Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Card Lessons


You know I am not into mailing traditional Christmas cards, and more into email, blogs, and FaceBook. But I will share with you three ideas that belong in a Christmas card.

Jesus temporarily vacated heaven for me. I can think of two reasons why He left, but I can't figure out which was more important to Him. Was it more important to Him to be guided by His Dad's love for me? Or was it that He saw me as priceless? Either way, I win.

And I am thankful He sees you as priceless, too.

My second idea is how Jesus' life began in poverty and misery. Have you considered His unwed mother making the long trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem on a donkey, and not in a Lexus or a VW bug? There were no vacancies at the Ramada, La Quinta, or Motel 6. They made the drafty, cow-chip-filled barn behind the inn their home. When Jesus arrived, He was not wrapped in a new flannel blanket, but long pieces of cloth from ????? He was not laid in a fine, germ-free, frill-lined bassinet. Joseph and Mary placed Him in a feed trough with hay as a cushion. (Imagine how hard it was for Joseph to keep his donkey from eating Jesus' bed-stuffing.)

I understand starting out poor and unfortunate. Being born in '55 at a Catholic hospital, and immediately being put up for adoption may have meant I was the offspring of a teenage girl who had made a huge “mistake”. Now, I identify with Jesus. He still sympathizes with me today.

My third Christmas-card idea considers the gifts to His kingship, divinity, and His suffering. Regardless of how many wise men came, they gave three very expensive gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Gold was a vestige of Him being King. Frankincense is a costly fragrance used in worship of divinity. And myrrh was an antiseptic used in preservation of the deceased. Was this symbolic of His life?

Everything I ever received from my parents, the Lionel train, a white paper mustache, two parents who delighted over everything I did (well, at least in the early days), a Tonka truck, and the portable record player (that I wore out). There was the pine branch stuck in a bucket and covered with whipped Ivory Snow for “snow” that served as a Christmas Tree (Mom always had a very sensitive nose). But in that little house on Frazier Street, I lived like a young King.

He deserved it. He IS a king. I did not. I am not.

Aren't these three good reasons to like Christmas?

I do hope you, all your family, and all the readers of this blog will have a magnificent and joy-filled Christmas. Please, take time to remember what Christmas is really all about. It was not about getting presents. It is about Jesus being THEGIFT to you and me from God.

Monday, December 12, 2011

He said, "What is Truth?"

He said, “What is truth?”

I struggle to meditate on whatever is true. (Philippians 4:8) I see the benefits, but struggle to slow down and think.

Meditating is to judge, decide, weight the reasons, or deliberate. Meditation uses facts. Meditating on truth incites research for facts through the smoke-screen of opinions, half-truths, and pure lies.

So, what is truth? Consider these two areas.
  • Truth is sincere, unadulterated, pure. Truth is opposed to fake, fictitious, counterfeit, or pretentious.
    • Jesus is genuine. He is not fiction, or a counterfeit copy (John 14:6).
    • Jesus is the true vine. (John 15:1). He is not a pseudo-leader starving his “branches”, like the leaders of His time did.
    • God's writings are true. (John 17:17). It is unadulterated truth. It is effective, unlike man's synthesized truth.
  • Truth is factual. Christians search for FACTS and whatever is pertinent.
    • Christians relate facts to their fellow-disciples. Why deceive co-workers with factless-truth? (Ephesians 4:25).
    • Christians, as warriors use truth as a belt. (Ephesians 6:14). We will not leave home without it.
    • Some want truth suppressed. (Romans 1:18). We are told incomplete truth, either by the person, or through media. Half-truths abound in politics, finance, and industry. Are there other places where the truth is restrained?

The effort in meditating over truth is
  • the search for truth in common daily activities and events
  • the judging of situations against known truth (God's truth).
  • the search for truth in the work environment
  • the separation of truth (facts) from the "spin" put out by politicans and media sources.
I read of an Iowa debate between Gingrich and Romney. If either candidate attacks the other, truth-hounds must sift for the truth in what they say. When they are non-aggressive, we listen carefully, determining the reality of their plans for the United States.

"Jurors who condemned a Connecticut man to death for a brutal home invasion said each of them wept as they weighed the horrific brutality of the crime against the misfortune that the convict suffered in his own early life." (Associated Press). Were they weighing the presented truth, or using truth derived from life experiences, or both?

"Reid Defends Nuclear Chief Amid Complaints", the ABCNews headline reads. Harry Reid defended his former aid, saying the four other NRC commissioners are "politically motivated". What is the truth about his former aid? Are the complaints justified? Is the political motivation true or a smoke-screen to shroud or distract from the truth?

What is the payoff for this consideration, deep thinking, and searching for truth? What does it profit me? Here are some ideas. Determine if they true? Are they real?
  • By practicing, I become an accomplished truth-finder.
  • My relationships are strengthened by truthfulness.
  • Recognizing truth speeds me toward success. I reject partial-truths, forging success from facts (truth).
  • Other truth-seekers are respectful.
  • I inspire truth in, and from, co-workers.
  • I reject depression from lies, gossip, or liars.
  • I determine methods to increase truthfulness through judging truthfulness (or lack thereof) in others.
  • I judge if it is truly a "good deal", or if I am being mislead.
  • I plan tactics to terminate the telling of partial-truths, slanderous gossip, or blant lies.

I want these benefits, don't you? Let's begin meditating on truth.
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Please help promoting TheStruggle.

Are the things discussed here Truth? Will they work? What problems could occur? Please discuss your ideas about meditating on Truth in the comment section, below. I look forward to hearing from you.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

What Jesus Said About “Things”

How can they market goods for such a low cost? Black Friday specials are excessively entrancing. I do not need a 52” HDTV, but the prices have been deeply slashed. I can save so much, just by using a credit card in the middle of the night.

Sobering up from my dream-like misplacement of conscientiousness, I grill myself, “Am I setting my sights on stockpiling essentials or am I fixating on the gadgets I crave?”

These three posts review Jesus' charges and fundamentals about articles we have a passion for in contrast to our essential goods. Questions may be hard-nosed or thorny. Please, we aware.

Jesus made clear “things” should not be a temptation.
Read Matthew 4:1-4. Jesus fasted for 40 days. Fasting is more than not eating. When it was meal time, he dedicated himself to prayer and contemplation.

After His fast, He was hungry. The devil used His hunger to tempt him to change stones (a non-satisfying “thing”) into bread (a satisfying “thing”). Because He was focused by fasting, He effortlessly trampled the tempter by reciting the sacred writings. Jesus held “things” as wants.

Jesus expected His followers to walk away from their tools of the trade.
In Matthew 4:18-22 He called Peter and Andrew. They left THEIR NETS and followed Him. He called James and John. They left THEIR BOAT, their hired help, and their father. They followed Him.

Some trades require workers to own their tools. Are you one? If you have changed vocations, are you saving the tools in the event you might need extra income? What does keeping the tools declare about your leaning on God for essentials?

Jesus expects disciples to lean on God for daily food, and everything else.
Matthew 6:8”...For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.” Check out Matthew 6:11 “Give us this day our daily bread.” And Luke adds, in 11:3, “Give us day by day our daily bread.”

If we count on God for daily food, clothes, home, etc, why do we distress ourselves this time of year with all this optional stuff? Can God not fill our needs? Does He need our helping-hand to get just the right kind, size, or name brand?

Jesus said not to keep your treasures down here.
Why does Jesus discuss moths, rust, and thieves in Matthew 6:19-20? Don't security lights keep the thieves away? Doesn't ADT keep our homes safe? Why do we have banks?

Is His statements really about moths, rust, and thieves, or is it about where our hearts are? Read verse 21, or Luke 12:34.

Do we trust our stuff, or the need-supplying God? Do we lust for our peer's recognition (derived from our things), or confirmation from God?

What does Jesus assert about serving mammon? Wastefulness? Rewards for serving God? Find the answers in What Jesus Said About “Things” Part 2. Please read soon.

Part 3 addresses these topics:

Thank you for reading. Please place comments in the box below. Thanks

What Jesus Said About "Things" (Part 2)

I struggle with THINGS. Things are not by nature bad. But they do divert my attention. I lose sight of the true goal. Do you get distracted, too?

These next few subjects are not to cause stress, depression, or guilt. They should cause an increased awareness of what things can do.

The all-wise Jesus said You Can't Do Both.
The Greek word “choice”, of Matthew 6:24, awes. Jesus states fact, reasons it, and re-states it. The original word affirms humans are not qualified to do both. We do not have the ability, concentration level, or favorable circumstance to do both.

We are qualified to serve either riches or God alone, but not both simultaneously.

Furthermore, “riches” is personified. So, “riches” stand in opposition to God.

The discussion and decision of the rich young man illustrates Jesus' basic tenant of man's inability to do both. (The story is in Matthew 19:16-22 or Mark 10:17-22)

What was the one impediment to his ideal? Was it his things (riches)? Did Jesus know he incapable of successfully doing both and direct him to discard one? Why was the young man sorrowful, or sad?

Which will we choose? On Christmas morning, will our riches convict us of a lack of trust in God? What will our January credit card bill reflect? Will our choices leave us sad, sorrowful, disappointed, or unsatisfied?

Jesus demonstrates frugality.
After feeding 5000 men (Matthew 14:14-20, Mark 6:31-44, Luke 9:11-17, John6:1-13). Jesus told the disciples to collect the left-overs. Nothing was wasted. They collected 12 baskets. After feeding another 4000 people , again, they did not waste anything. They collected seven baskets of left-overs (Matthew 15:37, Mark 8:8).
Seen the commercial for Glad trash bags as two brothers anchor a news cast? They report on mom after she threw a plate full of food in the trash, and her irritation at the trash bag collapsing in the can. A plateful of food dumped in the trash? Would Jesus do this?

What is in it for us?
Peter reminded Jesus how the disciples had left everything. He asked, “What is in it for us?” (Matthew 19:27-29;Mark 10:28-30; Luke18:28-30)

Jesus gave a two-part answer. Most important, there will be eternal life. Secondly, in the here and now up to 100 times as much as they had left for Christ.

If “things” are of a lesser priority than God, will you not be able to count your blessings!

Thanks for reading Part 2. Please leave comments below. Maybe you can increase our awareness even more.

And Part 3 addresses these topics:
  • Using Things for Christ
  • Financial contributions
  • Rich going to heaven?
  • Automatic rejection for being rich?
  • Lawsuits for possessions
  • Rewards for helping
  • Spending money on haters
  • Successful business

If you have not read Part 1 of this series, please click here to read about:
  • Things and Temptation
  • Leaving your Tools
  • Daily Food Dependence
  • Treasure placement.

What Jesus Said About "Things" (Part 3)

Thank you for being a kind, persistent reader.

Part 3 of What Jesus Said About “Things” is much simpler. But with simplicity comes reader participation. Please click on the links to read the passage or open your own Bible. Then consider the question.

What did Jesus teach about using “things” for Him? Mark 14:3-9 has the story of a woman anointing Jesus with a very expensive perfume. Did he approve?

What does Jesus say about financial contributions?
Read the story of the woman giving her last 2 copper coins while others gave by the bagful (Mark 12:41-44). What did He think?

Can the rich get to heaven? Is it possible? What about the camel and the eye of a sewing needle?
Jesus says it is possible with God, but not by man's feeble abilities. (Mark 10:23-27)

Are the rich automatically rejected, or have they received all they are going to get? His answer is in Luke 6:24.

What does Jesus say about worrying over necessities? He said worry is ineffective, so don't! (LINKS TO Matthew 6:25-34; Luke 12:22-31)

If you are sued for a possession, what should you do? Check out His statement in Luke 6:29.

If you help others, what is your reward? His answer is Luke 6:38.
How much did the despised Samaritan spend on a usually-hateful Jew in the Good Samaritan story? Look for two answers in Luke10:29-37.

If your business has enjoyed a very successful year, what should be your response? Jesus addresses the concern in Luke 12:12-21.
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What did Jesus think about "Things" in Part 1? Part 2?

Thank for reading.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Another Pine Box

Maybe I am beginning to grasp the grief Jesus felt. Maybe.

The charter plane landed. Me and 25 others, flags unfurled, formed a semi-circle of commendation to an already-aching family. The door opened. A lieutenant and a Sargent came down a short ladder. Immediately, a color guard made another pine box stable.

Cringing, the family crossed the runway. Assistance was given the thin, fragile grandmotherly woman. Some made strides to the casket. Others, distressed, had no longing to draw near, having been schooled in grief.

I am acquainted with a family member. She is inconsiderate, oblivious, and a throw-everything-to-the-wind soul. The family towed her to the pine box. Grief took charge. The wails were prolonged, perpetual, and, piercing.

The chaplain prayed. More tears and additional mourning flowed. A family member prayed. “Lord,” he said, “You tell us this is to be a happy day. All I am praying for is the strength to endure this adversity.”

The family turns to leave. The one I know is drug away. She struggled with them, loudly wailing. Family members restrained her.

I remembered Paul's words to the Thessalonians. “But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorry as others who have no hope.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13). He was preparing believers for the inevitable pain.

Jesus knew the pain. He cared. “Now as he drew near, He saw the city and wept over it...” (Luke 19:41). John records Jesus' emotions when He visited Mary and Martha, Lazarus' family. “Therefore, when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the spirit and was troubled.”  (John13:33). Later John added, “Jesus wept.” (John 13:35).

Today, I think I suffered a sadness like Jesus did.

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Have you had a similar experience? Would you share it in the comment section?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Pity the Poor

Financially, I felt like a June bug hitting a car glass at 60 mph---not much left. Three of us attending college, four others at home, and only my wife's salary.

I was blessed to preach Sunday's, and teach a Wednesday night class, at Aldridge Road in Percy, Arkansas.

One Sunday night, after locking up the building, I plopped into my high-mileage Chevy S-10 pickup for the tiring, 78-miles home. What is this? A brown paper sack of groceries? The unsigned note spoke of someone thinking I could use them. They were right!

The next time the church met I thanked the mystery person(s).

About six weeks later, I found $50 extra dollars for my electric bill. Again, I thanked the congregation for the generous, anonymous soul(s).

I suspected a few members, but none ever suffered financially.

So, Proverbs 19:17 is true. "He who has pity on the poor lends to the LORD, And He will pay back what he has given." Someone at Aldridge Road had pity on this poor man. And God made sure no one suffered.

Matthew 6:3-4, "But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly."

Shortly, we will enter the season of giving. I challenge you to test God. Find one person or family in financial distress. Give them something useful without them knowing you helped. Then, watch God give you something as repayment. If He keeps His word, what worry do you have?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Triumphant Entry

Many of the famous Bible stories can be reviewed with few words. They still refresh us and our faith, plus remind us of how much we are loved.

Here is a short version.

A never-ridden colt
"The Lord needs it."

Garments on road
Branches in road
Hosanna in the highest
"Rebuke your disciples"
"Stones will cry out"

Wept over city
"If you only knew"
Enemies surround
Not one stone on another
How many details did you remember? Check yourself. Read the complete story. Click all four links below.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Why Bad to Worse

Ever experience someone who could not stop being bad? People reason with them, but they will not listen. Nothing works.

Why will they not change? Today, I grasped an answer.

It is in Proverbs 17:4. "An evildoer listens to wicked lips; A liar pays attention to a destructive tongue."

Evil people do not follow watchful, loving men or women who recognize the inevitable consequences and endeavor to provoke change.

Instead, self-destructing humans, bent on being bad, solely pay attention to others voicing agitation, discord, depression, and grief. Like zombies, blundering along, they follow the directives of the discontented driving to desecration and disaster. (Is this selective hearing?)

When do people become selective for evil? Where is the proverbial 'point of no return'?

What does God do with the selectively evil? Two answers are:
  • Hebrews 10:26-27 "26 For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries."
  • Romans 1:28-32 "28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, 30 backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; 32 who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them."

Are you listening to God himself, solidly on good ground, gaining His grace, taking His advice, and struggling to imitate Him?

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Polyurethane and Sin

This morning I needed to put a coat of polyurethane on a custom cabinet and a new door. Easy job, right?

Grabbed an old rag and wiped everything. Done. No problems. Pick up a stir stick. Open can. Stir gently. Done. No problem. Pour polyurethane into used margarine bowl. Take brush and apply a coat to everything. Clean the brush and bowl. Done. No problems.

Later, I was puzzling over why it was difficult to read. What is this? Teeny-winnie specs of polyurethane on my glasses? Dried, hardened, and tough to remove.

Is this how sin works?

We live near sin and sinful people. We can not evade. We get a little splatter here and a small dribble there. We do not bothered because it is so itsy-bitsy. We are ok, we think. But after duplicate experiences, we find a multilayer coating that is dried, hardened, and tough to remove.

The Point of this struggle?

1 Cor 15:33 says, "Do not be deceived: "Bad company corrupts good morals." If we are frequently around people who curse, we pick up the bad habit. If we sit with those telling crude jokes, we start telling them too. Do not talk with gossips.

Dabble with sin, and you will get it on you.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Jesus Goes Back To School

Growing up, Jesus received the basics: Reading, 'Riting and 'Rithmatic. And we know He developed into the greatest teacher ever. So how did he get from a 12-year-old boy leaning to read and write to THE authoritative teacher?

Old Testament teachers used object lessons. Did Jesus learned object lessons from Jeremiah, and create his own pattern?

Jeremiah used object lessons common to living. Did Jesus read Jeremiah's preaching God's message of Judeans building "broken cisterns" (2:13). Did His teachers use Jeremiah's speech of God's people being as faithful as a "treacherous wife", (3:20) or the "lion coming from the thicket" illustration? (4:7) I am certain He heard of Jeremiah's yoke. (ch 27-28).

While young, He recognized the value of object lessons.

See the sixth-grade Jesus, fresh from his scholar-astounding trip to Jerusalem with His parents? He has:
  • all his school supplies
  • a determination to teach like Jeremiah.
He removes a single page from his 150-count, 75-cent, lose leaf pack Joseph had bought Him. He selects and sharpens a pencil and writes the teacher a note thanking Him for his work. He drew a cross, gave it to a good friend and said "Someday I will die for you." 
Jesus retrieved His big trapizoid-shaped erasers, showed it to His neighbor, and said, "My real father uses something like his on sins (Heb 9:22). But sometimes He uses this stuff too, showing off His bottle of White Out. "David and Isaiah talked it, but didn't know what it was called (Ps 51:7; Isa 1:18)

In art class, He drew some bees on His paper and cut them out. Next, He wrote "BEE a brother's keeper" on posterboard. He got out his brand new 2-pack of Elmer's Glue Sticks. He glued the bees on the poster. A classmate heard "You use glue to hold two papers together, just like "Bee"-ing a brother's keeper bonds Jews together." (Rom 12:18; Col 3:14)

Jesus used his new pens and pencils to write messages to everyone. He told a boy "Things like these helped Moses write the Law. Today,you can write a note to your mom saying, "Thank you for being good to me."

Jesus took out his new 24-count box of Crayons. He drew a pretty rainbow, wrote "God Keeps His Promises" underneath, and put it on the teacher's desk. "I can use crayons to tell of God's faithfulness," He told His teacher. (Gen 9:16)

The final bell rang. Kids ran out the door. But not Jesus. He was not finished using his school supplies. He opened His hot-pink colored Post-it Pad, wrote "God loves you so much!!" on 12 notes. He stuck one on each classmates desk as a reminder.
Jesus used common, everyday things to teach His message. ANYTHING could be used. He used various soils to teach about people's determination. He used mustard seeds, coins, feeding pigs, leaven, hidden treasure and a pearl of great price, a lost sheep, 10 girls, large sums of money, blind people , a lamp, and many more.

THE POINT: ANYTHING can be used to start a conversation about God, Christ, or spiritual matters.

If you have started a religious discussion using a thing, would you share it in the comment section?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Rich Men Can't Go To Heaven

"That's NOT what I said!!"

"But dad, that's what I thought you said."

"Son, I was describing the chances of rich people if they want to go to heaven. Do you remember Uncle Jimmy describing how difficult it is for them to make it?"

"I'm not sure. Was there something about a needle and a camel?"

"You almost remember. Uncle Jimmy told us what Jesus said. 'It is easier for a camel to get through the opening in a sewing needle than for a rich man to get to heaven.' Do you remember how Uncle Jimmy and the other apostles were surprised? They thought if a man was rich meant he was extra-special to God, and certainly was heaven-bound. Jesus told Uncle Jimmy that men can't get it done, but with God's help everything is possible."
Exchanges like this remind this struggling soul of how strenuous staying right is.

A verse not seen in the conversation was Jesus saying, "Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God." (Mark 10:24)

I've always envisioned myself as poor, but counting of my blessings indicates I am very rich. My abundance is magnified as I balance my home with those in third-world countries.

It is easy to let things  control us. Your riding mower has a flat, so you spend two hours going to Walmart or Sears for a repair, but buy a tire instead. There is a lengthy traffic delay on your way home. Once back home you discover you left your Android Smartphone back at the store. Another trip to the town, find your phone, check the time, rush to the cleaners, and back home. Once inside, you must recharge the phone. Soon you open the freezer, dig for the tv dinner, and toss it in the microwave. POP! SNAP! Smoke is boiling from the microwave. Put the TV dinner back in the freezer, back to Walmart, buy another microwave, and return home again. Oh, no. This one has the wrong kind of electrical plug. "Wally World", here we come.....

Is the owner in control? No. His things dictate his deeds.

What godly objective was achieved? Does it count that you tamed your temper and resisted uttering ugliness? 

When things control
  • Jesus is not in control. 
  • He is no longer Lord. 
  • My chances of heaven dwindle.
  • I do not be complete His work. Sound like a "good and faithful servant"? (Luke 19:17)