Tend the Fire

Last Saturday I went up to the church to help some of the other men repair a couple of broken pipes that had busted during the ice storm the previous week.  When I told my wife Marta about my plans for the day, she said, “Really??  You don’t know anything about plumbing.”  And like always, she’s right.  I don’t know a thing about plumbing.  You don’t want me fixing your busted pipes or repairing too many things around your house.  I am just not that handy when it comes to plumbing, electrical systems and things of that nature.  My skill set is mostly geared toward manual labor.   So that is what I did.

By the time I got to the church, one of the guys had started a fire to get rid of an old pile of branches and brush.  I told the others I would tend to that burn pile and keep it going and if they needed me to do something to help with their project, just let me know.   So, I kept tending to the fire, burning the brush and the branches.  Every now and then someone would ask me to run down the hill and relay a message or go fetch something.  And while I’m no good at plumbing, I can tend a fire, burn brush and run up and down a hill all day long delivering messages and fetching things for somebody else.  It’s okay that I’m not good at plumbing.  I am just grateful to be able to do whatever it is that I can do to help.  As I was thinking about the fact that there are certain abilities I have and certain abilities that I don’t have, I was reminded about what the Bible says about spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians chapter 12.

Paul says that God has distributed spiritual gifts to every believer and that God gives each of us the spiritual gifts, the spiritual skillset that He wants us to have.  God gives us the ability to do something for the kingdom; something for the common good.  And just because everyone’s gifts are different does not mean that certain gifts are better than others.  Not everybody is a preacher, not everybody is a teacher but every believer is gifted to serve in some capacity.   And every gift is special because it comes from the Lord.  As Simon Peter said in 1 Peter 4:10 “As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”

Whatever spiritual gift God has given you, put it to use.   Employ your gifts and serve others as a good steward of God’s grace.  Tend that fire, keep it burning.

Posted in 1 Corinthians 12:4, 1 Peter 4:10, Christianity, Church, discovering spiritual gifts, faith, good gifts, inspirational, religion, Represent Christ | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Do Your Best

My dad used to always encourage me to do my best.  He would say, “Son, if you are playing a basketball game and you don’t leave the game with at least three fouls, you probably didn’t play hard enough.  You probably didn’t push yourself and take enough chances.  You can’t always be the best, but you can always do your best.”  When I think of the level of effort he was describing, I think of Paul’s words in Colossians 3:23 where Paul wrote to the church, “Whatever you do, do it with all your heart, as something done for the Lord and not for people.”

Paul was encouraging followers of Christ to always do their best.  And why wouldn’t we do our best?  After all, we have received the best!  We have received the love, the mercy and the grace of God.  We know of His goodness, His kindness and His provision.  We have received the best and we should offer our best in every task, every relationship and in the midst of every circumstance.  Certainly, we will make some mistakes and we will have our “fouls” along the way, but that does not mean we should not try hard, push ourselves and offer our best in everything and every situation. As followers of Christ, we are to represent the Lord and we do not want to provide a poor or inaccurate representation.  I pray that you will be strengthened and encouraged by the Lord this week.  I pray that you will let Him help you offer your best in all that you do.

Posted in Christianity, Church, Do Your Best, Don't give up, Don't stop, faith, Faith during hard times | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Right On Time

As some of you know, I have been actively looking for a “day job” the last couple of months.  I know that the Lord has something lined up for me, I just don’t know what it is or when He will provide it.  But, as a friend of mine says, “He is an on-time God, yes, He is, yes, He is.  He may not show up when you want Him to but He is always right on time.”  I love that thought and it is one I need to remind myself of from time to time.  See, I always expect things to be done according to my schedule and according to my time line and according to my expectations.  And as you might have guessed, the Lord works according to His schedule and not mine.  I am okay with that.  I know the Lord sees the end from the beginning and He knows what is best and He knows right where I need to be.  I know that God does things in His time and in His good pleasure.  I like the reminder Paul gave to the church about God’s timing in Galatians 4:4 – 5,

Gal 4:4    But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.

Paul echoed that same sentiment about God’s timing in Romans 5:5,

Rom 5:6    For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.

In the fullness of time, at the right time, God sent His Son to be our Savior.  God’s timing may not always meet our expectations or run according to our schedule but we can trust that His timing is always right.  His timing is perfect.  He is an on-time God, yes, He is, yes, He is.  I pray that this week you will trust in the Lord and in His good and perfect timing.

Posted in Christianity, Church, faith, Galatians 4:4, God, God has a plan for you, patience, Perfect timing, Romans 5:6 | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Prayer of Praise

During the beginning of the  quarantine last year, I set some goals for myself.  One of my goals was to improve my Spanish.  I have been listening to Spanish podcasts every day, regularly reading my Spanish Bible and writing in Spanish too.  This is one of the first poems I wrote in Spanish last year. So far, it’s my favorite.

 
Una Oracion de Alabanza

Te alabo Señor por tu gracia y tus bendiciones,
Yo sé que estás conmigo en todas las situaciones.
 
Eres siempre fiel y nunca me vas a abandonar,
Estas por mi lado, no importa que pasar.
 
Compartes tu sabiduría de tu corazón divino,
Tu palabra y tu verdad iluminan mi camino.
 
Te estoy agradecido por todo lo que has hecho,
Mientras te tenga, mi corazón estará satisfecho.
 
Siempre me bendices con fuerza, alegría y esperanza,
Tú, Señor, eres digno de recibir toda mi alabanza.

Posted in A refuge, a stronghold, Being Thankful, Christianity, Church, Count Your Blessings, faith, God has blessed me, God is worthy, Poem, poetry, prayer, Spanish | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Trusting God’s Timing

Last Saturday morning, I took advantage of the good weather to do a chore on my “to do” list.  The flower garden in the back yard had produced a pretty good crop of clover and other small weeds in recent weeks and it needed some work.  I had been putting this task off for a couple of weeks so that I could do what I considered to be more enjoyable things.  But I knew the ground was still damp from recent rains and this would be a good time to pull weeds.  As I was working on pulling weeds from the bases of the dormant altheas and rose bushes, I was reminded that God has a season for everything.  The altheas and rose bushes look dead and lifeless right now, but God, in His time will cause them to bloom again and paint the back yard with splashes of color.

The time I spent pulling weeds turned out to be an enjoyable time after all.  It served as a time in which I was reminded of God’s goodness and His faithful timing.  Maybe today is a good day for you to be reminded of those things as well.  Maybe today is a day in which certain things seem dormant and lifeless and you need to be reminded that things may look bad, but God in His timing, in His goodness and in His faithfulness can be trusted to bring new life and cause things to bloom again.  Look to Him, trust in Him, no matter what season you may find yourself in.

As the Bible says in Ecclesiastes 3:1, “To everything there is a season…”

Posted in Christianity, Dealing with grief, Don't give up, Draw close to God, Ecclesiastes 3:11, Encouragement, faith, Perseverance, Promises | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What Do You Want For Christmas

Every year at Christmas time, people ask one another, “What would you like for Christmas?”  As I was thinking about that very question the other day, it occurred to me that I really do have everything I want and everything I need.  I have been blessed with a wonderful wife.  Marta and I will be celebrating our 36th wedding anniversary in a couple of months.  Over the years she has not only been very good to me, she has been very good for me.  The Lord has used her to bless me and make me a better person.  And we have awesome kids and grandkids.   I couldn’t be any prouder of Lauren, Matt, Avery, Haley and Eric, Amanda and Theo.  Our kids and grandkids really are awesome.  I have just retired from a 30 year career in insurance and have some promising leads on some work to keep me busy in this next stage of my life.  And we are part of a very loving and caring church family.  God has been so good to me.  What do I want for Christmas?  I really don’t know.  I already have everything I want and everything I need.  I can vouch for what Paul said in Philippians 4:19:

Phil 4:19 And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

Out of His riches in glory in Christ, God has poured out His grace and His goodness into my life in so many ways.  Through His Son, God has blessed me with eternal life and an abundant life – abundant in love, abundant in friends, abundant in every way.  Now, I am not saying there haven’t but tough times.  But in those tough times, God has been with me.  God has truly supplied all my needs.  I know that He can be trusted to supply all of your needs as well.

Posted in Abundant life, Being Blessed, Being Thankful, Christianity, Christmas, Church, faith, I am blessed, Philippians 4:19 | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Very Special Gifts

“A Very Special Gift”

At Christmas, I always think about some of the favorite Christmas gifts my brother, sister and I received while growing up.  Like most kids, perhaps the most memorable gifts we received were our first bicycles.  That Christmas was so special it was the subject of a school paper my brother wrote in elementary school.  The bicycles were gifts the year before.  That year was a tough year.  I remember because those were what I call the “beans and corn bread years”.  Money was tight and 5 nights out of the week we ate beans and cornbread, the other 2 nights we had cornbread and beans.

I remember there was talk of a strike at the factory where my dad worked and his hours were cut way back.  I didn’t fully understand all that was going on; I just remember in general knowing that money was tight.  I also remember mom and dad preparing us not to expect too much for Christmas.  Daddy explained it by saying the elves were going on strike too.  With our expectations for toys set pretty low, you can imagine our surprise and our joy when we woke up Christmas morning to find 3 shiny new bicycles under the tree.  Not only did we have bikes but we had other presents too.  It was a wonderful Christmas!  That’s why the next year my brother wrote a paper for school called, “Why I believe in Santa Clause.”  The only argument of his paper was, “How else are you gonna get new bicycles when Daddy ain’t working and you’re broke?”  That may have been the only “A” my brother ever received on a paper.

In September 2006, in the last conversation I had with my dad before he passed away, he talked about how he wished he was a better provider.  I told him I thought he did fine and I reminded him about the gifts of new bicycles and plenty of other presents that year he wasn’t working.  He said that was a special year for him and he shared with me how one of his older brothers provided the money for all of those presents.  He said he would never forget how blessed he felt that Christmas.  Those gifts were not only special to us kids, but they were very special to my dad too.  A loved one intervened and offered something to my father that he could not obtain on his own.

At Christmas time, I love to think back on that story.  After all those years I found out that someone came forward with a special gift at the right time.  Out of a great love, someone intervened and made a wonderful difference in another’s life.  And isn’t that what Christmas is all about?  The bible says in Galatians 4:4 that “in the fullness of time, God sent forth His Son born of a woman so that He could redeem us.”  God who so loves the world, has intervened and has given us the gift of His Son – and what a glorious gift He is!  God has given us gifts we could never obtain on our own.  Christ is the gift of eternal life!  Christ is the gift of strength!  Christ offers us the joy to make it through each day no matter what struggles we face!

We need the gift of Christ.  How else are you going to make it through the night when your heart is broken and the world seems without hope?  How else are you going to get out of bed and face another day when the doctor has given you a bad report and your entire body aches?  How else are you going to find the confidence to tell your child that everything will be all right when you yourself have fears and doubts deep in your heart?  How else are you gonna get new bicycles when Daddy ain’t working and your family is broke?  God because of His great love offers all of those things to you.  God offers to intervene in your circumstances this Christmas and make a wonderful difference in your life through a precious gift, the most special gift ever, the person and the presence of His Son Jesus Christ.

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Goodwill Toward Men

I love this time of year as we look forward to celebrating Christmas and the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ.  I also love hearing about the generosity and kindness of people at this time of year.  It is a time when there are increased efforts to meet the needs of others.  There are drives to provide coats for kids, food for the hungry and many other charitable activities that take place.  When I hear of these acts of love and kindness, I am reminded of Paul’s words in Philippians 2:3 – 4.

   Philippians 2:3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

At Christmas, as we celebrate God’s gift of love and compassion to us through His Son, we are reminded to share gifts of love and compassion with others.  May we do so abundantly.  And may the generosity, goodwill and kindness shown during the Christmas season continue to be on display in the upcoming year.

Posted in Christianity, Christmas, faith, God, God Cares for You, God's Grace, inspirational, love one another, Love the Lord, Love your brother, Luke 2:14, Philippians 2:3 - 4 | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wait on the Lord

At the end of the year, I will be retiring from the insurance claims job I have been working at for over 30 years.  Our company has offered some of us old-timers the opportunity to take advantage of an early retirement.  It’s early in the sense that I am old enough to draw my pension but I’m too young to stop working.  But that’s okay, I like to work.  So, I have taken advantage of their offer and I have been applying for full-time chaplain jobs.  Apparently, I have not yet applied for the job the Lord wants me to have because I am still looking.  The whole job seeking process has served to remind me to trust in the Lord and wait on His timing.  If you know me very well, then you know that waiting is not what I do best.  But currently, that is what I am doing.  As I have been waiting, I have been focusing on one of my wife’s favorite Bible verses, Isaiah 40:31.

Isaiah 40:31 Yet those who wait for the LORD will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.

I love that Bible verse.  I love the promise that if we wait on the Lord, He will renew us and strengthen us.  Some translations say “those who trust in the Lord.”  And yet other translations say “those who hope” in the Lord.  Each translation is accurate as the word Isaiah uses is one that speaks of trusting, waiting and looking forward with hope and assurance to what the Lord God is going to do.  It is true.  We can know and trust that if we look to Him, He will give us strength, He will give us the power to endure.

This has been a different and difficult year in many ways for many people. I pray that each of you will look to the Lord and allow Him to comfort you and strengthen you.  I pray that you will continue to place your hope and your trust in Him.

 

Posted in A refuge, Christianity, Church, diligence, Draw close to God, God will help you, God's Strength, Isaiah 40:31, religion | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Who Do You Trust?

In this world, it can be so easy for us to place our faith, our trust, our hope on the things of this world.  Because we have been raised in this world and conditioned by it, we can easily become enamored with the power, prestige and wealth which are so highly prized in this world.  We can unknowingly find ourselves seeking after, embracing and trying to cling to the things of this world at all costs.  And the cost can be high.  It can cost us our reputation and our relationships with others.  Worst of all, placing our confidence in the things of the world indicates that we are not placing our trust in the Lord.  Yes, the Lord can work through human institutions.  Yes, He can use the power, prestige and wealth of this world for His glory.  He can be trusted to work in the midst of all things – wins and losses, triumphs and tribulations.  God is sovereign.  He can be trusted.  For that reason, our confidence, our faith, our trust is to be in Him.

Posted in A refuge, a stronghold, Build Upon the Rock, Christianity, Church, faith, Faith during hard times, Psalm 20:7 | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment