Thursday, November 27, 2008

It's How You See The World

Ecc 3:11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. 12 I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. 13 That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil—this is the gift of God. 14 I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere him.

Giving thanks becomes so easy and natural when you look at the world rightly. Often beauty is in the eye of the beholder. In fact, our attitude about life in general is shaped by what we believe about truth, and the nature of God. Many Christian philosophers say as a culture we have lost our Biblical world view. We see things as relative and not absolute. The point is we need to see things from God’s perspective. I believe we are happier people when we see the glass half full and not half empty.

By The Way I remember hearing the story of a fellow moving to a new town. On his way into town he stopped and introduced himself to a stranger on the sidewalk. He asks the stranger, “You live in this town?” “Yes I do” he replied. Then the fellow asked, “What kind of people lives here?” To which the stranger ask, “What kind of people lived in the place you left?” “Oh!” said the fellow, “where I came from there were some of the meanest, orneriest, worst people you would ever want to meet.” “Well,” said stranger, “those are the kind of folks that live here.”

Later that day another fellow from out of town was planning to move and entering the town he stopped and got out of his car. He introduced himself to the same stranger the first fellow had talked to. He asked the same question. “What kind of people lives in your town?” The stranger asked, “What kind of people lived in town from which you are moving?” The fellow replied, "Oh, some of the best and friendliest people in the world. To which the stranger said, “Those are the same kind of people that live here.”

I guess you really see what you are looking for. What you look for is changed when you have a right relationship with the God of this world. Several years ago while I was pastoring in Oregon I had a unique experience with a little girl who had just accepted the Lord as her Savior. Her mother was late picking her up after church. She had knelt beside the flower bed that ran along side the sanctuary. I joint her there while we waited for her mother. She said to me, “Pastor, you know, before I was saved I would look at the honey bees flying from flower to flower and all I wanted to do was to squash them. Now I just want to look at them and see how beautiful they are.”

Jesus responded to the praise of Children. And you and I need to be like the children in the following passage. It is easy to give thanks when we see things like these children saw things.

Matt 21:15 But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple area, "Hosanna to the Son of David," they were indignant.
16"Do you hear what these children are saying?" they asked him. "Yes," replied Jesus, "have you never read, " 'From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise'?" (NIV)
Happy Thanksgiving

Monday, November 24, 2008

Bragging Rights?

I know, I've been talking a lot about that buck I shot. You would have thought that I got that deer all by myself. I sounded like I was the world's greatest hunter, and that I did everything that needed to be done to bag my deer.

And Oh By The Way if it had not been for several others in our hunting group I would not have gotten that dear. I know it doesn't sound like the kind of bragging I usually hear about the big buck someone shot. But the truth is, at least for me, it was a team effort. I hunted on a lease that did not belong to me. I was invited to be there or else I would have been trespassing. The food I ate during the week was mostly prepared by someone else. The old trailer I slept in belonged to the holder of the lease. The deer stand I hunted from was build by another member of our hunting party. The buck I shot was eating corn from a corn feeder that had been placed and filled by someone else in the party. After I shot the deer someone had to help me pull it out of the woods and take it to the slaughter house. And someone else will bring it to me from Warren where it was processed (some of the group are going back to hunt around Thanksgiving.)

The fact is everything we accomplish in life we really need to give credit to others. Someone truly said, "No man is an island unto himself." The Christian life is a team effort. That is why Christ established the church. It would be impossible to live for Christ if we reject the church and try to live it by ourselves. Paul in 1 Corinthians is talking about the importance of team-work in the church. He compares it to a human body.

Cor 12:25-26 The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church: every part dependent on every other part, the parts we mention and the parts we don't, the parts we see and the parts we don't. If one part hurts, every other part is involved in the hurt, and in the healing. If one part flourishes, every other part enters into the exuberance.27-31 You are Christ's body—that's who you are! You must never forget this. Only as you accept your part of that body does your "part" mean anything...(The Message)

God has called to make disciples, to hunt for souls. No, we are not to hunt them like we do deer, and yet winning people to Christ and making disciples is a team effort. In the first letter to the Corinthians Paul is dealing groups and individuals who thought they were more spiritual and more important to the cause of Christ than others in the church.

Paul says in 1 Cor 3 5 Is Apollos important? No! Is Paul important? No! We are only servants of God who helped you believe. Each one of us did the work God gave us to do.6 I planted the seed, and Apollos watered it. But God is the One who made it grow.7 So the one who plants is not important, and the one who waters is not important. Only God, who makes things grow, is important.8 The one who plants and the one who waters have the same purpose, and each will be rewarded for his own work.9 We are God's workers, working together; you are like God's farm, God's house. (New Century Version)

Let's be a loving, giving, accepting part of the body of Christ. Bragging rights? No! In the work of the Lord, in the mission of making disciples there is no room for personal glory. We have no bragging rights. We must simply brag on Jesus. He must receive all the credit and glory.

Happy Team Hunting!

Thursday, November 20, 2008


Anticipation is what often gives motivation to life. If we keep our mind on the goal ahead we have an easier time with the hard places between where we are and where we must go to reach our goal.
Paul said in Phil 3:13 Brothers and sisters, I know that I have not yet reached that goal, but there is one thing I always do. Forgetting the past and straining toward what is ahead,
14 I keep trying to reach the goal and get the prize for which God called me through Christ to the life above. (NEW CENTURY VERSION)

By the way I learned something about anticipation while hunting deer this past week. It rained, it was cold and damp, I slept on less than a comfortable bed, only one night did my c-pap machine work properly, so my rest was not the best, and I went the whole five days without a shower or shave. In short there were some hard places I had to go through. Why did I do it? It was for the prize, a buck deer. I even noticed that the loud sound of the rifle when I shot my buck did not bother my ears, and I did not even notice the recoil from the rifle. I was so focused on the goal, other things just did not matter. It was the anticipation of reaching the goal that kept me going.

My ultimate goal in life is to become like Jesus, and then one day stand before Him and hear Him say to me, "Well done!" My anticipation of becoming more like Jesus each day, of being more effective in His kingdom work, and one day entering my heavenly home, keeps me going.

Living for Christ is not like staying in a first class hotel, always eating at five-star restaurants, riding in limousines, and flying first class. Paul said to one of the churches he started on his first missionary journey in Acts 14:22 "...that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God." (KJV)

Paul also says in Romans 8:18-21 That's why I don't think there's any comparison between the present hard times and the coming good times. The created world itself can hardly wait for what's coming next. Everything in creation is being more or less held back. God reins it in until both creation and all the creatures are ready and can be released at the same moment into the glorious times ahead. Meanwhile, the joyful anticipation deepens. (The MESSAGE)

Someone criticized a pastor for focusing on the future. They said, "Why do you preach on 'Pie in the sky by and by,' when what we need is to know how to live in 'the nasty now and now?'" The preacher replied "it is the anticipation of the future hope I have in Christ that helps me make it through the nasty now and now." That pastor was not denying the reality of the present nor the importance of practical Biblical help as to how to live in the now, but He was saying that much of the motivation for living for Christ in the now is the anticipation of the glorious future God has prepared for his children.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008


Devotions From a Deer Stand is the name of a book, but the title is all I borrowed.

I just got back after almost a week at deer camp. I did get a deer, a small 5-point buck. It was my first buck, and only my second deer kill. Three years ago I killed a doe. Two years ago, I tried to put five shells in a four-shell clip. Though I saw a lot of deer I did not get off a shot. As you can imagine, my gun jammed. Last year I forgot to take my clip. I guess a good hunter only needs one bullet. The guys called me “One Bullet Barney.” I did not even see a deer at which to shoot. This year I was prepared, and bagged my prey. Lesson? Be properly prepared.

But by the way something else occurred to me while sitting in that deer stand. I could have made the best preparations possible, but if I had not gone to the deer woods and actually gone hunting I would not have shot a deer.

Imagine this scenario. My hunting buddy comes over the week after deer season ends. He asks me, “Did you get a deer?” And I say, “Let me show you my rifle. It is a 30-06 semi-automatic. I have sited it in, oiled and cleaned it. It’s a great hunting rifle.” But my friend asks again, “Did you get a deer?” And I say, “Let me show you my hunting outfit. Man! is it comfortable and warm. It has great camo and the deer have a hard time distinguishing me from the trees around me.” I show him my doe scent that is sure to bring in a buck. But my friend insists, “Did you get a deer?” I proceed to show him my hunting boots and brag about their being water proof and warm and comfortable. I show him my orange vest and hat. I even show him my hunting license. Finally, he says, “Yes, you must be the best prepared hunter I have ever seen, but did you get a deer?” Finally I admit, “No, I didn’t go hunting.”

We have churches and Christians just like this. They meet in buildings that are beautiful, comfortable, and perfectly equipped to do the job. We know how to share our faith. We know how to plan a great service with soul stirring music. We have studied the latest sociological trends. We have up to date demographics on our community. We put a large amount of money in the budget for evangelism. We have the best evangelistic tracts and the latest translation of the Bible. But the question is, are we leading anyone to Christ? Have we been hunting?

I love how the MESSAGE puts it in
James 1:22-27 Don't fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener when you are anything but, letting the Word go in one ear and out the other. Act on what you hear! Those who hear and don't act are like those who glance in the mirror, walk away, and two minutes later have no idea who they are, what they look like.
But whoever catches a glimpse of the revealed counsel of God—the free life!—even out of the corner of his eye, and sticks with it, is no distracted scatterbrain but a man or woman of action. That person will find delight and affirmation in the action.
Anyone who sets himself up as "religious" by talking a good game is self-deceived. This kind of religion is hot air and only hot air. Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father, is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, and guard against corruption from the godless world.

A song is not a song until you sing it
A bell is not a bell until you ring it

A talk is not a talk until something, you say
A hunter is not a hunter ‘till he goes after the prey

You’re not really a Christian until you live it
You’re not really a witness until you give it.


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

What About Praying?

I must admit, the candidate I voted for did not win the presidency. I must also admit that I find a great deal of consolation in the fact that our country has come far enough from it's dark days of slavery and years of prejudice that it can elect a black man to our highest office. In all of this God does not change, nor does our responsibility as a citizen. I know there will be those who will be making critical remarks, and hanging their heads in disappointment. and saying, "what are we going to do?"

By The Way, I remember sharing my disappoint in the behavior of president Clinton during those embarrassing days of his sexual misbehavior and his effort to deny it. Marie said to me, " Ray, even though we deplore his behavior, we still must respect his office and pray for him." She was right.

The Scripture says in 1 Timothy 2:1-3 "The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know. Pray especially for rulers and their governments to rule well so we can be quietly about our business of living simply, in humble contemplation. This is the way our Savior God wants us to live." (The Message)

Several years ago while I was attending College at Southwest Baptist University (College back then), I pastored a little church about 70 miles to the east of Bolivar, MO by the name of Pine Creek Baptist Church. One Sunday, a short time after we had accepted to pastor the church, we ate lunch with one of the very faithful widows. She told us about a former pastor who had become quite unpopular in the congregation. Another lady had come to her house and was complaining about the pastor. Said she, "I just don't know what I am going to do about him." Our very thoughtful widow said to her, "have you every tried praying for him?" She answered, "no, I guess I haven't." She tried it and liked it, and her dilemma was solved.

As citizens of this great country we have an obligation to vote and participate in the political process as much as we can, but our greatest and continuing obligation is to pray. We need to respect the office of president, and respect our newly elected president, and pray for him. We need a spiritual and moral revival in our nation, but God never said it would start with the leaders of our government. It will start with Gods people. 1 Peter 4:17 says "For the time has come for judgment to begin with God's household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who disobey the gospel of God?"(CHSB)

And we can be confident that God is and always will be the real Commander in Chief. Proverbs 21:1 says, "Good leadership is a channel of water controlled by God; he directs it to whatever ends he chooses." (The Message)

Ladies and Gentlemen, let us pray!