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March 12 / March 19 / March 26

March 5, 2017 - Fast Food Church

I am completely sick of eating Whoppers. I may never go back to Burger King again. Last week Barb went away to do some writing and to prepare for her Women's Conference coming up in April. So I was left alone with our guest Pastor Sergey from Ukraine. Since both of us were without our dear wives for a while, we had to take care of ourselves... meaning finding food to eat. As you all probably know, I cannot cook at all so it is off to fast food places. I found a bunch of Burger King coupons so naturally I gravitated there. At first they seemed pretty good, but soon they just tasted terrible. And I think they are not very healthy either. Even Pastor Sergey thought the meat was not really meat. Who knows what it really is? I know some places up north use horsemeat for their hot dogs. Others have what they call "processed" meat. Hmmm, what's that? You know what, there's really nothing that beats a home cooked meal by a good cook. I am certainly glad Barb is back home. We could have died if she stayed away much longer.

I tell you this because sometimes that's how we treat going to church. Many opt for the quick and convenient option. Let's go to a "good" church where there is "good" worship and the pastor's message is very "good". A place where the parking lot is "good", and where babysitting is "good", and on and on... . Afterwards, we can get right back into our cars and go home for the week. Then we can come back next Sunday and get something quick and good again. "Fast Food Church", I call it. Then we wonder why we are not getting anything out of going to church. And our answer is, it must be the church's fault and we go about finding another... a better fast food church to go to. The truth is the church is the body of Christ. God calls each of us to belong to a local body where we cannot only take from, but contribute to its life. When we do that, we not only experience a great amount of benefits from others, but we also experience a great amount of benefits by ministering to others. And together we grow and thrive. Ephesians 4:16 says, "From him(Jesus) the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work". That's a real church, not a fast food church. That kind of church with those kinds of members will thrive and be very healthy spiritually. I hope you want to be a part of that.

March 12, 2017 - Be A Human Flashlight

I just installed a couple of new lights in my garage. Wow! It seems like an amazingly new room. I found things I had lost for years. I saw things I have never seen before. And unfortunately I discovered some unwelcomed guests that were keeping themselves in hiding for a few months. Yikes! I have had lights in there before, but they were so dim that I barely managed to find my way out after parking the car. Now I can really see what's going on, and I also realize now that I better clean it up before Barb notices too.

It's trite, but it's still useful to remind ourselves how important light is in our spiritual lives. The Bibles tells us the world lives in darkness. And as God's people, we are the light of the world. We bring sight to people who would otherwise never see their sins, their bondages, and their destinies. We are also the instruments to point others to Jesus. But what if we are barely able to see ourselves because we have covered up the light from God with worldly stuff? The old adage, "the blind leading the blind" would be accurate then. We would at best be "not" leading anybody to the Lord, and at worst be leading them "away" from Him. Matthew 5:16 says, "In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven." Do you know what? We are human flash lights for our friends and family who don't know theLord. When others encounter us, it is like a dark garage that suddenly had a light turned on. They can now see... and hopefully they can then turn to Jesus who will give them life. In so many ways, it is up to us and how much light we are shining forth that makes a difference in their lives. What we do, what we say, our attitudes, our demeanor, and our responses to troubles... they all show forth as light or not. Others will respond accordingly to not just us, but to the Lord. Think about that the next time you enter your garage.

March 19, 2017 - A "Christian" Act

I want to personally thank each and every one in our Sunday school classes who were so generous in helping our Christian brothers and sisters in a serious medical need in Ukraine. I am always so impressed with the kindness of our church people who always rise up to make a difference in others. Pastor Sergey's family are strangers to all of you, but it didn't matter. They were a Christian family in need, and you did what you could to bless them. I have been on the other end of this blessing train with the privilege to see the receiving part, and I want to tell you that tears of joy will be experienced. Not only because a great need will be met in some ways, but because people all the way in Houston said, "we love you, we care about you, and we will pray for you."

This is actually a very "Christian" act that has made the gospel message so powerful. We can talk all day about the love of God, the love of God's people, and how love changes things. But unless that love can be expressed in a real and tangible way, it's just talk. The believers' way back in the first century didn't just talk the talk, they walked the walk too. They shared their resources with those in need; they looked for people who they can help. They did that because that is the heartbeat of the Lord, to minister his love to people physically, emotionally, and ultimately eternally. As a result, people were drawn to the gospel and Acts 2:45-47 said, "They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. ...They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved." Thank you all again for your love this past week expressed through your generosity. You are making a difference.

March 26, 2017 - Grow Good Things

Last month I took down our Mexican fan palm tree. Nine years ago when we first moved to our home, it was a really cute tree. It made our back yard feel so "tropical". It then began to grow taller and taller. Nothing wrong with that since they can grow to over 80 feet in height. The problem was that it began to take over the back yard with all of its leaves and tiny flowers. My pristine swimming pool was bombarded with a mess every day. About 3 years ago I thought I better do something before it gets out of hand. Unfortunately I never got to it and this year it grew to over 40 feet in height... still sending messes down upon our yard. And it was really "out of hand". I wondered what I can do to handle it without cutting down the tree. Nope, there was nothing else to do. Finally, with the help of our pastor friend who is a great tree cutter, we got it removed. And guess what? Our yard with the swimming pool is nice and pristine again.

There are things in our lives that can begin harmlessly. Maybe something that we are prone to or have allowed to be a part of us. Then they get bigger and more pronounced. We don't deal with them because we got used to them. We tolerate them or we might have gotten to the place where we think they are normal. But they bring hurt to us and to others. I know some friends who have an addiction to alcohol. I remember them just drinking a glass of wine at dinner time. A few years later, I was told one after another that they are essentially alcoholics. I have seen others who verbally mistreat their spouses... and I was not surprised to hear later that a couple of them have been divorced. Our lives are always changing and growing. Things that are not good will grow worse, while good things can grow better if we work on them. It's our choice. Paul writes in II Thess. 1:3, "We ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love all of you have for one another is increasing". If that's what is growing in your life, keep up the efforts. However, if what's growing is sinful and ugly, then it may be time to do some cutting. Don't let those things get bigger and bigger. They'll just mess up your life.