My wife and I are in the process of doing some renovations on our house. I’m getting a little too old and creaky to do things like climbing up on the roof, so we are looking for a construction company to come in and do the work. We’ll probably get more than one estimate. When we get it, we will have to decide whether the work is worth the price. But, if the work is important enough to us, we have to be careful not to get lost in the cost. If we wait until later, there may be more damage to the house, the amount of work will increase, and so will the overall cost. So sometimes it pays to spend your money wisely and just get the work done.
This week’s post is a little late and a little short as we try to work out some glitches in our new website. Please bear with us as we try to make it easier to read, to navigate, to subscribe to, and to contact us.
Our art group, CCADA, recently held its 5th annual art show–combining it with its first car show. We had artists of all ages, a wide variety of media, a new featured addition of many Christmas crafts, dramatic vignettes, music, and, of course, the car show. The turnout of visitors who oohed and aahed at what they saw and heard and noted that they wished they had the talent of the various artists. But, to paraphrase Will Rogers, “We can’t all be heroes. There also has to be somebody to clap for them.”
Unless you’re writing one, a self-help book is an oxymoron. You read a self-help book so that someone who isn’t yourself can help you. This is true of all do-it-yourself book and personal improvement books. You might be able to gain some benefit from some of these books, but none of them are there to deal with the complete “you.” All except one–the Bible. It is the complete and eternal blueprint for our lives–the ultimate “self-help” book because the Author knows every aspect of “you.”. You may feel defeated, depressed, disillusioned, sure that no one appreciates you? How can you change that?
I am neither a physicist nor a mathematician, but from what I have read about the “butterfly effect” is that it has to do with a seemingly inconsequential event or incident having momentous consequences. The “ripple effect” is similar in that it states that a single incident or occurrence may have consequences and ramifications beyond the scope of the original phenomenon. Apparently, these two concepts are part of “chaos theory.”
When I was younger, I used to love running with my cross-country teams during each practice. It provided an incentive to beat the old” guy and encouraged them to get the best out of themselves (If coach is able to do this, then I should be able to.). We were fortunate that the area surrounding our school provided a plethora of woodland trails on which we could train. One year, we actually did a different workout for each practice for the entire season.
One time in particular, we were running through the woods during bow hunting season. To avoid the danger of an errant arrow we would make a lot of noise. None of my runners were hunters and didn’t want to become one later in life. So they would run through the woods shouting, “Run away! Run Away!” in high-pitched falsetto voices-ala an old Monte Python skit. We thought is was hilarious. The deer hunters? Not so much.
In a moment of self-evaluation, it recently occurred to me that I have been existing under a cloud that I wasn’t even aware of. I couldn’t understand why I don’t seem to be progressing in many aspects of my life. I don’t seem to have the drive to accomplish difficult things that I did when I was younger. I just assumed that it was un unfortunate result of getting older.
Whether you’ve been called short, vertically challenged, half-pint, small fry, pipsqueak, squirt, or oompa loompa, if you’re less than average height, you have been made aware that others have noticed it. I’ve discovered that over the years I have shrunk an inch. Since I was only 5′ 7″ tall to begin with and with the average height of American males being just under 5′ 10″, I guess I definitely fall into this category.
The Perils of Pauline was a 1914 American film serial shown in weekly installments, featuring Pearl White as the title character. As the old-fashioned damsel in distress, Pauline was menaced by assorted villains, including pirates and Indians. Unlike today’s weekly programming (and even some of our movies, Pauline never used the so-called “cliffhanger” format in which an episode ends with an unresolved danger that is addressed at the beginning of the next installment. Although each episode placed Pauline in a situation that looked sure to result in her imminent death, the end of each installment showed how she was rescued or otherwise escaped the danger. It was such a new and unique idea that, years after, it was placed in the national archives as a cultural icon.
The apostle, Paul, had many such harrowing experiences. Only he wasn’t like the “damsel in distress.” He wasn’t cute and cuddly and looking for a hero to save the day. The trials and dangers he faced were deadly and continuous. In II Corinthians he writes, I have worked harder, been put in prison more often, been whipped times without number, and faced death again and again. Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea. I have traveled on many long journeys. I have faced danger from rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be believers but are not. I have worked hard and long, enduring many sleepless nights. I have been hungry and thirsty and have often gone without food. I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm. Then, besides all this, I have the daily burden of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak without my feeling that weakness? Who is led astray, and I do not burn with anger? (II Corinthians 12:23-29) He had enough trials to create a long-running series. Yet God always rescued him. Not some human hero. No matter what the circumstance or situation, God was there with him.
Paul made these statements to a church he had already visited twice and was planning a third visit. This letter was dealing with the fact that the Corinthians were being mislead by those who claimed to be followers of Christ, but who were taking credit for what Paul and others had accomplished. They mislead the people into believing that Paul was not an apostle. They said that he had no authority, was too timid, and that he did not speak with flowery words. Paul responded to these accusations by writing, We are human, but we don’t wage war as humans do. We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ. And after you have become fully obedient, we will punish everyone who remains disobedient. ( II Corinthians 10:3-8) He was an apostle of Christ Jesus appointed by God. (II Timothy 1:1, I Corinthians 1:1, Ephesians 1:1) and as he continually exercised his faith, his life was filled by signs and wonders.
Today there are many that claim to be followers; A group of Jews was traveling from town to town casting out evil spirits. They tried to use the name of the Lord Jesus in their incantation, saying, “I command you in the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches, to come out!” Seven sons of Sceva, a leading priest, were doing this. But one time when they tried it, the evil spirit replied, “I know Jesus, and I know Paul, but who are you?” Then the man with the evil spirit leaped on them, overpowered them, and attacked them with such violence that they fled from the house, naked and battered. (Acts 19:13-16)
In the end, all those who have appeared to be “angels of light” will be destroyed. And so will those who chose to follow them. The difference? Look at the obvious facts. Those who say they belong to Christ must recognize that we belong to Christ as much as they do. I may seem to be boasting too much about the authority given to us by the Lord. But our authority builds you up; it doesn’t tear you down. So I will not be ashamed of using my authority. (Corinthians 10:8)
As Christians, we have this authority. I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father. You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father. Yes, ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it! ( John 14:12-14)
Is your faith accompanied by signs and wonders? Not necessarily the “show-stoppers” like being raised from the dead, but the daily things that take place in our lives? Does it build up individuals and the body of believers? If it doesn’t, exercise it or lose it!
According to the Cambridge Dictionary, the expression either or is used to refer to a situation in which there is a choice between two different plans of action, but both together are not possible. Today’s world has become a place of countless decisions for each of us.
I remember that as a child there always seemed to be that there were only two possibilities for each decision; right or wrong, black or white, in or out, yes or no, hungry or not hungry, good or bad, behave or misbehave. It was easy to know the difference by how my parents reacted to whatever I said or did. That was the beginning of developing my conscience–that little voice inside my head that reacted positively or negatively to what I did or said. Now it even influences what I think. Or at least it’s supposed to.
As an adult, we face even more decisions. Some are of great impact; do I marry this person or not, do I have children or not, do I take this job or not, do I buy this house or not. I met the girl I would eventually marry while in the 7th grade–not even a teenager yet. We became friends because we hung out with the same group of kids. By the middle of our junior year, I knew I wanted to date her. And before we graduated, I knew she was the girl I wanted to marry. She was already a Christian and I was not. During my sophomore year in college, I got saved. Then she knew that I was the one she should marry. She was following her conscience that moved her to decide not to marry me until we were on the same page spiritually. God has blessed us with 43 (as of this June) years of wedded bliss. As a good Catholic, I had initially had planned on attending Holy Cross with a major in pre-law and a minor in political science. I was planning on becoming a lawyer and would make a lot of money using my natural skills in arguing. Then I got saved and began working kids at my wife’s church. I stayed at Holy Cross as one of two non-Catholics (a Jewish young man and me). But I switched my major to education. And you know much money they make. Over the years, I became a teacher, coach, and youth pastor and had the chance to influence many young people. And I enjoyed every minute of it.
But those were big decisions. What about the small daily decisions we make? Can I sneak in late to work, or should I go over the speed limit to get there on time? Can I “borrow” some office supplies to help fund my at-home office? Should I claim the income from my second job on my income tax? Should I watch the exciting new TV program that pushes the bounds of decency? Should I avail myself of the many things that the internet offers? These are the things that we rationalize as not being important. But in God’s sight, they are. Catch all the foxes, those little foxes, before they ruin the vineyard of love, for the grapevines are blossoming! (Solomon 2:15) It’s these little “foxes” that sear our conscience. And once we give in to these little temptations, God says,”These people are hypocrites and liars, and their consciences are dead.” (I Timothy 4:2) Like church deacons, We must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. (I Timothy 3:9)
What happens when our conscience become seared and no longer helps direct our path? God sees us like the church at Laodicea; ‘I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. ‘So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth. Because you say, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked,…(Revelation 6:15-17) How does this affect our spiritual life? For there is no good tree which produces bad fruit, nor, on the other hand, a bad tree which produces good fruit. For each tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they pick grapes from a briar bush. The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart. (Luke 6:43-45)
I don’t know about you, but I want to be a tree that bears good fruit. And I don’t want to be bad-tasting spit in God’s mouth.
The old Yiddish proverb translates as “Man plans, God laughs.” Equally old is the statement by the Roman emperor, Marcus Aurelius, “Live not one’s life as though one had a thousand years, but live each day as the last.” So, should we live life completely in the moment with no thought for the future? After all, God does say, So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today. (Matthew 6:34)
I have a friend who is a great guy who loves his family. But he’s constantly working at his job. He has a flexible starting time, but he almost always works late into the evening. He rarely sees any of his family, except on weekends. And on many of those, he wants to be able to relax or concentrate on his special hobby. He is so concerned with the day-to-day need to earn enough money to take care of his family financially, that he’s missing the whole point of having a family. This is not unusual, even among today’s Christians. Yet the Bible warns us of the rich fool who kept working and planning for his eventual financial goal of retiring and taking it easy. The result? God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?” (Luke 12:20)
Many workers are now even working during the time the are allotted for vacation. According to a study by the online career site, Glassdoor, the average U.S. employee used only half of his or her eligible time off in the past year. Overall, 40 percent of those surveyed took less than a quarter of the vacation time they had coming to them. The research shows that just 25 percent of workers use all of their eligible time off. Even those who do take some vacation days have trouble truly getting away from the office. More than 60 percent of the employees who took paid time off in the past 12 months admit doing at least some work while on vacation.
So why are today’s workers so concerned with today or only as far as the next paycheck instead of thinking about the future–whether it’s tomorrow or retirement or forever? It’s work, work, work. Day after day after day. Too many of us have turned our jobs and our money-making capability into who we are. Our job and success at that job defines who we are. We forget that no one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. (Matthew 6:24)
It’s really simple. Why kill ourselves (sometimes literally) trying to make a living in a way that diminishes our family relationships and our connection to God? All we have to do is seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. (Matthew 6:33) Decide to put Him first in your life. Do what He intends for you to do. Get lost in His love. Plan for eternity with Him, but live each day as if it were your last. Some day it will be. And in His presence, you will be lost in that eternal dream come true.