Oct 30, 2009

Dusty Trophies

I came across some trophies in an old box this week from the 1970’s; my how time quickly passes! One day long ago battles were fought and a trophy was given. And now; the roar of the crowd is long gone and the great prize is now stuck in an old box in the attic. My, how quickly the ‘glory’ has faded!

It amazes me, sometimes, how we spend our days; how we spend our lives. Let me quickly say that I think that we all need a good healthy dose of time spent enjoying activities that may not seem very important to others. Training to participate in a marathon may not make a difference to the rest of the world, but it can certainly add years to your life: both physically and psychologically. Or spending hours doing an activity such as making a puzzle, only to put it back into a box can have value if you are sharing it with a friend. Collecting leaves that will become dust in a few years adds value to those who spend time collecting them. You get my point.

What I am commenting on is that we work hard to get the prize only to find out that in time it is simply put on shelf or in an old box in the attic. We spend all of our time and energy striving for a "laurel wreath" that is only a vapor in light other things. 

The Apostle Paul in the Bible wrote that we should strive for laurel wreaths that have lasting purposes :   24 Do you not know that those running in a race all run, but one receives the prize? So run, that you may obtain. 25 And everyone who strives for the mastery is temperate in all things. Then those truly that they may receive a corruptible crown, but we an incorruptible. 26 So then I run, not as if I were uncertain. And so I fight, not as one who beats the air. 27 But I buffet my body, and lead it captive, lest proclaiming to others I myself might be rejected. (1Corinthians 9:24-27 ) 

In fact what impresses me about Paul is that he lived his life on a quest to run a race that had a prize of the high calling of God in Jesus Christ:   7 But whatever things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. 8 But no, rather, I also count all things to be loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them to be dung, so that I may win Christ 9 and be found in Him; not having my own righteousness, which is of the Law, but through the faith of Christ, the righteousness of God by faith, 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable to His death; 11 if by any means I might attain to the resurrection of the dead. 12 Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect, but I am pressing on, if I may lay hold of that for which I also was taken hold of by Christ Jesus. 13 My brothers, I do not count myself to have taken possession, but one thing I do, forgetting the things behind and reaching forward to the things before, 14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:7-14 ) 

They say that very few people on their death beds say; "I wish I had spent more time at the office". So, is what you are striving for today going to make a difference in 5 years? It’s not too late to change the road you are on.

Oct 21, 2009

Simple Egg

One simple egg came this week and it was news worthy! “Way to go Amy (and Jason, Sam, and Isabel!)” I was so happy for them to the point that I felt the need to write about the arrival of the first egg. 

You see, my sister-in-law Amy sent an email to share her good news. After a long summer her baby chicks had turned into chickens and had finally produced the first egg. It was simply an egg from a chicken: nothing fancy; nothing special; except that it was the first. (And has no additives!). 

Eventually all of her chickens together will daily produce a dozen or more eggs and the newness of this simple egg will pass. Or does it have to? The cool thing about us as humans as we have the capacity to remember and to celebrate over and over again events like this simple egg; if we want to.   

Remember your first kiss? How about your first car or apartment or friend? How about the first leaf that fell this fall or the first crocus that pushed its way up through the snow this past spring. All of these are simple events that brought us joy when we experienced them and have been forgotten in time. But, they are sitting in our memories waiting to come up so that we can again smile and remember them with fondness.   

The newness of things doesn’t need to drift away and become forgotten as we long for something new. Yes, kittens eventually become cats; new cars eventually lose that ‘new-car-smell’. Over time that first love turns into a relationship that requires growth and flexibility. The new baby eventually grows up and moves away. The new toy becomes set in a closet. The new apartment eventually becomes the place that you always come home to. But time shouldn’t stop us from celebrating and recapturing the joy of the time when it was new.  

One thing that helps me to continue in this place of rejoicing for simple things is to write them down so that I won’t forget. Every event is worth celebrating and sharing with others and to give thanks to God for ALL the things that I get; big and small. The Bible says that we are to ‘give thanks in everything; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you’ (1Thessalonians 5:18). 

Another thing that helps me to remember the simple things and give thanks is to recognize where it all comes from. The Bible says that ‘every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variation or shadow of turning.’ (James 1:17). 

So, “Good job Amy!” Your persistence in feeding and providing a shelter for the chickens and roosters has paid off with a simple egg. More importantly, the simple egg brought up a flood of memories for me of things and people who were once new in my life. And, I rejoiced and once again was happy just like I was after the read the email announcing the arrival of a simple egg.

Oct 15, 2009

Why you are here?

Have you ever thought about: Why you are here on this earth? Why you are a Christian?

Have you ever asked God: What’s my purpose? What’s my vision? What am I suppose to do with my life?

If you cash in God’s plans for your life for your plans: Self-centered, Self-orientated, Feeble plans, you’ve not only made the worst mistake in your life; you’ve made one of the classic mistakes of history because you did not know the time of your visitation (Luke19:44) because you did not know the day in which you were living (1Chron 12:32)

Your God and my God wants fruit from the earth; He wants people to be saved. The MISSION hasn’t changed. God weeps for the broken lives spread across our land! God loves people!

We’ve been so selfish. We’ve been so self-centered. Everything revolves around what I want to do with my time, with my life, my energy, my money. Mine! Mine! Mine!!!!

What about the people who don’t know what you know? What about the people who never had one sin forgiven? What about the people all across this city right now who are sitting at home RIGHT NOW thinking of killing themselves? People who are looking for truth, and you’re sitting here with truth! What about those people?!?

There has to be somebody, sometime, somewhere who gets it into their hearts that God hasn’t called you to do your own thing; But to rescue a dying world.

You are either a part of the solution or part of the problem. We don’t need more Christians in America messing up their lives. We don’t need more Christians in America wasting their lives. We’ve got millions of them

This world we live in is going to hell! It is coming apart at the seams; economically, socially, morally it is coming to an end. And the only hope for these lost souls is not Christians; the world is loaded with Christians. What God wants and needs people who will wholehearted follow Jesus Christ.

We have a whole lot of people who say they follow Jesus who have never really surrendered to His Lordship. Christians who are so content sitting waiting for Jesus to return; Christians who really don’t want to be bothered with the things of God.

A Christian is someone who is radically sold out to Jesus in EVERY area of their lives. This is not based on performance; it is based upon surrender to WHATEVER He wants you to do or not do

LET ME ASK YOU A QUESTION: When was the last time you asked Jesus: how you were to spend your time? How you were to spend your money? When was the last time you asked Jesus: for permission to go or to do something?

God wants us to wake up and to grow up! The Church is filled with Christians who are 30 years old in Christ and still babes who can’t give up this and they can’t give up that; because they never became fully surrendered to the Lord Jesus Christ

Being saved by grace is not an excuse to remain immature. God wants us to let His grace to allow our flesh to be removed. He wants us to become representatives of Jesus here on the earth

You say; “I can’t do it on my own!” I say; “You’re right!” But Jesus wants to help you to become a whole person; and then instead of needing counsel, you’ll be the person who is giving counsel!

God wants us ALL to mature. God is looking for someone to tell people that Jesus loves them. God wants to put His love into your hearts for this world

God is looking for someone to stand up and say; Jesus is the Way; Jesus is the Light; Jesus is the Truth. The Creator of the universe wants to use YOU!

You may be thinking; “I’m not a preacher!” “I’m not even sure if I have the qualities God is looking for” God is looking for ordinary people; People who love Him with all their heart, minds, soul, and strength; People who will say “YES” when He calls; People who will look to Him alone for what to do and say

Throughout the history of the Christian church and throughout the Bible, we find stories of God doing extraordinary things using ordinary people. The Apostle Paul said: 1Corinthians 1:27 “But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise; and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty;”

This world is getting darker; gross darkness (Isaiah 60:2). We can’t put too much hope in politicians to solve this mess; is much as they want to solve everything; I just don’t think that they will. The only hope for our world is a spiritual awakening thru Jesus. We have to get the gospel out. We have got to work as never before, because time is short. The devil knows that, his goal is to drag as many people down as he possibly can. 

It is quite possible that God has put you where you are at this moment for such a time as this. (Esther 4:14) We have got to get out there and make a difference knowing that God wants to use you. He has a place for you, a part for you to play, a seed for you to sow, a call for you to answer. You can and will make a difference – IF YOU LET GOD USE YOU.

PRAY: Lord, use me in your mission. I will be a laborer. I don't know what I can do. I don't know what I can offer. I don't have a lot, Lord. But I give it to you. I'm just an ordinary person. But I offer my life to you; TODAY. Lord, it's not much, but it's yours. I give my life to you. Here I am Lord, send me.

Let God use you, and watch what God can do!

Oct 9, 2009

Can't Buy Me Love

I have a friend named “Mike” who used to say to me; “If you ever run out of things to preach, remind us again that God loves us; I never get tired of hearing that”. Well Mike, this is blog is for you.

Today, my blog is short; here it is: GOD LOVES YOU! And you know what, He always has; even when you didn’t know Him and do what He wants you to. He loves you even if you don’t know Him and have never surrendered your heart to Him and received Jesus Christ as you own Lord and Savior.

The Bible says; “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8). Did you catch that, He died for us sinners! Each of us! Even when we were rejecting Him! That’s love!

God hates that we try to figure it out or try to pay for it ourselves. You can’t buy a “stairway to heaven”; no way, no how – that wasn’t God’s plan. The old Beatles song had it right; “money can't buy me love”. No, we receive this love thru Jesus Christ. Jesus said that He was the Way, Truth, and Life; NO ONE comes to the father except thru Him (John 14:6). It is a gift from God because He wants loves you.

The Bible also says; “4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (Ephesians 2:4-9).

Notice, the passage didn’t say that He approves of what we are doing; in fact some of the things that we do hurt Him and make Him angry; no matter how much we try to make laws to say that it is OK for us to do them. The Bible calls this ‘doing what we want to do’ “SIN”. And God hates it because it is wrong and hates it because it separates us from Him. 

God also hates it when we reject Him and do it on our own. In the Bible we read Jesus weeping as He said; “Jerusalem! Jerusalem! The one killing the prophets, and stoning those having been sent to her; how often I desired to gather your children in the way a hen gathers her brood under the wings, and you did not desire it.” (Luke 13:34).

Well my friend, this is blog is for you. God loves you; I hope that you never get tired of hearing that. God wants us to receive this love and share it with others in our day to day life; they need to hear of God’s love as much as you and I.

For more information, go to my website at http://www.riverofhopeministries.org/ and read the article; “How to Get Right with God

Oct 2, 2009

Snowbirds and Starlings

We had our first “cold” days this past week in Minnesota; we had to bring some plants in doors to avoid any potential frost. The warm weather we had this past month is now gone and we are reminded that winter will soon be here. For some Minnesotans the changing of the season means a change in where they live. Many will make plans to migrate to warmer locations in the south such as Arizona, Texas, California, or Florida. The people who live in the southern states call these temporarily transplanted Minnesotans “snowbirds” because they will head south to live when it is cold and then return to Minnesota when it is warm again in the spring.

Snowbirds are typically people who are retired or those who have wealth and can afford to be away from home for long periods of time. Some of these people have second homes; others will drive their campers (RVs) to their new location. They temporarily head south like the swallows of Capistrano or some other beautiful song bird or the lovely monarch butterflies. For snowbirds, these are happy times filled with warm sand and sunshine. For us, we miss them until they return in the spring.

There are some snowbirds who head south not because they can afford to, but because they have to; it is just too cold here in Minnesota for them to sleep on the streets. These are the homeless people who for whatever reason have nowhere to live but on some piece of real estate that is not their own.

We don’t think of them as “snowbirds”, but rather as “starlings”; those pesky birds who seem to be nothing but pests. Starlings are loud scavengers who take the scraps left behind by road kill or steal from farmer’s fields; taking never giving or contributing to society. They are not pretty nor do they seem to serve any purpose; we don’t need them and we are “happy” when they head south for the winter. Always asking people for a hand out; why don’t they just go away? Why, because for some reason they don’t seem to be able to. And so they move from location to location searching for someone who will care for them. For us, we wish they would just go away and not return in the spring. Then we wouldn’t feel guilty as we justify why we don’t do anything to help their situation.

Now, my goal is not to put any of us on guilt trip; I certainly don’t need any. But I want to remind us as we check our furnaces and get out the warmer clothes and get ready for the cold that there are a whole bunch of people out there who will be spending the winter sleeping outside. And, they can’t afford to go away “somewhere else”. They are your problem and my problem; and we need to care.

You might be thinking; “Didn’t Jesus say the poor you will have with you always; we aren’t going to solve the problem of homelessness! Two thoughts: First of all, Jesus said that to refute Judas who was mad because of a woman who poured out perfume that was worth a year’s wages, on the feet of Jesus as a gift. Judas Iscariot said, “Why was this fragrant oil not sold for and given to the poor?” This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it. Jesus was saying that the poor you have with you always, but He they would not always have (John 12:1-8).

Secondly, in the Bible, Isaiah chapter 58 we hear God’s heart on this matter. The people were “fasting” for God and wondering why He wasn’t doing what they wanted. God said through the Prophet Isaiah; v6-7 “Is this not the fast that I have chosen: To loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke? 7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, And that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; When you see the naked, that you cover him, And not hide yourself from your own flesh?” In verse 10 God goes on to say that we should “extend your soul to the hungry, And satisfy the afflicted soul”

I’m not sure what the answer is or what God is calling each of us to do when we see these “starlings” out on the street; trying to stay warm and get something to eat. I bring this up to keep it fresh in our faces; not for guilt, but because I believe that we need to say to God; “What are you asking me to do?” And then to go do it; and make a difference for the starlings of this world we live in.

“Starlings” by Randy Stonehill
Riding with my family in a '58 Buick
I can still recall
How we'd drive through the valley
To my Grandmother's house
Every summer vacation, when I was small
And I'd gaze out the window
At the farms and the orchards
And the sound of our motor
Would frighten the starlings
And they'd rise from the fields to fly

My mother would grumble
"Those birds are a curse
They're a thorn in the farmers" side
But I couldn't help feeling sad and inspired
By their desperate ballet in the sky

Say a prayer for the starlings
A hot, dry wind beats their ragged wings
Have a thought for the starlings
No one ever listens to the songs they sing
Say a prayer for the starlings
There's no welcome for them anywhere
Leave some crumbs for the starlings
They say that Winter will be cold this year

She was sitting on a curb by the Seven Eleven
She asked if I had some spare change
Her skin wore that leathered and wind-burned look
And the light in her blue eyes was wild and strange
I sat down beside her and asked her name
She said, "pick one you like, I need something to eat"
And her life made me think
Of the dead leaves in Autumn
Drifting like ghosts down the street

Is the life that we celebrate only a dream
A lie that we serve like a god made of stone
And our hearts are the hunter
Birds with no nesting place
Weary and aching for home


Written By Randy Stonehill
© 1989 Stonehillian Music/Word Music
(a division of Word, Inc.)/ASCAP