Thursday, January 21, 2010

Childish Things

What things were important to you as a child? Did you have certain toys that meant more to you than others? Maybe you had a special doll or “action figure.” Did you like to play certain games or do certain activities with your friends?

I used to love nothing more than playing in the woods behind my house. There was a creek that I used to follow and I would sometimes stay there all day. I had very good friends who lived around me and I had certain toys that were special.

I had a stuffed monkey that held a banana in his hand. He looked exactly like the one on the right. You could stick the banana in his mouth and it would stay there. His name was Monk-Monk. One day, a friend of mine was visiting our house, and accidentally tore the ear off of Monk-Monk. I cried like my own ear had been torn off, because he was a special toy.

Today, I have no idea where Monk-Monk is. I had not thought of him in a very long time. Perhaps he was thrown away. Maybe I gave him to someone. He may have fallen apart. I have no idea.

The point is, that most of us were attached to certain things in our childhood, that we thought we could never live without, but have somehow managed to, well…live without. How could that happen? In time, your idea of fun changed. With the passing of time and maturity, you outgrew many of the things you once believed you would always cherish. These things were replaced by other things that were more appropriate for your age.

This past week in Taranto, Italy, a 4 year-old boy decided he was too old for his pacifiers, so he took drastic measures to get rid of them. A few days before his birthday, he called the Italian equivalent of 911, and asked the police to come to his house, so he could surrender the pacifiers to them. He said “I'm old enough now so you can have my dummies.” The police arrived at the boy’s birthday party and traded him a police hat, in exchange for his pacifiers.

We should be that mature about our Christian walk. We should be ready to give up those things that the world tells us we need, and exchange them for what God tells us we must have. I’m sure the Italian boy thought having a police hat was much better than having pacifiers, but he would have never known that joy, if he had stuck with his pacifiers.

A group of tourists were visiting a picturesque village. The group walked by an old man sitting by a fence. In a rather patronizing way, one of them asked, “Were any great men born in this village?”

The old man replied, “Nope, only babies.”

Great men and women are not born; they become great by doing great things. Great men and women of God are the same way. The closer they get to God, the greater and more powerful in Him they become. We will never reach our greatest potential on earth, with God, until we follow Him into advanced levels of maturity in our Christian journey.

However, many of us are stuck with our old ways. Just like those treasured toys of our childhood, we want to hold on to them forever, because it is a comfortable place for us. Unfortunately, that comfortable place can sometimes interfere with where God wants to take us. If we are to truly serve Him, then we must let go of our old ways and follow Christ into the new wonderful adventure that lies before us, when we bring our all to Him.

When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. (1 Corinthians 13:11)
But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:13-14)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

No Substitute

I worship You, Almighty God. There is none like You. I worship You, O Prince of Peace. That is what I want to do. I give You praise; for You are my righteousness. I worship You, Almighty God. There is none like You. (Sondra Corbett 1983 Integrity's Hosanna! Music)

There is an old advertising slogan that tells us to accept no substitute. Many companies, selling everything from chocolate, to tea, to expensive automobiles, have used this slogan, and most of them have had great response to the advertising. All of the companies who adopted this campaign have performed very well.

What is it about that slogan that gets us to buy the product? Perhaps it is the underlying notion that the product we are hearing about is the premier, genuine article and every thing else is simply a cheap imitation of the original. Of course, we want the original, because we think somehow its better.

When I was in high school, I worked for Bi-Lo in Greer. I saw the vendor that came in to stock the bread, and the same guy that brought in the name-brand bread also brought in the Bi-Lo brand. They were the same. However, despite the Bi-Lo brand being cheaper, many people wanted the name brand bread, because they felt that it was the original, therefore, it was the best.

Remember Curtis Mathes? Yes, Curtis Mathes was a real guy, and he did most of his own television commercials. I remember seeing him in the 1970 s and early 80's. I always thought the idea behind his marketing campaign was extremely bold. The slogan was, The most expensive television set in America; and darn well worth it. Of course, the implication was that you could pay less for a television but wouldn t get the same quality. In fact, Curtis Mathes was known to quote a 19th century philosopher named John Ruskin, who is credited with saying, There is nothing that someone can't make a little cheaper and sell for a little less...and the person who buys for price alone is that individual's lawful prey."

All of this was brought to mind when I read a news story this week from Kingston, New York. A newly appointed judge was taking his oath of office before a packed courtroom in the historic Ulster County Courthouse. The new judge, Donald A. Williams, was a former district attorney, and as such had probably seen a number of swearing- in ceremonies. When it was time for Judge Williams to take the oath, there was no Bible. Most officials tend to use their own family Bible, but Judge Williams didn t bring one. This sent the courtroom into a flurry of activity as officials tried to find a Bible.

U.S. government officials are not required to swear in on a Bible, but most do so as a demonstration of the binding nature of the promise. The act also adds solemnity to the ceremony. However, since no Bible could be found, Donald A. Williams was sworn in with his hand placed on a dictionary. Williams said later he didn't mind using a dictionary instead of a Bible, because the swearing-in Saturday was purely ceremonial.

While I am sure that most all the words in the Bible could be found in that dictionary, they were not in the proper order to be called God s Word of Life. You see, the elements of the Bible were there, but it was a terrible substitute for the Holy Bible. How often do we substitute God s Word for something less? How many sayings do we live by that we think are in the Bible, but are simply something that sounds like it should be?

I was talking with a friend this week, who said that for many years he thought the phrase, God helps those who help themselves , was in scripture. He was shocked when he found out it wasn’t, because it was something he had heard from his youth. In fact, he found that quite the opposite is true. God wants us to depend on Him.

Never accept cheap imitations of God. Those things will fail you every time. Jesus died on a cruel cross, and defeated death and sin by rising from the dead, on the third day, so that you could have genuine, original salvation. Surrender your life to Him, and never accept any substitute.

Among the gods there is none like You, O Lord; Nor are there any works like Your works. All nations whom You have made shall come and worship before You, O Lord, and shall glorify Your name. For You are great, and do wondrous things; You alone are God (Psalm 26:8-10)

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Morning by Morning

Morning by morning new mercies I see.
(Great is Thy Faithfulness Thomas O. Chisholm 1923)

Something strange happened to me on Saturday January 2nd. After I woke up and got moving around, I got the bright idea to start cleaning out my closets. Our house doesn’t have much storage space, so I have to rotate my summer and winter clothes from upstairs to downstairs seasonally. I had not brought my winter things down this year, so I decided that Saturday would be a great day to get this done.

This kind of behavior is very strange for me. I usually don’t initiate such things, but I couldn’t take it any longer. However, my strange behavior got worse. I began to get rid of clothes that I hadn’t worn in a while, but it didn’t stop there. After I finished my closets, I organized all of my hunting equipment, all of the computer software, two junk boxes, and the entertainment cabinet. This inspired my wife to clean out the kitchen, and on Sunday, after church, we cleaned out the attic.

There was a huge amount of clutter that we were able to get rid of. We filled up two outside garbage cans, and filled up the bed of my truck with a load to go to the recycling center. We felt so much better after all of that cleaning and throwing away. Now we have room for the items that we use regularly and we know where to find them!

It always seems much easier to ignore messes like these when we don’t see them. If you walk into our house, you would not know that we had spent almost two whole days cleaning and throwing out unused items. You would have never seen them if you had been there a week before.

Our lives are like that sometimes. It is much easier to ignore the things that we need to do to make our lives better, because those things usually require daily effort. It is easier to throw things into the attic or in a cabinet where they won’t be seen, than to make the effort to maintain them and keep them organized all the time.

We don’t like to do things that take a daily effort. Of course, things like bathing and brushing our teeth we do because we must in order to remain healthy and socially acceptable. However, most other things that we have to do every day, of ever month, of every year, annoy us. Those tasks remind us of Sisyphus, the mythological king who was punished by Zeus, for eternity, to roll a large stone up a hill, only to have it roll back down again, over and over.

One year, when I was a banker, I surpassed my annual goal for loan production by the month of July. I was elated. I thought the pressure would be off for the rest of the year. However, I failed to realize that I still had monthly goals to reach. Even though I had surpassed my yearly goal I still had to meet monthly and daily goals.

We will never reach a place with God where we are finished and can take it easy. Each time we move closer to God, He gives us new objectives and new challenges. He is growing us. Avoiding spending time with God daily is like shoving things in the attic or under the rug. They are still there, but we are ignoring them. God is still there. His call is still on our lives to follow Him. He still wants our hearts to be given to Him each day, not because we think we have to, but because He loves us and wants us to love Him.

As you are thinking about how to make this year better than the last, figure out how God fits into your life. Don’t think in terms of the whole year, but in daily terms. Ask yourself, “What am I going to do to make my walk with Christ stronger each day?” Take it day by day and see that the Lord is good!

If you would like some help in getting your daily time with God started, here are some great helps!

Spurgeon's Daily Meditations

My Utmost for His Highest

Then he said to them all: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. (Luke 9:23-24)