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Archive for August, 2019

Beatitudes for Youth

BLESSED is the young person who is friendly, considerate, and loving toward everyone with whom he or she comes in contact – whether or not these attitudes are reciprocated.

BLESSED is the young person who has a healthy sense of humor, for this attitude has the capacity to put joy in your heart and a smile upon your face, give you a sense of mission in life, and serve as a shock absorber when pressures and problems are encountered.

BLESSED is the young person who respects and follows the advice given by his or her Christian parents and obeys them “in the Lord”, realizing that many young people today do not have Christian parents to teach them or to set a good example for them to follow.

BLESSED is the young person who is dedicated to the goal of serving others, for he or she knows that service is primarily love in work clothes, that the roots of happiness grow deepest in the soil of service, and that selfishness tarnishes everything it touches.

BLESSED is the young person who knows the difference between love and lust, for he or she is aware that life should be about more than the gratification of the immediate moment, and that it will be easier to look back later upon happy and wholesome relationships than upon the bad results of a “one night stand.”

BLESSED is the young person who seeks and works hard to be mentally sharp, morally clean, and strongly committed to having a positive influence on others, for it is better to be the leaven that impacts others in a positive way than to allow the world “to squeeze you into its own mold.”

BLESSED is the young person who is wise enough to set worthy goals in life, knowing that this may involve many years of patient preparation and study, and that the greatest danger in life is not to aim too high and miss it, but to aim too low and reach it.

BLESSED is the young person who in his or her daily life is committed to live by the Golden Rule rather than to be ruled by the lure of gold.

BLESSED is the young person who loves and is genuinely grateful for his or her teachers who diligently try to prepare him or her for life’s challenges, for his or her friends, and for his or her countless blessings.

BLESSED is the young person who loves and serves God rather than other gods, people rather than possessions, and principle rather than pleasure – for the world desperately needs and cannot get too many individuals who fit this description.

BLESSED is the young person who chooses a worthy vocation in life and recognizes the importance of honoring God and others through that vocation.

BLESSED is the young person who accepts Jesus Christ as both Savior and Lord, falls in love with the right person, gets married, establishes a dedicated Christian home where love reigns, Christ is honored, and regular worship of God is an established practice.

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Allow me to introduce you to a skilled burglar. He can pick the lock on the front door of your heart before you even know he is around. Once he is inside your thoughts, he has the ability to dominate your attention, control your decisions, and influence your actions. He will even claim to be your best friend.

This bandit is extremely clever, so I advise you to be on your guard. He has the power to rearrange facts in such a way that you will find yourself believing whatever he says. However, if you are eventually wise enough to see through what this professional thief has in mind, you will save yourself a ton of trouble later on down the road. Many people are not that fortunate.

The name of this professional burglar? Procrastination. I surprised you, didn’t I? His specialty is stealing time and incentive. Because he is a burglar he steals your priceless valuables, leaving these cheap substitutes in their place: excuses, rationalizations, empty promises, embarrassment, and guilt.

Like lots of other crooks, this burglar arrives when you least expect him. Before you know it you will have adopted his motto: “Never do today what you can put off until tomorrow.” He will blind you to the fact that putting things off until some other time is the grave where opportunities are buried.

The burglar called procrastination will convince you he is a winner – even though he is a hard-core outlaw. He can outtalk any student when it comes to doing homework. He can outlast any parent when he or she comes to dishing out needed discipline to their children. He can outthink any executive when it comes to keeping up with correspondence. He can outwork any homemaker when it comes to vacuuming or cleaning the dishes. He can outsmart any salesman when it comes to selling. By the sheer genius of suggestion he becomes the epitome of what he destroys – which is success.

A politician named Felix during the first century A.D. was the Roman governor before whom a prisoner named Paul stood. On two separate occasions, Felix listened to Paul tell his story, presenting in simple terms why it was important for him to accept Jesus Christ as his Savior and Lord. It was for the Roman governor an opportunity that was much greater than he could have imagined.

Did Felix listen to Paul and become a Christian? He did not, for he said to Paul, “When Lysias (the Commander of the Roman troops in Jerusalem) comes down, I will decide your case” (Acts 24:22). . . . . . Go away for the present, and when I find time, I will summon you” (24:25). He heard every word Paul spoke to him, but he also listened to the thief. He intentionally delayed making the most important decision he could have made in his entire life. He listened to the wrong counsel. The thief of procrastination influenced him to decide, so he said: “There is no hurry. I will hear what Paul has to say at a later time.”

Accepting Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord is the greatest opportunity any person could ever have. This is true because it influences much more than just the number of years we have to live on the earth. To those who accept Him as Savior and Lord He makes this amazing promise: “In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be with me where I am” (John 14:2-3).

If you have never accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord – if you allow the thief called “procrastination” to keep you from making that decision now or in the future – you will miss God’s gift of eternal life. That would be a needless tragedy. The risen living Lord says, “I stand at your heart’s door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door I will come in.” (Revelation 3:20). Thus, you have a very important decision to make. It involves only one word, and that word has only one syllable.

The word is NOW!

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We are on the front porch of another football season. Teams representing high schools, universities, and the NFL are already on their practice fields trying to get ready for the first kickoff of their season. Coaches during pre-season practice always try to give major attention to the fundamentals. Vince Lombardi, coach several years ago of the Green Bay Packers, was a fanatic about emphasizing the basics. Time and again during every season he would come back to the basic techniques of blocking and tackling.

After each loss his team knew what was coming on Monday. Lombardi would say, “Today we go back to the basics.” Holding a football high enough for every player to see it, he would say, “Gentlemen, this is a football!” His tactics worked, for at that time he was the only coach who had won three world championships.

What works in the game of football also works in the church. Many churches today have forgotten the fundamentals. Choosing a church in today’s world is in one way like ordering ice cream. You have thirty-one flavors to choose from. You can select from many different kind of “isms” – humanism, liberalism, political activism, new age socialism, relativism, supernatural spiritism, legalistic fundamentalism, and many more.

But before we go any further we need to ask, “What are the absolute basics that the New Testament uses to define a church?” Acts 2:42 says that the four things every church should stress are teaching . . . fellowship . . . breaking bread . . . and prayer. These are also mentioned in what is called the Great Commission found in Matthew 28:18-20. But it adds a fifth basic every church should stress – evangelism.

Everything a church does should support and revolve around these five things: teaching . . . fellowship . . . breaking bread . . . prayer . . . and evangelism. Solid, healthy, growing churches should keep at the task of perfecting these basics. They must be given priority. They form the what aspect of the church

The how aspect is equally important. The Coach of every church is Jesus Christ, and He declares that the church which consistently fulfills its divinely assigned mission will emphasize the “equipping of God’s people for the work of service, so that the body of Christ might be built up” (Ephesians 4:12).

“I believe that is easy,” you may say, “How simple is that?” Are you ready for a shocker? Maintaining these basic assignments in the life of a church is not as easy as you might imagine. Why is this true? Satan finds countless ways to detour a church from the main highway into countless meaningless side roads.

Believe me, as one who has served churches for more than sixty years as a pastor, there is a steady stream of requests that come from countless sources for the church to advance causes other than the five fundamental objectives found in Acts 2:42 and Matthew 28:18-20 that will keep it from fulfilling its mission. The pastor, as the spiritual leader, must be at the forefront in seeing that this does not happen.

A pastor’s primary mission is the interpretation, the exposition, and the application of Holy Scripture to the lives of believers – with relevance, enthusiasm, clarity, and conviction. That is not an easy task, and every member of every church should pray regularly that their pastor will be led by the Holy Spirit.

In the mid-1980’s I had a brass plaque made containing the words of some Greeks who came to the Passover Feast in Jerusalem, and said to Philip, “Sir, we would like to see Jesus” (John 12:21). I attached it to the back of the pulpit of Wilmington’s Temple Church where I was pastor to remind me every time I went into the pulpit what my primary mission was. The plaque is still there. God’s Word is where the basics are found.

Christ, every church’s Coach, holds the Bible up and says, “Brothers and Sisters, this is the Bible!”’

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The pastor of a church in Chicago several years ago, wanting to challenge his parishioners to be more faithful in their worship attendance each Sunday morning, came up with a unique idea. He prepared the following letter to be mailed to every member of his church:

Dear church member,

This is to notify you that all church members are expected to attend worship services at least two Sundays each month. Although each of you stated upon joining our church that you would support it with your regular presence, a large number of you do not. In these turbulent times we must have a church comprised of loyal church members. Half-hearted church members simply will not do. Therefore, registration will be taken each Sunday morning to determine which names remain in good standing on our membership roll. If you have some legitimate reason why you cannot comply, please inform the church office.

Sincerely yours,
Your Pastor

If your church were to send a letter like this to its members, what would be your reaction? If continued membership depended on attending two Sundays every month, how do you think other members would respond? Would you think the idea to be preposterous? Overly demanding? Inconsiderate? And noticing that the letter was your pastor’s idea, how would it affect your relationship with him?

What I call self-appointed “Church Parking Lot Committee” discussions would probably increase immediately. And telephone lines would stay warm in the days following. Some members would likely think, “It will only drive people away to other churches that do not have such an expectation of its members.”

No, your church is not likely to send out such a letter to its members. If it were to do so, the sad fact is that many of its members would be satisfied with things as they are — even though attendance is far less than it should be. Accepting the status quo is way ahead of “rocking the boat” or “stirring up a hornet’s nest.”

This letter, believe it or not, was mailed to the members of the St. James United Methodist Church in Chicago. It may surprise you that the members didn’t get upset and ask their Bishop to reassign their pastor. They didn’t respond with either consternation or anger. Instead, the letter worked. It achieved its objective. Attendance the following year was 56 percent higher than it was in the year before the letter was mailed.

Churches make a big mistake when they ask too little of their members. If God loved every person in the world enough to send His Son to die on a Roman cross to pay the penalty for our sins, we must know that accepting Him as Savior also means accepting Him as Lord of our daily lives. It is through regular worship, both personal and corporate, that we are prepared to become witnesses to others in our community.

First century Christians certainly realized this. Josephus, the Jewish historian of that day, referred to them as “those who are turning the world upside down.” An empty tomb proves Christianity; an empty church denies it. The mission Jesus assigned to His followers is to tell the story of His love. No church can get very many lost sinners prepared to go to heaven if it can’t even get its members out of bed on Sunday morning.

Any church member who expects to answer when the roll is called “up yonder” should make an effort be present on a regular basis in church on Sunday morning when the roll is called “down here.”

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A crotchety old man invested in two of those new hearing aids that are almost invisible. Several days later he returned to the hearing aid company where he had purchased them to express his delight.

“I’ll bet your family likes the fact that you can now hear them when they are talking to you,” the technician said.

“Oh,” the octogenarian replied, “they don’t yet know I purchased the two hearing aids. And I am having a ball! In the past week I’ve changed my will three times.”

This story reminds me of a funeral I conducted several years ago where it was obvious some members of the deceased person’s family had been waiting around for her to pass off the scene so they could inherit her accumulated wealth. The funeral director knew this, and while the graveside ritual was being carried out, he took a document of some kind from his inside coat pocket and began to quietly view its contents.

One family member, thinking it was the deceased person’s will that would be read when the graveside service was over, elbowed the family member sitting next to him and nodded in the direction of the funeral director. When the service was over, the grave was closed, and everyone in attendance left the cemetery and went home – everyone, that is, except the members of the family who had remained and were waiting for the will to be read. But the paper the funeral director had pulled out of his pocket wasn’t a will! He had both a clever sense of humor and a mischievous streak.

The French speak of a disease which they call “La Maladie du moi”, or “Me-sickness.” It is a disease that inflicts millions of people in our world today. Despite the strides that science has made, it has offered no vaccine to combat this deadly ailment. The only remedy that has ever been effective to treat “Me-sickness” is offered by the Great Physician. His love engenders selflessness in the human heart. He banishes “Me-sickness” as surely as the rising sun each day causes the morning dew to disappear.

Where are the focal points in your life? Where does your center of gravity lie? What are your aims in life? The answer to these questions depends on the quality of your heart. Proverbs 23:7 says, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” In other words, what you have in your heart determines what is important to you.

If you choose to live only for yourself you will ultimately reap tons and tons of unhappiness. Selfishness corrodes. Unselfishness ennobles, satisfies, and provides healing. The Golden Rule blesses others, but when it is expressed in a negative way, it says: “Do unto others before they have an opportunity to do unto you.”

If you want to be miserable, spend the majority of your time thinking about yourself; about what you want and what you like. Focus primarily on the respect people ought to pay to you, and then nothing will be pure. You will spoil everything you touch. You will make misery for yourself out of everything that is good.

Dr. H.A. Ironside once told the story of a small Christian denomination that held a Bible Conference. Outside the meeting Hall was a large banner displaying the words, “Jesus Only.” A strong wind blew the first three letters away so that “us Only” was left. This is too often the spirit shown by Christians of narrow vision.

King Solomon offered these words of wisdom to those who are inflicted with La Maladie du moi: “He who has no rule over his spirit is like a city that is broken down, and is without walls (Proverbs 25:28).

William Gladstone accurately described humanity’s greatest problem as well as it can be described. “Selfishness,” he said, “is the greatest curse of the human race.” How right he was!

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