My favorite cartoon when I was a kid was Peanuts. I remember one comic strip in particular. It is January 1st, and Charlie Brown tells anyone who will listen, “The best way to keep New Year’s Resolutions is in a sealed envelope in a bottom desk drawer.
Charlie Brown knew what every person who has ever made a resolution knows. Making and keeping resolutions is a troublesome business, usually filled with failure and shame.
How have your past resolutions worked out for you? I don't even want to talk about mine. If you have made and broken resolutions on many previous New Year's days, you may feel that you might as well seal them in a bottom desk drawer and forget them. That is the experience I have had.
If there is anything to which Christians should be committed to, it is that people can change for the better and that there is every reason to hope for such a change in our lives and in the lives of others.
If you ask the average person about the resolutions they made for the New Year, they will tell you that they are going to cut down on their eating, they are going to exercise more, stop doing unhealthy things, and start doing healthy things, etc.
While these things are good, they all focus on self and rely on self. These kinds of things are in fact self-serving and look to the power of one’s self to accomplish them. Self-improvement for most people means making themselves more attractive, healthier and happier. They depend on the power of the human will to bring about the changes.
Look at how different our typical resolutions are from the words of Paul in Colossians 3:12-14. “God has chosen you and made you his holy people. He loves you. So always do these things: Show mercy to others, be kind, humble, gentle, and patient. Get along with each other, and forgive each other. If someone does wrong to you, forgive that person because the Lord forgave you. Do all these things; but most important, love each other. Love is what holds you all together in perfect unity."
Notice how Paul’s words are focused on others. If we are to use resolutions wisely, we need to turn our attention away from ourselves and toward others. We need to get the focus off of ourselves, and on to God and the strength that comes only from him. What kind of resolutions should we make?
John was called the disciple that Jesus loved. It appears that Jesus had a best friend. I want my resolution to be the words that the best friend of Jesus wrote in 1 John 4:7,8 “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love”.
I don’t know of a better resolution that you could make. If we would all make the resolution to love one another imagine how different the world would be.
My wife's cousin, Jerry Patton, spent 37 years as the second tenor of The King's Heralds Quartet, the oldest continuous gospel quartet in America.
One of my favorite songs that he sang was titled One Little Candle. The lyrics are great.
It's better to light just one little candle
Than to stumble in the dark
Better far that you light just one little candle
All you need's a tiny spark
If we'd all say a prayer that the world would be free
The wonderful dawn of the new day we'll see
And if everyone lit just one little candle
What a bright world this would be
My resolution for 2013 is to light one little candle, will you join me?
P.S. Check out Restore A Child. They believe that every child is a precious gift to the world and that all children deserve the chance to flourish physically and mentally. Restore A Child helps to provide children in desperate need with the basic essentials necessary for them to live healthy, fulfilled lives.
As a windshield installer, one of the things that I am often asked to do is to glue the rear view mirror back on to a windshield when it has fallen off. Have you ever driven a car without a rear view mirror? It can be uncomfortable. Why do cars have a rear view mirror? Sometimes we need to know what is behind us.
Do we need a spiritual rear view mirror? Yes, I think we need to know what is behind us. When Moses was presenting the Feast of Unleavened Bread to his people he said in Exodus 13:3, “Remember this day in which you went out of Egypt, out of the house of bondage; for by strength of hand the Lord brought you out of this place”. After presenting the particulars of the feast he then said in verse 8, “And you shall tell your son in that day, saying, ‘This is done because of what the Lord did for me when I came up from Egypt”.
It is important for us to look back and see what God has done for us in the past. It gives us something to base our belief on. God wants us to remember. The word remember is used 230 times in the New King James Version of the Bible.
The first time it was used was in the story of Noah. Genesis 9:13-16 tells us, “I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever … the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant… Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and … the earth.”
Whenever you see a rainbow it is a glance in the rear view mirror that tells you that God made a promise and you can be sure he will keep it.
In Psalms 105:5 it says, “Remember His marvelous works which He has done, His wonders, and the judgments of His mouth”. Just like a quick glance in the rear view mirror of your car can put your mind at ease, remembering what God has done for us is very reassuring.
A rear view mirror is great for checking out what is happening behind you, but there is something that a rear view mirror isn't good for. Would you want to be on the road with me if I spent all of my time looking in the rear view mirror? That would be very dangerous. It is also dangerous in our spiritual lives if we spend all of our time in the past.
In Philippians 3:13-14, Paul tells us, “Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus”.
Paul says that the first step in pressing forward is forgetting what is behind. We are to remember what God has done for us in the past, but we are to forget our own past.
The past can be a terrible enemy. John MacArthur said in reference to Paul's statement in Philippians 3:13: "Churches are full of spiritual cripples, paralyzed by the grudges, bitterness, sins, and tragedies of the past”.
Writer Max Lucado likens holding a grudge to being in quicksand. When we hold a grudge, we just can't seem to get out of its grasp. The more we think about it and struggle with it the more we sink, and the deeper we go. I really think that the only way we can get ourselves of the quicksand of holding a grudge is through the power of God. Paul writes in Ephesians 4:26,27, "Don’t sin by letting anger gain control over you. Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a mighty foothold to the devil.
Our conflict with the devil is hard enough without us intentionally giving him a mighty foothold. Don’t spend your time looking in the rear view mirror at all of the wrongs that have been done to you.
The Bible makes it clear that the Christian should forgive, not hold grudges. Matthew 6:14-15 states, “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
Can forgiveness change the past? No. What will forgiveness do? It sets us free from the past so we can move into the future. Isn't that what God wants? He wants us to forget what lies behind and reach forward to what lies ahead.
Sometimes I think that the only thing harder than forgiving is to accept forgiveness. When I was growing up in Colorado, my pastor was Pastor George. I can still remember him teaching on the scripture 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”. 1 John 1:9 became my favorite verse.
Over the years I have come to realize that there is a problem with this verse. The problem is not actually with the verse, but that many Christians don’t believe it. They say they believe, but their actions show they don’t feel forgiven.
Isaiah 43:25 tells us that God blots out our sins, and will not remember them. Psalms 103:12 tells us that God has removed our sins from us as far as the east is from the west. Micah 7:19 says that God will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.
When you are forgiven God has blotted out your sins, He has removed them as far as the east is from the west, He has cast them into the depths of the sea. Don’t be looking in your rear view mirror for them.
We need to learn how to properly use our rear view mirror. Look back at how God has led in our life, and how he has blessed us. Don’t look back at our sins that God has promised to forgive as we forgive those who have sinned against us.
Published in the December 20, 2012 issue of The Mena Star
As Christmas approaches one of the things that most people focus on is gift giving. We spend a lot of money and time finding the right gifts for people that are important in our life. Sometimes we fail in our gift giving.
One Christmas when my son was a young boy, we nearly ruined his Christmas with one particular gift. One of the jobs that he was given around the house was sweeping the kitchen floor. That Christmas we bought a stick vacuum cleaner and thought it would be funny to give to him as a gift. When it was wrapped, the vacuum was the largest gift under the tree. When my son saw that the largest gift had his name on it he was very excited. His imagination went wild. What could that present be? His whole Christmas revolved around the largest gift under the tree. When Christmas morning arrived, all he could think about was that gift. When he opened it, he was so disappointed that the rest of his Christmas presents couldn't make up for the vacuum cleaner fiasco.
Have you ever been disappointed by a gift? Has someone been disappointed by the gift you gave them? What about great gifts? What is the best gift you have ever received? What made it so special? Was it the value of the gift? Was it the person who gave it to you? Was it because it was so unexpected?
As I think about this question I find it hard to narrow down one particular gift as the best. There is one gift that I received that was very special for a number of reasons. One of the reasons this particular gift was special is that I still don’t know who gave me the gift. Let me tell you the story.
In February 2004, 17 members of my church raised 20,000 dollars and went to San Pedro, Belize in Central America to build a church. While we were there we made lots of friends. We were only in San Pedro for a short time, but by the time we left the walls of the church were finished. During the following months, the church members in San Pedro finished the church building. Plans were made for a church dedication service to be held in February 2005. I was invited to come to the dedication service. I really wanted to go. This church building project had been very important to me, and I had made many friends in San Pedro that I wanted to see again. There was just one problem. I couldn’t afford the trip.
THE NEW HORIZON SDA CHAPEL IN SAN PEDRO BELIZE
One day I received a letter in the mail from Fare Finders Travel. Why were they sending me a letter? When I opened the letter I was surprised by what it said. Please come in to Fare Finders to make arrangements for a round trip ticket to Belize. Someone has paid for the ticket, but they want to remain anonymous. I couldn’t believe it. My wife immediately tried to figure out who the anonymous donor was. She still hasn’t cracked the case. It is still an unsolved mystery. The mysterious ticket has to be one of the best gifts I have ever received.
We made plans to go back to San Pedro. As we packed and attended to all the details of the trip, the mystery giver was in our thoughts. Who was this person who had given such a meaningful and valuable gift? How could we thank the giver?
Our trip to Belize was wonderful. It was very special to me to see the completed church building. The dedication service was beautiful and moving with people from several different countries participating. We got reacquainted with friends that we had made the year before, and made many new friends the 10 days that we were there. Many times friends would stop by our room with gifts such as fresh coconut water, papaya, or some small trinket. On the last day we were in San Pedro, there was a steady stream of visitors at our room. They wanted to tell us goodbye. Most of them brought a gift.
GINA AND I WITH SOME OF OUR FRIENDS IN SAN PEDRO
We received one gift that was very special to me. My wife made a special friendship with a little 2 year old boy who spoke only Spanish. Whenever he would see her his face would light up. He didn’t understand English, but he understood the language of love. The day we were leaving he and his 4 year old sister came to our door with a gift. They gave us a well worn 1941 Walking Liberty half dollar. I have no idea how this little family had come into possession of this coin, or why they gave it to me. Even though the monetary value of the coin is only a few dollars it is one of the most precious gifts I have ever received.
GINA'S SPECIAL FRIEND, ANGEL
I learned an important spiritual lesson on my trip to Belize. I learned it from the people that I met. They had such a desire to do something for us. Even though they had only meager possessions, they had such a desire to please. They wanted to see us before we left. They had to bring us a gift. It was very important to them. To me that showed how I should relate to God. God, I don’t have anything but I want to give you something. God let me know what I can do to please you. God I want to be with you.
In Romans 6:23 the Bible tells us “the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord”. God has given you the best gift ever, what will you give God this Christmas?
There are times when it feels like the promises contained in the Bible have a hollow ring to them. There are times when the promises seem detached and distant. The tragic deaths on Friday morning in Newtown, Connecticut was one of those times. Where was God when so many innocent lives were ended? Gov. Mike Huckabee claimed we should not be surprised to see this kind of violence since we have removed God from our schools and our society. His sentiment is to say, “God is NOT here.” If that is the case, then it surely can explain the existence of pure evil that we saw displayed on Friday. I cannot believe that God is so weak. The God I believe in is a powerful God, but I still have to ask why. As I attended my grand daughters Christmas program on Saturday my thoughts drifted away from the story of the birth of Jesus and the precious angel in the play to the tragedy in Connecticut. Why did these precious lives have to end? There are many events that have caused people to ask, "why". I don't have the answers as to why so many tragedies happen. I do know that ever since sin came into this world through Satan there have been terrible tragedies. I am sure that Adam and Eve asked "why" when Cain killed his brother Abel. The only promise that a Christian has in this life is that there will be trouble. Our trouble free existence will be in Heaven where God will wipe away all tears.
When a tragedy happens, God says ask your questions, but don't stop there. God has given a much greater opportunity. God challenges us to turn to Him for answers. God challenges us to argue with Him. God challenges us to trust Him explicitly.
Bad things happen in this world, to good people, and to bad people, although it seems like the good people get the worst. Murphy's law seems to be all too true. Why do bad things happen to good people? More specifically, why do bad things happen to me? God rarely answers that question. He would pour out only goodness on us all the time, if He could, but because we live in a sinful world, He can't. Men have free will, and God will not override it.
Why do bad things happen to good people? Because we live in a sinful world. I know that's not the kind of answer we like, but there is no better answer available. That is why I'm looking forward to a better place. I'm looking forward to a time when "God will wipe away all tears from our eyes; and there will be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither will there be any more pain". Revelation 21:4
It is my job to install windshields. One day a customer was watching while I was installing his windshield. The urethane that I was using seemed irresistible. He just had to touch it. He got urethane on his hand. He didn't want me to know he had touched it. I noticed he was quietly rubbing on his hand with a shop towel. If you try to wipe urethane off, all it does is smear and make a bigger mess. When I noticed his problem, I offered him some solvent that helps clean the urethane up. He said that he didn't need any.
As I worked I noticed him continuing to try to clean up. By this time he has it on both hands and has gotten it on his coat. Urethane doesn't come out of clothes. Finally I just got a shop towel and soaked it in solvent and gave it to him. By trying to clean it up himself he had made a monumental mess. Have you ever made a big mess of your life by trying to clean things up yourself? I know I have. As silly as it seems, there are many Christians who have the same attitude as the man in this story. Their hands are dirty and stained with sin, and yet they try to clean themselves up. Paul tells us in Romans 6:23, ‘For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord’.
Even though the consequences of having hands stained with sin are so clearly stated, some Christians feel that they can clean themselves up by their works. Isaiah 64:6 tells us that when we display our righteous deeds they are nothing but filthy rags. Why would we try to clean ourselves up when Jesus has promised to forgive us and clean us up. 1 John 1:9 tells us, ‘If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness’.
Jesus has offered to forgive us of our sin, no matter what it is, and he has promised to clean us up. Let’s take him at his word.
As published in the December 6, 2012 issue of The Mena Star
Recently my family has instituted a new holiday, ThanksChristmas. Because we were all together for Thanksgiving and won't be able to be together for Christmas, a new holiday was born.
The way we celebrate Thanksgiving in America has its roots in British Harvest Festivals and in American history. In 1620, a group of more than 100 Puritans fleeing religious persecution, settled in a town called Plymouth in what is now Massachusetts. The Pilgrims' first winter was so harsh that fewer than 50 of the group survived the season.
The next spring, Native Americans taught them how to get sap out of the maple trees and how to plant corn and other crops. The harvest was successful, and the Pilgrims had enough food for the winter. Plymouth Colony's Governor, William Bradford, decided to throw a Harvest Festival and invited the colony's Native neighbors to take part.
Historians believe that this celebration took place sometime in the fall, though there are very few clues to reconstruct the feast. All we really know about it comes from a letter Edward Winslow wrote to a friend in England: “Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men fowling, that we might rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors. They in one day killed as much fowl as served the company almost a week. At which time with many of the Indians coming among us, for three days we entertained and feasted; and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation, and bestowed on our governor”.
It wasn't until two years later, after enduring a month’s long drought, that an actual Thanksgiving was celebrated. In response to the hot, dry summer months, the governor called for a fast. Soon afterward, rain revived the shriveled crops, and the Puritans celebrated. William Bradford issued the first Thanksgiving Proclamation. This wasn't a feast like the Harvest Festival of two years before, it was a church service.
“Inasmuch as the great Father has given us this year an abundant harvest, has spared us from pestilence and disease, and has granted us freedom to worship God according to the dictates of our own conscience. Now I, your magistrate, do proclaim that all ye Pilgrims, do gather at ye meeting house, on Thursday, November 29th, there to listen to ye pastor and render thanksgiving to ye Almighty God for all His blessings”. --William Bradford Ye Governor of Ye Colony
The custom of marking good fortune with a day of gratitude quickly caught on throughout New England. In 1789, President George Washington issued a Proclamation that called for a day of thanksgiving.
Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed. -- GeorgeWashington - October 3, 1789
The idea of a national Thanksgiving Day didn’t catch on, but in the mid-1800s, magazine editor Sarah Josepha Hale mounted a campaign to make Thanksgiving a national holiday. In support of a national
Thanksgiving holiday, she wrote letters to five Presidents. Her initial letters failed to persuade, but the letter she wrote to Lincoln did convince him to issue a Thanksgiving Proclamation in 1863.
“It has seemed to me fit and proper that the gracious gifts of the Most High God should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. To set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union”. By the President: Abraham Lincoln
Each year since 1863 the president of the United States has issued a Thanksgiving Proclamation.
Thanksgiving shouldn't be a day, it should be a lifestyle. Philippians 4:4-6 tells us, “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God”.
For the Christian every day should be Thanksgiving Day. As a Christian, what is your Thanksgiving Proclamation? Here is mine.
There are many things I’m thankful for, but I am truly thankful for my family. We have instituted a new holiday at our house called ThanksChristmas. Because this year we were all together for the Thanksgiving holiday and weren't able to be together for Christmas we combined the two. I think that the holidays blend together wonderfully. I will try to explain why.
Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 4:15, “For all things are for your sakes, that grace, having spread through the many, may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God”. What causes Thanksgiving in God’s people? It is grace! I am so thankful for God’s grace, and for the gift of His Son that makes grace possible. When we celebrate Thanksgiving we should give thanks to God for grace.
When we celebrate Christmas we celebrate not only the birth of Jesus, but we are celebrating salvation. Matthew 1:21 says, “And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins”.
Salvation comes only through Jesus and if Jesus had never come to this earth there would have been no salvation for you and me. There would never have been grace for you and me. There would have been nothing to cause Thanksgiving and there would be no Christmas.
Jesus is the reason for Thanksgiving. Jesus is the reason for Christmas. I think that ThanksChristmas is the perfect holiday.
Here is my ThanksChristmas Proclamation with a little help from George Washington.
WHEREAS, It is the duty of all people to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; Now, therefore, I do proclaim ThanksChristmas to be devoted by the people of my family to the service of that great and glorious God who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection. We are in awe of the marvelous grace that is offered to each one of us as God’s children, and are also astounded that God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life. We unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Almighty God and ask Him to pardon our transgressions.