Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Comprehensive Thankfulness

"Fear not, O land; be glad and rejoice, for the Lord has done great things! Fear not, you beasts of the field, for the pastures of the wilderness are green; the tree bears its fruit; the fig tree and vine give their full yield. "Be glad, O children of Zion, and rejoice in the Lord your God, for he has given the early rain for your vindication; he has poured down for you abundant rain, the early and the latter rain, as before. "The threshing floors shall be full of grain; the vats shall overflow with wine and oil. I will restore to you the years that the warming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent among you. "You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, who has dealt wondrously with you. And my people shall never again be put to shame. You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am the Lord your God and there is none else. And my people shall never again be put to shame." (Joel 2:21-27 ESV)

This passage is appropriate for the week when we in America have our minds on giving thanks to God.

It is unfortunate that so few give thanks. It is unfortunate that so many of those who give thanks seem to be so narrow in their thankfulness. The passage is concerned with thankfulness for material blessings. After a destructive locust plague, they are now being blessed with an abundant harvest. But the thankfulness does not stop there. It is the presence of God in their midst which is the primary blessing (27). All other blessings flow from this.

May we also seek, first and foremost, the presence of God, and trust that in that presence all that happens will turn out to be for our blessing (Rom 8:28).

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Doctor & The Garbage Man

A couple of years ago, Chery and I had lunch with Jack Thorn, a Vice President of Ohio Valley University. Also included in the group was Don Lallathin, an assistant to the VP that I have known for several years. About half way through the meal a funny thing happened. Don made a reference to my father, and Jack turned pale.

You see, before Don joined us, Jack had told me about how Don used to attend a small church that had a doctor, a policeman, a farmer and a garbage collector as members. Whenever he took his out of town friends with him to worship, Don would always tell them to try to pick out these people. Normally the doctor would be mistaken for the garbage collector, the garbage collector would be mistaken for the policeman, the farmer or the policeman would be mistaken for the doctor.

The reason Jack turned pale was that he suddenly realized that I knew all about this and that my father was the garbage man.

I see three lessons in this.
First, you really cannot judge people by the surface. I suppose that most of us will keep doing so, but it does not work and it is not right (James 2:1-7).
Second, we need to be careful what we say and how we say it. We never know how close to home we may be hitting. The situation would have been very different if Jack had told the story in a tone that indicated disrespect for garbage collectors. He had not spoken in such a tone, and so I was not offended.

Third, honest work is honorable. I was not bothered by the conversation because I have never been ashamed of the work my father did at the close of his working life. In fact, I was proud of the fact that my father would rather work at a menial task than fail to provide for his own.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


Most four-year-olds have a favorite toy. For some it is a certain stuffed animal. For one four-year-old that I knew many years ago, it was a green van. He took that van with him in the car, he played with that van constantly.

One Wednesday evening it was announced that a family outside of town had been burned out. They lost everything in the fire. It was mentioned that they had two children, a boy and a girl. No one knew the ages of the children, but it was mentioned that we needed to be prepared to provide toys as well as clothing for the family.

The first donation was from a four-year-old. He gave a green van. He figured that, if there was a little boy out there with no toys at all, that boy needed a good toy, and the best one he knew of was that green van.

That gift made a difference in several lives. It continues to make a difference to me every time I think of it, and it happened more than twenty years ago.

Do you have a green van in your life? Maybe you ought to give it away.

"In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'" (Acts 20:35)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


I thank John Gipson of the Windsong Church of Christ in Little Rock for this thought provoking thought. John writes,

I admit it. I was provoked this morning coming to the office. It was dark and raining and Maumelle Boulevard was loaded with traffic moving at about fifty miles per hour. As far as one could see the cars were bumper to bumper in both lanes traveling east. I was in the left lane when all of a sudden from a crossover a car pulled out in front of me without warning. I had to hit the brakes knowing that I was probably going to get clobbered from behind. Fortunately, the cars behind me saw what was happening and we all hit the brakes at the same time thus saving a big pile-up. (I don’t know what might have happened two or three blocks behind us in the chain reaction).

I was not like the fellow I once read about who never got irritated or stirred by anything. One who wrote about him said, “Their family line seems to draw heavily on the vegetable kingdom. They emulate amid life’s alarms, the fine placidity of the cabbage.” I was provoked! And two
hours later I still am as I write this.

A question please. What is it that provokes you? (Take a moment and recall a few such things).

Now let’s all sit down together and think for a moment or two about what provoked the apostle Paul. Here’s the record, “Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols” (Acts 17:16 RSV).

The apostle Paul had enough hard experiences “to exasperate a saint.” But I don’t remember him being provoked over shipwreck, stoning, or imprisonment. What provoked him was the ruin and degradation of idol worship.

Have we retained the kind of moral indignation exhibited by the apostle Paul? Now that I’ve tried to examine myself, I’m not going to let you off the hook. What provokes you?


Monday, November 9, 2009

Modern Logic

Jesus began life in a borrowed, makeshift cradle. He ended in a borrowed tomb. Between these he often had nowhere to lay his head.

So naturally, we, his followers, expect that all will be provided. We expect to have food, clothing, shelter, and health -- if not wealth.

In life he had many admirers, but few friends. In facing death, even his few friends abandoned him. One of them betrayed him.

So we, quite logically I am sure, expect that our friends will be constant and loyal and true; that the church will always rally around us when we have difficulties; that we will rarely be lonely.
If it does not turn out as we expect, if we suffer loss or hardship or loneliness, who can blame us if we complain, or even forsake this Lord? Having looked at his life, we have developed certain expectations. Who would deny the logic of our expectations? No one, it seems, except Jesus himself.

A servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. John 15:20

Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head. Matthew 8:20

A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household. Matthew 10:24-25

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Don't Pass By

Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. Luke 10:31

Neil Diamond used to sing a song with these words: "'I am,' I said, to no one there; and no one heard at all, not even the chair."

Someone has said that the opposite of love is not hate, but indifference. I agree. To be hated is less cruel than to be ignored, to be treated as of no importance. At least those who hate us invest us with some importance.

Is there is a danger that we are becoming emotionally cold? It often seems that we neither hate nor love as we once did. People get worked up about certain causes, or certain things that they claim as human rights, but how do they feel about humans themselves? Are there not many of us who have all kinds of grand ideas about humanity in general, but who are pretty cold toward any individual member of humanity who happens to make a demand on our notice?

G. A. Studdert-Kennedy, gave us these memorable lines,

When Jesus came to Golgatha,
They hanged Him on a tree,
They drove great nails through hands and feet,
And made a Calvary.
They crowned Him with a crown of thorns,
Red were His wounds and deep,
For those were crude and cruel days,
And human flesh was cheap.

When Jesus came to Birmingham
They simply passed Him by,
They never hurt a hair of Him,
They only let Him die;
For men have grown more tender,
And they would not give Him pain,
They only just passed down the street,
And left Him in the rain.

Still Jesus cried, 'Forgive them,
For they know not what they do!
And still it rained the winter rain
That drenched Him through and through;
The crowd went home and left the streets
Without a soul to see,
And Jesus crouched against a wall
And cried for Calvary.

Take the time to notice someone today. It might be Jesus (Mt 25:40; Heb 13:2).