Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Daffoldil Principle

The story of "The Daffodil Principle" originally appeared in Jaroldeen Edwards' book Celebration!

Several times my daughter had telephoned to say, "Mother, you must come to see the daffodils before they are over." I wanted to go, but it was a two-hour drive from Laguna to Lake Arrowhead. "I will come next Tuesday", I promised a little reluctantly on her third call.

Next Tuesday dawned cold and rainy. Still, I had promised, and reluctantly I drove there. When I finally walked into Carolyn's house, I was welcomed by the joyful sounds of happy children. I delightedly hugged and greeted my grandchildren. "Forget the daffodils, Carolyn! The road is invisible in these clouds and fog, and there is nothing in the world except you and these children that I want to see badly enough to drive another inch!"

My daughter smiled calmly and said, "We drive in this all the time, Mother." "Well, you won't get me back on the road until it clears, and then I'm heading for home!" I assured her. "But first we're going to see the daffodils. It's just a few blocks," Carolyn said. "I'll drive. I'm used to this." "Carolyn," I said sternly, "Please turn around." "It's all right, Mother, I promise. You will never forgive yourself if you miss this experience."

After about twenty minutes, we turned onto a small gravel road and I saw a small church. On the far side of the church, I saw a hand lettered sign with an arrow that read, "Daffodil Garden." We got out of the car, each took a child's hand, and I followed Carolyn down the path. Then, as we turned a corner, I looked up and gasped. Before me lay the most glorious sight.

It looked as though someone had taken a great vat of gold and poured it over the mountain peak and its surrounding slopes. The flowers were planted in majestic, swirling patterns, great ribbons and swaths of deep orange, creamy white, lemon yellow, salmon pink, saffron and butter yellow. Each different-colored variety was planted in large groups so that it swirled and flowed like its own river with its own unique hue. There were five acres of flowers.

"Who did this?" I asked Carolyn. "Just one woman," Carolyn answered. "She lives on the property. That's her home." Carolyn pointed to a well-kept A-frame house, small and modestly sitting in the midst of all that glory. We walked up to the house. On the patio, we saw a poster. "Answers to the Questions I Know You Are Asking", was the headline. The first answer was a simple one. "50,000 bulbs," it read.
The second answer was, "One at a time, by one woman. Two hands, two feet, and one brain." The third answer was, "Began in 1958."

For me, that moment was a life-changing experience. I thought of this woman whom I had never met, who, more than forty years before, had begun, one bulb at a time, to bring her vision of beauty and joy to an obscure mountaintop. Planting one bulb at a time, year after year, this unknown woman had forever changed the world in which she lived. One day at a time, she had created something of extraordinary magnificence, beauty, and inspiration. The principle her daffodil garden taught is one of the greatest principles of celebration.

That is, learning to move toward our goals and desires one step at a time, often just one baby-step at a time and learning to love the doing, learning to use the accumulation of time. When we multiply tiny pieces of time with small increments of daily effort, we too will find we can accomplish magnificent things. We can change the world. It makes me sad in a way," I admitted to Carolyn. "What might I have accomplished if I had thought of a wonderful goal thirty five or forty years ago and had worked away at it 'one bulb at a time' through all those years?” “Just think what I might have been able to achieve!" My daughter summed up the message of the day in her usual direct way. "Start tomorrow," she said.

She was right. It's so pointless to think of the lost hours of yesterdays. The way to make learning a lesson of celebration instead of a cause for regret is to only ask, "How can I put this to use today?"

Use the Daffodil Principle. Stop waiting.....

-Until your car or home is paid off
-Until you get a new car or home
-Until your kids leave the house
-Until you go back to school
-Until you finish school
-Until you clean the house
-Until you organize the garage
-Until you clean off your desk
-Until you lose 10 lbs.
-Until you gain 10 lbs.
-Until you get married
-Until you get a divorce
-Until you have kids
-Until the kids go to school
-Until you retire
-Until summer
-Until spring
-Until winter
-Until fall
-Until you die...
There is no better time than right now to be get busy for God! Our work for God is a journey, not a destination. So work like you don't need money. Love like you've never been hurt, and dance like no one's watching!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

"Made with Real Langostino Lobster"

Long John Silver's is offering lobster bites with "real LANGOSTINO lobster. The problem is that langostino lobster is not really lobster at all! According to Wikipedia:
Langostino is a Spanish word with different meanings in different areas. In America, it is commonly used in the restaurant trade to refer to the meat of the squat lobster, which is neither a true lobster nor a prawn. It is more closely related to porcelain crabs and hermit crabs. Crustaceans labeled as langostino are no more than 3 inches (7.6 centimetres) long, and weigh no more than 7 ounces (198 grams). Langostinos are not langoustes (spiny lobsters) despite a similar name (in Spanish, Lobster is called Langosta.) Also, Langostinos are sometimes confused with langoustines (Norway lobster), which is a true lobster common in European cuisine.

People are rushing in to LJS's to get a great price on 'lobster," but in reality, they are more like Crawdad bites! Most people simply hear the word lobster and think, "What a great deal!" To be honest, I haven't tried them (and they may be delicious) but I just hate the "deception" in the advertising.

It is a lot like people who claim to be "Christian" but don't bear any of the fruit of the Spirit. They claim the name, but are they really "Christian?" I am not trying to judge anyone in particular here. I am simply saying that it is time for those Christians who truly "walk the walk" to stand up and be recognized. Matthew 7 tells us that we will be recognized by our fruit. Maybe we can be recognized by our crustacean, too! Let us be lobsters and not langostino lobsters!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Ministry of Excellence

In Malachi 1, it is recorded how the people of Israel were guilty of bringing damaged gifts to the Lord. In the Old Testament, offering sacrifices was part of worship & God had given strict guidelines regarding the animals that could be offered in sacrifice. One of the most important guidelines was that the sacrificial animal must be unblemished, with no physical ailments & no defects. The problem is that these are precisely the kind of animals that the typical Israelite family would want to keep for themselves. As an Israelite, there would exist in your life a tension & a temptation to keep the best members of the flock for yourself & to bring the second-best to the Lord as a sacrificial offering. Unfortunately, the Israelites on many occasions gave in to that temptation. God was not fooled, & we see His anger displayed Malachi 1.

It is clear that God does not settle for second best.I believe that excellence honors God and inspires people. I see three truths about excellence in ministry:
A. The message which God is trying to get across here--to the Israelites & to us--is that bringing our acceptable sacrifices & offerings to Him is not optional. Excellence in ministry is essential because it is a reflection of what God has done for us in Jesus Christ.
It is very possible that some people are reluctant to bring God "their best" because they feel their best isn't good enough. Someone has said, "The closest to perfection a person ever comes is when he fills out a job application form." But the truth is, God is not looking for perfection in our ministry, He is looking for us to give Him the absolute best that we have to offer.
There's one more fact which we can't lose sight of. We must not lose sight of the fact that, when we decide whether or not we'll give God our best, that decision affects people. People who may or may not have the opportunity to make a decision for Jesus Christ, depending on whether or not you give God "the best" of your time & energy. Missionaries who may or may not have funding to spread the gospel in a new area, children in our own community who may or may not realize that there is hope in life despite a torn home life--all of these situations depend directly on our decisions each day whether we'll give God our "best" or whether we'll give him our "leftovers." What will you give to the Lord today?

(my thanks to Donald L. Howard for this look at Malachi 1)

Monday, April 27, 2009

Improper Use of Fusion

As this video (courtesy of BluefishTV) shows, there is most definitely a WRONG way to fuse your life and faith! Learning to be aware of those in our community that need our help is an important aspect of living out our faith. Helping the wrong people keeps us from being able to help the right people!

James tells us that when we see our brother (or sister) in need and fail to help them, we sin. We have a responsibility to share with those in need. Of course we want to share the gospel, but if the person is hungry or homeless, getting them help with their physical needs first allows us to live out our faith before we actually share that faith with them.

So, is there something you need to do? Is there someone in need (that you know of?) Now is the time to live out our faith and not just talk about it!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

What Do You Want On Your Tombstone?

If your family or friends could write the one thing they remember most about you on your tombstone, what would it say? Some people's might say, “He made a lot of money” Or maybe, “She knew how to have a good time.” Or someone else's might say, “He had the best-kept yard in the neighborhood.” What will yours say? For what will you be remembered? Here are some sayings from actual tombstones:
1. “Here lies Anne Mann. Who lived an old maid, but died an old Mann.”
2. “Beneath this sod, a lump of clay lays Arabella Young; who on the 21st of May began to hold her tongue.”
3. “The children of Israel wanted bread, the Lord sent them Manna. Old Clark Wallace wanted a wife, the devil sent him Anna.”
4. Here lies Johnny Yeast- ‘Forgive me for not rising.’
5. “Here lies Butch, we planted him raw. He was quick on the trigger but slow on the draw.”
6. “Under the sod and under the trees, lies the body of Jonathan Peas. He’s not there, there’s only the pod. Peas shelled out and went to God.”

These are all pretty funny but when we think about it seriously, what will your tombstone say? The reality is that it is that how we live our lives is how we will be remembered. We need to live our lives in such a way that when people remember us, they remember how we loved and served God. After all, that is what is really important. Being famous is nice, being rich is nice (at least I think it would be!), and being well-liked is nice. There is nothing wrong with being famous, rich, or well-liked, but those are not the things we need to be remembered for. Worldly things will all pass away and only the treasures we have stored up in heaven will matter.

We are in a time of economic distress and people are worried--about their jobs, their homes, and their security. I am not saying we shouldn't be concerned with taking care of ourselves and our families. What I am saying is that if we put first things first (storing up treasures in heaven) the rest will take of itself. God loves us and knows what we need before we even ask. God knows the very number of the hairs on our heads. Don't you think it is time we started trusting him to take care of our current situations and live simply and contentedly in His care? I know, easier said than done, but we need to work at it!

Monday, April 20, 2009

How Good and Pleasant

Psalm 133:1 "How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!" While I was in Princeton last week, my wife shared an experience of hers with our dogs. For those who don't know, three weeks ago I adopted a 18 month old Australian Shepherd mix and 2 weeks ago, Amy and Rachel adopted a 6-8 year old German Shepherd mix. These two had only visited with each other briefly (since I am in Stillwater and Amy is still finishing seminary in Princeton) and they really didn't get along very well! Amy decided to take both dogs with her to deliver Rachel to school (I guess she is a glutton for punishment!) However, the dogs were content to ride together in the back seat and no fighting occurred! Of course, this made Amy VERY happy!

As happy as Amy was when the dogs got along, just imagine how happy God is when his children get along! It is good and pleasant when we live in unity. Now living in unity doesn't mean that we have to agree with everything that the other person believes in, but it does mean that at times "we agree to disagree." The Evangelical Presbyterian Church states it this way, "In Essentials, Unity; in Non-essentials, Liberty; in All Things, Love." If it is not essential, we need to let love reign.

The big problem I see is that many people disagree on what is "essential." For me the essentials are easy enough to decipher. If the Word of God says it, it is essential. If it something that the Bible doesn't speak to specifically, then what does the Bible say that relates to the situation? Again, it comes down to your view of Scripture. I believe the Word of God is true (All of it) therefore Scripture allows me to state with certainty what is essential. Those who do not have this same view of Scripture will have a problem determining what is essential. All I can say to them is, "Good luck!" Without the absolutes of Scripture, unity will always be hard to come by.

So, let us do our best to make our Father happy--let us strive to live together in unity!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

A Different View

I am not preaching today. This is the first Sunday since July and only the second Sunday in nearly 2 years that I haven't been behind the pulpit! I have to admit, it really is weird for me. The good news is that I get to hear my best friend preach.

Amy will be preaching at her Field Ed. church this morning and Rachel and I will be there to give our support. I know that she will do great and I am looking forward to it!

Preach it, Amy!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Almost Done!

If all goes well today, I will finish up my sermon planning through Easter of 2010! There is a great sense of accomplishment (and relief) at having come this far. I know that there will be changes to my current plan, but that is OK , too.

I will be preaching 11 weeks on Nehemiah, and 6 weeks on "ordinary people" (like Tabitha, Asa, and Stephen). There will of course be a Mother's Day and Father's Day sermon (though that really isn't very Reformed!) There is also the normal Advent sermons dealing with hope, peace, joy and love.

So, what is on tap for the rest of the year? I suggest you come to SPC some Sunday and find out!

May God bless your week with as much accomplishment as He has blessed mine!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Working on Sermons

I am currently in Princeton working on my sermons for the rest of the year (and beyond!) Preparing sermon ideas this far in advance is somewhat of a tightrope walk. I have to do my best to allow the Spirit to work in determining what I should preach while keeping word my own prejudice as to what "I" want to say to the congregation at bay. Preaching the Word of God is not all about saying what I think they need to hear, but allowing the Spirit to lead me to what they need to hear. Like all preachers, I have favorite Bible stories and favorite books I like to preach from.

I actually thought this would be an easier process. I have a great place to study, one of the best library's in the world at my fingertips, and the time to use both. It isn't that easy! Advent will come, Lent, Palm Sunday, and Easter will come--those are times that it is "easier" to determine the direction of my preaching. But what about the rest of the year? How do I "know" what to preach? I simply have to trust the Spirit's guidance and then be willing "down the road" to change the direction I am going if the Spirit leads me in a different direction!

I have to admit, it would be easier to "make up my own mind" and then get busy writing outlines, but that is simply not the "right" way to do it. I will have many sermons outlined before I leave Princeton, and I trust that most of them will be preached in the next year, BUT, if the Spirit leads me in a different direction when I get back to Stillwater, rest assured that I will listen!

So, how is it going? I am in the middle of a series on the book of Nehemiah right now and when I finish that, it will be up to the Spirit to show we where to go next! It is exciting, challenging, and just a bit scary, but I know that this will be a great week!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Study Leave

Just an update. I am in Princeton this week working on outlining my sermons until Easter of 2010! I may find something that is post-worthy while I am doing this, and if so, I will post it. If not, rest assured that everything is OK and that I will begin posting new things next week!
God bless you this week!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Judas, Another Look

Judas Iscariot, a name that is tied to betrayal. But is there more to Judas than just a money hungry man willing to betray Jesus for thirty pieces of silver? I'd like to take a another look at Judas today as we continue our Lenten Journey.

Judas was one of the twelve that Jesus picked to be his "elite" disciples. He was trusted with the money (though one would think that Mathew/Levi as a tax collector would have had plenty of experience handling money.) He was with Jesus for His entire ministry, but in the end, he betrays Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. It just doesn't make sense to me that he would betray Jesus for money.

I believe that there is an alternate way of looking at Judas. While this in no way lessens the betrayal, it may shed more light on what was going on in his mind that lead him to betray Jesus. I believe that Judas was a Zealot. The Zealots were a group that were actively trying to overthrow the Roman government. If Judas didn't understand the kingdom as Jesus preached it (and I think the betrayal proves that!) then he might have simply been trying to force Jesus hand. If Judas saw the Messiah as one who would come with military power to re-establish the physical kingdom of David for Jews, then his betrayal was actually Judas' attempt to move the process along.

The scenario would go this way in Judas' mind. I betray Jesus, they come to arrest him, Jesus acts with power to destroy the Roman oppressors and presto! the new kingdom is established. Now, I have no way of knowing what was going on in Judas' mind, but I would like to think that after spending three years with Jesus, he wouldn't simply betray him for the money. I would like to think that the money was a "bonus" he felt that they would be getting for the treasury of the new kingdom.

Of course, we know that Judas was wrong, wrong in thinking that Jesus kingdom was an earthly one, and wrong to betray Jesus. But, if we look at his motives in a different light, maybe, just maybe, we can see Judas actions a little differently. What do you think?

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Happy Birthday Amy!

Today is Amy's birthday! Which one? You will have to ask her, because I'll never tell. God has a way of bringing people into our lives at just the right moment and Amy is one of those people for me. I am a better person because of her. I feel for her the same way I did when I said my marriage vows to her back in the summer of 1996. Here they are (in case you were not able to make it to the ceremony!):
Amy, I believe that as God created Eve just for Adam, He created you, just for me. I was lost without you and needed a helper...God sent you to me. I love you, and I have always loved you. I loved you before I even knew your name, when all I knew was that God had someone for me. I will always love you.

As the first song I ever played for you said, "I am your man, Now and Forever." I promise to listen to you, to learn from you, and to look out for your needs. I promise to hold you close and tell you of my love for you. More imporatntly, I promise to SHOW you my love. I promise to be there in the good times and the bad, the happy and the sad; when you are healthy and when you are sick. I promise to do my best to protect you from all harm.

Amy, my love, I vow to give you all that I am, and all I ever hope to be. Now and Forever, I'll be your man.

On your birthday, Amy, I once again put this vow out for the world to see. I love you and I am so happy that we get to grow old together!

Monday, April 6, 2009

The End of Christian America

In this week's Newsweek magazine, there is an article entitled, "The End of Christian America." It notes, "The percentage of self-identified Christians has fallen 10 points in the past two decades." While this is not surprising, it is something to think about.

In the past, everyone considered America a Christian nation and was proud of it. Today, that seems to be changing. The numbers seem to tell me that those people who identified themselves as Christians (but never went to church, never lived the life of a Christian, and never really did anything that would set them apart as a Christian) are no longer identifying themselves as "Christian." I don't see that as a bad thing. Instead, I think it is time for those of us who truly live out the Christian walk should do so and be proud of it!

With the subtraction of those who identified themselves as Christians (but probably really were not in the strictest sense) that leaves the rest of us to show our neighbors (and the world) what a "real" Christian looks like. I believe that it is time for all Christians to live their lives as Jesus called us to live them--in humble service to others. If we do that, the world will take notice. It only took a handful of committed men and women to turn the world "upside down" nearly 2000 years ago. Don't you think God can help us do that same thing again? If God is God (and He is) then of course He can help us make a difference in the world. It is simply time for ALL Christians to stop petty bickering and fighting among themselves and to start fighting the right battle! Satan is alive and well and it is high time we stopped helping him out.

As we go through this Holy Week, let us all make a new commitment to God. Let us truly decide that "His will be done" and let our will fall to the wayside. What may sound radical in today's society was common for the first century Christians. Let go of all of your selfish motives and let God take control of your life--you'll be glad you did (and so will those in our world that need to see the love of God!)

Friday, April 3, 2009

Of Good & Bad, Ups & Downs

Well, the last couple of days have had their share of swings for me! On a positive note, Kizzy has finally realized that there is more to a walk, than just a walk. On the other hand,she loves the rain so she tends to take her time "taking care of business" when I would like to get out of the rain.

On a doubly sad note, the baptisms that were schedule for Sunday have had to be postponed. The mother/grandmother/great-grandmother of the ones to be baptized died suddenly today. So, instead of baptisms on Sunday, it is a funeral (OK, service of the Resurrection) on Monday.

On a positive note, I will be going to Princeton on Tuesday to celebrate Amy's birthday with her. I originally was scheduled to lead a Lenten lesson that night, but now the other preacher is doing it (to prepare for Maundy Thursday.)

I guess what I am saying is that life is normal! We all have ups and downs, good and bad happening to us at all times. It is how we deal with the situations that makes all the difference. As we move into Holy Week, this is an important thing to remember. Jesus had to deal with ups and downs as well--from the Triumphal Entry to the Crucifixion in less than a week! Just as Jesus deal with the good and the bad situations in order to fulfill all righteousness, let us all strive to do the same!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

April Fool's Day

Well, be careful today as there will be people trying to "get" you for April Fools Day. I know, because I used to be one of those people! I am doing my best not to do that anymore. What some people think is fun, can be hurtful to others and so, I promise to do my best not to be one of "those" people.

Thinking of fools, the Bible tells us that the fool says there is no God. Guess what? With that definition, we have a lot of fools out there. Just because I have never been to Egypt doesn't mean there is no Sphinx. Just because I have never seen an atom doesn't mean that are no such things as atoms. I have never seen God with my eyes, but I have seen what God has done in my life and in the lives of others. God is at work today through His Word and His people.

I've heard a joke that today is the atheist's holiday, but rather than be mean, I think it is time to love those who do not know God in order to reach them for God. That means loving the people that I would normally not be associated with. Until we learn to love those who are the most unlovable, we will never be able to accomplish the things that the Lord has intended us to accomplish.

Be on the lookout today for those who would try and trick you, but more importantly, be on the lookout for an opportunity to love the unlovely, to help the helpless, and to serve God in doing so!