Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Falling Asleep

I heard recently about a college professor who had the mysterious habit of walking into the lecture hall each morning, removing a tennis ball from his jacket pocket. He would set it on the corner of the podium. After giving the lecture for the day, he would once again pick up the tennis ball, place it into his jacket pocket, and leave the room. No one ever understood why he did this, until one day. . . .

A student fell asleep during the lecture. The professor never missed a word of his lecture while he walked over to the podium, picked up the tennis ball and threw it, hitting the sleeping student squarely on the top of the head.

The next day, the professor walked into the room, reached into his jacket, removed a baseball. . . No one ever fell asleep in his class the rest of the semester!

I would imagine that many of us have had the experience of falling asleep at a time when we should have stayed awake -- perhaps in a classroom or during a sermon. In the scriptures, poor Eutychus will forever be known for only one thing -- falling asleep during a sermon and falling out the window!

For those of you who aren't familiar with this Bible story (found in Acts 20:7-12), there was a young man by the name of Eutychus (a side note: ironically, his name means “fortunate”) who attended a worship service where the apostle Paul was speaking. No doubt, Eutychus was tired and perhaps his stomach was full. He found a spot near a window where he could get some fresh air because oil lamps lighted the room and the air would have been a bit stuffy. We're told that Paul talked on and on until after midnight. Luke tells us that the young man fought sleep and gradually lost the battle. When he nodded off, he fell out of the third-story window. Fortunately, the story has a happy ending as he was raised back to life by Paul.

Those of us who are preachers are inclined to say that the moral of this story is that you should never fall asleep during a sermon (though I suspect others may say that the moral is that preachers shouldn't preach so long -- it can be dangerous!). But of even greater concern than falling asleep in our worship is the fact that we sometimes fall asleep in our walk with Christ. We grow weary, we lose our concentration, our mind drifts off to other things, and the result can be deadly!

The apostle Paul warns us: "Therefore, let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober." (I Thess. 5:6).

Is your mind focused on God? Are you listening carefully to Him, submitting to His Spirit? If you're growing weary, it's time to wake up!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

That's Amore!

Ready for some groaners? (author unknown)

When the moon hits your eye,
Like a big pizza pie,
That's amore. (song made popular by Dean Martin in 1953)

When an eel bites your hand,
And that's not what you planned,
That's a moray.

When your horse munches straw,
And the bales total four,
That's some more hay.

When Othello's poor wife,
Becomes stabbed with a knife,
That's a Moor, eh?

When you ace your last tests,
Like you did all the rest,
That's some more "A"s!

A comedian ham,
With the name Amsterdam,
That's a Morey.

When your chocolate graham,
Is with marshmallows crammed,
That s'more, eh.

When you've had quite enough,
Of this dumb rhyming stuff,
That's "No more!", eh?

What is amore? It's the Italian word for love! The Greek word is, of course, agape. And in scripture, love is:

--the cement that holds relationships together, the "bond of perfection" (Col. 3:14)

--the essence of God's nature (I John 4:7)

--the one thing greater than any of God's spiritual gifts (I Cor. 13:8)

-- the foundation of the greatest command (and the second greatest!) (Mark 12:30-31)

--the culmination of the Christian graces (2 Peter 1:5-7)

That's amore! "Let all that you do be done with love." (1 Cor 16:14).

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Pretend That You're Having a Heart Attack

The story is told of a married couple who enjoyed their luxury fishing boat together, but it was the husband who was always behind the wheel operating the boat. He was concerned about what might happen in an emergency. So one day out on the lake he said to his wife, "Please take the wheel, dear. Pretend that I am having a heart attack. You must get the boat safely to shore." So she drove the boat to shore.

Later that evening, the wife walked into the living room where her husband was watching television. She sat down next to him, switched the TV channel, and said to him, "Please go into the kitchen, dear. Pretend I'm having a heart attack. You must set the table, cook the dinner, and wash the dishes."

It's not a very pleasant thing to pretend such a thing, but there are some legitimate concerns we should have. I wouldn't consider it at all out of place for an insurance salesman to ask the question, "If you were to have a heart attack today, would your wife and children be taken care of?"

An even more important question, though, needs to be raised as we consider our spiritual relationship with God. If I were to have a heart attack tonight and die, would I be prepared to stand before the great judgment seat of Christ? It's a legitimate question. When I was a teenager, I thought that I would live forever. As I grow older, I become more and more aware of the fact that each day is a blessing provided by God, and I am not promised even one more.

"Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit'; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away." (James 4:13-14)

I know it requires a degree of seriousness that may make you a bit uncomfortable, but just for a moment, pretend that you are having a heart attack. Are you prepared for eternity?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Blessing of Being Single

Sophie and Shirley, two elderly widows in a Florida adult community, are curious about the latest arrival in their building -- a quiet, nice looking gentleman who keeps to himself.

Shirley says," Sophie, you know I'm shy. Why don't you go over to him at the pool and find out a little about him. He looks so lonely."

Sophie agrees, and later that day at the pool, she walks up to him and says, "Excuse me, mister. I hope I'm not prying, but my friend and I were wondering why you looked so lonely."

"Of course I'm lonely, he says, "I've spent the past 20 years in prison."

"You're kidding! What for?"

"For killing my third wife. I strangled her."

"What happened to your second wife?"

"I shot her."

"And, if I may ask, your first wife?"

"We had a fight and she fell off a building."

"Oh my," says Sophie. Then turning to her friend on the other side of the pool, she yells, "Yoo hoo, Shirley. He's single!"

It worries me when I see single people overly anxious to find a mate. Perhaps, though, we have contributed to the situation by treating singleness like it's some sort of disease. Singles often comment that they feel out of place at church (activities tend to be family-oriented) and feel they are sometimes regarded as less important than married people. While marriage is a God-ordained institution, I think we do a disservice by suggesting that singles are somehow "incomplete" until they find that "certain someone."

The truth is, while Paul held marriage in high regard (Eph. 5), he preferred being single and recommended it to Christians at Corinth in the difficult situation they were facing (I Cor. 7). Single Christians have the opportunity to serve God in ways that married Christians would have difficulty doing. Of course, the opposite is also true.

So what is the lesson to be learned? Whatever situation you find yourself in, seek to serve God with all your heart. If you are single, use your singleness to serve God as best as you can. And if you're married, use your married status to do the same.

"But as God has distributed to each one, as the Lord has called each one, so let him walk.....keeping the commandments of God is what matters." (I Cor. 7:17,19b)