Thursday, July 29, 2010

He had life assurance but no insurance

He had no burial insurance but plenty of life assurance.

A prominent churchman will be buried this week, thanks to help from friends who have collected the money necessary to bury him. He spent a lifetime working in the church, helping the poor, and lifting the spirits of others. In fact, he used most of his personal resources in the service of others.

One of the areas of his personal life he left undone was to secure insurance on his life to bury himself and care for his wife in the event of his death. He left her with the bill for his funeral and no means of sustaining herself; she depended solely on him.

He was a dutiful husband in life. He made the ends meet. His heart was big, so big that he gave and gave and gave until there was nothing more.

Like him, there are many today without life insurance, not to mention medical coverage. With all of the other problems they have in life some have decided to roll the dice and risk each day's outcome, hoping they will never need healthcare or death coverage.

There is a bright side, though. My friend may not have had a burial insurance, but his faith bought him a "life assurance" that requires no premiums because it was paid in full on Calvary.

1 Timothy 3:13 "Those who have served well gain an excellent standing and great assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus."

I know I have the assurance of life everlasting, but I think I'll check my policies to make sure I have enough insurance to care for those I may leave behind.

I plan to pay premiums for a few more decades.

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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

I saw the movie Invictus, then remembered the last four lines of the poem

I watched Invictus; it was extremely powerful

I'm considerably late, but I watched the movie "Invictus" last night. It was a very powerful, engaging and inspiring account of Nelson Mandela's struggle as the first black president of South Africa, especially after spending 27 years in prison for speaking against Apartheid.

Morgan Freeman as Mandela gave an Academy award level performance as he depicted Mandela trying to tear down the walls of racial hatred including black hatred. It also addressed several other important themes including:

--Forgiveness is a powerful weapon that creates better human relationships.
--True leadership is not a popularity contest
--We must exceed our own expectations

I was clearly awed by the poem "Invictus" which I was required to read in high school. An old English Teacher made us read the poem and memorize the last four lines. Each one of us had to stand in class and recite the last four lines. So today poem's last lines linger:

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

Mandela showed the powerless masses of South Africa that they could either accept conditions or change them. He derived his strength and inspiration from the poem "Invictus" by William Henley, but there are thousands of Christians who do the same thing, deriving their strength not from a poem but from the Lord.

Isaiah 40:29 "He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak."

In High School I was a young idealist who internalized the words of "Invictus." Today, I'm an old idealist who has changed the last lines of Invictus to read:

I am the master of my fate:
Christ is the captain of my soul.

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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

They knew her, but fired her just like that

They knew her, but fired her just like that

It's a bad feeling when the people who know you best, believe the first thing they hear without a thought that what they they heard may have heard may not be true.

That's the case of the black woman who was a former Agriculture Department official who resigned under pressure after a video clip surfaced of her discussing how she considered giving a white farmer less than her best effort because of racial feelings she had 24 years ago.

In a video, Shirley Sherrod seems to tell an audience at an NAACP function in March that she did not do her utmost to help a white farmer avoid foreclosure.

Her bosses didn't ask her anything. They didn't check to see if the video was real or taken out of contact, she was just fired. They didn't even wait for her get back to her office she was required to pull her car over to the side of the road and text in her resignation.

However, Sherrod later said the clip only shows part of her comments, and that she tells the story of her experience -- from nearly a quarter century ago when she was not a federal employee -- to illustrate the importance of moving beyond race.

When the public saw the full video and protested and the White House responded:

"We're not sure what the ultimate result will be, but it's clear that with new information through the full speech, a longer look needed to be taken," a White House official announced the next day after her forced resignation. "The White House contacted the department last night about the case and agreed, based on her evidence, that it should be reviewed."

Sherrod said, "When you spend your life helping others and see people try to turn that around to try to make it look like you're a racist when that's not been what your life has been about -- that doesn't feel good," she said.

Those who worked with her judged her on hearsay and never bother to consider that what they heard may not have been true.

Jesus felt the same way about hid disciples. John 14:9 records this statement he made to his disciples, "Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?"

Harold Melvin and Bluenotes put it this way, "If you don't know me by now, you never, never, know me."

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Monday, July 19, 2010

He lived in the pulpit, he died in the pulpit

He lived in the pulpit, he died the way he lived!

Friday night, The Reverend David Brown, Jr. died.

The Reverend Brown was the pastor pastor of nine congregations in Louisiana and Mississippi, died Friday night during a religious service at the Calvary Baptist Church in West Monroe.

He was singing a song preparing for a sermon to be preached by another minister when he suddenly collapsed.

Last year Brown was featured nationally on the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) as one of the nations last surviving "circuit pastors." The broadcast, shown around the nation, featured Brown's role as a man who pastored multiple small congregations across Northeast Louisiana and in parts of Mississippi.

Brown was a self described country preacher who had a powerful pulpit delivery, some said that could have expanded his ministry beyond rural Louisiana if he wanted. However, Brown always explained that his mission was to bring the word of God to the area he was assigned by God to cover.

He remained faithful to that calling for over three decades.

He has officiated so many funerals and marriages that he couldn't count them, worn out two dozen cars, and preached thousands of sermons to "God's people in the rural."

"If everybody goes to the big city, who pastors the country folks?" Brown once said about his ministry. He died as he lived... in the pulpit.

This passage from Revelation says it all, Revelation 2:10 "... be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life."

So we live on earth, so we continue to live with Him.

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Friday, July 16, 2010

Everybody is praying for everything; does God get spam?

Too much Spam in my inbox; does God get Spam?

I get plenty of email everyday either from business, church or personal connections. I also get nearly 500 spam emails everyday; those are the ones that get through my primary spam filter and end up in my delete box. They are time consuming, nonsensical and frivolous. Some are even insulting. It gets to the point that certain names or addresses are automatically blocked because they are always spam.

Since God hears and answers all prayers, is it possible that we flood our heavenly inbox with spam prayers?

A spam prayer is one in which we ask God to do what we can do ourselves. When we ask God to visit the sick but we don't; help the poor but we won't or to create more love in the world but our hate list hasn't diminished; those are spams prayers.

Then sometimes we can be a nuisance; with frivolous prayers. We pray that the water for our coffee will be hot or that the train won't stay on the track too long. We pray for grades when we have not studied; or that that we are not pregnant when we have not abstained.

Some pray that that their favorite singer wins American Idol.

There are people who sell trick prayers guaranteed to get instant results. There are groups that offer mass prayers for jobs, money, luck, sex, and victory. It all goes up to heaven.

Mixed in there somewhere are our real prayers and concerns.

Wouldn't it be a shame to pray so many frivolous nuisance prayers that heavenly spam checkers tag our prayers as those coming from that person in Louisiana or California or New York that sends up prayers for money, cat food and winning lottery tickets. -Spam box!

I'm sure God gets spam, but He has no spam box. He hears them all and answers.

Spam prayers, though, seem to be a waste of His time.

Here's an interesting thought from Jesus himself in Matthew 6:7-8.(Msg) It says, "The world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer-ignorant. They're full of formulas and programs and advice, peddling techniques for getting what you want from God. Don't fall for that nonsense. This is your Father you are dealing with, and he knows better than you what you need."

I think it best for me to be selective with my prayer requests. I'll prayer about the big things, I won't bother God with the little things, He knows them all anyway.

When a prayer appears before the throne with my name on it, I would hope it is moved to the top of the pile and not shuffled to bottom with all of the spam of the day.

That's my prayer anyway! (Lol)

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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Why do we take pictures of ourselves with our cellphones?

New trend: Taking a picture of yourself with your cellphone.

Have you paid any attention to the grown number of self portraits appearing on social networking sites such as Myspace and Facebook? Increasingly there are photos of individuals taking pictures of themselves with their cell phones. Some even stand in front of mirrors to capture themselves taking a picture of themselves. It could be a very high self esteem that prompts such actions; it could also be just a touch of vanity.

Most of us are happy with ourselves. Occasionally, someone comes along and wants more hair than they inherited or eyes foreign to their DNA. However, generally we are pleased with our appearance.

Some have gone a step further; they are not simply pleased with themselves they have fallen in love with their own appearance. That's when we have an inordinate number of photos of ourselves. We jump on every photo that someone else is taking; and when that is not enough, we take our cellphones and take dozens of pictures of ourselves.

No matter how well I appear to others, I'm often very disappointed with my own self portrait. I see too many flaws in my personality; too many weaknesses, too many insecurities in areas that should be secure.

A true self portrait forces us to look deep into the mirror and observe closely what we see.

When the mirror is God's word. our reflection usually reveals distortions of which we are not proud. We won't post that picture for anyone to see. The one we want to post is the glamor shot that hides our flaws.

Rather than taking a picture of myself with my cell, I'd probably do better taking a long hard look at what I see, then try to correct as many of my obvious imperfections.

James 1:23-25 "Those who hear and don't act are like those who glance in the mirror,
walk away, and two minutes later have no idea who they are, what they look like.
But whoever catches a glimpse of the revealed counsel of God—the free life!—even out of the corner of his eye, and sticks with it, is no distracted scatterbrain but a man or woman of action. That person will find delight and affirmation in the action."

I'm rather pleased with my 61 year old appearance, but I'm not pleased with the man in the mirror; that guy has too many flaws.

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Saturday, July 10, 2010

She was the bad driver, but he got the ticket

She did wrong, he got the ticket; a case of injustice.

Have you ever been the victim of an unjust decision? Most of us have. It's not a great feeling.

Yesterday our bus driver began negotiating at right turn in a busy Atlanta intersection. As he swung out a woman decided to squeeze pass the bus as it turned. Her move resulted in a fender bender. She apologized to the driver, saying she thought she could make it through the tiny space between the bus and curb. She was very polite, apologetic and humble. When the police arrived, both accounts were told but the officer gave the bus driver the ticket.

The driver was stunned. The lady was surprised because she fully expected to get the ticket. She drove off smiling, leaving our driver frustrated because he felt himself the victim of an injustice.

Injustices may come on a small scale in the case of fender benders or in larger situations such as racial discrimination, intimidations or unfair practices. All injustices, whether large or small, leave victims.

We are surrounded by injustice but we are encouraged to remain just ourselves, remaining firm in our faith.

Habakkuk 2:4 "Behold, ...the just shall live by his faith."

It was an injustice, but our driver is strong. He is a man of faith.

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Friday, July 09, 2010

So, Lebron made up his mind, so what about us?

Lebron made up his mind, we must decide things, too!

The nation waited anxiously last night for basketball star Lebron James to announce whether he would stay with the Cleveland Cavaliers or make a move. For seven years he was loyal to Cleveland bringing major dollars to the team but always falling short of his goal to own a championship ring. Since he is a free agent, decision time loomed. He narrowed his choices to six teams then switched back and forth between choices keeping the nation on edge.

Last night he made his choice, he chose to move to Miami and play with the Miami Heat.

Life is about choices. We choose whom we play with; we choose our own team.

There are many who make choices about whether to choose to live a Christian life or one that is contrary to God's will. We choose the high road or the low road. Some of us switch back and forth between the two without really making a choice.

We have to choose a team because all of heaven waits our decision. LeBron James' basketball choice was made in line with his personal goal. He left $30 million on the table to do it.

We have to make choices in line with our goals as well. Some choices are hard and may cause us to leave a lot on the table but they are necessary to get where we are trying to go.

The world has made us an offer.

God has made us an offer, too, backed up by the blood of Christ and confirmation of the Holy Spirit.

1 Kings 18:21 (MSG)Elijah challenged the people: "How long are you going to sit on the fence? If GOD is the real God, follow him; if it's Baal, follow him. Make up your minds!"

Make your move.

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Thursday, July 08, 2010

They named me the barbecue king? Even I laughed!

They named me King of the Pit. Me, the barbecue king? Ha, Ha!

Sunday, our church celebrated the 4th of July with a worship service followed by a big barbecue. All persons in attendance were treated to plates of barbecue ribs, chicken, baked beans, salads, etc. The men of the church participated in the annual "King of the Pit" contest to determine the congregation's barbecue king. There was also a potato salad contest as well.

I entered the contest for the fellowship. I barbecue once in every blue moon. I don't really consider myself very good, probably passable. I set up my pit the day before and relaxed while I barbecued my portion of ribs and chicken. I read my bible, knocked out half of a watermelon and basically relaxed. Then I mixed my sauce. I like sugar, cat sup and other items added to the off the shelf brand of sauce I use. I bathed my little rib and chicken samples in my sauce.

If a part of the meat didn't appeal to my eye, I added more sauce on it.

After the worship they presented me with a trophy as the "King of the Pit"

Who me?

I wasn't trying to win. I was just having fun. They said it was tasty and neck and neck with the first runner up, but I won.

They said the difference was my sauce.

I thought the honor was suspicious, especially since my wife was named potato salad queen. They insisted that the judges didn't know the names of the contestants and the results were real.

The runnerup's meat was just right, tenderized and perfectly cooked, but it had no sauce. Just a touch of sauce would have made the difference.

I guess life is the same way. We are all a little singhed, tough to swallow at times and not really pleasing to ourselves. However, terrible we see our lives we are often not judged by our overcooked or singhed edges but by the fruit of our spirit and the labor of our hands.

That may make the difference.

There is a bible passage that tells about our "sauce" Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

I don't think I'm the King of the Pit by any means, but I did have a mighty tasty sauce!

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Thursday, July 01, 2010

She believes in God but not in a personal way.

She believes in God but not in a personal way.

I recently shared with a brilliant young lady who is going places in life. She obeys the law, is climbing in her career and has great prospects. She was exposed to faith training as a girl but has since adopted a different views. She told me that she believes in God but not feel that God is personal.

I told her that she will change that view when life sends her scrambling for the God of her youth for nurture, strength, protection and guidance.

In my 41 years of ministry I have encountered many who share this belief. They believe in an all powerful creator of the universe, but their belief stops there. They feel no need for worship, fellowship with other believers or study of His word. They especially reject any formalities or limitations that may be associated with anything beyond a simple belief in a divine creator.

They believe in God. That's enough for them.

That works fine until we need God to respond to our life situation but our lack of faith keeps Him at a distance.

I believe that God is a person and is personal. As such, God loves: creates, destroys, angers, cares, rewards and punishes, saves, forgives and blesses. Since God is personal, we each have our own unique ID through which he identifies with us, hears us, guides us, correct us and opens doors for us.

Only those who believe in a personal God pray, otherwise prayer is a useless exercise because God does not take calls from mere mortals unless He's personal.

The trick in life is to allow God to be personal with us. In our thoughts we commune with Him and share our aspirations. In return He shares with us through inspiration, spiritual epiphanies, and teachable moments. When we pray we invite God into our business. Once invited God encourages, strengthens, inspires and renews. He also troubles us when we break or bend His rules; He works on our conscience.

It is the personal God who answers our prayers, lifts us when we we down, and gives us that second or third chance to get it right when we have failed.

Believing in God is the first step of faith. The second is to open the door of your heart and invite Him in. He knocks and waits for the invitation.

Revelation 3:20 "I stand at the door. I knock. If you hear me call and open the door, I'll come right in and sit down to supper with you."

When call on Him, we open the door and let Him in. That's when our lives change for the better.

Those who know Him personally begin to live fully functional, happy, blessed lives that meet life's challenge with the confidence that the God they believe in knows them personally and will hear their prayers and direct their paths.

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