to that far off country? NO WAY!!! He was home to stay.
   SOME HOMES ARE NOT SAFE!!! Those who are lost like this son, and wanting to come home, but knowing their home is not safe, what can be said, or done to help? They know that waiting for them is judgment, and harsh words, and maybe a back handed slap, or more. They know this because that’s why they left. 
    A WORD TO THE ABUSIVE PARENT! Get some help! Refuse to let another day pass, without getting on the phone, and making an appointment with someone qualified to help you. Not all children who run off are innocent of guilt for sure… but then neither are you. So much can be gained by just sitting, being open and honest, and getting the help which is so desperately needed.  
   What if the father in Luke 15 were an abusive parent? What would the son have done? Would he let a little thing like a pig pen send him back? Many run away children return home only in body bags… and surely this is too much pain. 
   The key to getting someone home, is make home worth coming home to. Make it safe, loving, kind. Make it a place where openness and sharing is welcome, and where tempers, throwing things, and striking out is forbidden. Home is the one place where children should be able to come to and when the front door is shut… the world is shut out! Danger is locked out, love is locked in.
                            “With the same letter heaven and home begin,
                                       They dwell together in the mind,
                              And those who would a home in heaven win,
                                       Must first a heaven in home begin to find.” 
    Paul said, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails” (I Corinthians 13:4-8a).
   “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25).
   “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.“Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:1-4).

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Lost And Found – The Other Brother

This article is part 11 of 11 in the series Lost And Found

   This is sad, “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’ “The older brother became angry and refused to go in” (Luke 15:25-28a). 
   This was a time for celebrating, but not for the elder brother. He heard how the
father was rejoicing with the return of his brother, but he did not share the
feelings of his father. You remember how this began? “Now the tax collectors
and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the
teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” 
   The elder brother was angry, and refused to go it and celebrate. Why? Because his brother had gone off and squandered everything, and then comes home and seems to get it all back! It’s almost like the elder brother is jealous! “You should tell your son that he is not welcome anymore!” “He has done too much! He has not obeyed your commands like I have!” “He has not worked every day in the fields like I have! He has done everything he could to shame and dishonor you, Father!!!” “This is just not fair! You receive him back with open arms, give him the best robe, a ring, shoes, and
kill that stupid calf… which should have been for me!!!” On and on the brother complains, and reveals his heart to the father. 
   The father now responds to his other son. The one who had been ‘faithful’, and kept his commandments, and worked so hard… “My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found” (Luke 15:31-32). 
    “Christians are not perfect (by a long shot), they’re just forgiven.” The life of the Christian is one of growing in grace. Grace is not something which just saves, it is that by which one GROWS AND BECOMES. It’s about ‘elbow room’, its about patience with each other as well as love. One does not need to know everything about the Bible to be saved, he just needs to come to Jesus, repent of sins and be immersed into Christ
(Acts 2:38)… Then the new Christian (babe) needs to grow. Will he make mistakes
(sin)? Yes. Doesn’t every child do things need corrected? Yes. Even when your
child breaks your heart… you don’t disown the child. 
   Are there any who have lost their way out there? Any who just want to get up out of the pig pen, and ‘come home’? Are there any who feel so unforgiveable and unworthy as this son did? No wonder the tax collectors and the sinners “drew near to Him”… Jesus was then, He is now… the one who can fill the needs of all who are lost. “Amazing grace how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like …. me. I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see.”

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