Thursday, April 22, 2010

Before I Was a Mom

(author unknown)

Before I was a Mom,
I made and ate hot meals.
I had unstained clothing.
I had quiet conversations on the phone.

Before I was a Mom,
I slept as late as I wanted.
I never worried about how late I got into bed.
I brushed my hair and my teeth everyday.

Before I was a Mom,
I cleaned my house each day.
I never tripped over toys.
I never forgot words to lullabies.

Before I was a Mom,
I didn't worry whether or not my plants were poisonous.
I never thought about immunizations.

Before I was a Mom,
I had never been . . .
puked on
pooped on
spit on
chewed on
peed on
or pinched by tiny fingers.

Before I was a Mom,
I had complete control of my mind, thoughts and body.
I slept all night.

Before I was a Mom,
I never held down a screaming child so that doctors could do tests or give shots.
I never looked into teary eyes and cried.
I never got gloriously happy over a simple grin.
I never sat up late hours at night watching a baby sleep.

Before I was a Mom,
I never held a sleeping baby just because I didn't want to put it down.
I never felt my heart break into a million pieces when I couldn't stop the hurt.
I never knew that something so small could affect my life so much.
I never knew that I could love someone so much.
I never knew I would love being a Mom.

Before I was a Mom,
I didn't know the feeling of having my heart outside my body.
I didn't know how special it could feel to feed a hungry baby.
I didn't know that bond between a Mother and her child.
I didn't know that something so small could make me feel so important.
I had never gotten up in the middle of the night every 10 minutes to make sure all was okay.

Before I was a Mom,
I had never known . . .
the warmth
the joy
the love
the heartache
the wonderment
or the satisfaction of being a Mom.

I didn't know I was capable of feeling so much . . . before I was a Mom.

"She watches over the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and call her blessed." (Proverbs 31:27-28a).

May God's richest blessings be with each of you mothers.

Both Born and Adopted

The following was reported by WESTERN MORNING NEWS in 1994:

Ian Lewis, 43, of Standish, Lancashire, England, was interested in finding out about his family. He spent 30 years tracing his family tree back to the seventeenth century. He traveled all over Britain, talked to 2,000 relatives and planned to write a book about how his great-grandfather left to seek his fortune in Russia and how his grandfather was expelled after the Revolution. Then he found out he had been adopted when he was a month old and his real name was David Thornton. He resolved to start his family research all over again.

How frustrating! However, it reminds me that, for a Christian, it makes no difference whether we trace our spiritual lineage by way of birth or adoption because both images are used to express our relationship to God our Father.

"Jesus answered, 'Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.' " (John 3:5)

"...having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will..." (Ephesians 1:5)

God is our Father by (re)birth and by adoption (we are chosen!). What a privilege to be a part of His family!

Blessing or Bad Luck?

The story is told of a man who was walking across the road when he was hit by a car. The impact knocked him on his head which caused him to be in a coma for two days before he finally regained consciousness. When he opened his eyes, his loving wife was there beside his bed. He held her hand and said to her:

"You know, Judy, you've always been right by my side. When I was a struggling college student, I failed again and again. But you were always there with me, encouraging me to go on trying."

She squeezed his hands as he continued: "And when I got out of school and went for all of my interviews and failed to get any of the jobs, you stayed right there with me, cutting out more classifieds for me to check on..."

"Then I started work at this little firm and finally got the chance to handle a big contract. But I blew it because of one little mistake, and yet you were there beside me all the way. Then I finally got another job after being laid off for sometime. But I never seemed to be promoted and my hard work was never recognized. And so, I remained in the same position from the day I joined the company until now... And, through it all, you were right there by my side."

Her eyes brimmed with tears as she listened to her husband: "And now I've been in this accident and when I woke up, you're the first person I see. There's something I'd really like to say to you...."

She flung herself on the bed to hug her husband, sobbing with emotion.

He said, "Judy, I think you're just plain bad luck!"

Our attitude makes a big difference in how we see things, doesn't it? As the saying goes, we can either see the glass as half full or half empty. We can either appreciate the good during our times of adversity (the faithfulness of God, greater opportunities to develop our faith, the blessing of good friends to see us through it) or we can moan and complain about our "bad luck."

The apostle Paul is a great example of someone with a marvelous attitude. Through all of his trials, God had been right there by his side. But never once did he blame God for his misfortune. Instead, listen to the positive attitude in Paul's words as he sat imprisoned for preaching the gospel:

"But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel." (Philippians 1:12)

No moaning, no complaining. Just a marvelous attitude that brought joy to his life. May it serve as an example to you today.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Because I'm a Christian

Because I'm a guy, I must hold the television remote control in my hand while I watch TV. If the thing has been misplaced, I'll miss a whole show looking for it, though one time I was able to survive by holding a calculator.

Because I'm a guy, when I lock my keys in the car I will fiddle with a wire clothes hanger and ignore your suggestions that we call a road service until long after hypothermia has set in. Oh, and when the car isn't running very well, I will pop the hood and stare at the engine as if I know what I'm looking at. If another guy shows up, one of us will say to the other, "I used to be able to fix these things, but now with all these computers and everything, I wouldn't know where to start."

Because I'm a guy, when I catch a cold I need someone to bring me soup and take care of me while I lie in bed and moan. You never get as sick as I do, so for you this isn't an issue.

Because I'm a guy, I can be relied upon to purchase basic groceries at the store, like milk, or bread. I cannot be expected to find exotic items like "Cumin" or "Tofu." For all I know these are the same thing.

Because I'm a guy, when one of our appliances stops working I will insist on taking it apart, despite evidence that this will just cost me twice as much once the repair person gets here and has to put it back together.

Because I'm a guy, I don't think we're all that lost, and no, I don't think we should stop and ask someone. Why would you listen to a complete stranger -- how in the world could HE know where we're going?

Because I'm a guy, whatever you got your mother for Mother's Day is ok, I don't need to see it. Did you remember to pick up something for my mom, too?

Because I'm a guy, you don't have to ask me if I liked the movie. Chances are, if you're crying at the end of it, I didn't.

Because I'm a guy, I think what you're wearing is fine. I thought what you were wearing five minutes ago was fine, too. Either pair of shoes is fine. With the belt or without it looks fine. Your hair is fine. You look fine. Can we just go now?

Because I'm a guy and this is, after all, the 21st century, I will share equally in the housework. You do the laundry, the cooking, the cleaning, and the dishes. I'll do the rest.

It does seem that a lot of behavior on the part of men can be explained with the simple phrase "it's because I'm a guy -- that says it all".

Likewise, a lot of the behavior we as Christians exhibit in the workplace, at home, or at school, should be explainable by the phrase, "it's because I'm a child of God". That says it all -- that's why I do what I do and say what I say.

"But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy." (1 Peter 2:9-10)

When people wonder about our actions, they should be able to look at our lives and say, "Oh yes, he acts that way because he's a Christian." Whether they appreciate it or not, may they see that Christ truly does make a difference in the way we live.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Is Your House a Mess?

I recently heard the following story:

“My daughter Michelle is the commander of a Coast Guard Cutter. When she gave my husband Bob a tour of her ship, he was impressed by the neatness of all decks.

“However, when Bob went to Michelle's house with her, he couldn't believe the disorganization. ‘Why is everything in its place on your ship,’ he asked, ‘but your house is such a mess?’

“‘My house,’ Michelle said, ‘does not take 30-degree rolls.’”

I found the story quite humorous, but it made me wonder. How often do others notice that things are just fine in our workplace, but not at home? Things may be “in its place” at work (and elsewhere), but at home things are “a mess.” One of the saddest passages in the Bible is found in I Samuel 8:1-3:

“Now it came to pass when Samuel was old that he made his sons judges over Israel…But his sons did not walk in his ways; they turned aside after dishonest gain, took bribes, and perverted justice.”

Here was Samuel – a great prophet, one of the greatest men in the Bible, arguably one of the godliest men in all of history, but his sons didn’t follow after his example. Some commentators have speculated that it was at least partly due to the fact that Samuel traveled around Israel fulfilling his responsibilities as a prophet (I Sam. 7:15-16), neglecting his family in the process.

It’s a problem that everyone who works struggles with, but especially preachers because we often view our work as being done “for God” so we feel justified in pouring more of our time and effort into our work. But there is always the danger -- the temptation – that we may be neglecting things at home.

Early in my ministry, my wife used to complain, “You always have time for anybody else who comes to you with a problem, but you can’t find time for me.” There were times she was right. I felt compelled to make sure that everything was in order at “work”, but I sometimes allowed things at home to be a “mess.” I’m sure there were many times my children felt the same way. I would like to think that I’ve learned from my mistakes and have a better balance now.

My message today comes with an encouragement for all of you who work to make an assessment of your own. Are you more interested in keeping things in order at work than you are at home? May God help each of us as we strive to fulfill our God-given responsibilities to our spouses and children.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Calming Anger Down

In a west Texas town a few years ago, employees in a medium-sized warehouse noticed the smell of gas. Sensibly, management evacuated the building, extinguishing all potential sources of ignition -- lights, power, etc.

After the building had been evacuated, two technicians from the gas company were dispatched. Upon entering the building, they found they had difficulty navigating in the dark. To their frustration, none of the lights worked.

Witnesses later described the vision of one of the technicians reaching into his pocket and retrieving an object that resembled a lighter. Upon operation of the lighter-like object, the gas in the warehouse exploded, sending pieces of it up to three miles away.

Nothing was found of the technicians, but the lighter was virtually untouched by the explosion. The technician that was suspected of causing the explosion had never been thought of as "bright" by his peers.

Years ago, Jim Croce, in his song, "You Don't Mess Around With Jim", used to sing about things that you don't dare do (pull the mask off the Lone Ranger or tug on Superman's cape, for example). He might have done well to add, "You don't flick your Bic inside a building with a gas leak"! In an explosive situation, the last thing you want to do is provide the spark.

We've all been around those kinds of situations (not literally, but figuratively) -- where someone was angry and it wouldn't take much to create an explosion. We have two choices in that setting, described by Solomon in this way:

"A gentle answer will calm a person's anger, but an unkind answer will cause more anger." (Prov. 15:1, NCV)

How I admire those people I know (and my wife is one of them) who have a calming effect on those around them (including me), gently stifling the flames of anger before they burst in flames.

"Wise people calm anger down." (Prov. 29:8b, NCV)

May God help us all to be wise.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Can You Give a Push?

A man is in bed with his wife when there is knocking on the door. He rolls over and looks at his clock. It's half past three in the morning.

"I'm not getting out of bed at this time," he thinks, and rolls over.

Then, a louder knock follows. "Aren't you going to answer that?" says his wife.

So he drags himself out of bed, and goes downstairs. He opens the door and there is a man standing at the door. It doesn't take the homeowner long to realize the man is drunk.

"Hi there," slurs the stranger, "Can you give me a push?"

"No, get lost, it's half past three. I was in bed," says the man and slams the door.

He goes back up to bed and tells his wife what happened and she says "Dave, that wasn't very nice of you. Remember that night we broke down in the pouring rain on the way to pick the kids up from the baby-sitter and you had to knock on that man's house to get us started again? What would have happened if he'd told us to get lost?"

"But the guy was drunk," says the husband.

"It doesn't matter," says the wife. "He needs our help and it would be the Christian thing to help him."

So the husband gets out of bed again, gets dressed, and goes downstairs. He opens the door, and not being able to see the stranger anywhere he shouts, "Hey, do you still want a push?" and he hears a voice cry out, "Yeah, please!"

Still being unable to see the stranger, he shouts: "Where are you?"

The stranger replies: "I'm over here, on your swing."

There are times we all need a little push from one another. In fact, that's one of the reasons that we gather together in worship. We could praise God alone, but we have the opportunity to encourage one another every time we meet together.

"And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching." (Heb. 10:24-25)

It's not just reserved for Sundays, though. Know anybody that needs a push today?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Not Nearly as Big

I heard a story recently about the University of Tennessee football coach. He bought a bolt of cloth thinking he would have a suit made out of it. He took the material to his tailor in Knoxville where the tailor measured him, examined the bolt of cloth, did some computations on a piece of paper, and said, "I'm sorry, coach, there just isn't enough material in this bolt to make a suit for you." The coach was disappointed, but he threw the bolt of cloth in the trunk of his car, wondering what he was going to do with it.

A couple of weeks later he was in Tuscaloosa, Alabama -- the home of the Crimson Tide (arch enemies of the Volunteers). He was on his way to the coast for a vacation. Driving down the main street in Tuscaloosa, he noticed a tailor shop, which reminded him that he had that bolt of cloth in the trunk. He stopped, thinking he would give it a try. He told the tailor he had bought this bolt of cloth and wondered if he could do anything with it.

The tailor measured him, measured the bolt of cloth, did some computations. Finally he said, "Coach, I can make you a suit out of this bolt. What's more, I can make you an extra pair of pants. And if you really want it, I can give you a vest out of this, too."

The coach was dumbfounded. "I don't understand," he said. "My tailor in Knoxville told me he couldn't even make one suit out of this bolt of cloth." The tailor said, "Coach, here in Tuscaloosa, you are not nearly as big a man as you are in Knoxville."

Paul warned each of us in Romans 12:3, “not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think.” It is easy for us to make the mistake of being that we are "bigger" than we really are (the Pharisee who prayed in the temple next the the tax collector in Luke 18 comes to mind).

The church in Laodicea made this mistake. They said, "I am rich, have become wealthy and have need of nothing" (Revelation 3:17). Jesus responded to them by saying, in essence, "You don't realize how poor you really are." The sad part is that God can do nothing to help people who are self-sufficient, people who are "big" in their own eyes.

Jesus reminded us (both by his teachings and his life) that to be viewed as "big" in the eyes of God, we need to be willing to be viewed as "small" in the eyes of those around us, willing to serve, ready to find our significance not in our abilities, achievements, or possessions, but in the glory we bring to God in our lives.

"For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." (Luke 14:11)

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Of Primary Importance

It is reported that a magazine ran a "Dilbert Quotes" contest several years ago. The writers were looking for people to submit quotes from their real-life Dilbert-type managers.  Here are some of the submissions:

1. As of tomorrow, employees will only be able to access the building using individual security cards. Pictures will be taken next Wednesday and employees will receive their cards in two weeks. (This was the winning entry; Fred Dales at Microsoft Corporation in Redmond, WA)

2. What I need is a list of specific unknown problems we will encounter. (Lykes Lines Shipping)

3. E-mail is not to be used to pass on information or data. It should be used only for company business.  (Accounting Mgr., Electric Boat Company)

4. Quote from the boss: "Teamwork is a lot of people doing what 'I' say." (Mktg. executive, Citrix Corporation)

5. We know that communication is a problem, but the company is not going to discuss it with the employees.  (AT&T Long Lines Division)

6. We recently received a memo from senior management saying, "This is to inform you that a memo will be issued today regarding the subject mentioned above."  (Microsoft, Legal Affairs Division)

7. One day my boss asked me to submit a status report to him concerning a project I was working on. I asked him if tomorrow would be soon enough. He said, "If I wanted it tomorrow, I would have waited until tomorrow to ask for it!"  (New Business Mgr., Hallmark Cards)

8. This project is so important, we can't let things that are more important interfere with it.  (Advertising/Mktg. Mgr., UPS)

     Even though that last statement doesn't make any sense, it suggests the truth that there are some things so important that nothing else should get in the way.  Unfortunately for UPS (and other employers who may not realize it), that level of importance will never be attached to any project at work. It can only be attached to matters of spiritual commitment.

     "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you." (Matthew 6:33)

     There is only one thing that is of "primary importance", and that should be our desire to do God's will.  May God bless you as you commit yourself to truly put "first things first."

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Watch Out For Lucille

I heard about someone who works in the customer service call center of a national pager company. He deals with the usual complaints regarding poor pager operation, as well as the occasional crank caller demanding to be paged less often, more often, or by more interesting people.

His favorite call came from a man who repeatedly complained that he keeps being paged by "Lucille." He was instructed that he would have to call her and tell her to stop paging him.

"She don't never leave no number, so I can't call her back," he said.

After three such calls, someone thought to ask how he knew it was Lucille if she didn't leave a number.

"She leaves her name" was the reply.

After establishing that the customer had a numeric-only pager, the light bulb came on. "How does she spell her name?" the service rep asked.

"L-O-W C-E-L-L"

When things start to bother us, the problem may simply be that we need to get "re-charged". Keeping our schedules overbooked, staying busy "doing things", going here and there -- it takes a toll after a while. Before we get stressed out and burned out, we need to learn to take some time to unwind and recharge. Turn off the radio and the television. Oh, and the computer, too! Unplug the telephone if you need to, or better yet, get away from the house (without the cell phone). Spend some quiet time with God in prayer and reflection on His Word.

Notice what Jesus did as he was surrounded by a crowd of people, all demanding a piece of his time:

"Immediately Jesus made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, while He sent the multitudes away. And when He had sent the multitudes away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. Now when evening came, He was alone there." (Matthew 14:22-23)

Watch out for Lucille! Don't forget to recharge.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

What I Dun

This week, we have been engaged in our congregation in a massive effort to collect and send clothing to the earthquake victims in Haiti. Our efforts reminded me of this illustration that I've used before:

     A cowboy rode into town and stopped at the saloon for a drink (root beer, of course!).  Unfortunately, the locals always had a habit of picking on those of a British background, which he was.  When he finished, he found his horse had been stolen.  He came back into the bar, handily flipped his gun into the air, caught it above his head without even looking and fired a shot into the ceiling.  "WHICH ONE OF YOU SIDEWINDERS STOLE MY HOSS?" he yelled with surprising forcefulness.


     He had another root beer, walked outside, and his horse was back! He saddled up and started to ride out of town.  The bartender wandered out of the bar and asked, "Say partner, what happened in Texas?"

     The cowboy turned back and said, "I had to walk home..." 

     Ever known anybody like that, lots of threats, but no real intention to carry out them out?   All talk but ultimately no action? More to the point, is your Christian life characterized more by what you SAY you're going to do, or by what you're actually willing to DO?

     "What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works?  Can faith save him?  If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,' but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?  Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead."  (James 2:14-17)

     What kind of faith do you have -- the kind you talk about, or the kind you show through your obedience to God and service to others? Is there someone in need that you've been praying for? It may be time to stop praying for others to do something and start helping yourself.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Give Thanks For Your Friends

I heard about a farmer who was detained for questioning about an election scandal.   The attorney asked him, "Did you sell your vote?"

The farmer said, "No sir, not me.  I voted for that there fella 'cause I liked him."

The attorney said, "Come, now, I have evidence that he gave you fifty dollars for a vote."

The farmer said, "Well, now, it's plain common sense that when a fella gives you fifty dollars you like him."

I suppose that’s one way to define a friend.  In fact, Solomon said, "Many entreat the favor of the nobility, and every man is a friend to one who gives gifts." (Proverbs 19:6).

But, a true friend involves a depth of relationship.  It's someone you enjoy doing things with, someone you enjoy talking with, someone you wouldn’t hesitate to turn to in times of need.  I like how I once heard someone describe a friend as someone you could call at 2:00 a.m. if you needed something. Solomon lets us know how important friends are in the difficult times of life:

"Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion.  But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up.  Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm; But how can one be warm alone?  Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him.  And a threefold cord is not quickly broken." (Eccl. 4:9-12)

Give thanks to God for the friends who are a blessing in your life.  And let those friends know how special they are to you!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

First the Bad News....

Doctor: I have some good news and I have some bad news.
Patient: What's the good news?
Doctor: The good news is that the tests you took showed that you have 24 hours to live.
Patient: What's the bad news?
Doctor: The bad news is that I forgot to call you yesterday!

Doctor: I have some good news and some bad news.
Patient: What's the good news?
Doctor: The good news is they are naming a disease after you!

Lawyer: I have some good news and some bad news.
Client: Well, give me the bad news first.
Lawyer: The bad news is that the DNA tests showed that it was your blood they found all over the crime scene
Client: Oh no! I'm ruined! What's the good news?
Lawyer: The good news is your cholesterol is down to 130!

Have you ever had somebody come up to you say, “I’ve got some good news and some bad news, which one do you want to hear first?” Research shows that most people would rather hear the bad news first.

And that’s what Paul does in the book of Romans. He starts off this letter by saying, “I’m ready to come share with you the gospel, some good news….but first of all, let me tell you the bad news.” And he’s got some bad news for us – some really bad news.

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.” (Romans 1:18)

It’s very important that we understand the reason Paul does this – it’s because we can’t fully appreciate the grace of God until we fully understand what we’ve done wrong and what we deserve as a result.

This is where I think we make a big mistake when we try to share the gospel with people we know. We want to talk immediately about the “good news” without talking about the bad news. But good news isn’t good news to someone unless they realize they need it.

We need to teach others that “there is none righteousness, no not one.” (Romans 3:10), and that includes you and me. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23). And, as a result, we all deserve to die because “the wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23).

Only after I understand my sinfulness and the fate that I deserve can I fully appreciate the gift of grace that God offers. And only after I become fully aware of where I am spiritually can I understand that the gospel of Jesus Christ is good news indeed.

Don’t be afraid to share the “bad news” before you share the “good news”!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Appreciating Valuable Things

The story is told of a man who was sued by a woman for defamation of character. She charged that he had called her a pig. The man was found guilty and fined.

After the trial he asked the judge, "Does this mean that I cannot call Mrs. Johnson a pig?" The judge said that was true.

"Does this mean I cannot call a pig Mrs. Johnson?" the man asked. The judge replied that he could indeed call a pig Mrs. Johnson with no fear of legal action.

The man looked directly at Mrs. Johnson and said, "Good afternoon, Mrs. Johnson."

Such name-calling is obviously wrong, but Jesus told us there are some people who are "pigs" (and not in the sense of eating too much). In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said:

"Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces." (Matthew 7:6)

There are some people who are "dogs" and "pigs" in the sense that they have no appreciation for things of a spiritual nature. Just as a pig has no appreciation for precious jewelry, so it is that some people have no appreciation for the precious truths of God's Word.

John MacArthur has written, "There will be times when the gospel we present is absolutely rejected and ridiculed and we will make the judgment to turn away and speak no more, deciding that we should 'shake off the dust of [our] feet' (Matt. 10:14) and begin ministering somewhere else." (The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, Matthew 1-7)

I agree. There are times when those I speak to show such a lack of appreciation for God's Word. My greater concern, though, is making sure that I don't have that same attitude.

"Father, I pray that my heart may always be tender and open to the valuable lessons you want to teach me. May I never 'trample underfoot' those things which are truly important. In Jesus' name, amen."

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Don't Forget the "Punch Line"

The story is told of a preacher who attended a seminar with many well known motivational speakers. One of these speakers boldly approached the pulpit and, gathering the entire crowd's attention, said, "The best years of my life were spent in the arms of a woman that wasn't my wife!" The crowd was shocked!

He followed up by saying, "And that woman was my mother!" The crowd burst into laughter and he gave his speech which went over well.

Several weeks later, this minister who had attended the seminar decided to use that joke to introduce his sermon. As he shyly approached the pulpit one Sunday morning, he tried to rehearse the joke in his head, but it seemed a bit foggy to him. Getting to the microphone he said loudly, "The greatest years of my life were spent in the arms of a woman that wasn't my wife!" His congregation sat shocked!

After standing there for almost 10 seconds trying to recall the second half of the joke, the preacher finally blurted out "...and for the life of me, I can't remember who she was!"

Remembering the "punch line" is important in sharing a joke. It's also important in relating the gospel message. We tell the story of Jesus coming to this earth and becoming a man. We tell the story of Jesus being crucified for our sins. We tell the story of Jesus being buried in a borrowed tomb. But, if that's all we remember, then we truly have no reason to rejoice. There's more to the story!

As Paul begins his letter to the Romans, he focuses on the “gospel of God”, but he makes it very clear from the outset that the gospel is not just that Jesus “was born of the seed of David according to the flesh”, but also that he was “declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.” (Romans 1:3-4)

The gospel, the "good news," is not only that Jesus died to offer us salvation from sin, but that he rose to give us hope of eternal life. Don't forget the "punch line"!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Sing With the Understanding

I heard once about a woman who spent some months serving as a missionary in South Africa. On her final visit to a remote township she attended a medical clinic. As the Zulu women there began to sing together, she found herself deeply moved by their hauntingly beautiful harmonies. She wanted to always remember this moment and try to share it with friends when she arrived home. With tears flowing down her cheeks, she turned to her friend and asked, "Can you please tell me the translation of the words to this song?"

Her friend looked at her and solemnly replied . . . "If you boil the water, you won't get dysentery."

How many times have we been guilty of the same thing in our worship to God? Not of singing that particular song, but of singing without being aware of the meaning of the words we were singing.

It seems to me that singing songs of praise is like driving a car. If you drive, you’ve learned that if you follow the same route day after day, it is possible for you to make the trip without even thinking about what you’re doing. We’ve all had the scary feeling of arriving at a location realizing that we “zoned out” en route and made the trip while our mind was on “autopilot.”

Many of us have had the same experience in our worship. We sing all the songs (like we’ve done countless times before) but our mind is on “autopilot” and after we’ve finished, we don’t have a clue what we just sang about.

Paul said, "I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with the understanding. I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing with the understanding." (I Cor. 14:15)

For those of us who are easily distracted, it requires a bit more effort, but may we resolve to strive to pay attention to the words that we are singing. May the songs of praise we sing truly come from a heart that exalts God!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Pains of Childbirth

Here are the answers to some questions that you may have had about pregnancy:

Q. Should I have a baby after 35?
A. No, 35 children is enough.

Q. I'm two months pregnant now. When will my baby move?
A. With any luck, right after he finishes college.

Q. How will I know if my vomiting is morning sickness or the flu?
A. If it's the flu, you'll get better.

Q. What is the most common pregnancy craving?
A.. For men to be the ones who get pregnant.

Q. What is the most reliable method to determine a baby's sex?
A. Childbirth.

Q. My wife is five months pregnant and so moody that sometimes she's borderline irrational.
A. So what's your question?

Q. My childbirth instructor says it's not pain I'll feel during labor, but pressure. Is she right?
A. Yes, in the same way that a tornado might be called an air current.

Q. When is the best time to get an epidural?
A. Right after you find out you're pregnant.

Q. Is there anything I should avoid while recovering from childbirth?
A. Yes, pregnancy.

Q. Does pregnancy cause headaches?
A. Pregnancy causes anything you want to blame it for.

Q. Our baby was born last week. When will my wife begin to feel and act normal again?
A. When the kids are in college.

The joy of pregnancy and childbirth! Mothers are quick to tell me that those two words don't belong together with the word "joy". And here's a helpful tip (from personal experience) for you fathers. When your wife is in labor and the needle on the graph is showing her contractions, don't ever say, "Is that the highest you can make the needle jump?" At that point, she will not see the humor in the situation. It will only make her angry. (Trust me!)

The Bible refers often to pregnancy and childbirth. But it never speaks of it as a time of joy. Rather, it refers accurately to the "pains of childbirth."

In Romans 8, Paul draws a parallel between what an expectant mother experiences and what we (and all of creation) experience as we await the return of Jesus Christ:

"I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.....We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies." (Romans 8:18,22-23, NIV)

A mother in labor may feel the pain will never end. With what you are going through right now in your life, you may feel the same way. Someday, though, for God's children, the pain will pass and the joy will be greater than we ever imagined. For that day we "wait eagerly"!