Late to the party

Last night I was up a couple of times in the middle of the night.  One time I looked out the front window and there was a raccoon in the front yard looking for food.  We experience a WV wildlife zoo in our front yard at night by throwing food out, as we typically can see foxes, skunk, opossum, deer, and raccoons out our front window.  (In full disclosure, I am much more excited about it than Diane is).  The skunk and foxes are typically the earliest to arrive.  The raccoon is usually the last to arrive and last night it showed up after all the food had been eaten.  It was searching, but it was too late.  The raccoon was late to the party.

I am reminded that the Bible tells us that one day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord.  Everyone will one day confess Jesus as Lord.  Some will be saved and some will not.  Some will be “late to the party”, so to speak.  While we live on this earth, we have a choice to make about Jesus.  Will we believe that He died on the cross for our sins and will we call Him Lord and follow Him, thereby receiving forgiveness?  My knee has already bowed and my tongue has already confessed, so I need not fear the grave.  Death has no power over me.  I pray that you have confessed Him as Lord, too.

Others, who do not believe, who have not bowed, who have not confessed, will certainly one day do so.  The only question for them is, “Will you do do before it is too late?”  This is the one party you do not want to be late to.  Like the raccoon, there will be nothing there for you if you are too late.

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Take care of yourself

Yesterday someone left 16 boxes of Apple Cinnamon Cheerios outside the door to the food pantry at Wesley Chapel UMC.  Someone from the food pantry put them on the table in the food pantry.  I noticed a receipt in the bag.  Then I searched other bags and found receipts.  They paid $1.52 for 4 boxes of cereal.  Martin’s ad this week has $6 off when you buy 4 boxes, limit one per transaction, so they rang them up in 4’s. Most people would not be that interested in checking out the receipts, but I love a bargain and was curious when I saw the receipt.  I may make my way to Martin’s today or tomorrow to get some myself.  I love it that a bargain shopper is thinking about the food pantry.  It is one thing to donate money to the food pantry.  There is something above and beyond to be out looking for deals on behalf of the food pantry.

Diane always reminds people to look for great deals on things for the Operation Christmas Child Shoebox ministry by buying after holiday or out of season merchandise when things can often be had for pennies on the dollar.  Diane is always, always, always on the lookout for deals for the shoebox ministry.  It is always on her mind.

Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus… ~ Philippians 2:4-5

Being a follower of Jesus requires us to think not only of ourselves, but to think of others.  Now as someone whose “job” is to think of others, I have come to understand that I can not be everything to everyone who needs attention or help.  So when I say not only think of ourselves, but think of others, I mean it as a reminder that you and I must practice self care.  The Scripture does not say only focus on others.  It is “think of others in addition to thinking of yourself. It is a strange message I have for you today and when I began this post I did not see it coming.  Take care of yourself.

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When it Becomes Second Nature

This morning I drove the ambulance to the scene for the first time without anybody else on it.  Mineral County has a paramedic “chase car” that moves around the county and meets ambulances on the scene, particularly when an ambulance is short staffed. That is what happened today.  After meeting on scene, I take the paramedic and patient in the ambulance to the hospital and when we are done I drop the paramedic off at their vehicle again and I return to the station alone.  When I got back to the station today I forgot to tell the 911 center that I was back.  The chase car happened to be coming to the Short Gap station and saw that I was back and heard that I had not notified the 911 center, so the chase car driver radioed in to tell them I was back.

I find myself still having to focus on every little thing about driving the ambulance.  I have to remember to tell the 911 center any time I leave or I arrive anywhere.  I have to remember to take the portable radio into the home with me so if the 911 center checks on us we can tell them we are OK.  Otherwise they will send law enforcement to check on us (so far that only happened once.)  If I am not intentionally thinking about these things, I will not do them.  One day that will come, but they are not yet “second nature”.  Another way to look at it is that I will “get in the habit” of doing these things.

In a way, this is the case with our Christian walk.  Anytime I see on Facebook that someone writes they need prayer, I type prayer, like many others.  And my habit to is bow and pray right then.  I get so busy that I can not count on myself to pray later about this request.  “Praying now” has become my second nature.  When someone asks me for prayer in person, I will usually pray with them right then.  That way, I do not get behind on prayer and forget these precious requests.  That is just one example.  Reading the Bible had become second nature, or a habit.  It did not happen overnight.  It takes intentional thinking until you finally no longer have to think about it, but you just do it.  It is what I think Paul means when he says, “pray without ceasing.”  It becomes your second nature.  Until then, be intentional to think about them.

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Always aware of the danger

It was amusing last night as I watched as many as four foxes deal with a skunk in our front yard.  They never turned their back on the skunk.  They were obviously aware of the danger that the skunk presented.

I was reminded that even as we become followers of Jesus and are to focus on Him, we must always be aware of the danger that the enemy of God poses to us.  While he has no power over us, he still whispers lies and places temptations before us.  One of the biggest lies is tells is that nobody will ever know.  When we give in to his deceit, it is as if we allow him to have power over us.  And he only wants to put us back in the chains that Jesus frees us from.

Focus on Jesus… put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil…

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Getting your attention

There is not much that gets my attention quicker than a beautiful sky. Sunrise, sunset, it does not matter.  Monday someone pulled in to the side parking lot of the church around 8 am.  Where they pulled in left them looking in a window in which I was standing admiring the changing sky.  I told them I knew it had to be creepy pulling in and seeing me standing there appearing to stare at them. They said it was. I told them the sky was changing by the second.

Lately I have had a couple people tell me that they knew that God was trying to get their attention through various means.  It is good that they recognize that.  I believe He is always trying to get everyone’s attention.  Last night at the Union Rescue Mission we talked about all the different ways He got peoples’ attention in the Bible from Moses and the burning bush to Paul being blinded to a talking donkey (Numbers 22).  It sounds silly when I say it, but the truth is often when I pray I remind Him that I am paying attention so He does not have to do anything drastic to get my attention!  Admittedly, a talking raccoon, skunk, of fox in the front yard would be pretty cool, but I am sure I would think I was hallucinating.  I love it when He gets my attention through sunrises and sunsets.  I do think about Him when I watch them.

Is He trying to get your attention?  He is.

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When fake matters

This past Friday night the Short Gap Volunteer Fire Company hosted a family friendly professional wrestling event.  It was very well attended and everyone seemed to have a great time.  One of the members took their 8 or 9 year old son and told him before they went it was fake.  Do some of the things hurt?  They have to.  Do they sometimes get injured?  undoubtedly.  But fights are staged and rehearsed, the outcomes decided, and the people are often friends.  During the intermission, the dad was buying some concessions and told us that his son was asking for sure, “This is fake?”  He described it in a way as to express that the son could not believe it was not real.  Fake may be a strong word to use if you are one of the ones in the ring being jumped on.  But to be sure, it is acting and entertainment.  But nobody complained.  We were all entertained.  That is why people went.

It reminds me of the Bible telling us that there will come a time when people will find teachers to tell them what they want to hear — that they will not want to hear what is real and true, but to hear just what they want to hear.  “Itching ears” is a term used in 2 Timothy to describe people who seek out teachers who will teach false messages and doctrines that condone their own lifestyle, as opposed to adhering to the truth from teachings of the apostles and the Bible.  Sometimes we act as if we are the only followers of Jesus in whom this warning has come to pass.  The truth is the church has been fighting this for 2,000 years.  I am not proclaiming that I have the sole truth.  I am certain there are things I misunderstand and am wrong about.  Yet, I continue to study and pray and present the Good News of Jesus Christ as God helps me understand it.  But we must all stand on guard against what is false.

Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good*.
~ Romans 12:9

…but test all things. Hold fast to what is good*.
~ 1 Thessalonians 5:21

I know that nothing good* lives in me, that is, in my flesh; for I have the desire to do what is good*, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good* I want to do. Instead, I keep on doing the evil I do not want to do. And if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
~ Romans 7:18-20

*The word Good is agathós, and describes what originates from God and is empowered by Him in a believer’s life through faith.

Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! ~ Isaiah 5:20

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Still standing after the hurricane

While checking the weather today and realizing there will probably be a heavy frost tonight, I saw a video about a house that is standing along the water in Mexico Beach, Florida.  It stands alone along the water after Hurricane Michael.  It was built last year to a new stricter building code.  It stands on pillars that lift it high above the shore so that the storm surge goes underneath it.  The pillars go 28 feet below the surface.  Everything is connected with bolts.  It was so heavy duty that the guy doing the interview said it looked like a roller coaster assembly!  Even the windows are hurricane proof.  The owner said you have to expect hurricanes along the panhandle of Florida and that is why it was built that way.

As a pastor, I am often with people in the worst storms of their lives.  While I do not judge anyone for how they react in the valleys, once in a while I spend time with people who are just like the “house built to withstand the storm”.  Their foundation goes deep.  They understand that storms come and storms go.  Sometimes the storms take away everything dear to you.  Yet they know that there is an immovable Rock upon which their foundation rests.  It is not that they do not cry or do not mourn.  They just do it with hope.  They do not mourn as those who have no hope.

Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. ~ 1 Thessalonians 4:13

So dig deep, my friends.  Build your life on that firm foundation that is Jesus Christ.

You can watch the video about the house here.

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Posted in Hard times, Obstacles | 2 Comments