Thursday, December 11, 2003

Faith and Freefalling

Mirabeau was a French Revolutionary Statesman who the first time he ever heard Robespierre speak said to the person next to him, “That man will go far; he believes everything he says.” Sincerity is important isn’t it. But, sincerity is not enough.

My brother was second base umpire in softball game I was watching one Saturday afternoon. He made what appeared even to me a really pitiful call. The person next to me thought so, too, and began to verbalize his disapproval in a nice way to my mother who was beside me. My mother responded to the complaints saying, “He might have been wrong with the call, but he was sincere.” Sincerity doesn’t make you right!

Paul the Apostle was describing for the Philippians his “reason to boast” if anybody had reason. He wrote about his zeal for what he believed God wanted him to do (Philippians 3:5-6). When he wrote to the Galatian Christians he reminded them how intensely he persecuted the church (Galatians 1:13-14). He was sure that he was doing the right thing! But he was wrong!

In April 1988 the evening news reported on a photographer who was a skydiver. He had jumped from a plane along with numerous other skydivers and filmed the group as they fell and opened their parachutes. On the film shown on the telecast, as the final skydiver opened his chute, the picture went berserk. The announcer reported that the cameraman had fallen to his death, having jumped out of the plane without his parachute. It wasn't until he reached for the absent ripcord that he realized he was free falling without a parachute. Until that point, the jump probably seemed exciting and fun. But tragically, he had acted with thoughtless haste and deadly foolishness. Nothing could save him, for his faith was in a parachute never buckled on. Faith in anything but an all-sufficient God can be just as tragic spiritually.

Sincerity is extremely important. You will not go to heaven unless you are zealous for God. But sincerity without knowledge will get you nowhere. Only with faith in Jesus Christ dare we step into the dangerous excitement of life.
When You Are the Boss

Ferdinand I, emperor of Austria in the mid 1800’s, was insane; and according to historical accounts, wasn’t too smart even in his more controlled moments. He knew, however, that his position was one of authority, and he could demand whatever he wished. His one recorded demand that is worthy of note reflects his poor leadership quality. He said, “I am the emperor, and I want dumplings.”
You would hope that a man with an emperor’s authority would at least leave a legacy of notable anecdotes. Ferdinand wanted dumplings.
Jesus said that “all authority in heaven and earth” was his. He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Did he know that his position was one of authority? Yes, he did; and he did leave a legacy of notable sayings. We call them the New Testament. Some of the more famous ones are: “Do to others what you would have them do to you” and “Blessed are the merciful because they will be shown mercy.”
Did Jesus do anything significant with his authority? Of course he did! He conquered sin and death! He set the captives free! He’s gone to prepare a place for people of faith, and we will rule with him. Jesus knew what to do with his authority. He is worthy of our trust and discipleship. Have you submitted to his authority? That’s Life at Work!

Thursday, November 13, 2003

Bad Replays

Do you you seem to make the same mistakes repeatedly? Whether you you do it, or you you have to interact with someone who does, you you know how frustrating that can be. Why do we duplicate bad behavior or make the same bad choice repeatedly?
Sometimes we fail to see the mistake as a mistake or failure. I’ve known some who have been in multiple marriages who do not recognize that moving from relationship to relationship, household to household, is catastrophic – for themselves and their families. Selfishness can blind you you. Poor teaching and examples can blur your vision regarding right and wrong. Even when you you are told what is right; you you may still fail to believe it.
Sometimes you you know something is wrong, but you you keep thinking the failure is a result of something that is not actually the cause. A man was driving down the road. He passed a traffic camera and saw it Flash. Astounded that he had been caught speeding when he was doing the speed limit, he turned around and, going even slower, he passed the camera. Again, he saw it flash. He couldn't believe it! So he turned and, going a snail's pace, he passed the camera. Again, he saw the camera flash. He guessed it must have a glitch , and home he went. Four weeks later he received 3 traffic tickets in the mail, all for not wearing a seatbelt.
Maybe the things written here resonate with you you. Maybe you you repeat bad behavior or bad decisions for some other reason. I believe that part of the solution, regardless of the reason for the problem, is (1) constant exposure to the Word of God so that truth is repeatedly in front of you you; and (2) careful self-examination specifically designed to cease the foolish behavior or decision.

“Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves” (2 Cor 13:5).

Monday, November 10, 2003

What Do You Call tomorrow?

If our prayer, "Even so, come Lord Jesus," is answered with Christ coming in the clouds tomorrow morning, his coming is a gift from God. No more tears, suffering, or wondering; no more need for those godly traits like patience and perseverance. Hope will have become reality. Faith will have become sight!
But if Jesus doesn't come in the clouds by tomorrow morning, what do you call tomorrow? Would you call it a gift? At the end of one day, G. K. Chesterson wrote this short poem:

Here dies another day
During which I have had eyes, ears, hands,
And the great world round me;
And with tomorrow begins another.
Why am I allowed two?

Tomorrow, if it comes is a gift. If you've used today, wisely, knowing it was a gift from God, count tomorrow as a bonus. Do it again. If your choices today have been poor, if the time has been taken for granted, treat tomorrow as door number one - a surprise from God, and step through that door with better vision than today. That's Life at Work!
We Have the Key

In the Eagle’s song Already Gone, there is a confession and observation:

Well I know it wasn't you who held me down
Heaven knows it wasn't you who set me free
So often times it happens that we live our lives in chains
And we never even know we have the key

One of the first steps in getting free from the chains that tie us down is quitting the blame game. When we’ve done that, and even Don Henley knows this, our eyes are open to finding the key. Are you chained in an unhappy home, a load of debt, an unsatisfying job, an out of control lifestyle, or a barren spirituality? Have you been blaming others to make sure that everyone knows you are not at fault? Blame like that accomplishes little. Even when you have blame outside yourself established, which is rarely exact, you’ve still got to solve the problem. In most instances, the problem can be solved without spending so much time determining who should carry the greater guilt.
The key to having everlasting freedom is in hearing and doing the will of Jesus. When his teachings are taken to heart, and wisdom leads to proven solutions, then you’ll develop the happy home, dump the load of debt, cultivate contentment, practice self-control, and richen your impoverished spirituality.
You know the one who holds the key. Are you ready to quit fixing blame and ready to fix the problem?

Friday, October 31, 2003

Cutting Away Your Soul

The Psalmist wrote about the Israelites: “They did not destroy the peoples as the LORD had commanded them, but they mingled with the nations and adopted their customs. They worshiped their idols, which became a snare to them” (Ps 106:34-36). They enjoyed the land God had given them unconcerned with their gradual departure from the ways of God. Though warned, they didn’t believe they were destroying their lives. Though called to repent, they focused on the milk and honey while sin consumed their souls.
George Orwell tells a story about a trick he once played on a wasp. “He (the wasp) was sucking jam on my plate, and I cut him in half. He paid no attention, merely went on with his meal, while a tiny stream of jam trickled out of his severed esophagus. Only when he tried to fly away did he grasp the dreadful thing that had happened to him. It is the same with modern man. The thing that has been cut away is his soul, and there was a period ... during which he did not notice it.”
Look at what you are doing and what its doing to you. That’s Life at Work!

Thursday, October 23, 2003

Abortion Lies

“You won’t die! God doesn’t want you to eat the fruit because when you do, you’ll be like him.”
“Her? No, she’s not my wife, she’s my sister. Sarah, come on over and meet these good Egyptians.”
“Yeah, I know what God told you, but I am a prophet, too. He told me to tell you to come to my house in Bethel and eat supper with me.”
“Look, we sold our land and here is all the money from that sale. Every bit of it.”
“Tell me what makes you so strong, Samson. I love you, but you’re making fun of me.”

Did you recognize those statements as lies from Bible history? Each of those lies had real potential to harm either the liar or the one believing the lie. Adam and Eve were banished from the garden because they believed Satan’s lie. The young prophet who believed the lie of the old prophet was killed by a lion on his way home. Ananias and Saphira were immediately struck dead because of their lie concerning the money for the sale of their land. Samson was captured because he believed Delilah’s lie when she said, “I love you.” The only lie mentioned above was Abraham’s lie that Sarah was not his wife. The only reason that was remedied is because God stepped into the picture to keep Pharaoh from sleeping with her.

“This type of late-term abortion is performed rarely and only to save a mother’s life or to abort malformed fetuses.” That was a lie, too. It was told by Ron Fitzsimmons and the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League according to the Cleveland Daily Banner of February 27, 1997. What has been the result of this lie? Thousands of babies since then, having been partially delivered, have had their brains sucked out of their heads. These babies had actually come part way through the birth canal - they were seconds from seeing the faces of their mothers - and they were killed.
Congress passed a bill to ban the procedure in 1997. President Clinton vetoed the bill, then Congress failed to override the veto. Why did President Clinton veto the bill? He explained that it was because the procedure was used on a few hundred women per year whose babies would be born with terrible deformities. He believed a lie. Why wouldn’t enough Congressmen vote to override the veto? Because they believed a lie. It was not a few hundred, it was a few thousand. It was not just on women whose babies were terribly deformed, many of the babies were perfectly healthy. Fitzsimmons admitted that he lied.
I’m so glad that Congress has passed the ban again, and that it will, no doubt, be signed by President Bush. Consider, whether these might be more lies told by pro-abortionists and believed by a nation ready to be deceived.
“The phrase sanctity of life has no meaning. Life is not sacred.”
“It’s not God’s body. It’s your body and you can do whatever you want with it.”
“Your should have the right to do whatever makes you happy regardless of its effect on the child in your womb.”
Dangerous lies, destined to bring harm. Please don’t believe them!

~~Richard May

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Eternal Furlough
"Everything's been great so far, Mom. And it ain't over yet." The New York Times ran an article about the visit of Juan Castillo to Daytona. That’s Specialist Juan Castillo, by the way. He is visiting because he is an American soldier on a 14-day furlough from Iraq. He was talking to him mom on day twelve.
The Army is hoping that the furlough, close to mid-way in a year long deployment, will make the year more tolerable. Probably won’t happen. Castillo will be happy when he can wake up in his own bed knowing that, Lord willing, he will get to do that for the rest of his life.
The quote from Castillo that opened this article reminded me of the last verse of the wonderful Christian song “Amazing Grace.” “When we’ve been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun; we’ve no less days to sing God’s praise than when we’d first begun.”
If you ask his family, Specialist Castillo was hiding his true feelings. He wanted the furlough to be eternal. In Heaven it will be. “My sheep listen to my voice;” Jesus said. “I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:27-28). That’s Life at Work!

~Richard May

Thursday, October 09, 2003

What Does Love Look Like?

The first is like the second, the second like the first. They are tied together. Like conjoined twins sharing a single heart, the commands to love God and love your neighbor must not be, cannot be, separated.

To define love is possible. Love like Jesus commanded in Matthew 22 is good will even for enemies, not dependent on the lovability of the person loved, always accompanied with action. But love is shown better than defined. In lieu of defining love, Jesus illustrated it with personal example and story. He gave us pictures of love that we can examine and imitate.

He told the story that Luke records about a man beaten and left for dead. Two “spiritual leaders” passed by, unwilling to help. An outcast saw the beaten man, though, tended to his wounds, carried him to a place where he could heal, and paid for the services he needed. That’s Love. The Pharisee, eager to justify himself, still could miss the point.

Jesus “showed the full extent of his love” (NIV) when he washed the feet of his followers, his students, his servants. That’s Love. The disciples understood that they weren’t worthy; they were loved.

The theologian Augustine answered the question, “What does love look like?” saying, It (love) has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like.”

Richard May

Monday, October 06, 2003

Love Your Neighbor

When Jesus was asked, “What is the greatest commandment?” he responded, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind. And, love your neighbor as yourself.”
The quick question in return was, “Who is my neighbor?”
Jesus didn’t define a neighbor as the person who lives next door or down the street. Jesus didn’t say your neighbor is someone who you’ve befriended because of common backgrounds. Your neighbor, according to Jesus, is not someone who looks like you, spends money like you, is part of the same group as you, or goes to the same places as you.
Instead of defining “neighbor,” Jesus illustrated neighbor with a story. You are probably familiar with the story about a beaten man, a priest, a Levi, and a Samaritan recorded by Luke that Jesus told. The story was such a powerful illustration that even the Pharisee who was interested in self-justification couldn’t misunderstand. Your neighbor is anyone, anywhere who needs your help. Could Jesus tell a story about you to illustrate who a neighbor is? That’s Life at Work!

Richard May

Thursday, October 02, 2003

Love the Lord Your God

“Ah, blessed Lord, I wish I knew how I might best love you and please you, that my love were as sweet to you as your love is to me.” Margery Kempe

What a grand prayer! And an important prayer because Jesus said to the testing Pharisees that the greatest command is to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37; NIV).
God’s love for us consumed him, so much that John says about him, “God is love” (1 John 4:8). His love for us is so intense, such a part of his nature, that “nothing shall separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:39; NIV).
Could anything separate God from your love for him? Jesus said to love him with:

All your heart - every bit of your emotion.
All your soul - every part of your being.
All your mind - every bit of your intellect.

When we love him that much, the tragedies of life, the prayers that seem unheard, the injustices we perceive, and the sacrifices we make without immediate reward will not cause us to turn from our relationship with him.
To love God is to obey God (John 14:15). Obeying God means giving it all up for him. That’s he did for us. Paul wrote that God showed his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). In the context of God’s love, Paul wrote that if God didn’t withhold his Son, there is nothing he wouldn’t give for us (Romans 8:32).
Does God see, in your choices, love for him? Do you believe that your choices reflect the prayer “that your love be as sweet to God as his love is to you”?


Friday, September 26, 2003

Problem of Inspiration

The sermons on Sunday mornings with the South Yukon Church recently have been answering some questions like the one from this past Sunday: What does the Bible mean by “All Scripture is God-breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16)? I’ve heard people criticize the Bible concerning its failure to be something that the Bible never claims to be. For instance, if the Bible says about the sun rising in the east, critics want the Bible to be scientifically accurate and argue that it should say something about rotations and orbits. The Bible never asserts itself as an astrological manual. If it did, you would have something to gripe about. The Bible does claim that heaven is its origin; that it is the authority for your life; and that it is sufficient for your walk to eternal life through Christ. If those things were proved untrue, we’ve got a big problem. But they haven’t been, nor will they be. If, then, you don’t respond positively to the message from the Bible, you’ve got a big problem! That’s Life at Work!

Thursday, September 18, 2003

Interest and Proximity

When a storm like Isabel approaches, everybody pays some kind of attention; but the people who pay the closest attention are those who are in the path of the hurricane. When tornadoes are flying around the OKC area, people on the coast may pay attention, but we are glued to our radios and televisions. One of the rules of human nature is: “Interest is directly proportional to proximity.” The closer we are to an event, the more interest or concern we have in it.
When your spouse tells you that if you continue to drink, you will wreck your relationship with him or her; and you do not make the effort to quit drinking, you are revealing a lot about your feelings about your family. When you read in the Bible that something you are doing is contrary to what God wants for you, and you do not change your mind about doing it; you are demonstrating that your relationship to God is not something that is close to you.
Your closeness to your family and your God is seen in the interest you show in the issues that impact them. Examine yourself. Ask yourself the serious questions. Is alcohol more important than your family? Is your sin more important than your relationship with God? See if your heart is where it ought to be. That’s Life at Work!

Richard May

Friday, September 12, 2003

Quarrels With God

Near the end of his life, Henry David Thoreau, author and philosopher, was encouraged to make his peace with God. I don’t know how the encourager instructed Thoreau to do that, but Thoreau responded, “I didn’t know that we had ever quarreled.”
Maybe you’ve never quarreled with God like a husband quarrels with a wife or one sibling quarrels with another, but you’ve been at odds with God, whether you’ve realized it or not. I know that’s true because it’s true of every person - including you and me. Paul explained “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless” (Romans 3:10-12).
Thank God that the quarrel is not the end of the story. While we all deserve death because of our unrighteous, the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus, his Son (Romans 6:23). Many people, for various reasons ranging from inopportunity to foolish pride, have lived and died, not knowing about the quarrel or the Christ. You have been at odds with God. Have you accepted his gift? That’s Life at Work!

Richard May
The article appearing in the South Yukon Bulletin this week:

I’m wearing red, white, and blue as I write this down. It’s 9/11 and 9:23 A.M. Two years ago today I got a call here at the office from JeannaLynn saying that a plane had crashed into one of the towers of the World Trade Center. I quickly got one of the televisions we have and set it up in the office area. What we saw was unbelievable! How in the world could a pilot make such a huge mistake?
Then it happened again. I get goose bumps on my arms, tears in my eyes, and a lump in my throat when I think about watching the live video of the second plane crashing into the second tower. My first thought was, “Oh, no! This was not a mistake!”
As the drama continued in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania I remember vividly a variety of emotions. I remember tremendous sadness at the incredible loss of life; both of those who had no idea they were in danger, and those who rushed headlong into danger to save others.
I remember an empty hopelessness. It crushes the heart to want to do something - to know you’ve got to do something - but don’t have a clue as to what to do.
I remember a raging anger. Who could do such a thing? How could anyone deliberately drive a commercial aircraft through a heavily populated business center? How evil would someone have to be to do that? What kind of hate compels a man to kill thousands of innocent strangers? The more I came up with no answers to those questions, the angrier I became.
I remember a swelling pride in our own people. The heroes that emerged from common people, people just like you and me, who risked life and gave it, to save others, caused all of us to beam with admiration.
I remember a national unity that help me understand my part in helping. Sending money, giving blood, and standing hand-in-hand in our auditorium with other people from Yukon, praying desperately for God’s intervention, were our contributions to the effort.
I remember a longing for justice - a longing I still have today. My prayer is that God will save through Christ those who assisted in the attack on the innocent two years ago today. I also pray that if they if they don’t repent, God will punish them - severely.
“Vengeance is mine. I will repay,” says the Lord.