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When one is hovered over a cat's litter box carefully scooping out its contents, one begins to wonder who really is the head of the household -- who really is the superior being here? Especially when the cat is sitting next to the box monitoring the process! To clean up after a cat, or several cats, year after year, day after day, one really must love cats, or really love the one who loves the cats. It is often a disgusting job and always a humble one. I must confess a time or two wondering, "Does this stupid cat even know what I'm doing for it‘?" It's sounds I corny, I know, but it truly does require love to lower oneself in doing this job.
Whether it's cleaning up after a cat, or a person, or any other less-than-pleasant task, we have all found ourselves at one point or another in life doing something that we felt was really I beneath us. You've heard or uttered the exclamations, "I shouldn't have to be doing this," "I don't get paid enough to do this," or "I didn't work this hard in life to end up doing this."
From time to time, in the quiet moments of the days, I think about who Jesus really is. I think about where He came from, and what he did here on earth. I wonder if He ever thought, "I shouldn't have to do this, this is really beneath me. I am God. Do these stupid people even know what I am doing for them?" Thankfully, He never thought such! Thankfully, He did not view the task as being beneath Him! As good as He was, as good as He is, He's never been too good to clean up my mess. He lowered himself (Hebrews 2:9) to remove my sin, and help me to clean up my life.
Why would he lower himself so? Love. He loves me and He loves the One who loves me. Compared to the majesty, the wisdom, the power, the glory of Jesus Christ, I'm not much more than a dumb, speechless, clueless cat. I've never been his equal, nor will I ever be, but He lowered himself for me. He came to that which was beneath Him, so that we might be raised up someday with Him. Thank you, Jesus!
"Just Iron What They Can See"
The frustrated college freshman stood over the makeshift ironing board in the center of his dorm room and awkwardly attempted to press out the wrinkles from his new white dress shirt. His suite-mate entered the room and, sensing his obvious lack of home economics skills, offered a suggestion. "Are you planning on wearing a suitcoat?" he asked. After getting confirmation, he said, "Then just iron what they can see."
He then took over the task, arranging the shirt so as to accommodate ironing only a few inches on either side of the button row. "Don't mess with the sleeves or the back," he instructed, 'just keep your coat on and no one will know what the rest of it looks like." At the time, it made sense. It worked.
Now thirty years removed from that first ironing experience, that one time college freshman has been tempted to employ the same method, and would but for two facts. He doesn't like wearing suit coats and his wife, a home economics major, could never abide it!
Sadly, some of us members of the Lord's church seem to be "ironing only what they can see." There's a lot of wrinkles in our souls. There's things that go on behind closed doors, far from the "Church of Christ" sign that are very un-Christlike. But we make sure that we keep our church clothes, our Sunday appearance pressed nice and smooth. What they can see is the spiritual front. They can hear me singing spiritual songs and using spiritual words in prayer, but when I get home and take off that "church coat", worldliness and dysfunction make up most of me.
Here's the obvious problem — God can see the whole shirt, coat or no coat.
Jesus once said in response to the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, "There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs." Luke 12:2-3
If I want to cover the sinful wrinkles in my soul, the way to do it is not by acting phony in a church building for an hour a week, but by repenting and accepting forgiveness through the blood of Jesus Christ, and living for him wherever I am.
24 Hours Before the Cross: A Timeline
We are studying 24 Hours Before the Cross: A Timeline. This includes events up to and including the crucifixion. Join us for the study on Sunday and Wednesday evenings.
Matthew 26-27; Mark 14-15
Luke 22-23; John 13-19
Gauging Your Gauge
The fence-tester indicated that the electric fence was without juice. It has a a small metal clip which the user clips onto the fence wire inserting a thin grounding rod into the earth. No lights are supposed to mean no electricity. I returned to the place where the fence wire left the charger, and in an effort to tweak the whole setup grasped the wire just above the charger. The tingling that ran from my fingers through my chest and down to my feet indicated immediately I had placed too much trust in the device. Further testing of the tester proved it was not working properly.
As I shared that account with a friend, he was reminded of a much less amusing situation. His story goes thusly...
Frank was using a large compressor to fill a smaller pressurized air tank as his father, who was standing nearby, had instructed him. the gauge attached to the tank read 0 pounds, when in fact the tank probably already had close to 80 pounds in it. The gauge was faulty. It looked to Frank that the tank could hold much more air, so he kept forcing, Frank was killed instantly when a small brass fitting blew free from the tank and struck him, like a bullet, in the temple.
It's something we just don't give much though to as we live day to day life - the fact that much of what we do depends upon accurate testers, gauges and scales. We have faith in them. They prevent us from getting shocked, cheated, or even killed.
What kind of tester are you using to gauge your life, and are you sure it's accurate? Should it be broken, you are either in trouble now or you will be. With what scales are you weighing your life? Your bank account, maybe? Or, the number of "Likes" your Facebook page is getting? Or, the words of some famous self-help guru? These are all testers which can give very inaccurate readings!
Consider if you will Proverbs 16:11 -
Honest scales and balances are from the Lord; all the weights in the bag are of his making.
God's scales are faultless. Their readings are spot on. He did not purchase the weights for his scales from some unknown source, but rather he made them himself.
The only truly accurate measuring device for my life is God's word. it tells me who I truly am, and in what condition my family actually stands. it sheds light on a messed-up life and shines the light toward a good one.
We appreciate the teens encouraging other teens to attend Youth Group services by sending Valentine cards. Sending a card or note to a friend is always a great way to encourage people. the Youth Group decided to show God's love to others.
Learning From A Dead Dog
Consider the following story as told by Cleon Lyles:
A lady invited several friends to a mushroom steak dinner. When the maid opened the can of mushrooms, she discovered slight scum on top. Since the guests were expected at any moment, the lady suggested, "Just give the dog a little and if he eats it, it's probably alright." The dog liked it and even begged for more, so the maid poured the mushrooms all over the steak. After the main course, the maid came into the parlor with her face ashen white. She leaned over the lady to whisper into her ear the news that she had found the dog dead. The maid then nervously went back into the kitchen. the lady called the doctor and asked him to bring his stomach pump, which all of the horrified guests were subjected to.
Some time later as many guests were leaving in disgust, the lady found the maid and asked, "Where is the dog now?' The maid answered, "He's still lying out by the front steps, Mam. That's where he fell after the car hit him."
I've done it. You've done it. We probably should take the appropriate steps to keep from doing it again. We have all over-reacted to a situation before we had all of the facts, only to end up embarrassed and sometimes even with one less friend. I'm reminded of the words of a Pharisee named Nicodemus in John 7:51, "Does our law judge a man before it hears him and knows what he is doing?" Even the irrationally judgmental Pharisees understood that God's law demanded a proper investigation of the facts before a judgment could, or should be made.
Life in the Lord's church is not life on a television sit-com! Misunderstandings based on rash assumptions aren't always funny and they can never simply be written out of the script. I must think before I react. Preventing sour feelings is always easier than healing them!
A Monumental Lie
As the flowers are all made sweeter by the sunshine and the dew,
so this old world is made brighter by the lives of folks like you.
Should you be strolling through the cemetery admiring the various headstones and memorable epitaphs, this one would probably cause you to stop and take pause. The saying is beautiful. You might reflect upon your own friends and family, good folks, concerning who just such a saying fits - something they should have written on their headstone. Then you would notice the dates -- October 1, 1910 - May 23, 1934. Then the name -- Bonnie Parker.
Miss Parker and a young thug named Clyde Barrow embarked on a criminal rampage that lasted twenty-one months, left dozens of bank tellers traumatized and twelve people dead, including several law enforcement officers.
I wonder what the family of H.D. Murphy thinks when they see that headstone. Mr. Murphy was a young Texas lawmen who simply pulled up to Bonnie and Clyde's car along the highway thinking they were motorists needing assistance. They shot and killed him and his partner. I wonder if Mr. Murphy's friends agree that "this old world is made brighter by the lives of folks like Bonnie Parker."
Death sure seems to blind folks doesn't it. To worldly people, death takes care of sin. Death turns immoral into heaven-bound. Death makes everything alright again. If only that were true!
Any man who reads his Bible knows that instead of being the great eraser, death can be the great magnifier, that is, of unrepented sin. Headstones are never going to be an accurate representation of a man's life. After all, no one is ever going to have one engraved with "Here lies a man who cared nothing about God or God's ways." As you consider your like today, consider your life today, consider this -- those who bury you may emphasize the fantasy, but He who raises you up will judge based on reality!
Marie Callender is No Darlene
Preaching certainly has its fringe benefits, not the least of which happens to be pie. It is one of my "favorite benefits". Having sat at tables of some mighty good cooks over the years, I've had my share of some mighty good pies. At the risk of offending every other apple pie baker, I must say the slices I enjoyed at the table of my friends Darlene and LaVerne were among the best, if not THE best. The piece she sent home, which was supposed to be for the next day, survived only until 1:30 am.
Several days later, with pie cravings still in full force, I pulled from the local frozen food case a bake-it-yourself apple pie created by some lady named Marie Callender. Later that evening I pull the steaming concoction out of the oven, so proud of myself for being able to follow the instructions on the box. I let it cool, per Mrs. Callender's advice, pour a big glass of ice-cold milk and get ready to enjoy. the first bite brings my first thought, "This ain't no Darlene apple pie." I nibbled at it for the next few days. It wasn't horrible, but after having the best, it's kinda hard to enjoy the rest.
I'm thinking it may work the same way with friends.
I find nothing in the Old Testament that indicates David ever enjoyed another friendship like the one he shared with Jonathan. Likewise, I am confident John never met another best friend like Jesus. Interestingly, Paul writes nothing of his family and very little of his non-Christian associations, but makes perfectly clear his affection for Timothy.
My best friends in life have all been fellow members of the Lord's body. it has been suggested that my life is way too sheltered, that I should broaden my friendship horizons, as it were. Fact is, it's like sister Darlene's apple pie --we get spoiled by the best. For John, it seems there was no friend like the Lord. I find no friend like those who love the Lord. We share a common bond, a common hope, a common faith the likes of which the world will never understand.
I would love to have witnessed the moment David met his old friend in Heaven, or when John was able to see his Jesus "just as he was". And I'll bet Paul and Timothy has quite a reunion. That's what makes Christian friendships the best -- long, long after this world vanished, we'll be enjoying them. And if there's pie allowed in heaven, I think I know who'll be bringing it with her.
Passing By The Paczki
For those who don't know, a Paczki (pronounced punch-key) is a dense, deep-fried pastry filled with anything from cream cheese to raspberry jelly. According to a fellow grocery store patron, they are of polish origin and have something to do with the Catholics not being allowed to have too much lard in the house around Lent, o they used it all up to make these over-the-top jelly doughnuts. He said they are supposed to be eaten around a day called Fat Thursday. Eat enough of these things, I was thinking, and you're more than likely going to have a fat Friday and fat Saturday too.
I happen to know a certain clergyman who has a rather difficult time passing these by. The bakery section is directly across from the deli. En route to the deli he finds himself often drooling over the many varieties of these delights. This clergyman will sometimes heed the pleading of his sweet wife who whispers to him, "Just keep on walking dear, just keep on walking." He will keep on walking, but somehow find an excuse to swing back by the deli for one more look. He can only swing by so many times before a box ends up in his cart.
We can only "swing by" our temptations so many times before we give in. We tell ourselves that we're only "checking things out," that we're just looking." We wander too close. Things we shouldn't watch are justified with "just this one time." places we shouldn't go are OK in our minds because we're "just looking." We are with people we should not be around because we're "just helping them out."
Can't you just see that big grin on the devil when he sees all this rationalization. If I can just keep them close, he surely must be thinking, I'll get 'em. they can only smell it, touch it, ponder it so long, before eventually they pick it up and eat it. it worked with Eve. the longer he could keep her at the tree, the longer she conversed, the more he knew he had her. And have her, he did.
Even the Son himself refused to spend too much time with the Devil. Read the story of temptation (Matthew 4). He didn't argue, He didn't rationalize, He didn't justify -- He gave short, direct answers supported by God's Word. it's as if Jesus is saying, "I'm not going to make this temptation harder by standing around listening to what you have to say about it. Here's why I am not giving in to this, now let's move on to the next one!"
You can tell yourself that you're just passing by. Everything innocent...all is on the up and up, huh? Actually, what you are doing is just making it harder on yourself and easier on your adversary. The closer we stay to the bait, the greater the chance we bite!
Young At Heart
These last seven plus years we've had a loyal, core group meeting as what we called the Woodsfield Young At Heart. We've talked about everything in the Bible from what the ark smelled like to why Jesus healed Peter's mother-in-law. We've covered the book of Acts, slowly but completely. We've told a few jokes and prayed regularly for those in need. We have no official song leader (I can't carry a tune, bucket or no bucket), but that doesn't deter us. We've had a lot of good food, been to every museum I think within a two hour's ride of Woodsfield and done a whole lot of shopping for things we probably could live without.
The bus has often been too hot, or too cold, and occasionally just right. We've only been broken down officially twice - both times helped by the kindness of strangers (having "Church Bus" printed on the van and the driver acting like he was mentally challenged may have helped). The driver has been told where to turn, how to turn, where to park, where not to park, how to park, how long to park, how fast to drive, how fast not to drive, how to turn the heat up, how to turn the heat down, and back up again - and how to wear his seat belt, but that's only when his wife goes along. We've had some great restaurant food and some that made us sick, but the laughter and Christian fellowship made it ALL good!
Speaking of food, thanks to our kitchen crew who has been so faithful and so helpful with each and every meeting. The sacrifice of your time is sure appreciated.
So...this is to thank you for your interest and participation in this ministry and to let you know that as long as I am around we will continue with the meetings and field trips. We'll just take it one month at a time.
Thursday, January 30th will be our field trip. The 20th annual journey to the metropolis of New Martinsville. A sign-up sheet is in the foyer - got room for 14.