Friday, February 20, 2009

Difficult Days

Life is full of seasons. When we look at this long winter we are reminded that bad weather is a part of it. In our own lives we also experience difficult days. They leave us asking questions. When will this be over? Why is this happening? What will I do? Sometimes it seems that there can be no good purpose for troublesome times.

But I am reminded of a piece of great wisdom I gleaned from a dear friend. A few months ago when Bob Markus and I visited Tom and Jean Parrish, Jean showed me a letter that she had received from her brother, Andy Brown. Within this letter I found a treasure I could keep.

Everyone in Lawrence County, TN, knows or has been touched in some way by Andy Brown. He has been involved in the baptisms, weddings, and funerals of every family in Lawrenceburg in some way over the last 60 years. I have appreciated Andy since the day I met him. He has done so much good for the church. Though in his 80's, he still drives down from Nashville on many occasions to conduct funerals and visit dear friends. He has been a great help to me in conducting funerals where he has been so much more a part of the lives of the deceased than I have been.

Within the contents of this letter he wrote to his sister, Jean, was a section I copied. I have kept in on my desk and have read it many times since. This is what it said:

This has been a difficult day; However, it is still a "Day that the Lord hath made." And if I can't "Rejoice and be glad in it," I'll try not to complain about it. When Longfellow wrote, "Into each life some rain must fall," he added, "Some days must be dark and dreary." Maybe bad days will make us more thankful for the good days.

I have learned that bad days are necessary, even though not enjoyable. God Himself has experienced bad days. Days of the corruption of the earth (Gen. 6:5). Days of His own people rejecting Him (1 Samuel 8:7). Days of separation from His own dear Son (Matt. 27:46). But on the other side of these days there is hope. Our difficult days remind us that we are not destined for them. Our difficult days remind us that there is a time coming when we shall rest in that fair and happy land.

May God help us not only to thank Him for the good days, but to praise Him for the wisdom of difficult days.

"The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord." ~ Job 1:21

Monday, February 16, 2009

Good News

Yesterday I received some of the best news I have ever heard. In fact, I cannot remember receiving any better news.

When I preached at the New Providence church of Christ near Murray, Kentucky, I got to know a very special family, Jim and Sylvia Puckett. The lived just around the corner from us on Shoemaker Rd. Jim and Sylvia were older, in their 70's, and they were taking care of Sylvia's mother, Opal Shoemaker.

Opal and Sylvia were both members of the church, and two of the finest Christian ladies I have ever known. Opal lived to be 97, and Sylvia died of pancreatic cancer not long afterward. Jim was not a member of the church. He was raised a Methodist, and very faithful in his belief and practice.

Jim would attend with us with Sylvia on Sunday and Wednesday nights. Over the years, just about every preacher and member tried to convert Jim. Jim was a good Bible student and he taught classes at the Methodist church. He enjoyed our public studies and often would comment or ask questions in class.

I have great memories of this family: Eating at the catfish house on Kentucky Lake, going for a ride with them down to the old lime quarry, listening to them tell stories of ages past, cake and ice cream with them in their home on their 53rd anniversary, riding to Como with Jim to buy feed for his livestock.

I talked to Jim this morning on the phone. He is going to be 85 next Sunday. I called him because of good news. Jim Puckett obeyed the gospel yesterday. He responded to the invitation of Christ and His gospel. He was baptized into Christ for the remission of his sins. And one day, he will see his wonderful Sylvia in heaven. And we will all be together again.

There is a reason why the gospel is also called the "good news." I cannot fathom any better news I could have received than to hear that Jim Puckett became a New Testament Christian. The gospel truly is the power of God unto salvation. Praise be to our wonderful and awesome God!

"As cold water to a weary soul, So is good news from a far country." ~ Proverbs 25:25

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Power of Advantage

One of the golfers on the pro tour some years ago was a pompous egomaniac with the emotional maturity of a six-year-old. He could do nothing wrong and always had a quick excuse for any loss: it was a lousy course, the other golfers were cheating, the weather was terrible, etc. As if these faults were not enough, he was also not above hustling a few extra dollars playing amateurs in cities on the tour for $50 a hole.

One day he was approached by a man wearing dark glasses and carrying a white cane who offered to play him for $100 a hole. "Why, I can't play you," the professional protested. "You're blind, aren't you?" "Yes, I am," replied the man. "But that's all right. I was a state champion before I went blind. I think I can beat you." Now the conceited one had not been doing well lately--he needed the money. Anyway, blind or not, if the guy was crazy enough to challenge him...well, why not? "You did say $100 a hole?"

The blind man nodded. The arrogant fellow continued, "Well, all right. It's a deal. But don't say I didn't warn you--you'll lose your money. When would you like to play?" "Any night at all," replied the blind man. "Any night at all."

1 Corinthians 10:24 says very plainly, "Let no one seek his own advantage, but that of the other." Another verson of this same verse reads, "Let no one seek his own good, but that of his neighbor." Throughout the Bible there are warnings against taking advantage of the weak. God warned the Israelites about taking advantage of the widow and fatherless child (Ex. 22:22-23). Paul repreatedly reminded those he preached to that he had the opportunity but refrained from exercising his advantage. Solomon stated that in time the laborer has really gained no advantage in all his doings, since everything is vanity (Eccl. 3:9).

The world we live in is so different than the abode of God. People on earth push, step on, and remove other people to get to the top. But God is just the opposite. Jesus gave up every heavenly advantage for humanity. He taught the apostles about the difference between Gentile lordship and servant leadership. He paved the way to life eternal by helping the helpless, when He had every right to destroy the wicked.

The true power that exists in advantage, is not what you can do for yourself. It is found in what can be accomplished when you lay it aside.

"For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich." ~~ 2 Corinthians 8:9