Thursday, April 27, 2006

Selfless Prayer

I have a book called Golden Moments of Religious Inspiration. It is a collection of inspirational writings from way back. One of the most interesting to me is an article by Homer Croy called "We Thank Thee 0 Lord." In this article, Croy recorded a prayer that he found in The Charleston (South Carolina) Courier of April 4, 1837. The prayer was copied from a London paper and may have been originally uttered by John Ward, a Member of Parliament from Hackney. This is the prayer he prayed:

"0, Lord, thou knowest I have nine houses in the City of London, and likewise that I have lately purchased an estate in fee simple in the county of Essex. I beseech thee to preserve the counties of Essex and Middlesex from fire and earthquake; and as I have a mortgage in Hertfordshire, I beg Thee to have an eye of compassion on that county; as for the rest of the counties, Thou may'st deal with them as Thou art pleased. 0, Lord, enable the banks to answer all their bills, and make all my debtors good men.

"Give me a prosperous voyage and give return to my sloop, the 'Mermaid,' because I have insured it; and as Thou hast said that the ways of the wicked are short, I trust that Thou wilt not forget that promise, as I have purchased an estate in reversion, which will be mine on the death of that profligate young man, Sir John Lawson."

Quite a prayer, isn't it? Humorous obviously, and shocking! It's also scary, though, because I believe that it is strikingly similar to many prayers offered in this twenty-first century. “How,” you might ask.

Many pray today, thanking God for all the ways that he has blessed them. After the thanks, come the petitions for more blessings. And there is nothing wrong with that. Yet, what the prayer above verbalized, many act out in their lives. They often go about with their attention focused on themselves, and still worse, on their own worldly possessions. When it comes to looking after someone else, being concerned about someone else, they are blind.

There are times when we need to forget about that boat, forget about those homes; forget about the things that our selfishness brings to mind. Forgetting those things, let’s pray that God will bless others, not only through his work and providence, but also, through us. We would do well to follow Paul's example who, though while he in jail, was concerned not with himself, but with the Philippians.

What do you need to pray about today that is more about someone else than it is about you? That’s Life at Work!

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

No Mistakes

William Mart Miller used to tell a story to sad story about a Civil War veteran.

On July 3, 1863, the body of Ansell Fassett, a twenty-one year old boy wearing the Blue, was picked up for dead on the field of Gettysburg, and was listed as dead in the records. Before the burial party could reach him, however, he showed signs of life, and was rushed to the field hospital where he eventually recovered and was discharged as incapacitated for further service. He applied for a disability pension, but the record of his death was an insurmountable barrier. Struggling with his disability and the problem of making a living, he had misplaced his discharge papers. Finally, with advancing years, he sought admission to the Soldier's Home in Sawtelle, CA, but again the record of his death shut him out and he was forced to eke out a living in the most humble way. For him, Gettysburg lasted 63 years! Again he fell, and this time no moan from him interrupted the burial party. The day after his funeral in 1926 the missing discharge paper was found, but it didn't matter. The mistaken records had done their worst.

The Hebrew writer taught us, “Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him” (Heb 9:27-28; NIV).

All of us will stand before the judgment seat of God. We will await the news of our admission into the home Jesus has prepared for his own. There will be no lost or mistaken records. Everything will be correct, everything will be in order, and everything will be eternal. That’s Life at Work!

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Jesus Perspective: Disciples and Money

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Matt 6:19-21

He thought he had it all, and so did a lot of other people. We call him the rich, young, ruler. He was wealthy and he was righteous (in his own eyes). He had treasure everywhere except where he needed it most! Jesus told him to sell all he had and give it to the poor, then he would have treasure where it would really do some good He went away sorrowfully, though. He considered having treasure here more important that having it in heaven.

We are in danger of making the same decision. Oh, we don’t make it face to face with Jesus in the way the rich, young, ruler did; nevertheless, the decision is still made, and the consequences are the same. There are rich people who, like that young ruler, are too interested in their wealth to be interested in the things of God They will walk away from opportunities for eternal life just like the young man did. There are also those who barely make it between paychecks who spend their lives just trying to pay that next credit card bill, or that next car note, or that next house payment They are so busy in fact, that while not rich, the buck has become their god. They have as much interest in possessions as the guy who already has the possessions.

The two messages from those Matthew 6 and 18 are: (1) God can tell where our hearts are by the treasures that we lay up for ourselves and (2) the only treasures that will last forever are the ones deposited in heaven.

Marcus Cicero called "Out of this Life” to illustrate these truths:

Out of this life I shall never take
Things of silver and gold I make.
All Om I cherish and hoard away
After I leave, on earth must stay.
Though I call it mine and I boast its worth,
I must give it up when I quit the earth.
All that I gather and all that I keep
I must leave behind when I fall asleep.
And I wonder often, just what I shall own,
In that other life when I pass alone,
What shall He find and what shall He see,
In the soul that answers the call for me?
Shall the great Judge learn when my task is through
That my soul had gathered some riches too?
Or shall at the last, it be mine to find,
That all I had worked for, I had left behind?

That’s Life at Work!

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Jesus' Financial Plan

If you run after money, you’re materialistic. If you don’t get it, you’re a loser. If you get it and keep it, you’re a miser. If you don’t try to get it, you lack ambition. If you get it and spend it, you’re a spendthrift. If you have it after a lifetime of work, you’re a fool who never got any fun out of life.

If you listen to everybody’s ideas about other people and their money, you’ll quickly get the idea that you can’t win. You always end up looking bad.

You can win with Jesus, though. What I mean is that if you will cling to the teachings of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount regarding money, you will have treasure in the right place. He gives four instructions:

1. Store up treasure in heaven to assure that your heart is in the right place.
2. If your heart is greedy, or otherwise darkened by an ungodly view of money, your whole life will be impacted negatively.
3. You’ve got to decide whether you will live for wealth or God. You can’t do both.
4. Don’t spend your life worrying about what you don’t have. God knows your need and will care for you.

That’s Life at Work!

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Resurrection and Spring

My lover spoke and said to me,
“Arise, my darling,
my beautiful one, and come with me.
11 See! The winter is past;
the rains are over and gone.
12 Flowers appear on the earth;
the season of singing has come,
the cooing of doves
is heard in our land.
13 The fig tree forms its early fruit;
the blossoming vines spread their fragrance.
Arise, come, my darling;
my beautiful one, come with me.”

(Song 2:10-13; NIV)

Whether you’ve considered the arguments about the timeframe of the resurrection, and regardless of what you’ve concluded about them, you’ve got to admit, there is something quite natural about thinking of the resurrection in the spring when flowers appear, doves coo, fruit trees blossom, and emotions lift. I don’t know the order in which the thoughts come, but either resurrection reminds me of spring or spring reminds me of resurrection. There is too much new life around not to think of new life (Romans 6:4).

But Jesus didn’t resurrect for me to think about his victory over death on Easter Sunday. He resurrected to change my life – and change my death. Because Jesus resurrected, when I submit to baptism, I am saved. Because Jesus resurrected, I set my heart and mind on things above instead of on earthly things. Because Jesus resurrected, God will give life to my mortal body when Jesus returns.

Nothing is the same. Everything is new. It’s better than the spring! That’s Life at Work!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

How Have You Reacted?

How Have You Reacted?

How could it be that people could know about a tomb-now-empty, yet remain the same?  A resurrection from the dead is a powerful claim.  You don’t just hear a story about someone coming back from the grave and dismiss it like someone told you the score between two teams that you care nothing about.  Overcoming death is too big of an event for apathy.

How have you reacted to the news?  Paul said that the resurrection of Jesus is my reason to put faith in Jesus, it is the proof of eternal life for me now, and the proof of a bodily resurrection for me later.  The resurrection is the reason I recognize Jesus as Lord and the reason that I can bear fruit to God in my life.

The South Yukon Church will assembly this Sunday morning to eat the Lord’s supper, like we do every Sunday, because Jesus rose on Sunday.  Scripture calls Sunday the Lord’s Day.  Two thousand years later, we still call it the Lord’s Day.  One who can come out of his own grave, by his own power, can declare his resurrection day as his own.

He wants to claim you as his own, too.  He has the right, but he wants you to choose him!  That’s Life at Work!