Monday, August 31, 2009

Assuming the Worst

Daily Bread once posted a story that should set each one of us to thinking...

One dark rainy night a salesman had a flat tire on a lonely road. But to his dismay he had no lug wrench. Seeing a nearby farmhouse, he set out on foot. Surely the farmer would have a lug wrench, he thought. But would he even come to the door? And if he did, he'd probably be furious at being bothered. He'd say, "What's the big idea getting me out of bed in the middle of the night?" This thought made the salesman angry. Why, that farmer is a selfish old clod to refuse to help me. Finally the man reached the house. Frustrated and drenched, he banged on the door. "Who's there?" a voice called out from a window overhead.

"You know good and well who it is," yelled the salesman, his face red with anger. "It's me! And you can keep your old lug wrench! I wouldn't borrow it if it was the last one in the county."

Why do we get our preconceived notions about people and situations? It seems that we get so concerned about how we may be perceived or treated by others, that we never give them a chance to decide for themselves. Why don't people build relationships with some of their fellow Christians? Why don't people share the gospel? Why don't we know our neighbors better? One of the reasons is because we often think the worst thing is going to happen, or we decide that it is not worth the risk.

Could you ever imagine Jesus making any of these statements:

  • "I would go to your house, but I don't want my motives to be misunderstood."
  • "I would help you, but I am not sure if you will change."
  • "I would teach and lead, but there will be some who will not follow."
  • "I would die, but most of them will not believe."
Doing the right thing is never about what someone else may or may not do. Extending ourselves to others will never become a common practice for us unless we assume that people are worth while. It is not in the result that we trust, but rather in the method. Believe in people. Look for the good in them. You may be pleasantly surprised.

"And so find favor and high esteem In the sight of God and man." ~ Proverbs 3:4

Monday, August 24, 2009

Older Trees

When you think of trees, what comes to mind? Perhaps you think about planting them, or you recall the growth you have seen over the years in the ones already planted. Maybe it is their blossoms, their leaves, or the fruit that they bear. Trees may make you think of the type of wood they are comprised of, maybe picnics or playhouses or something else.

Jesus thought about trees. He often used them in illustrating the kind of people God wants us to be. He expressed the necessity of being a good tree bearing good fruit (Matt. 7:17-19). He used a tree and its branches to describe the kingdom of God (Matt. 13:32). With one particular fig tree he articulated true faith (Matt. 21:19-21).

The Psalmist declared that the person whose delight is in the law of the Lord, who meditates on it, "...shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper" (Psalm 1:3).

Some trees are stronger than others. Older trees have experienced the storms and lived through them. Older trees have deeper root systems, wider trunks, and heavier branches. Trees that are older often produce the most mature and most pleasant tasting fruit.

I have always believed that older trees are more beautiful then saplings. You can just see their stability, the character of the bark, the shape of their trunks and branches, the shade and splendor of their leaves.

I am thankful for these trees. Because I can depend on them. I can learn from them. I can admire them. I can try to be like them.

As I saw Authel Atkins partake of the Lord's Supper this past Sunday, I was reminded of the faithfulness of older trees. As I watched Thomas Monroe sing praises to God at the 1 p.m. service, I was reminded of the beauty of older trees. As I noticed Henry and Marie Windham leaving the building, along with Joe and Ruby Bass, Alvin Brown and Naoma Jacobs, I was reminded of the determination and dependability of older trees.

And I thanked God, and asked him to let me rest my faith upon their branches.

Shall we sit idly down and say,

The night hath come; it is no longer day?

The night hath not yet come; we are not quite

Cut off from labor by the failing light;

Something remains for us to do or dare;

Even the oldest tree some fruit may bear.

Henry W. Longfellow

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Catfish Dinner

Bert Collins was one of the hardest working men I have ever met. He was raised up a farmer in Calloway County, Kentucky. He was not a big man and he did not talk very much, but you could be assured that when he did talk he always meant what he said. He and his wife, Geneva were some of the most benevolent people their community has ever known. They gave to the Lord first, to others second, and whatever was left over they were satisfied with for themselves.

One Sunday Bert approached me and told me he wanted to take Amber and me out to eat catfish at Tri-City. He and Geneva also invited an older, single man from church who they felt needed encouragement. Tri-City was several miles west of Murray, a little stop on highway 94, hardly worth mentioning. But there was a country store that converted into a catfish restaurant in the evenings, or maybe it was just weekends. As you can imagine, they had good catfish - it is almost always these kind of places that do it the best.

So we rode over together to the country store. We talked about normal things, and honestly I do not remember one conversation in particular. But I think that is how it was supposed to be. We were part of a christian family, and sometimes all that means is just being together. I do remember what a good time we had, and that we laughed and learned about each other. And the distinct feeling that comes back to me about that moment is simply this - we felt loved.

Sometimes we forget that people need us and that we need people. I told J. Fred Johnston Sunday night that the little children that call him the "candy man" will never forget him. They all go to him after services for candy or chewing gum, and he always has some. I remember when I was a kid there was a man I went to after worship for the same reason. I also remember going to my next door neighbor's house and always knowing they would give me a treat from their cupboard. You never forget when people are a blessing. I am confident that I needed Bert and Geneva Collins in my life, and that they needed me, and that is the very reason why God brought us together.

Bert passed away this past Friday. He lived 85 good years on this earth. He was a Christian man. He was a faithful husband, father, and friend. He always gave you a kind "howdy doody" and a smile when he saw you, in a way that was uniquely his. I wonder if he knows how much of a difference he made in the lives of others...I wonder if he knows what a difference he made with just a catfish dinner...

"And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." ~ Matthew 22:39

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Get in the Game

I grew up a Los Angeles Dodgers fan. When I was a child we lived in L.A. and I had the opportunity to attend many games. The Dodgers had some good teams in the 70's and 80's, and I remember World Series victories and some of players and personalities of those teams.

One player in particular that comes to mind is Pedro Guerrero. He was a latin player who was a talented hitter, but who lacked a little bit in the field. Sometimes he played third base, and other times he played outfield. One thing that the managers noticed was that his batting average went down significantly when he was playing third. They found out later that he was hoping that the ball would not be hit to him when he was in the infield. He had no confidence at third base. He later admitted that he could never concentrate on hitting unless he was in the outfield.

It occurs to me that many Christians try to live their life this way in the church. They would rather be away from the line of fire, somewhere in the outfield. They do not want the ball hit to them. They want to be able to concentrate on other things. They do not want to be challeneged. They do not want to get in the game.

We need to get in the game because Christianity is not a spectator sport. If we believe that God truly has the power to take away our sins, we should also believe, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." We can do great work in the kingdom if we will just trust in God to help us.

We need to get in the game because Christianity is about effort, not perfection. People avoid church work because they are afraid they will not do it right. We need to remember God used fisherman to preach the gospel, and He usually used the lowest, most untrained people to change the world. Every person who comes to Christ is a sinner. Every person who works in the church is a sinner. It is guaranteed that elders, deacons, preachers, teachers, are going to commit some errors in their work. I am so thankful for those who will do the Lord's work, knowing that they are imperfect.

We need to get in the game because we are in a win or lose situation. People are depending on us. We should want the ball to come to us, because we can change the outcome. Too many people are playing another game on the wrong field. In the meantime, the majority of the world is going to spend eternity in hell. If we get in the game we will make a difference. If we do not get on the game, we will not get to share in the final victory.

- Luk 16:2 -
"So he called him and said to him, 'What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your stewardship..." ~ Luke 16:2

Monday, August 3, 2009


The late comedian Victor Borge once said that "Laughter is the shortest distance between two people." People need to enjoy life. I have often said that one of the greatest lessons having cancer teaches a person is that it is important to rejoice more. Life is a wonderful gift. Too many people are wasting it being negative or unhappy.

Researchers have noted that the average child laughs 150 times a day. The average adult only laughs 15 times a day. We are loosing our smiles, and a laugh is really nothing more than a smile that finally bursts.

The presence of laughter improves virtually every situation. I recently read a suggestion from a marriage and family therapist who said that we should tell jokes at the dinner table to our family members. First, of course, we need to sit down long enough to actually enjoy being with our family. Once we do that, some night let each family member bring 5 jokes with them to the table on a piece of paper. Then take turns telling them. See if you enjoy your supper time more.

Laughter also blesses mankind with inner peace. Actor Alan Alda once said that "
When people are laughing, they're generally not killing each other." It takes a willing heart to open up enough with another person so as to laugh with them. Laughter builds relationships. It rewards with memories. It is positive reinforcement. It reminds us that life is great!

The Bible pictures the Son of God as one who was full of joy. Children do not flock to grumpy people. As Jesus took the young people into his arms, I believe there were wonderful smiles and amazing laughter. It was the most natural thing for our Savior to rejoice. He loved people. He enjoyed being with them. He experienced every emotion a man could experience. The people who are the closest to God are those who are the happiest. How close was Jesus to the Father? His closeness must have made him a man who usually wore a smile.

The promise Jesus gives the faithful servant at the end of time is "...enter thou into the joy of thy Lord" (Matt. 25:21, 23). Heaven is going to be a place where laughter abounds. There will be nothing to prohibit eternal rejocing there. Laughter, then, is a momentary taste of divine blessings. It is a prelude to a greater time when we will all be in the presence of God.

"Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!" ~ Philippians 4:4