Sometimes we have to close our eyes so we can see. We have to leave behind the ordinary and look deep into the heart of the One Who was born at Christmas. Then we can witness the marvelous miracle that began with the life of a tiny Baby, the Son of God.
There was never a night like it before or since. In our hearts we can relive the events of that night when Heaven touched earth. We can walk to the stable, hear the angels' message, reach for the star, and find Jesus as alive today as He has always been.
So, close your eyes and look beyond the here and now and straight into the realm of eternity. Christ is still being born in the hearts of men today, and those hearts resound with the angels, "peace on earth, good will to men!"
Thursday, October 27, 2011
I was going through some “old stuff” the other day and found my speech from graduation. My son said it was still relevant today, so I thought I would share it.
THE CHOICE IS OURS – INDIVIDUALISM
“As graduating seniors, we are faced with a new era of challenge and choice. In a society that is less structured than ever before, that is more liberal and permissive, we have the privilege and opportunity to determine our separate roles. The choice will be ours.
How can we, as the graduating seniors of Belton-Honea Path High School, become individuals? To become an individual one must possess a total character distinguished from others.
Why do so many people conform to another’s lifestyle rather than setting their own pace? A survey was made of 600 students in the psychology classes of a university in which they were asked to state their most difficult personal problem. Seventy-five percent of the students listed lack of confidence.
Everywhere you encounter people who are inwardly afraid, who suffer from a deep sense of inadequacy and insecurity, and who doubt their own personal powers. They do not believe that they have it in them to be what they want to be, and so they make themselves content with something less than that of which they are capable. They resort to conforming to others’ standards so as to have assurance of acceptance and success rather than being ostracized for their own thoughts or actions.
Henry Van Dyke once said, “Individuality is the salt of common life. You may have to live in a crowd, but you do not have to live like it nor subsist on its food.”
As we walk away from Belton-Honea Path High School, our friends, and our past; we have a choice – one that is an important molding factor for our future. During the past, we have conformed to our peers’ ideas in dress code, our speech, and even our habits. But when we go our separate ways, we will have to decide whether or not we will become an individual or conform again to our new stage of life, whether that stage be college or employment. We are not forced to conform, but we are forced to make a decision in one way or another.
Henry David Thoreau said, “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.”
Every person has a different calling. Each has a different purpose or goal in his life, even within this graduating class of 1975. In our lives we will meet people who have different ideas from those of our own. We must learn to accept these people as individuals.
So, you see, the choice is ours as to whether or not we will become an individual and whether or not we will accept others as individuals. If we change our personality for every stage of life we take part in, we will never have possession of a solid character. Let us not build something that we will have to tear down.”
Thursday, October 6, 2011
While I was driving along, I looked at the upcoming hill. It appeared the top of the hill was the end of the road. I had travelled that road before, so I knew it continued. But I still asked myself as I looked toward the illusion, “Should I keep going?” What if it really was as it appeared? What if it ended? Then I would be in danger of falling off into…something. It was foolish to entertain those thoughts because I knew where the road ended. I knew I was safe and the road would take me to my destination, so I disregarded the thoughts and continued on.
Most of us have faced the same scenario in our life’s journey. We come to a place in the road that looks like the end, and we question, “Should I keep going? Is it safe?” We may have come to this place before and know that Jesus will make a way for us…He is the way. But when we come to that place again, doubts surface in our minds about the faithfulness of God. If we entertain those thoughts instead of disregarding them, the enemy can stop us altogether or turn us back from receiving what God has for us.
The thoughts go something like this. “What if this situation really is as hopeless as it appears?” “What if I believe and am disappointed? I know God can do it, but will He do it for me?” “Is there any use in continuing to try? Every time I seem to be making progress, something happens to push me back.” “Where is God? Does He really care about me?”
I suppose you caught me! And, yes, the reason I know the questions is because I’ve been there…because I have asked some of them myself. The truth is, I also know the answers…and so do you. God is faithful and we can trust Him completely, blindly, wholeheartedly and not be ashamed or disappointed.
We cannot afford to entertain those thoughts of doubt and give them a place in our minds and emotions. If we do, they will very subtly birth unbelief in our hearts.
Satan whispers these lies in our ears, and they come with an unhealthy dose of fear. The fear is the power behind his deception. It serves to push us over the edge of the precipice that he keeps hidden from us while he makes us believe God’s way is the dangerous way. That is why we have to use caution as to what thoughts we entertain.
I have experienced times when I felt hopeless for no apparent reason. My mind seemed dull and God seemed a million miles away. I went back to my journal where I had recorded what God had spoken to my heart from His Word and I was renewed. We decrease our doubts and fears by increasing our faith.
How do we accomplish that? “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Romans 10:17) When it looks as if the road ahead has ended, it’s time to let the Word of God wash that illusion out of our minds. And we need to keep going! His Word will help us see clearly and we can continue on His way.
The end of the road? Makes you think! But be careful what you think.
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
I knew a man who travelled a lot for his company, and he told me this story.
He was having a terrible day, actually a terrible week. He looked up in his rear-view mirror to see a police officer with his light flashing right behind him. He was stopped for speeding, and got a severe penalty. The officer fined him $445 and took six points from his license. In hopes of having the penalty reduced, the man decided to appear on the appointed court date and make his plea with the judge. He couldn’t afford to lose the $445 or the six points.
When the day arrived, he went to the courthouse and was greeted in the lobby by the same officer who had fined him. The officer told him this judge would not reduce the fine and would only reduce the points by two. Obviously, the judge had a reputation for enforcing the letter of the law. But he asked the man to allow him to go before the judge in his stead and plead his case.
The man had a choice to make, and decided to let the officer be the mediator in his case. When it was over, there were no points taken and the fine was reduced to $185. The one who had upheld the law and charged him for breaking it was the same one who made a way for his release from the stiff penalty.
After he told me his story, I realized how perfectly it illustrated what the Father sent Jesus to do for us – except the stakes are much higher with our eternal destination in the balances.
One day we will all stand before the Judge of all the earth. There is a strict penalty for sin, and we are all guilty, because we are born with a sin nature. So, there is nothing we can do to change the death sentence that hangs over us. But Jesus says, “Let me intercede to the Judge on your behalf.”
We all have a choice to make. We can choose to appear before the Judge of all the earth on our own merit, but the death penalty will not be removed. Or we can allow Jesus to be the go-between, our mediator. The Judge will hear Him when He intercedes for us.
We make that choice when we commit our lives to Jesus and receive forgiveness of sins through His blood that was shed on the cross for us. Unlike the police officer, Jesus took the punishment for our sins in our stead so we can go free…not even a $185 fine!
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
Have you made the right choice?
Sunday, August 28, 2011
Some time ago I received an email stressing that every family needed to have an emergency plan. The plan should include choosing a specific place to meet in case of an emergency, such as a terrorist attack, earthquake, destructive weather, etc. If the utility lines were disabled, there would be no way to contact family members after the fact, so the decision needs to be made ahead of time. As we know, circumstances can change in the blink of an eye.
I thought it was a great idea, but must say we have not implemented it as of yet. My intentions are to talk to my family about it and simply decide on a place, but I haven’t followed through. “Why?” you might ask. I guess we are too busy, and when we are together I don’t think about it. We are talking about other things. And we don’t need it right now, so it’s not the most prevalent thought in my mind…But we did feel the rumble of an earthquake in our city a few days ago, and a hurricane just missed our coast yesterday.
I hope the time doesn’t come before we make the plans. Procrastination is a dangerous gamble.
As important as that decision is, there is one that’s much more urgent. We need to make sure everyone in our family is prepared to meet in Heaven one day. Once one of us is gone, we have lost part of the connection. It can happen in the blink of an eye, then it’s too late. This, too, is a simple decision to make...just make sure everyone knows the way to get there.
Here are the directions. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
I know that scripture is probably very familiar to you, but let me emphasize two points. It says ‘whosoever’. That means you, me and everyone else who turns to Jesus. The other thing I would like to point out is the word ‘believe’. Anyone who believes will be saved, but what does it mean to believe? It simply means that you are so persuaded of Who Jesus is that you put your full confidence in Him. You trust Him with your life and rely on Him from that point on. You leave behind the old life and start a brand new one in a new, spiritual dimension.
It’s that simple. I know it seems now like you may never need that plan, but the time comes to every one of us. I realize we are all busy and have other things on our minds, but this needs to be taken care of above all else. If we have not already prepared for our family to meet in Heaven, we cannot afford to put it off.
I hope the time doesn’t come before we make the plans. Procrastination is a dangerous gamble.
Sunday, August 7, 2011
I remember the day I voted in my first national election. My parents and I had talked about the candidates and chose the ones we thought were best for our country. I had everything settled in my mind and knew just how to vote for each office. But when I got to the voting booth, things suddenly looked different, and I was confused. Everything seemed clear before; now it all seemed a little sketchy.
That’s when I heard the voice. It said, “Well, you know who you want for President…” Then the voice walked me through the voting process. I know what you’re thinking. But, no, the voice wasn’t God; it was my Daddy. He was in the booth beside me and somehow knew I needed help. I have laughed so many times about “the voice” in the voting booth.
That experience reminds me of the scripture in Isaiah 30:21: “And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left.” Now that is the voice of God. He wants to eliminate our confusion and steer us in the right direction. We don’t have to beg Him to do it. He wants to do it. But we do have to open our hearts and our ears to hear His voice.
When Jesus told His disciples He would be going away, I imagine they were in a state of confusion and panic. After all, how could they carry on His ministry without Him. Everything revolved completely around Jesus. When He was taken out of the picture, there was nothing left…was there? It didn’t make any sense to their natural minds.
Jesus explained that He would send another Comforter. A comforter is one who comes alongside. He is not at a distance, but right there, just like Jesus was. Jesus promised this Comforter, His Holy Spirit, would be with them and in them to abide forever. They would not be alone when Jesus was no longer with them in the flesh. They would be able to hear His voice in their spirit and know which way to go.
We have the same promise. He is the voice that tells us “this is the way”. He is the power we need to enable us to obey. He is the One Who will bring to our remembrance all that Jesus has taught us. Listen for the voice of the Holy Spirit. Listen when you are at a crossroad, when you feel all alone, when you face difficult circumstances, when everything seems to fall into place…and even in the voting booth. Listen in the morning, midday and night. He will tell you clearly, “This is the way, walk ye in it.”
I was so thankful for the voice in the voting booth. I am even more thankful for the voice of the Spirit who lovingly instructs me where to place my next step!
Monday, July 18, 2011
I rediscovered something I wrote the last day of 1986. It was simply written on a sheet from a legal pad, but it challenged me again. We need to be challenged regularly to be about our Father's business. Remember, we are only pilgrims and strangers here. So, let your roots be in heaven, but share your fruit with the world.
Pray until God gives a burning vision of the work He has called you to. Don’t spend any more idle time, but know the direction He sends you and pour out yourself into that work and calling. Reevaluate your priorities in light of God’s direction. Don’t allow the urgent (things that demand your attention now) to come before what is important.
Always remember that to successfully do any of the above, you must seek Him first, above all. Only then can you receive the vision and successfully fulfill it by changing priorities. This is a simple answer to every problem – “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God”. Long for Him, His presence and anointing. All your gifts and talents and ideas are worthless without His touch, His blessing, His anointing.
Temporal things will try to rule your mind, but you must carefully feed on Him; meditating on His Word day and night. Then, be bold to allow His life within you to flow out. Only as you seek Him continually will this happen. It must be a day by day, moment by moment decision to put Him above all. Ask His guidance in big decisions, small decisions, purchases you wish to make, deeds you wish to do, and in everything. Think less of self and more of others and God’s Kingdom.
Friday, July 8, 2011
My friends and family are so proud of me for starting this blog…not necessarily because they want the benefit of my great wisdom. Rather, they are cheering me on in my first shaky steps into this area of cyberspace. To say I am not computer savvy is an understatement, but I am taking steps – baby steps, but steps nonetheless – to change that.
I am of the breed that took great pride in handwriting my articles and my books before the final drafts were finally typewritten. (Yes, I remember the days of typewriters and mimeograph machines.) Although I can’t remember exactly when it happened, I discovered it was much easier to type the first draft into my computer, save it, and make all the corrections in segments instead of rewriting everything each time.
I admit I have a strong aversion to change. When I decided to brave the Face Book arena with help from my son, I felt like Columbus discovering the New World. Yet I find that I am still on that journey of advancement. There are always large and small changes to be made.
The other day, when I was looking for a way to save a document in PDF format, I couldn’t find a way to get it done. In my experience I simply clicked on ‘file’, ‘save as’ and then clicked ‘PDF’. This program didn’t give me that option. With the help of a friend, I realized the solution to my problem was right before me the whole time. Because it was different from what I had always done, I did not see it. The process was simple once it was pointed out to me.
Change is inevitable - some good, some bad. Jesus always initiates good change although it may not look like it from my viewpoint. Sometimes, He shows me an attitude or an area of my life I need to change because it is keeping me from being truly free. Or maybe He shows me the next step I need to take in following Him. He knows when I am afraid to take that step. He knows when I feel inadequate. Then He tells me as He did Joshua, “Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.”
Whether the next step is allowing Him to change something to set me free or to use me to help set someone else free, I know I am not on my own. He opens my eyes to new territory and guides me through. I have been on many journeys with Him and He has never let me down!
I’m not sure what I will tackle next, but I think I’ll wait a while before crossing another ocean to the New World, unless…..
P.S. I still handwrite my journals!
Wednesday, July 6, 2011
We have all heard stories of those who “made good” and returned to their hometown as a hero. Some heroes remember their hometown with fond memories while others are glad they left and are ashamed of their roots once they reach success. The reception of the hometown people varies, too. Some are proud of the accomplishments of their fellow citizen while others are envious or disapproving, thinking they have “gotten above their raising” (a Southern term meaning they think they are better than the others).
The sixth chapter of Mark records a very interesting story about Jesus’ ministry in His hometown. His ministry had expanded, and He had a band of followers. He was well-known for the miracles He performed. The previous two chapters in Mark, tell how Jesus taught the multitudes, calmed the storm with His word, cast a legion of devils out of a man, healed a woman from an incurable disease, and raised a little girl from the dead. Then Mark 6:1 tells us, “And he went from thence and came into his own country; and his disciples followed him.”
He went back to his hometown. The people there knew Him well, because He had grown up among them and His family was still there. Jesus obviously wanted to do the same for these people that He had done for so many others.
“And when the sabbath day was come, he began to teach in the synagogue: and many hearing him were astonished, saying, From whence hath this man these things? and what wisdom is this which is given unto him, that even such mighty works are wrought by his hands? Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him.” (Mark 6:2-3)
These people were keenly aware that Jesus was different now than He had been when He was among them. His wisdom and insight into spiritual matters was evident, and they were astounded by the reports they heard of His miracles and healings. They questioned the source of His abilities. After all, this was Jesus Who grew up down the street from them and He didn’t show this power then. Since we are all aware of human nature, we can imagine some of the rumors that circulated about Jesus. He was trained to be a carpenter, not a teacher and miracle worker. He hadn’t studied the Law. He wasn’t among the Rabbis. Who did He think He was – an untrained itinerant teacher traveling around with His band of disciples? How could He rise to such prominence and have so much power?
“And they were offended at Him.” They could not accept His authority because they could not factor it into the knowledge they had of Him. They stumbled over the truth because they were so familiar with His personal history.
“But Jesus, said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house. And he could there do no mighty work, save that he laid his hands upon a few sick folk, and healed them. And he marvelled because of their unbelief. And he went round about the villages, teaching.” (Mark 6:4-6)
Jesus realized His ministry was rejected by those to Whom He was common - His hometown, His blood relatives and those in the house where He grew up. He recognized that instead of being honored among them, He was resented and dishonored. And so He was limited in the miracles He did among them because of their unbelief.
Let us be on guard so that we will not make the same mistake as those who were so familiar with Him that they could not receive from Him. There are many things Jesus wants to do in us and through us, but we must have a vision of Him greater than a learned tradition.
Many of us have grown up with Jesus in church, and He has become common to us. Because of that, we limit Him in what He can do among us. He is the Jesus we go to church to sing about and hear a message about. Sure, we know Him. We can tell you His life story from beginning to end. We’ve read our Bibles through countless times. But have we lost the power and wisdom of His Spirit in our lives because of unbelief? When we reach a knowledge of Him that makes us feel comfortable to the point that we grow careless and lazy, we have allowed Jesus to become commonplace to us. When we are busier with works than relationship, He has become common to us. When we lose the revelation of Him we once had, then we have lost the love and zeal, and Jesus has become common in our eyes.
If we are in that condition, anything Jesus does outside of our perspective of Him or outside of our comfort zone, will be an affront to us. The following questions can help us examine whether we have an accurate view of Jesus.
Do we stumble at His Word? That happens when Jesus speaks with authority and wisdom, and we feel threatened because it requires we do something besides our daily routine. It places an unwanted responsibility on us that interrupts all that is familiar – the rise and fall of our everyday living.
Are we offended by the light that shines from Him? Do we find that we draw back from His light rather than allow it to change us? Light exposes sins and weak spots that need to be eradicated from our souls. If we embrace the light and allow Him to cleanse every hint of sin within us, we can be truly free.
Do we stumble over His proclamation that He is the only way to the Father? Many are offended that Jesus would make such a rash, narrow statement. Yet, Jesus cannot change the truth, because He IS truth. Truth that is changed becomes a lie. Surely if there had been another way, He would not have left the glories of heaven to suffer and die for us. Many teach there are various ways to heaven, but Jesus spoke the truth. He IS the way.
Are we offended at His power to save, heal and do mighty works? Unbelief limits what Jesus can do among us. We can have the power of Jesus active in our lives, the wisdom of Jesus working in us, and the grace of Jesus reflected through us by the Holy Spirit He has sent to us. Surely we believe Jesus can still do anything. Yet, so many people have grown up with Jesus as a Sunday morning routine, a set of rules or emotions with no power or relevance for daily living. They have grown up hearing about Jesus all their lives but have no power.
It is easy to get used to things the way they have always been. We get accustomed to the way of the world and, as it continues a downward slide in morals and spiritual values, we take that slide with them. We maintain a respectable distance from them, but inch by inch we get farther away from God. Then, when Jesus comes upholding the unchanging principles of God, we can become offended that He would confront our indulgence and compel us to change. It is easy to hide on the edges of darkness and allow our eyes to adjust to the obscurity. Then, when Jesus comes shining His light, we see the foolishness of living in darkness. When we see the light, we need to be careful not to draw back into the darkness, offended that He would uncover our transgressions. Why does Jesus compel us to change, reveal to us the principles of God and shine light in our darkness? Because He knows that is the only way for us to be free. He paid the price for our freedom and He longs for us to receive it.
It is human nature to resist change and to be offended at discipline, but we can overcome human nature through Jesus Christ. We can put off the carnal (thinking from a darkened mind) and put on the mind of Christ, being transformed by obedience to His Spirit and His Word.
Even those who have followed Christ for many years can still be offended by Him. We may reach a certain point of maturity and stop growing. When Jesus comes to challenge our sedentary existence, we become offended, citing all our accomplishments and all we have given up for the kingdom. But Jesus presses us ever forward in our relationship with Him in spite of obstacles that are sent by Satan to turn us aside. He compels us to keep climbing higher because He loves us.
Let’s take the challenge to lay aside every preconceived idea about Jesus, and study the gospels asking the Holy Spirit to make the truth clear. He doesn’t want the truth hidden. He came to reveal it to us.
We will know Who Jesus really is when we make it a priority to develop our relationship with Him - get to know Him on a personal level by listening to His Spirit and feeding on His Word. He is far from common. Don’t believe others’ opinions of Him. Find out for yourself Who He really is.
His disciples - those who were closest to Him - knew Who He was. The more they were with Him, the clearer the revelation became. Even after Jesus had ascended into heaven, their knowledge of Him increased by the Holy Spirit sent to come alongside them. All we have to do is reach out to Him. It is time to renew our love and zeal for Jesus – the real Jesus!!