The Darkness

It was about 9:00 last night and I had just finished reading a book to the kids.  It was bedtime. Susan was about to say their prayers and tuck them in when there was a loud pop outside and immediately the electricity went off.  A transformer had blown.Lynzie nearly lost it.  She didn’t know what had just happened but she knew it was out of the ordinary.  Colton was a little bit confused too.  He didn’t want to go to sleep in the dark; which was funny to me because he goes to bed every night in the dark.  The difference was that it was dark and there was nothing we could do about it. There was no light at all.

Have you ever been in utter darkness?  I mean the kind of darkness that you can’t see your hand right in front of your face?  It’s an eerie darkness.  It’s an uncomfortable darkness.  It’s a darkness that is heavy and thick and it seems that it is hard to breathe.  If you have ever experienced this kind of darkness, it makes you appreciate light; any kind of light.  It’s just nice to have light.

In the first chapter of the Gospel of John, the apostle describes Christ as light and, in contrast, he describes the world as darkness.  Jesus came to earth to shine the light into an otherwise dark world.  He said in John 3:19-21, “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.” (NIV)

Evil lurks in the darkness.  Uncertainty finds home in the darkness.  But, there is comfort to the light that pierces the darkness, causing it to fade away.  When the electricity went off, Colton immediately wanted his lantern.  There was a sigh of relief in his voice when I was able to grope around to find the flashlight and then find and hand him his lantern.  There was a peace in the house again when we were able to find a little bit of light to guide our way.

After the kids went to bed, Susan and I didn’t sit in the darkness either.  I went through the house and lit a number of candles so that there would be a little bit of light by which to see.  I kept a flashlight nearby.  There is little comfort in the darkness, but there is great comfort in even a little bit of light.

There are so many people who are sitting in the dark.  Our world is full of sin; the lies, deceptions, and manipulations of Satan.  I am so very grateful for the light that Jesus exposed to me; the opportunity for him to live in me and to be free from the darkness of sin.

“God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:5 NIV)

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Giving From the Heart

For some time now, I have been spending a couple of hours each week working at our Benevolence Center.It seems to me that there are two basic types of people who come for assistance.First, there are the enabled.These are the people who are always looking for a handout.They are quick to manipulate and have no qualms about abusing the system…whatever system that may be.This group of people tends to create callousness within those (in this case, servants of the Lord) who are trying to help them.Then, there is a group of people who have truly fallen on hard times.In this group, you find hearts of gold; people who brighten your day as soon as they walk through the door.

It is this second group of people of which James says, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” (James 1:27 NIV)They may not all be widows or orphans, but there are people in our world who need the help of those who have been abundantly blessed.

I believe this is the primary reason that God commands us to give.Luke records Jesus’ words, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Luke 6:38 NIV)Giving is not about the blessings we will receive, nor is it about paying the church’s electric bill or hosting a fellowship after Sunday worship.While all of those things are important, giving is, above all, a benevolent act.It is an opportunity to help someone who cannot help themselves.

Recently, while at the Benevolence Center, I looked in the basket of coupons and saw a Red Lobster coupon.Now, I love me some Red Lobster!Then I thought about where I was standing.I was standing before a group of people who were waiting in line to be given free food because they could not afford to buy it for themselves!I am so blessed to be able to buy all the food that my family needs and more.We are able to enjoy fine dining out such as Red Lobster (although I left the coupon there that day) and we are able to splurge on Promised Land milk from time to time (although that has been years).

My question today is how tight is your fist?How often do you help someone in need?

It’s easy to become calloused by those who constantly have their hand sticking out; looking for some poor sap to feel sorry for them.But, even in those times of hard-heartedness, there are still so many people who need assistance from those who have been abundantly blessed.(By the way, if you can put gas in your car and food on your table, then you have been abundantly blessed.)

There is still icing on the cake!“Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:6-8 NIV )

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A Father’s Day Tribute

I cannot remember a time when Daddy was not there for me. Growing up, Daddy was always at everything in which I was involved.  Daddy always supported me.I never felt as though there was anything more important than me.  I do not remember a single instance when I asked Daddy to be at one of my events or to support me in one way or another and he did not do it.  He made sure that I knew how much he loved me.  Even today, there is nothing that I treasure more than to know that Daddy supports me.  I call him often to ask his advice.I regard his wisdom highly.

Daddy taught me first and foremost to honor God above all.  He taught me to love my mother and to care for my brother and sister.  He taught me to treat my possessions with care and to handle money in a godly manner.  Daddy taught me to honor my word and to be proud of my work.  He taught me to devote myself to the Word of God and to prayer.  He taught me to seek relationships within the Kingdom of God and to stay away from the paths of this world.  Through example, Daddy taught me how to treat my wife and kids; to love, honor and cherish them.

I esteem Daddy as my best role model.  I strive to emulate him in all that I do.  If I can live the life that Daddy modeled before me, I am confident that I am following God right beside him.  It is my prayer that Susan, Colton and Lynzie will always know how much I love them through my actions and my overall lifestyle, and I know that the amount of love that I have for my family is a gift given to me through Daddy’s love for me.

I love you, Daddy.Happy Father’s Day!

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Maintenance

For several years, I have spent the first week of June in Alva, OK, teaching a singing school for teens.  The church always puts the teachers in one of the motels in Alva.  The motel is one of those old style motels where you park right in front of your door and walk in.  The motel has never been a Hilton, although for the first several years, the managers of the motel were very nice and accommodating.  They did their best to keep the building as clean and fresh as possible.  When management changed a couple of years ago, the motel began to show its true age.  It began to smell (more than it already did) and it was not quite as clean.  We finally talked to the elders of the Alva church and they moved us to a new motel the next year.Honestly, that motel turned out to be worse than the first.

This year, we were moved to a member’s home.  WHAT A DIFFERENCE!!!  The home was so nice; clean, comfortable and inviting.  Unfortunately, this family is in the process of trying to sell their home so that they can move to another town.  (I’m rather sad that we won’t have access to this beautiful home again.)  Since the home is on the market, the family works feverishly each day to make sure it is tidy, ready for show.  This home is always perfect.Everything is in its place, the floors are swept, the trinkets are dusted and the fixtures are tight.

The comparison between the motels and the home reminds me of our physical and spiritual lives.  We must perform maintenance and continually clean our bodies and minds.  Our physical bodies quickly become dilapidated through a lack of exercise and a poor daily diet.  Similarly, our spiritual bodies become decrepit when we neglect the reading of God’s word and fellowship with other Christians.

Paul writes, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God — this is your spiritual act of worship.  Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:1-2 NIV)

Peter furthers this thought when he writes, “Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.  As you come to him, the living Stone — rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him—you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 2:1-5 NIV)

Owning a home or running a business, such as a motel, requires maintenance.  It requires attention to detail and continual upkeep.  The spiritual life is no different.  Christians work diligently to keep our bodies pure and undefiled.  We purify our minds from the filth of the world through constant prayer and the study of God’s word.  When we are devoted to the maintenance of our souls, Satan has nowhere to enter.

Blowing My Top

I blew my top.  I did.  I was on the phone with customer service for a particular company.  I had been told and agreed to a certain price for their services.  The company then called me and informed me that I would be at a different price point.  I calmly said that this was not the price I had agreed to and that I expected to be given the original price.  After many transfers and after being hung up on and after calling back and being transferred and being hung up on and then calling back, I had finally had all I could take.  The next person that answered the phone refused to connect me to a supervisor and I unleashed all of my pent up anger.  No cussing.   No name calling.  Just extreme yelling.

Is it right?  Is it wrong?  Not sure.  Maybe I don’t want to be sure.  Did the person on the other end of the line know I represent Christ?  No.  So, I’m safe, right?  No.  Did I sin?  No.  At least not technically; I was just mad and yelling.  On the other hand, I did not do anything to help out that person’s day.

Paul warns, “In your anger do not sin,” (Ephesians 4:26 NIV).  The question then arises, what constitutes sin?  There are some obvious answers: foul language and causing physical harm to someone else being among those sins.  Then Paul goes on, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.  And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.  Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.  Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Eph 4:29-32 NIV)

All in all, my anger got the best of me.  I should have reacted differently…more calmly.  Most of us have been in a similar situation and perhaps your anger got the best of you as well.  I pray that if I am ever in the same circumstance that I will take a moment to breathe before flying off the handle.  How about you?