Sunday, August 30, 2015

POPPY

THERE IS A CABIN AT MOUNT HERMON that must have been built by a distant relative of the creator of the Mystery Spot. It is a quaint place; in other words it’s small, but what is most special about Poppy is that you can never lose anything. The reason is because it will all eventually end up in the same corner.

I’m not sure of the reason, whether it was shoddy workmanship, or just age (it’s an old little place), but I am pretty sure that it is that old nemesis of a poor foundation and eroding ground. Anyway you look at it, it’s a place that seems off-kilter at best or dangerous at worse.

Poor construction on unstable ground can have disastrous consequences, besides of how it makes a place look. What is true about a physical structure like Poppy, can also be true about the spiritual structure of our soul. What we build upon and how we build will affect the whole of our life. We can build upon a firm faith in a strong and redemptive God using the truth of the Scriptures as material with which we can frame and outfit our spiritual home.

My encouragement to each of us is that we build a spiritual home that passes inspection and that can be left as a legacy from one generation to another. A place that can provide sanctuary from the storms of life. A place where people can find nurture and thankfulness. And a home of hope for all who would pass by or enter in.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

THAT DREADED DAY

THERE WAS A DAY I DREADED.  No, not the trip to the dentist, though that was dreaded, too. The day I am referring to is Back-to-School-Shopping! I hated it with a passion! Not because it signaled the end of summer, but rather it signaled long hours in the dressing room with my mom bringing me ever larger pairs of pants.  You see to say it nicely, I had to shop in the “husky” section of the store. All-in-all it was a mixture of humiliation and a deep desire to be instantly 20 pounds smaller.

Of course shopping in the “husky” section also meant that I would not be wearing any cool clothes the first day of school. For some reason back then they couldn’t make cool clothes in large sizes. I never could figure that one out. Oh well.

The reason for my walk down memory lane was not to make you feel sorry for my plump little self (I think that’s an oxymoron), rather it’s to bring us to the point of seeing that there are things more important than body size and cool clothes.

The reality is our culture puts too much weight on weight and what we wear. Yes, it’s important to be in good health, but when we use girth or glamour as a guide to goodness we have missed our call as those who bear the image of God.

Our call is to love one another . . . period. Our call is to be people of encouragement.  Our call is to look upon the heart, just like God does. As recorded in 1 Samuel 16:7 “ . . . for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."

So, my dear reader, if you need to lose few pounds, feel free to do so. If you want to wear some of the latest fashions, go ahead (just watch the godliness factor). If you want to exercise and run a marathon, by all means go for it. But remember, when all is said and done, and we stand before the throne in whose Image we were created, He will look at our heart. Let’s get it in good shape.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

HOVERING

RECENTLY, I HAD THE OPPORTUNITY to officiate at an outdoor wedding. While waiting for the wedding to commence I noticed one of the guests of the wedding flying a drone. While I think drones are pretty cool technology, albeit without some drawbacks, I was a little concerned about having a drone hovering behind me filming the wedding.  Thankfully, that did not take place. I don’t mind being watched over from above, but I would rather it be God, rather than some unknown drone operator.

To be honest, there are times I do feel God’s watchful Presence, and then there are times that I do not. I suppose it derives from the idea that if God is watching over me, then all things should be sweetness and light, but sweetness and light is not always the case.

This past week I was reading in Genesis 1 where we read about God creating the heaven and the earth and all its subsequent parts, including we humans. As I was reading  the opening verses I was caught by verse 2. “Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.”

Here’s what grabbed me: though the earth was formless and empty (void) God was there. Though the deep waters were shadowed in darkness, the Holy Spirit was hovering there. This short verse can bring each of us sustained hope. When our lives are formless and empty, when our lives are shrouded in darkness over fathomless deep, God is there!  God is creating out of the emptiness. The Spirit is present in our darkness.

My prayer for you today, is that when you experience emptiness and darkness that you will also experience the very real presence of God hovering over you with His grace and His love and His recreating power at work within the depths of your soul.

Monday, August 10, 2015

HELL FIRE!!!

THE PHOTOGRAPH WAS TERRIFYING. Staring down a long road through a corridor of 100 foot trees and there up ahead was the Rocky Fire. The flames were above the treetops on both sides and there in the middle of the road was what can only be described as a 100 foot tall tornado of fire. It looked like the doorway to hell!

Then I saw another photograph, truly not as frightening, but no less terrifying. In the picture was a small piece of charred ground marked with some little flags and a member of the fire crew seeking to find the cause of the fire. At the time I am writing this, the fire has decimated 62,000 acres and destroyed 24 homes, numerous buildings and threatening thousands of others. That small patch of scorched earth bore the cause of all the destruction. A carelessly tossed cigarette? A spark from a passing vehicle? The deliberate act of some crazed person?  Time will tell.

As I looked at those two photographs my mind almost immediately went to the passage from the New Testament book of James where James is writing about the power of the tongue; the power to heal and destroy. He writes,

“Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.” (James 3:5-6)

The littlest spark, even the most unintended one, can give birth to a most destructive fire. Thus, it is of critical importance for us to guard with due diligence this instrument that can bring great death. But let us also remember that God is the creator of the tongue and it can be used to build-up and to bring life.

If we are going to ignite anything, let us ignite the love of God in each other’s hearts.

Sunday, August 02, 2015

BELIEVE IT AND NOT

WE’VE HEARD OF OR SEEN THE STRANGE things at
Ripley’s Believe It or Not. The Three-Legged-Man, the Two-Headed-Sheep, the Tattooed-Man with the Forked-Tongue. All pretty weird and even gross at times. And most of it truly unbelievable!

It’s one thing to walk into Ripley’s and say, “I don’t believe it!” It’s quite another thing to be walking through the Word of God and say, “I don’t believe it!” Yet, let’s be honest, most of us have said that very thing, including myself.

Yes, even I, one of the pastors of Felton Bible Church, have read something in Scripture and disbelieved its reality. Not so much the events like creation or the flood, and definitely not the salvific work of Jesus Christ upon the cross.

No, the things I often have difficulty with is when the psalmist writes, “The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles.” (Psalm 34:17) And there are others that fall into the same category. There are those  passages that just don’t seem to match up to the realities in my own life, the lives of others I know, the lives affected by tragic death of Maddy Middleton, and in the places where women and children are being slaughtered in the name of some god or country.

It’s tough to read that God saves people who call on Him out of their troubles when the troubles continue. Yes, yes, I know that God is still saving many and there is the ultimate salvation in Jesus Christ (Psalm 145:18; Romans 10:13) but it’s still tough!

So, where is the hope in all this? Well, not unsurprisingly, it of course comes from God’s Word which calls us to place our hope in Him, His strength, righteousness, justice and goodness; Consider Psalm 133:20-22,

We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield.
In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name.
May your unfailing love be with us, Lord, 
even as we put our hope in you.

Thus, we wait in and with hope!

PLANTING THE RIGHT SEEDS!

MY KIDS have at one time or another wanted a dog.  The story usually took form something like this,
“Dad, can we get a dog?”
“NO!”
“Please!  Please!”
“NO!!”
“We promise to feed him, walk him, play with him, even clean-up the poop.”
“NO!!!”
“Please? Please? Please? You’re the best dad in the WHOLE world!”
“Well, ONLY if you PROMISE to do all those things.”
“We PROMISE!!!”
“Yea! We’re getting a dog! We’re getting a dog!”

Of, course you already know the REST of the story: Dad fed the dog, walked the dog, played with the dog and yes, cleaned-up the poop!  Needless to say, the dog didn’t stay around too long!  Sure, we tried other pets, all with the same result.

So, this old man has finally found the right pet for our family, deer!  You don’t  have to feed them, or walk them, or play with them, and usually you don’t have to clean up their poop.  They are the perfect pet  . . .  except for one thing. Even though they feed themselves they eat all the things we wish they wouldn’t, like our roses, raspberries and hydrangeas! I am sure you get the picture.

English: Monarch butterfly(Danaus plexippus) o...Here’s the good news. Last year Linda found something they don’t like (no, not a shotgun) they don’t eat zinnias! So, this year we planted the right seeds and got lots of zinnias, and we’re already planning for next year, more zinnias!  They’re pretty flowers and bring lots of color to the yard, are nice to cut and bring in the house, and they even look good on the Communion Table.

The secret to a productive garden starts with two key activities. First, preparing the soil and second, planting the right seeds.  The same is true when it comes to producing a productive garden in the Lord’s creation.

There are many opportunities we have for working in the Lord’s Garden which is the souls of those around us, whether those souls have been bearing a plentiful harvest in the past or whether they have yet to receive the seeds of God’s grace and love.

In this edition of In Formation, I want to share with you some of the wonderful opportunities which are available for you here in this portion of God’s Garden we call Felton Bible Church. I encourage you with my whole heart to help us till the soil well and to plant the right seeds.
Here are some wonderful opportunities in which you can get blessed while being a blessing!

Help till the “soul” and plant seeds of God’s Word at our AWANA program! Each year I meet adults in whom were planted the seeds of God’s Word 25-30 years ago and those seeds are still bearing fruit. You can be part of a great group of gardeners and even maybe harvesters, just see our master gardener, Harvey Newman, (also known as the AWANA Commander) about how you can be part of this great opportunity. You can email him at: awana@feltonbiblechurch.org.

How about helping to plant the right seeds on Sunday morning in the lives our children who attend Children’s Church and Sunday school? It is a special opportunity to help them continue in what they have begun to learn in the church service. If you would be part of this life-changing time you can contact our Christian Education Coordinator Brenda Tanner at: Children@feltonbiblechurch.org.

You say you can’t give time every week, well I happen to know of some other opportunities that don’t demand a weekly commitment, take for example our summer Vacation Bible School. It’s one of the most exciting weeks of the year here at FBC.  This past year we witnessed God’s seed planted in hundreds of kids and also saw those seeds sprout in the lives of 79 kids! You can see contact Brenda Tanner if you want more information for being involved next summer.

Do desire to help to plant more seeds and bear more fruit? Join the wonderful opportunity given through the ministry of Operation Christmas Child. (Click the link to OCC) If you want to be part of the local action in our garden here at FBC contact Mary Hoff at SLMGHoff@aol.com. If you would like to take the opportunity to plant seeds through prayer you can email your desire to be part of our local OCC prayer team at: occprayerrequestsforscruz@gmail.com.

Finally, there are numerous ways you can plant the right seeds by serving as a coach for a kids sports team, or volunteering at one of our local elementary schools.

So, there you have it!  Great ways for you to be involved in God’s Garden helping to till the “soul” and plant the right seeds of the Gospel. I’m praying for you to take up the hoe and join us in this glorious work with the goal of seeing a tremendous harvest for our Lord. Thanking you and rejoicing with you now as we look forward to a glorious future!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

DROUGHT!

DROUGHTS COME NY NOBODY’S PLAN, EXCEPT GOD’S. Sure, some people blame global warming, that may be the case, but in reality the nature that God created is responding as God designed it to respond. Therefore, the drought we are experiencing is either caused directly by the hand of God (judgement?) or by God’s original design of how nature works.

We might not be able to do anything to stop the drought but there are some things we can do to lessen it effects upon our lives. We can find ways to better store the water that we do have. We can find ways to use less water as in taking shorter showers or watering our yards less often and for shorter period of time. We can also save and reuse the water we have like catching the shower water in a bucket and using it to water our plants, or do the same with the water we have left in our sink after washing the dishes.

As with physical droughts, we can also experience spiritual droughts. Sometimes they are a result of poor decisions we have made, we can call that sin. Sometimes they may be a result of God’s activity in our lives, often referred to as the “Dark Night of the Soul. (See Saint John of the Cross’s book by the same title.)

As with the physical drought there are some things we can do to help us during our spiritual droughts. The first thing is to acknowledge and accept that spiritual droughts happen, and not always as a result of sin or of God’s judgement. Second, we adjust our lives so that we allow for the spiritual water of the Holy Spirit to be saved up and used rightly. That means not rushing through our “spiritual” times with God. We must allow the Holy Spirit to speak to us so that as the Psalmist writes is Psalm 139:23-14,
Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.
Third, we must save the spiritual water that we already possess. Again, as the Psalmist writes in Psalm 119:11, “Your Word I have hidden in my heart so I might not sin against You.”

Droughts happen, physical and spiritual. There may not be anything we can do to stop them, but there are things we can do to lessen their effect. May God grant you His grace to do so.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

TO WHOM MUCH IS GIVEN

I’M TRULY AMAZED! I’ve just discovered that I’m in the top .08% when it comes to my household income!  That makes me the 4,516,051st richest person in the world!  Who would have guessed? Now, it must also be noted that part of my household income also includes what my wife brings in through her business, still, I am a little overwhelmed . . . but truthfully, sadly so.

According to my salary and benefits I make about $50.00 an hour, while the average worker in Zimbabwe makes $0.53! I know that it most likely costs less to live in Africa and there isn’t that much to buy, but I can’t  help feeling guilty about my wealth versus the wealth of those who live in 2/3rds of the world.

As I have been thinking the past few weeks about poverty in the world and its attendant inequities, my mind has been drawn to Jesus’ words recorded in Luke 12:48, “But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”

Many of us will say, “Well, I give my 10% in the offering. And I even give a little more when there’s a special offering, that’s what the Lord requires.” But it seems to me that Jesus is always calling His followers to go above and beyond, just like He did for us! According to Jesus’ words if we have been entrusted with much, then I must be ready to give much.  This giving comes in the form of monetary gifts, but also in gifts of compassionate service to those with less.  The one with the strong back helps the one with the weak. The one with knowledge help the one seeking knowledge. The one with a car gives a rise to the one without.

To put it another way, “We have been blessed to be a blessing.”

By the way if you want to see where you stand among the wealthy in the world, point your browser to: http://www.globalrichlist.com/