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"!