It was this time of year when I was a young boy when hope flowed more so than the rest of the year. The Christmas catalogs began to populate the mailbox, and the hardware store began to put up decorations in the store windows. Even the little town where I spent much of my childhood began to put decorations on the lamp poles lining main street. It was a sign of the fast-approaching holidays and all the celebrations and parades to come.
I remember one Christmas season vividly. Christmas day had come and gone, and the family was standing in the airport. The mood of the family matched the cold, rainy, and dreary weather outside. My father was about to board a plane for his first deployment to Viet Nam. As the oldest son, he pulled me aside away from my siblings and charged me with taking care of my mother , my brother and sister. It was a heavy responsibility for a ten-year-old boy. But my father whispered words to me that I’ll never forget; he said, “I’ll be back son.” They rang in my ears day after day, week after week, and month after month until his return a year later. His words gave a young man hope.
It seems there are very few sources of hope these days, with all the turmoil in our nation and even around the world. We recently celebrated Veterans Day, a day in which pride and admiration abound to those who are and have served. But we need a sense of hope daily in our lives.
Pets sit patiently in windows, waiting on the return of their owners. And when they see the car pull into the driveway or hear their voice, excitement fills their entire bodies! They even have hope in an event; one over which they have no control. We can take a big lesson from our pets.
When Jesus ascended into heaven, scripture says two men in white appeared beside the apostles. The apostles stood and watched as Jesus rose from the earth and disappeared into the clouds, no doubt with the mouths wide open! These two men asked them a very pointed question – “”Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen Him go into heaven.'”
After all they had been through in recent weeks and months, their hearts had to filled with hope. They had been on a roller coaster of emotions, but they stood there witnessing a physical act of their Savior ascending into the clouds. The words of these two angels gave them hope.
Jesus is coming soon. His words should give us all hope, a hope in glory. Revelation 22:20 Jesus said, “Yes, I am coming soon.” We need to prepare daily for this promise to be fulfilled!
One of the newest technological innovations is the driverless car. As I understand it, the car uses multiple input sensors to keep the vehicle safe in traffic, as well as global positioning system (GPS) satellites to traverse roads and highways to reach the destination which has been input into the computer system. Considering I lose satellite signal on my television during a thunderstorm, I’m not completely on board with this new type of technology just yet.
I have a good friend who goes on annual pheasant hunting trips in South Dakota, in addition to a week-long fishing trip in Canada. They depend on guides in both locations. He conveyed to me the guide his group uses for their fishing trip is retiring this year. The gentleman who serves as their guide has been guiding groups in southern Canada for over 50 years. My friend was saddened over the retirement decision, and wondered where they would find such a knowledgeable, experienced, and reliable guide for next year’s trip.
We use guides in many aspects of our daily lives from knife-sharpening guides, to sewing guides, even golf swing guides to help us improve and master our efforts. But I’ve heard so many people say flounder in their spiritual walk, feeling like they are on their own, questioning if they are being effective.
The disciples had Jesus with them, to serve as a guide, a teacher, a mentor, and an example. Yet, even they did not understand what He was trying to tell them and others when He spoke in parables. Throughout the time they spent with Jesus, they doubted themselves and even denied knowing Jesus. They did not fully rely on their “Guide.”
Today we have the Holy Spirit to serve as our Holy Guide. No matter where we are, the Holy Spirit is there with us. Jesus even said He must leave this earth to make room for the Comforter, the Advocate to come. There is a great deal of assuredness in the words Jesus uses for the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is with us, to comfort us during our times of struggle, to guide us through the good times as well as the bad times, and to advocate for us to God the Father. What better guide to have in our daily lives than one who Jesus Himself recommends!! And I assure you, unlike the TV signal during storms, the Holy Spirit will never lose contact with us, especially during life’s storms.
Turn your spiritual antennae toward God every day, and the Holy Spirit will give you the best signal imaginable, one that will guide all of us to our ultimate destination – our Heavenly home!
What does it mean to be sold out? The best synonym I can think of is committed. When we put ourselves totally into an activity, relationship, or vocation, we are “sold out”. People see the performance of athletes or the love shared between couples and say the same thing.
To be really sold out requires a great deal of effort. Take for instance the sport of triathlon. This is the 3-event competitions where the athlete, or triathlete, swims a specified distance, bicycles, and then runs. The world championships were just held in Kona, Hawaii where the distances for the run, bike, and swim were 2.4 miles, 112 miles, and 26 miles respectively! Completing any one of the phases of the race would be monumental for most. But to cross the finish line after covering all three is an achievement relatively few will ever know. To be a triathlete at the professional level requires the man or woman to be completely sold out to their profession, mentally, physically, and emotionally. They must be absolutely committed.
Most of us will never compete in Kona, but we are called to be no less committed in some aspects of our lives. It’s hard to understand the effort of a triathlete and compare it to our activities, relationships, or vocations. But we need to look no further for an example than Jesus.
Jesus gave of Himself totally to the mission God the Father placed on Him. He was to be the perfect sacrifice, the Pascal Lamb, to atone for the sins of mankind. He spent almost three years trying to convince the leaders of the Jewish nation who He was with His teachings as well as with many signs and miracles. He even performed miracles that only the Messiah or God could perform according to the Levitical law. It forced the leaders to make the ultimate decision – was Jesus who He said He was, the Messiah.
One of the last things Jesus said as He hung on the cross was “It is finished.” He had completely poured himself out physically, emotionally, and spiritually for men and women, even those who sentenced Him to die in the most cruel manner imaginable. The task, the mission was done. Then He spoke these words: “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” All that Jesus was, all that Jesus had done, and all that He would be He gave to the Father – completely. Jesus placed Himself totally into the loving hands of His Heavenly Father.
For us to approach worship and service to God without following the example of the One who gave of Himself totally for us is a disservice. God will bless us because of His love and grace, but more so when we are totally committed to Him. This week let’s be “sold out” to God in everything we do – for His kingdom’s sake and not our own.
Ever take a cruise? Rarely would you run into the captain during operations of the ship, as he/she would be busy directing the navigation of the vessel. I remember taking a tour of an aircraft carrier many years ago. I found it most interesting when we were told the captain can almost be a prisoner on the bridge during operations. They have their own stateroom below deck, but while the ship is underway the captain stays on the bridge in a very cramped room where they sleep, eat, and accomplish other duties – never leaving the bridge.
On a cruise ship, the captain has the same duties. So the people you run into most often are the stewards. These are the greeters, the hospitality individuals, those who work in the galley, and those who clean the passengers’ rooms and fold the towels in to multiple shapes for display on the bed. The stewards may have one of the most important jobs on a ship. If the ship is having issues and docked, the captain’s duties may diminish, but the stewards will be running around the ship like ants, tending to the needs of the patrons and keeping the dissatisfaction level at a minimum. Therefore, the stewards of the ship have some of the greatest responsibilities on the floating city, with the goal of caring for reason they exist – the passengers.
Add the suffix “ship” to many words and you get a process or responsibility to work toward a goal. Scholarship means a person receives funds to study or be a “scholar” and work toward graduation. Apprenticeship describes a position where one works with an extremely knowledgeable person to gain expertise. What about when you add the suffix “ship” to the word “steward”?
First, to do so would indicate a process. It’s not a one-time event of being a steward and you’re done. Just like those who are lifetime scholars, stewardship is a life-long responsibility. Secondly, just like the steward on a ship, stewardship indicates a responsibility, a duty if you will, to care for something very valuable.
In Old Testament times, the responsibility of caring for the tabernacle fell to the tribe who had been set apart for service – the Levities. Their entire lives were focused on serving God, performing sacrifices, praying, and conducting services. As such, they were to receive no land when the Israelites crossed into the promise land. So what of the other tribes?
The other eleven tribes received land from which would come their livelihood with livestock and foodstuffs grown. Because of this blessing from God, the tribes were instructed to bring a portion of livestock and grains into the temple, or as we find in scripture, the “storehouse”. The Levites cared for many people in that society as well as run the dealings of the temple. With the portions brought into the temple by the eleven tribes, the temple was maintained, people in need were cared for, and offerings were made to God for the bounty He had bestowed on the nation.
The only place God challenges us to test Him is in Malachi. He promises if we will only follow His commandment to bring a tithe into the “storehouse”, His church, He will pour out blessings so great we will not be able to hold them.
Stewardship is a responsibility. Stewardship is an honor. Stewardship is also a promise. By supporting the church with time, talents, prayers, gifts, and services, we are following the call from God to care for HIS church and all that come in need. During this stewardship season, let’s all keep in mind we are on a journey of the highest calling, as we cruise through this life.
Straighten our stewardship uniforms and remember what we have in Christ’s church because of Him – everlasting life to those who choose! Anchor’s away!!!!
In any building project, no matter the size, scope, or place, the most experienced engineer will tell you the foundation is the most important part of the plan. Just name the enterprise and in every case the foundation is the critical, without question. If the foundation is wrong or inadequate, the building or project suffers.
Take for instance the building of a ship. Some might say it’s the hull that’s the most important part of the ship. But experts will tell you it’s the skeleton of the ship, the “bones” onto which the hull is attached is the focus. You have a weak skeleton, and you will have a weak ship.
In Japan earthquakes are constantly on the minds of everyone, especially engineers. They have been experimenting with all kinds of materials from wood to metal and even precast concrete. No matter the material used, the main purpose of the foundation is to mitigate, or even isolate the building from the moving ground. Buildings have even been constructed on top of rollers to allow the ground to move while the building stays in place. The building then becomes less susceptible to the movement of the surrounding ground and stays intact on its foundation while those not ready for the earthquake suffer the effects.
Can this mitigation of movement be applied to the foundation of the church? It certainly can. After Simon Peter preached the message of the risen Jesus in Solomon’s Colonnade where Jews and Gentiles heard, 3,000 believed the truth and became disciples or followers of the Gospel. You take any organization and increase it by thousands of people in one day and you’d better have a solid foundation. Peter, the outspoken leader of the disciples, as well as the other disciples saw the crowd as a flock, and they were to be their initial shepherds. They knew how to be such as they had learned from the Great Shepherd. All that God the Father had revealed to them and all that Jesus had taught them was now being put to good use. There was an excitement among the gathering of New Christians. They began to reach out to their friends, who also believed in the message, and scriptures say, “And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”
Strong leaders know the most important aspect of any organization is the foundation. A strong, solid, reliable foundation is a must. Jesus knew this. The disciples knew this. The New Testament church has existed for than two millennia and will continue even in the face of adversity and societal earthquakes. What better foundation upon which to build the church, our families, and even our own lives than the foundation of Jesus Christ. He will stand in the gap between us and the world’s turmoil and serve as a solid foundation of all we do. Let the world shake and quake, because a foundation of Jesus Christ cannot be shaken! Amen!