Thursday, August 16, 2018

It's Me, It's Me, O Lord, Who Needs To Give Up My Seat

We were looking for a church in the city in which we lived. We settled on a large "First Church" for that particular Sunday. Piano, organ, and a small worship orchestra led the large choir and music filled the air where over a thousand were seated. I was seated on the last seat on the row, my wife beside me. There was one empty seat in our section immediately in front of me. To the right of it were two older ladies who appeared well-to-do. One of them was wearing a fur jacket.

Movement caught my eye. A woman, late middle-aged, came to the open seat. She was not well-to-do. She was thin, wearing a worn, sky blue polyester pant suit. Her purse was worn, too. I could smell her. She had the odor people have when they live on the streets and don't get but one or two showers a week at the shelter

She motioned to the empty seat in front of us, asking the well-to-do lady in fur if it was available. Either in surprise or fear, she turned wide-eyed to look at her well-to-do friend, and then looked back at the thin woman. I heard her say, "It's taken. My husband is coming to sit there." The lady turned around and walked toward the back, presumably looking for another seat. The well-to-do ladies exchanged knowing glances. Her husband never did come and sit there.

Every time I tell that story people are appalled at the reaction of the well-to-do ladies. It was appalling. How could they conspire to deny her a seat because she was not like them when Christ offered them a place in eternity in spite of their great difference from him? But, something troubles me. It's not the well-to-do who trouble me. It's me.

My wife and I were sitting on the end of the row. There was no extra seat beside us, but there was a seat available. That seat was mine.

Why did I not get up and give her my seat?

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

The Fruit On Your Own Tree Is Always Sweeter

     The picture is of a tree a friend of mine grafted and gave me a few years ago. These persimmons need another tree to pollinate, but if a skillful arborist grafts two trees together it will self-fruit, pollinate itself. There's a whole spiritual application there about us being grafted into Christ, but that's not what I'm thinking about this morning as I write. 
     I planted that tree, watered it, fertilized it, weeded it, sprayed it for bugs, and was terrifically excited when, after two years of potential fruit, I finally saw those little green orbs forming on the branches. This Fall, if the opossums don't get them first, I am going to pluck those persimmons when they become perfectly ripe and enjoy the sweetest, bestest, most awesome persimmons I have ever had.
     Those persimmons will be better than any I have ever tasted, for one reason alone. They came off my very own persimmon tree in my very own orchard. If you have an orchard, or grow a vegetable garden, you know something other people don't. The fruit off your own tree and the vegetables out of your own garden are far more satisfying to eat than anything anyone can buy in any green market or store. 
     You really need to get that truth. There is a lot of sweet fruit in this life. There are worship services that lift our sous. There are teachers and preachers that stimulate our minds. There are books and studies that open our eyes to tasty Biblical truths. There are conferences we return home from that we think everyone else just absolutely must attend when they come around again. Mimi and Paw-paw have such a genuine faith, and we are so blessed when we are around them. That child's response to the children's sermon was so precious. It is all so good, but none of it is as sweet as the fruit on your own tree.
     While the world needs to see the fruit of God in and on your life, it's there for another reason. It is there for you to enjoy, realizing how sweet it is that the great and gracious Creator has grafted you into Christ through faith in Christ, placing His Spirit within you so that you will bare fruit.  But, that fruit does not grow unless you water the tree, fertilize the tree, spray the tree for bugs, nurture the tree, protect the fruit from predators, and do all of that continually until the fruit is ready to eat. 
     You must believe in Christ. You must choose to surrender your life to His plan and process. You must abide in His Word, prayer, worship and service. You must obey. You will never experience the joy of the abundant life, never joyfully taste the sweet, sweet fruit of Christ if you don't.

Please, take time to read more: John 14 & 15

Monday, June 18, 2018

The Last Sunset

And just as it is appointed for people to die once - and after this, judgment - so also Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.
Hebrews 9:27-28

     We were fishing with friends and a strange thought drifted through my mind. That's not unusual. Many strange thoughts drift through the vast empty space between my ears, but this one continues to remind me it's there. "This could be the last sunset I ever see." 
     A few days after that sunset, the mother of a friend of mine died suddenly. I had coffee with her only a week or so before. The next day his mother-in-law died. They had both lived full lives in the faith, but those days were numbered. A couple of weeks ago a pastor friend of mine who had recently moved back into the area was struck and killed while jogging. I had seen him at a prayer breakfast just three days before. He was 46. In the last few years I've lost several good friends -  some young, some old. We had our last conversation, prayed together the last time, enjoyed a last supper.  
     Sometimes we get angry with God because someone dies. That's understandable, but unfair. He did promise, after all, that there is a final day appointed for each of us. None of us knows the day, but we know it's coming. Whether it's a sunset, a fishing trip, a cup of coffee, a breakfast, or a special time with family or friends, one of those will be the last one of those.
     Each of us will have a last dance, a last sunset. That's reality and so is what comes on the other side of our last sunset. If we believe in Jesus and follow him here, we'll enter eternity with him by our side. If, however, we haven't followed him here, then we'll will face the judgment with him as our opposition. 
     I'm glad for that sunset and the thought that continues to echo in my mind. It, along with God's Word, reminds me that he's never lied, even about death. He hasn't promised earthly immortality. How awful would it be to have to live forever in this world, forever dealing with its mess?  He's promised that one day all this will end and our joy will be full. That's only frightening if we don't know him. It's only unfulfilling if we think this world is superior to the one that's coming. 
     So, until that day, let's live as if we were already there. Let's patiently await his perfect timing, holding onto him while we make our way through this life. We're here for a purpose, whether we can figure it all out or not. We're here to glorify God, to make Him, His love, and His gospel known until He calls us home. So, let's dance while we can, but let's always remember that nothing here is as wonderful as everything there will be. And, above all, let's believe in Jesus, follow him, and give thanks that meeting him face-to-face will be the best part of life on the other side of the last sunset.